Air Fryer or Microwave: Which is Healthier for Heating Food?

Both air fryers and microwave ovens have advantages when it comes to preparing and heating food. Which one should you choose?
Air Fryer or Microwave: Which is Healthier for Heating Food?

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 18 January, 2024

When equipping the kitchen, choosing appliances that offer convenience, efficiency, and practicality can not only help you save time but also help you implement a healthier lifestyle. In this regard, both the air fryer and the microwave oven have gained popularity. But which of these two is the best option for heating your food?

Both tools have revolutionized the way food is heated since they provide faster cooking times and make it possible to prepare dishes with fewer calories. Even so, they have different functionalities that make them better or not in certain tasks.

Air fryer vs. microwave oven: Key characteristics and differences

The air fryer and the microwave oven emerged as fast and efficient alternatives to conventional ovens. Both devices optimize food preparation time and offer a healthier cooking method compared to typical deep frying.

But is one better than the other? To solve this question, it’s necessary to briefly take a look at how they work and what technology they use.

An air fryer is a cooking device that subjects food to very hot air that circulates constantly, thanks to the action of an electric heat source and a fan.

Thus, it offers cooking with similar characteristics to those of traditional frying, but with a smaller number of calories, since it requires a minimum of fat. Because of this, it has become one of the favorite options to make crunchy, golden, and healthy preparations.

Microwave ovens, on the other hand, generate heat through electromagnetic waves that agitate the water molecules of the food, to enable rapid cooking or heating.

They don’t require any fat or oil, but hardly allow you to get crunchy textures. On the contrary, foods tend to remain soft and soggy after being heated in a microwave. They’re often used to defrost food, reheat food and make preparations with vegetables.

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Other differences between air fryers and microwave ovens

Beyond the technology used by each of these appliances and their respective functionalities, there are other differences that are worth taking into account when choosing one or the other. The most important ones are detailed below:

  • Cooking different types of food: While an air fryer is ideal for crispy potatoes, chicken wings, breading, baking, and roasting, the microwave is better for defrosting products, reheating leftovers, cooking vegetables, and heating beverages.
  • Energy consumption: The air fryer consumes more energy than a microwave -although this depends on the model and its power-, due to its heaters and fans.
  • Capacity: Both appliances come in different sizes; however, the microwave usually has a larger capacity compared to air fryers.
  • Cleaning: the deep fryer has removable elements (baskets or trays) that are easy to clean in the dishwasher. The microwave oven requires careful, internal cleaning, especially if there are spills.
  • Healthier meals: The air fryer is suitable for making a wide variety of conventional dishes in a healthier, lower-calorie way. It requires little or no fat to achieve crispy textures and intense flavors. Some dishes can also be cooked in the microwave, but the final texture is mushy, so it may not be as pleasant. Even so, this is also a good option, as it does not need any additional fat for cooking.

Which is better for heating food?

When it comes to heating food, both appliances work well. However, consider that in the microwave the process is faster and it’s suitable for introducing liquids. Its disadvantage? Some ingredients tend to soften after being subjected to the high temperatures of the appliance.

In the air fryer, you can heat pizza, leftovers, pies, fried chicken, and the like. It tends to retain textures well, but requires more time.

In the latter case, you must be careful with the types of food you want to introduce; these must not contain liquids, because if they leak through its grids, they can cause a short circuit.

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Is an air fryer better than a microwave for heating food?

The air fryer is the “trendy” appliance when it comes to healthy eating, which is why many consider it a better choice than the microwave. However, as long as they’re used properly, both are useful for making lighter, healthier meals. So which one to choose?

The choice depends largely on what you usually eat. If you like batter, chips, and other crunchy preparations, the air fryer will be your best ally in the kitchen. You will be able to make healthier versions of these foods, with a minimum of fat and fewer calories.

In fact, you can also use it for baking and roasting. Foods such as chicken, meats, fish, vegetables, cereals, and others are suitable for cooking in this appliance.

However, if you want to save cooking time, or if you usually prepare your dishes in advance and then heat them, the microwave is more suitable. There you can also introduce drinks, broths, and precooked food that you cannot cook in the air fryer.

In short, if you have the opportunity to get both appliances, this is the best option. Their functions are different, but they both contribute to making your meals more practical and healthier. If you can only choose one, then go for the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.