Air fryer vs. toaster oven

When it comes to conventional oven and deep-fryer alternatives, there are a couple of hot options that most home chefs consider. Air fryers and toaster ovens are two countertop appliances that compete to be the first choice when convenience is critical to cooking.


Whether you’re hoping to crisp pale potatoes into golden fries or whip up some wonderful wings, both appliances can provide the heat you need to thoroughly cook almost any food. There are, however, some instances in which toaster ovens may bake better than air fryers, and vice-versa.

Deciding which of the two is best for your purposes can be extremely difficult. So, to give home cooks a better understanding of an air fryer vs. toaster oven, we’re unpacking how each kitchen appliance works, what each is best at, and when to use them.

What are air fryers and how do they work?

Air fryers are countertop devices that have been all the rage recently. They’re famous for their ability to produce food as crunchy and golden as a deep fryer while using only a fraction of the oil. They first hit the market in 2010 and quickly impressed consumers with their ability to turn out fluffy, crisp batches of fries.

While air fryers can serve up spectacular spuds, one hot fact is indisputable: air fryers don’t actually fry those taters, or anything for that matter. Instead, most air fryers cook food by:

1. Securing it in a perforated basket, ceramic plate, or wire-frame cage through which air can travel unimpeded.

2. Blasting it with hot air (generally, in the range of 400℉) in a method of cooking known as convection.

3. Sometimes, rotating the food inside to increase airflow around it—depending on the design of the air fryer.

Unlike conventional frying, which employs oil as the cooking medium, air frying uses very little fat. As mentioned, it uses convection to cook food, much like many modern ovens. In fact, air frying may be included as a feature on some top-of-the-line, multifunctional ovens. 

How do toaster ovens function?

Having first been introduced in 1910, toaster ovens predate air fryers by a century. They’re simple devices, and the most basic contemporary models aren’t all that different from the original ones that came out over 100 years ago.

They usually have removable wire racks, miniature baking trays built to suit their small size, and basic controls for temperature, cooking settings, and cooking time. 

Toaster ovens are more or less boxes of extreme heat. They warm up quickly due to their small size and take up very little space on kitchen counters.

Toaster oven vs. air fryer: How do they compare?

While both types of devices can bring the heat, they don’t do so in the same ways. Air fryers and toaster ovens have different settings and cooking functions that are intended to prepare certain types of foods. 

At the heart of their differences is the key distinction between convection and radiant heat. Both types will cook food, but each is favored in different scenarios for the unique benefits it provides. Convection, for instance:

● Generates even heat by pushing a consistent flow of hot air over food

● Surrounds food with heat from every direction, meaning no unbaked bits or pale portions 

● Reduces humidity within the oven by blowing away excess moisture as it evaporates out of food, a necessity for certain kinds of dishes

The smooth circulation of convection cooking leaves you with an evenly heated air fryer oven free from hot spots. Radiant heat, on the other oven mitt, isn’t propelled by a fan. This means that temperatures are higher near the source (heating element) and lower farther away from the source. 

This method of heating provides its own unique benefits. For instance: 

● It allows you to direct heat from a desired angle, such as when broiling food

● It allows more moisture to build within the oven walls, which can be a benefit to certain foods in the same way reduced moisture can

● It uses less energy than convection, which often requires larger elements and a fan operating simultaneously

Comparison of air fryers & combination toaster ovens

It’s also important to consider that standalone air fryers often have limited cooking space. The drawer or pod-style air fryers make it challenging to fit a whole roast or a cupcake pan.

Luckily, a toaster oven with air frying capabilities brings the best of both worlds. You can cook in it as you would a normal oven but also be able to air fry foods on an air frying rack. This model allows for more versatility when cooking meals. 

What to cook with air fryers and toaster ovens

Convection and radiant heat both lend themselves to certain types of cooking and specific types of food. Just like you know not to boil pasta in a cast iron skillet, it’s helpful to be aware of the certain applications where a toaster oven shines over an air fryer, and vice-versa. So, be sure to check the manual and how to use a toaster oven.

