Testing Air-Fryer Toaster Ovens
How We Tested
Air fryers promise to make “fried” food with very little oil. While the lure of eating “healthier” french fries or making fried chicken without heating a pot of oil is enticing, we know from extensive testing (for Air Fryer Perfection) that air-fried foods more often taste oven-fried than deep-fried. That said, we still really like air fryers: They cook food more quickly than an oven does, they don’t need to be preheated, they won’t heat up your kitchen on a hot day, and they produce good food.
Since air fryers are essentially mini convection ovens, it’s no surprise that several manufacturers have added air-frying functions to toaster ovens to create a hybrid appliance that can toast, bake, broil, and air-fry a variety of foods. We wanted to see how the food cooked in these air-fryer toaster ovens compared with the food cooked in our favorite air fryer, the Philips TurboStar Airfryer, Avance Digital, and our top-rated toaster oven, The Smart Oven by Breville. Could a single air-fryer toaster oven combine the functions of these two handy appliances? We bought seven models, priced from about $64 to about $400, and used them to toast bread slices, make Simple Broiled Asparagus and Weeknight Roast Chicken, air-fry frozen french fries, and make homemade Air-Fryer French Fries and air-fried chicken Parmesan from Air Fryer Perfection.
Evaluating Controls on Air-Fryer Toaster Ovens
Most air-fryer toaster ovens are fairly indistinguishable in appearance from regular toaster ovens; they feature adjustable oven racks and knobs for programming settings, temperature levels, and cooking times. The controls of some of the models we tested were sparsely labeled: The markings on some of the models' time knobs were divided into 10-minute increments, while the temperature knobs on other models were divided into 50-degree increments. These analog controls functioned like old-fashioned kitchen timers, which we didn’t like because they offered less precision.
We preferred ovens with digital control screens that clearly displayed the precise settings we wanted. We also liked thoughtful extras that made cooking safer, easier, and more exact. One oven we tested paused the cooking time and its rack slid partway out when we opened the oven door so we didn’t have to reach deep into a hot oven.
Toasting, Broiling, and Roasting in Air-Fryer Toaster Ovens
To test our lineup’s toasting capabilities, we made single slices of light, medium, and dark toast in each model, as well as a full oven rack’s worth of medium toast (four to nine slices depending on the size of the oven) to gauge how evenly its elements heated. One of the models made only very light toast, even on the darkest setting, while others churned out good light and medium toast but incinerated the bread slices on the dark setting. The best models had toast settings that were accurate—a light setting that produced light toast, a medium setting that produced medium toast, and a dark setting that produced dark (but not burnt) toast.
To evaluate the air-fryer toaster ovens’ effectiveness at broiling, we cooked half a batch of Simple Broiled Asparagus in each model. Most of the ovens were able to cook the asparagus until tender, but only a few of them were able to brown the spears; we broiled the spears in one model for more than 20 minutes with no evidence of browning. By contrast, our favorite model produced tender, browned spears in 10 minutes, which was within the time range specified in our recipe. As we discovered in our traditional toaster oven testing, rack position was important in this test. Air-fryer toaster ovens that had a top rack position 3 or more inches away from the top element struggled to broil the asparagus, while the models with racks that sat 2.6 inches or less from the top element produced the most evenly browned asparagus.
When we made Weeknight Roast Chicken in each model, only one oven cooked the chicken to the right temperature within the recipe’s specified cooking time of 50 to 70 minutes. Most ovens produced underdone, pale chickens, and we found ourselves extending the cooking time by more than 20 minutes to ensure that the chickens were cooked through.
Our favorite air fryer offers an enclosed cooking space that contains messes and a cooking basket with a nonstick coating that is easy to clean. The air-fryer baskets that came with the air-fryer toaster ovens we tested, however, were not made of nonstick materials. As a result, we did experience some sticking (which we’ll talk more about later). Another difference we noted: Since air-fryer toaster ovens are bigger than regular air fryers, they often required preheating and also cooked foods a bit slower than our favorite air fryer.
