Reasons To Choose a Convection Toaster Oven:
- Cooks larger quantities of food
- More like a traditional convection oven
- Capable of cooking entire meals
- Great for cooking pizza
- Wider cooking area
- Food tends to be more golden brown
Reasons To Choose an Air Fryer:
- More affordable
- Cooks more quickly
- Easier to clean
- Cooks frozen food
- Smaller footprint
- Easier to store
Figuring out which small kitchen appliance is right for you can be a daunting task. There are so many to choose from; any wrong choice could leave you hundreds of dollars out of pocket and with a machine you rarely use.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re trying to decide whether to buy a convection toaster oven or an air fryer.
There are many similarities between these two appliance types; they’re both countertop machines that use high-powered fans to quickly and evenly cook food. But one of the main reasons they’re so popular is that they use little-to-no oil for cooking your food, which makes them a much healthier option.
However, there are considerable differences too, giving each product its own rightful area in the market. We’re going to look at the differences between air fryers and convection toaster ovens, what they can cook, the features each machine may have, and most importantly, their price points.
By the time you’ve finished reading this, you’ll have a much better idea of which appliance is right for you.
What’s the Difference Between Air Fryers & Convection Toaster Ovens?
The names of these appliances might lead you to believe the significant difference between a convection toaster oven and an air fryer is that one is an oven and the other is a fryer, right?
Despite the name ‘air fryer’, there’s no frying involved. At all.
Similarities: The most notable similarity between the two products is how they cook. Both appliances use high-velocity fans (air fryers tend to use more speed and a higher RPM) to circulate hot air around the inside of the device to quickly and evenly cook the food within.
Heating Elements: In general, convection toaster ovens will have heating elements at the top and bottom of the appliance for more even heating, while air fryers generally only have one situated at the top, and rely on the increased RPMs to do the work.
Size & Shape: The general shape of these two products is different too (though there are one or two exceptions to this rule). Standard air fryers are taller than they are wide, giving them deep but narrow cooking areas, while convection toaster ovens are the exact opposite and have wider yet more shallow cooking space.
Having a more expansive, flatter cooking surface is more beneficial to make crispy, golden brown food more efficiently, as the moisture can more easily evaporate from the ingredients that are spread out than it can on food that is stacked on top of each other.
Storage & Portability: Storing an air fryer will be an easier task. These machines are generally smaller in nature and more portable. You can put them in a cupboard and get them out when needed, whereas a convection toaster oven will more than likely need a permanent place to live as they’re much larger and heavier.
What Foods Can They Cook & How Fast?
There are tons of different foods you can use either an air fryer or a convection toaster oven for; these two styles of appliances have lots of menu options in common. Some of the firm favorites of either device users are fries, sweet potato wedges, chicken wings, onion rings, and even some small cakes.
The options are only limited to your culinary imagination.
However, there are some foods each appliance will cook better than its competitor, mostly because of the shape of the cooking space.
Pizza: The wide internal capacity of a convection toaster oven is ideal for cooking pizza, and if you have a large model, a pretty big pizza at that. At the same time, it’s nigh-on impossible to cook a full pizza in an air fryer unless you make mini pizzas (which, let’s face it, are more of a starter than a main course).
Chicken Wings: While you can make chicken wings in a convection toaster oven, they’re not quite as tasty as they are from a big layered bucket of wings from an air fryer.
Whole Roast: If you want a full-sized roast chicken, the oven is the way to go unless you plan on buying an enormous industrial air fryer.
Roasted Vegetables: It’s possible to cook roasted vegetables in either appliance. However, you prefer crispy veg; you’ll need a toaster oven as the vast cooking surface is more conducive to golden brown food.
Cakes: Both these appliances are adept at making cakes, however, you’ll be able to cook larger cakes in a convection toaster oven, with arguably better results.
Frozen Food: One of the best party tricks of the conventional air fryer is its ability to cook frozen foods, making it an excellent appliance to have handy for last-minute meals or if you’re in a rush. Cooking frozen foods in a toaster oven is a lot more nuanced. You should always check the food packaging (and the manual for your appliance) before attempting to cook frozen meals.
Toast & Bagels: As the name suggests, a toaster oven is more than capable of toasting bread, bagels, or pitas, while that isn’t an option with an air fryer.
Performance: You can cook most foods in either appliance, but the volumes will be much smaller from an air fryer because you can’t spread the food out due to the basket’s shape.
All things being equal (power, capacity, and food quantity) an air fryer will cook food far faster than a convection toaster oven because the fan it uses rotates at a higher RPM, and the air fryer doesn’t need preheating either.
However, you’ll be able to cook more food to a golden crisp in the oven as there’s more surface area to spread the food out. If you’re cooking for more than one or two people, you’ll need a couple of batches in the air fryer, which will wipe out its ‘fast cooking’ advantage.
What Kind of Features Can You Expect?
It goes without saying that the features you’ll find on any particular appliance depends on the product’s quality and (probably) how much you’ve spent on it. More premium devices usually have more functions.
Listed below are some common features you’ll find on each standard appliance.
Convection Toaster Oven:
- Internal Thermometer
- Air Fry
- Air Roast
- Air Broil
- Chicken Wings
How Easy Are They To Clean?
Modern appliances are becoming increasingly more straightforward to clean, thanks to non-stick products, coatings, and removable parts.
Both of these appliance styles are relatively straightforward to clean, though we have to give the edge to the air fryer as all the parts that come into contact with food are (usually) removable and dishwasher safe.
This can be the case with some convection toaster ovens too, but the racks can be a lot larger and more fiddly to clean over the standard air fryer basket. You’ll often find food particles getting stuck in the grid of the racks and baskets.
Is There a Big Difference in Price?
Of course, the price difference of either type of appliance is wide and varied, there are both low-budget and high-end versions of each, but generally, an air fryer is far more affordable than a convection toaster oven.
While it’s possible to pick up an air fryer for as little as $40, the sweet spot lies somewhere between $100 – $150 for the most popular and reliable appliances such as the Ninja Max XL or the Cosori XL.
In the same vein, there are one or two convection toaster ovens on sale for approximately $60 (the most basic appliances), while the best bang for your buck is found between $150 – $250 with toaster ovens like the Breville BOV800XL or the NuWave Bravo XL.
If you like the sound of both appliances and have a few bucks to spare, you can have the best of both worlds with an ‘Air Fryer Toaster Oven’ like the Ninja DT251.
Both the air fryer and the convection toaster oven are incredibly efficient and convenient appliances for quickly cooking healthy meals, and they both have their place on the market.
There’s no doubt that a convection toaster oven will cook more food to a higher standard (assuming you want that crispy texture and golden brown look); it’s by far the better appliance for actual cooking. A toaster oven can be used for cooking entire meals (for large families if you buy a big one), while with even the most extensive air fryer, you’ll struggle to make large quantities of food.
However, air fryers are more convenient. They cook more quickly, they are lighter and more portable, and all things being equal, they’re cheaper too.
So, if you’re looking for a large, powerful kitchen appliance for cooking regular meals for your family, we recommend buying a convection toaster oven.
But if you want a convenient, affordable machine to cook snacks, batches of fries, or solo meals, an air fryer could save you a lot of money, not to mention space in your kitchen.
If, after reading to the end, you still can’t decide between the two, there’s always the ‘Air Fryer Toaster Oven’, if you have the budget.