When it comes to whipping up healthy weeknight dinners, the more tricks you have up your sleeve, the better. So, you might be considering a new small appliance for your countertop that will upgrade your home-cooked meals and help you keep up with cooking trends.
If you’re thinking of the relatively new air fryer, which was first introduced in 2010 and is more popular than ever, you might be thinking to join the current air fryer craze that took hold during pandemic times and is still going strong on TikTok. On the other hand, convection toaster ovens have been a household staple for years. If both devices use fans to cook food with only slight differences, what’s the real distinction between the two? Is one better than the other in terms of size and speed?
This is a topic that can be confusing because of the nuances that differentiate the products. Here’s what you need to know about air fryers and convection ovens.
What Is An Air Fryer?
Air circulation plays a pivotal role in this handy kitchen appliance. While the name implies you’ll be frying food, it doesn’t actually do that. Instead, an air fryer cooks and crisps up food by circulating hot air evenly through a well-ventilated fryer-style basket.
The fan and heating elements are located above the food, while the basket and a perforated tray (for additional air circulation) rest below; this setup is key to the air fryer’s success. An air fryer can provide a healthier way to eat because it uses less oil than a traditional fryer, yet still imparts a crunchy texture that works well with foods like French fries.
An air fryer utilizes a ventilated basket to hold ingredients and is generally smaller than a convection toaster oven. A perk of the air fryer’s small size is that it allows for more focused heating with a faster fan, which makes cooking quicker and provides that much-coveted crisping quality.
You can also buy air fryer ovens, which even more closely resemble convection ovens except for the location of the heating elements and fan. As with a regular air fryer, these are generally smaller for rapid, fryer-style cooking.
How Does A Convection Toaster Oven Work?
Often confused with standard toaster ovens, convection ovens operate slightly differently, as they incorporate a fan to speed up cooking time. Regular toaster ovens have a heating element but no fan.
A convection oven blows air over and around the food, then vents it out. The air movement cooks food quickly and evenly but also browns better because moisture can escape the oven with the air. Convection ovens are energy-efficient because they cook faster at a lower temperature. The best convection toaster ovens contain a rack with a small sheet pan and allow you to control the temperature and the time.
In a convection oven, the fan circulates hot air to help food cook evenly and crisp up. However, ingredients won’t get as crispy as they can in air fryers unless you buy a separate crisper tray to mimic air frying. In part, that’s because excess oil and fat drips onto the perforated trays and away from your food.
Convection ovens do cook food faster than a traditional oven and allow for browning to take place. The major difference between a convection toaster oven and an air fryer is that the convection oven’s fan is located in the back of the oven., while heating elements line the top and bottom.
Like a traditional oven, convection ovens have a hinged door on the front. You can open and slide food into the unit easily this way. Also, convection toaster ovens tend to have a bit more capacity than air fryer, as well as being quieter and slightly less expensive. However, their fans may be slower.
If you’re wondering what the best convection toaster oven is on the market, check out our vetted picks from a team of experts.
Which One Is Right For You?
Now that you know the differences, you can consider which type of appliance best suits your style. Do you prefer a versatile, oven-style appliance? Or do you care more about making healthy food that tastes fried? There’s one other thing you might want to consider as you decide which product to choose: size.
Convection toaster ovens require more surface area on your countertop because they use a sheet pan rather than a basket. However, you might be able to stack more than one sheet pan at a time in your appliance.
Air fryers only cook a small amount of food at a time. So if you’re needing more than two servings for a meal, an air fryer might not be right for you, unless you want to cook in batches, which would eliminate the time-saving aspect. Both devices cook food rapidly, but air fryers are known to be louder to operate.
Could one of these appliances slash your cooking time while helping you live a healthier lifestyle?