Despite some slight usability issues, all but two of the air-fryer toaster ovens produced acceptable air-fried food. Since more air circulation leads to crispier food, we initially thought the surface areas of the air-frying baskets included with each model would play a role in how evenly and thoroughly they crisped food. However, this wasn’t the case. The basket that came with our favorite model had the largest surface area—about 172.5 square inches—while the basket of another model gave us 117 square inches of space. Both ovens produced fries and chicken Parmesan that were crispy, fully cooked, and similar in quality to the same foods prepared in our favorite air fryer. A model’s ability or inability to perform traditional toaster-oven tasks well also didn’t predict success at air frying. Some models that did not toast, broil, or roast well were able to air-fry perfectly fine, likely because of the power of their fans (more on that later).
How Easy Were They to Clean?
Cleanup was easy when we were making just toast and broiled asparagus but proved more challenging when we made roast chicken. Because air-fryer toaster ovens are relatively small, chicken grease splattered onto the door, the walls, and the heating elements. When we made chicken Parmesan from Air Fryer Perfection, another challenge arose: The mozzarella cheese that tops the chicken clung to the air-fryer baskets and was difficult to scrub off. Some of the air-fryer baskets had feet, which allowed us to place them on the machine’s baking sheet and allow hot air to circulate beneath the food as it cooked. This setup ensured that any dripping were caught by the baking sheet. The baskets of most of the models didn’t have feet, however, and cheese dripped through them and onto the heating elements. The basket of our winner wasn’t nonstick, which made this model even more of a challenge to clean than our favorite air fryer.
Which Is Right for You: An Air Fryer or an Air-Fryer Toaster Oven?
If you have limited counter space but are curious about air frying, we think an air-fryer toaster oven is a good option. Our favorite model really does offer much of the best of both worlds. And while our top air fryer is best suited for making one to two servings of food, air-fryer toaster ovens, with their larger air-fryer baskets, can handle recipes with larger yields.
However, if you are often cooking for only one or two people, have the storage space for multiple appliances, and already have a toaster oven you love, we still recommend our favorite air fryer, the Philips TurboStar Airfryer, Avance Digital and our runner-up air fryer, the GoWISE USA 3.7-Quart 7-in-1 Air Fryer. While our top air-fryer toaster oven requires you to preheat it before air-frying, these two air fryers do not require any preheating, saving a few precious minutes on busy weeknights. The heating elements of dedicated air fryers are enclosed and the baskets have heatproof handles, which also makes them easier and less intimidating for kids to use than air-fryer toaster ovens. Plus, air fryers, with their nonstick baskets, are easier to clean.
The Best Air-Fryer Toaster Oven: The Breville Smart Oven Air
Our favorite air-fryer toaster oven—the Breville Smart Oven Air—was easy to use and performed well in all our cooking tests, producing excellent toast, browned and tender broiled asparagus, a golden-all-over roast chicken, crispy french fries, and perfectly cooked chicken Parmesan. We liked its intuitive controls and easy-to-read digital display. We appreciated some of the oven’s smaller features, such as how the oven rack slides out when you open the oven door, making it easy to insert and remove food, and how the timer automatically pauses if you open the door. We also liked the helpful labels (such as “BROIL” and “AIRFRY”) on the glass of the oven door that indicate where to place the oven rack or air-fryer basket. While preheating was required before air-frying and (as with all of the ovens) cleanup was a bit of a chore, we thought that these were small complaints compared to its performance.
Aside from the included air-fryer basket, our favorite air-fryer toaster oven looked and functioned almost exactly the same as our favorite traditional toaster oven by Breville. So we asked the manufacturer what set them apart: They told us that while both ovens use a fan for convection cooking, the air-fryer toaster oven's fan can operate at two speeds. The lower speed works well for toasting, roasting, warming, and regular convection cooking, while the higher speed is necessary for air frying.
— Seven products, priced from about $64 to about $400
— Make single slices of light, medium, and dark toast
— Make as many pieces of medium toast as the oven rack will fit
— Make half a batch of Simple Broiled Asparagus
— Make Weeknight Roast Chicken
— Cook frozen french fries using the air-fryer setting to evaluate roasting, comparing to fries made in our winning air fryer and traditional toaster oven
— Make Air-Fryer French Fries and compare to fries made in our winning air fryer
— Make Chicken Parmesan from Air Fryer Perfection
— Clean ovens between tests, emptying the crumb tray if necessary
Performance: We evaluated the finished food, looking for ovens that made well-browned and crisp food within the recipes’ stated time ranges.
Ease of Use: We evaluated how easy it was to add and remove food and set the time, temperature, and cooking settings.
Cleanup: We looked at how easy the products were to clean.