Turn the dial on your toaster oven if you’re trying to:

 Broil – If you need unidirectional heat to rain down on your dish, a toaster oven is the right tool for the job regardless of whether you’re browning the cheese atop nachos or finishing a pan-seared filet.

 Reheat, toast, and melt – Yesterday’s leftover lasagna, a slice of bread, or a freshly constructed sandwich are all prime candidates for the toaster oven. The small kitchen appliance is a more cost-effective and quicker alternative for prepping single dishes versus heating up a full-size oven. 

● Bake basics – Frozen food and less complex meals, such as roasted vegetables, can bake perfectly in a toaster oven. Generally, however, more complex baking tasks are best left to the range. 

Converse to toaster ovens’ more limited applications, air fryers are widely celebrated for their diverse wealth of uses. People continue to find new foods to air fry daily, and mouthwatering modern recipes range from crispy food, like Korean chicken, to vanilla custard apple cake. Generally, people fire up their air fryers when they want to:

 Replicate deep frying – The main pull of standalone air fryers is their ability to achieve fried food levels of deliciousness without needing a deep fryer. Full-size fryers are cumbersome, create a lot of splatter, and require gallons of oil to operate. Meanwhile, air fryers can achieve similar results for familiar fried food favorites, such as French fries, falafel, and funnel cake.

● Achieve maximum crispiness – Air fryers are renowned for their ability to add a crisp, golden finish to any food. From polenta fries to potstickers, any dish that’s best served crunchy is well-suited for air frying.

 Cut fat and calories – Another compelling draw for seasoned air fryer aficionados is the number of calories they save from cutting out excess oil. While the exact nutritional value of foods varies by recipe, air fryers can reduce calorie counts by as much as 80% versus other forms of cooking, such as deep frying.

● Get creative – Air fryers, while in the same realm as convection ovens, are indeed a new type of cooking device with yet-undiscovered applications. Home chefs have been testing the limits of their imaginations by pushing out pizzas, pastries, and even pavlovas using air fryers alone.

 Make their lives easier – Aside from being savvy alternatives to deep fryers, air fryers also make the job of baking easier than traditional ovens. Even in convection-powered ranges, cooks need to flip and rotate food throughout the cooking process to ensure even doneness. With air fryers, however, home cooks can simply set it and forget it, then come back to perfectly cooked cuts of meat, vegetables, and baked goods.

Air fryers are versatile machines that can do many of the same jobs as a range, deep fryer, and even toaster oven. In fact, many new models of countertop ovens combine technology from these different types of devices to offer a wide variety of cooking functions.

Meet Breville’s Smart ovens, the only countertop cookers you need

Toaster ovens and air fryers are both practical pieces of equipment for anyone to have on hand. They both have many uses and can help cooks create hot, scrumptious meals quickly and conveniently. Although the varied functions of air fryers and toaster ovens can make it difficult to choose just one for your kitchen, luckily, you don’t have to.

With a Smart Toaster Oven from Breville, home chefs can get the quick heating power of a compact toaster oven and the even-cooking convection of an air fryer all in one package. Our contemporary countertop cookers range from the not-so-basic Mini Smart Oven® to the fully decked-out Joule® Oven Air Fryer Pro, and each has different capabilities to suit your cooking needs.

Whether you’re looking for the essentials, such as reheating and toasting, or more complex functions, such as air frying, dough proofing, and dehydrating, we have an all-in-one device capable of the job(s). There’s no need to settle when it comes to kitchen appliances. With Breville, air frying, toasting, and other cooking methods are a breeze.



1. The New York Times. How the Air Fryer Crisped Its Way Into America’s Heart.

2. U.S. News. How Does an Air Fryer Work?

3. Food and Nutrition Magazine. Toaster Oven: An Energy-Efficient Appliance for Any Kitchen.

4. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Traditional Radiation Heat Transfer.

5. Science of Cooking. Why is humidity important in cooking?

6. Energy Star. ENERGY STAR Market & Industry Scoping Report Toaster Ovens.

7. Breville. The Smart Oven Air Fryer.

8. Cleveland Clinic. Air-Frying: Is It As Healthy As You Think?

Related Articles

Air fryer vs. toaster oven