Air fryer vs. convection oven — which is better?

Katy Severson

An air fryer is essentially a countertop convection oven with a fancier name that takes up less kitchen space.

What's the difference between an air fryer and a convection oven?

If you’re looking for a healthier way to cook fried foods, air fryers and convection ovens both offer great options. Each appliance uses similar technology to rapidly circulate hot air that produces crispy, satisfying snacks and meals without all the unhealthy oil of a traditional deep fryer. So, which is better?

The right choice will depend on your individual needs and the features that best suit your day-to-day life. We’ve given you the rundown on both products so you can make the choice that’s best for you — and get cooking.

What is a convection oven?

A convection oven is a high-powered countertop oven that uses a strong fan to constantly circulate hot air. This means food gets more evenly cooked than a traditional oven, which only heats from the bottom or the top. The force of the fan quickly wicks steam from the food and creates a crispy exterior with a moist interior. Many convection ovens also come with a perforated sheet pan that allows for more airflow and even crispier food.

Most modern full-sized ovens come with a convection setting, which has the same functionality as a countertop convection oven — though it might take longer to preheat and cook the food because of its size. The following breakdown refers primarily to countertop convection ovens.

Convection oven pros 

Large capacity: Convection ovens tend to fit more food than air fryers and have tiered racks that allow you to cook larger portions or different types of food at once.Good versatility: Most convection ovens allow you to use an array of different cooking functions like roasting, steaming, broiling, air drying, and dehydrating — all in one appliance.Easy to clean: All you need to clean is the cooking tray, which allows for easy clean-up at the end of a meal.More affordable: Depending on the model, a countertop convection oven and an air fryer might be comparable in price — but considering all of the perks, features, and accessories of a convection oven, it’s often a better bang for your buck.

Convection oven cons 

They take a lot of counter space: Convection ovens are quite large and heavy, so they take up a lot of room on the counter and can’t easily be stored in a cupboard or pantry.

Best convection ovens 

Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven: $349.95 at Amazon

This oven offers uniform heat distribution, multiple cooking functions, a large interior capacity and a three-tier baking rack that lets you cook multiple food items at once.

Toshiba 6-Slice Convection Toaster Oven: $78.97 at Home Depot

A budget-friendly model that still includes several cooking functions and a relatively large interior. Quick-cooking makes it a good option for small meals and snacks on the fly. However, it’s not as consistent as pricier models.

F.BLUMLEIN Steam Convection Oven: $499.99 at Amazon

Pricier but packed with features, this is a premium convection oven that’s best for home cooks who plan to use it frequently and enjoy the versatility of the steam function. Its extra-large capacity makes it useful for big families who often cook large portions at once.

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer is essentially a smaller, more portable version of a convection oven. Like a convection oven, air fryers use a high-powered fan to circulate hot air, which allows food to cook quickly and evenly with very little oil.

Air fryers tend to have comparably larger fans for their size, so they’re able to pre-heat and cook foods more quickly. The air fryer is also designed so the heating element and the fan are at the top of the unit (rather than the back), which allows for rapid cooking but does require you to shake the basket here and there to get an even cook.

Air fryer pros 

Food cooks fast and evenly: Because of their size, air fryers can move hot air more rapidly than a standard convection oven.Space-saving: Air fryers are smaller and lighter than convection ovens, so they take up much less space on the counter and are more easily stored in cabinets or pantries.Cooks frozen foods with ease: The air fryer’s powerful fan can cook frozen foods quickly and easily — the constant hot air wicks moisture quickly so foods don’t get mushy as they cook.

Air fryer cons 

Small capacity: Air fryers tend to fit much less food than convection ovens, with some models only cooking one to two servings at once. Because of the shape of the cooking basket, some foods might fit awkwardly or not fit at all.They’re harder to clean: Air fryers have both a basket and a bucket that need to be cleaned, and there can be a lot of drippage with greasier foods like chicken wings or mozzarella sticks.They’re loud: Depending on the brand, air fryers tend to be quite loud while operating. Some models are compared to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.Less durability: Air fryers are made with delicate parts that tend to burn out eventually or develop problems, especially in the cheaper units but even in some of the more expensive brands.

Best air fryers 

Phillips XXL Air Fryer: $249.95 at Amazon

This machine is known for its high-quality build, user-friendly functionality, and extra-crispy results. It features a double rack that doubles the cooking space and an auto-shutoff for busy home cooks. However, it takes up a hefty amount of counter space.

Dash 2-Quart Compact Air Fryer: $49.99 at Amazon

A budget-friendly option for solo dwellers or small households who use it occasionally. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and doesn’t take up too much counter space. Con: it can only cook 1-2 servings at once, so this is not a good option for larger households.

Ninja 4-Quart Air Fryer: $129.99 at Amazon

The Ninja delivers a powerful punch that cooks food quickly and evenly with a ceramic-coated crisper plate for an extra-crispy texture. Plus, a four-quart capacity means it can cook three pounds of food at once. Bonus: It can act as a food dehydrator, too.

Should you get an air fryer or a convection oven?

Convection ovens and air fryers essentially offer the same thing and both produce tasty, crispy food without using too much oil. Go for a convection oven if you’re looking for a versatile and durable product that cooks larger portions at a more affordable price point — but if you want to save space in your kitchen, an air fryer is a great runner-up.


Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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