Air fryer vs. toaster oven

Cookware & Cooking Tools

Both air fryers and toaster ovens put out less heat than full-size ovens, so they’re great for cooking on hot days.

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Is an air fryer or a toaster oven better? 

If you’re looking for a compact cooking solution, you might be considering either an air fryer or a toaster oven. Both can cook many of the same foods you’d bake or roast in a full size oven, but they take up a fraction of the space, so they’re ideal for dorm rooms, RVs or studio apartments that have only a kitchenette.

Air fryers use forced-air convection to heat food evenly and leave it perfectly crispy, but can have a firefly-small cooking space. Toaster ovens, on the other hand, are generally roomier but may or may not have a convection function.

Air fryers

These appliances are essentially tiny convection ovens that use a fan to force hot air to circulate around the cooking space, leading to even cooking and excellent crispy finishes for foods like fries or egg rolls. Some air fryers have other cooking functions, too, like baking or broiling. 

Although “fry” is in the name, the results are more like cooking in a convection oven than deep frying and you can’t cook wet foods like battered items. Prices vary depending on the brand, quality and size — expect a range of $50-$300. For more details, check out the full guide to air fryers at BestReviews.

Air fryer pros

  • Compact size. Air fryers don’t take up much counter space. Food is cooked in a basket rather than flat on a tray, so even large-capacity air fryers have smaller footprints than average-size toaster ovens.
  • Multifunction. You can find many air fryers that offer other cooking functions like roasting, baking, broiling and dehydrating, so they aren’t one-trick ponies.
  • Great convection. Air fryers truly excel at convection cooking — more so than most convection ovens — to the point where you can pile a basket full of multiple layers of fries in an air fryer and they’ll all cook evenly, while they’d need to be arranged in a single layer to cook well in a convection oven.
  • Healthier. You only need to use a tiny amount of oil to get beautifully crisp results in an air fryer.

Air fryer cons

  • Shape and size. The width of the cooking basket doesn’t lend itself to cooking wider, flatter foods like pizza, which most toaster ovens can cook well.
  • Not for toast. If you want an appliance to make slices of toast, an air fryer isn’t the right one for the job, while a toaster oven is perfect for this task — the clue’s in the name, after all.

Best Air fryers

Instant Pot Vortex Plus

Instant Pot Vortex Plus

From the makers of the popular multifunction pressure cooker comes a versatile 6-in-1 air fryer that can also reheat, dehydrate, roast, bake and broil. It’s easy to use with a clear digital display.  

Sold by Amazon

Philips Premium Digital Air Fryer

Philips Premium Digital Air Fryer

With a large 2-quart capacity, this air fryer is large enough to cook for four people. It’s good at what it does, giving you excellently crispy results, plus it can bake, grill, roast, reheat, dehydrate and toast.

Sold by Amazon

Ninja Air Fryer Max XL

Ninja Air Fryer Max XL

The large-capacity basket fits 6 quarts, which is enough room to cook for a crowd — fitting up to 3 pounds of fries! It can also roast, broil, bake, reheat and dehydrate and has a “max crisp” function for even quicker cooking.

Sold by Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond

Toaster ovens

These are small countertop ovens that can usually only cook one tray of food at a time. Originally, toaster ovens used radiant heat with a heating element at the top of the oven, and occasionally a second element that heats from below. These days, though, many toaster ovens have a convection function to circulate hot air for quicker cooking

As their name suggests, toaster ovens are also great for cooking toast, which used to be their main function. The size of a toaster oven is still often written as the number of slices it can fit. Toaster ovens can cost anywhere from around $30 for small, basic options to $500 for top-of-the-line models. You can find out more from the full guide to toaster ovens at BestReviews.

Toaster oven pros

  • Capacity. Since they’re relatively spacious inside, you can cook a wider range of foods in toaster ovens, including pizzas and trays of baked goods, like muffins and cookies. 
  • Convection. Toaster ovens with a convection function cook in the same way as air fryers, although food must be arranged in a single layer to cook effectively. 
  • Multifunction. Most toaster ovens have a range of cooking functions, such as broiling, baking, roasting, reheating and warming. 
  • Presets. Some toaster ovens feature preset programs for specific foods, such as pizzas, bagels, toast and cookies. 

Toaster oven cons

  • Size. Toaster ovens have fairly large footprints and take up more counter space than air fryers.
  • Limitations. Toaster ovens without a convection oven don’t cook food as evenly or get them as crispy as air fryers or convection toaster ovens. 

Best toaster ovens

Breville Smart Oven Convection Toaster Oven

Breville Smart Oven Convection Toaster Oven

If you’re looking for a powerhouse of a convection toaster oven and don’t mind paying top dollar for it, this is an excellent choice. It cooks incredibly well and has a range of functions, including toasting, roasting and broiling.

Sold by Amazon

Toshiba 6-Slice Toaster Oven

Toshiba 6-Slice Toaster Oven

This reasonably priced toaster oven has a convection function and is large enough to fit six slices of toast or a 12-inch pizza.

Sold by Amazon

Black and Decker 4-Slice Toaster Oven

Black and Decker 4-Slice Toaster Oven

A compact toaster oven that fits four slices of toast or a 9-inch pizza. Although it claims to have natural convection, it doesn’t have a fan. Still, it’s a good choice for small spaces.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get an air fryer or a toaster oven?

Air fryers and toaster ovens are similar but not identical. If you’re looking to cook mainly frozen foods and fries and you’re short on space, an air fryer is the best option. If you want to cook a wider range of foods and have more counter space, you might be better off with a toaster oven that has a convection function.

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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