Microwave vs Air Fryer: Which is Cheaper for Cooking?

Can the air fryer beat the trusty microwave for cost savings in the kitchen?

Image of someone opening a microwave.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Experimenting with microwaves vs air fryers to find the most cost effective cooking option makes sense as energy prices remain elevated.

Here we crunch the numbers to find out which small appliance is cheaper to run in the kitchen, with some help from our friends at The Money Edit.

But first, consider our other articles about home energy savings.

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Microwave: Cost to run

It costs around $0.20 per hour to run an average 1200W microwave, which works out to be $74.00 per year if used for one hour every day, according to CNET.

Microwaves are quick for heating up food, they’re easy to clean, you can use them to defrost frozen items and they don't consume much energy. Using a microwave is common for both reheating food and cooking ready-made meals. Many microwaves offer different cooking options for foods like rice and pasta, fish and meat or even beverages.

Air fryer: Cost to run

It costs $0.25 to use a standard 4 qt. air fryer for an hour, which works out to $91.25 per year if used for one hour every day, according to CNET. However, the cost varies depending on how powerful the air fryer is, as well as the model and the duration you use it for. 

Retailers are stuffing shelves and websites full of air fryers as they grow in popularity — meaning there are plenty of options depending on your budget and the size of your household. 

The internet is flooded with people who love their air fryers because of how easy it makes cooking. It’s also a healthier option than frying food by other means. Sites like Food Network are full of easy air fryer recipes like "healthy air fryer chicken wings" and "air fryer teriyaki salmon fillets."

The verdict

If you want to base your purchase solely on which is cheaper to run, then the microwave wins. But it is common to have both a microwave and an air fryer in the kitchen, because you can use them for different purposes. 

A microwave heats and reheats food well. On the other hand, an air fryer gives foods that crispy, fried quality that a microwave just can’t replicate. Plus, an air fryer can be a healthier way to cook while speeding up cooking times. 

Ultimately, it depends on what foods you typically cook and which appliance works best for that. But there’s definitely no shame in using them both.

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Ben Demers
Audience Engagement Manager, Kiplinger.com

Ben Demers manages digital content and engagement at Kiplinger, informing readers through a range of personal finance articles, e-newsletters, social media, syndicated content, and videos. He is passionate about helping people lead their best lives through sound financial behavior, particularly saving money at home and avoiding scams and identity theft. Ben graduated with an M.P.S. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Vassar College. He joined Kiplinger in May 2017.

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