Serious Eats / Will Dickey
Increasingly, it’s easier than ever to cook a meal from scratch without touching your stovetop or oven. Pressure cookers, induction burners, air fryers, and toaster ovens are all taking a slice of the home-cooking pie. These gadgety countertop appliances suggest the revolution will be electric (and come with a flashy LCD touchscreen). But even the most spacious kitchens only have so much countertop real estate. In an effort to consolidate appliances, many kitchen brands now make countertop toaster ovens with air frying capabilities.
But can appliances that claim to do it all actually deliver? A recent month-long test of Breville’s new Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro showed promising results, with some minor irritations and shortcomings. In an effort to evaluate the increasingly busy dual air fryer-toaster oven space, we tested eight models from popular brands. With prices that range from $180 to $500, these aren’t casual purchases. And unlike some basic toaster ovens, they’re not petite, either.
We chose models from brands that were well-known and trusted in either the toaster oven or air fryer market. Although many of the units we tested can do more than just toast and air fry, we focused our tests on those functions, because that’s typically how they’ll most often be used. (Although the dehydrator feature on some may be handy for DIY-ers).
The Winners, at a Glance
This unit is handsome and subtle, with a classic aesthetic that doesn’t feel overly trendy. It produced excellent toast and had minimal hot spots—an important consideration for baking and roasting. We liked that its fry basket was able to stand alone in the unit by sliding into grooves on the side walls; some other models required the basket to sit on a tray, which made maneuvering difficult and inhibited browning. All in all, this is a nicely-sized toaster oven with a generous cooking chamber that excelled in almost every cooking task.
A close runner-up to the Calphalon, this unit had all of the same winning ingredients, including a standalone fry basket; a simple, intuitive interface with manual knobs and dials; and an impressive air fry function. It’s no surprise this was a top performer; it’s the “air fryer included” version of our favorite under $250 toaster oven.
Boasting a truly impressive number of functions—including proofing dough—this do-it-all air fryer toaster oven comes with a high price tag but has the goods to back it up. It also stands out from the crowd with an app that allows you to control the unit from your phone and offers helpful tips and recipes.
Serious Eats / Will DickeyToast Test: We placed one piece of white sandwich bread in the center of each oven, then toasted it on the medium–dark setting. We evaluated evenness of toasting on both the top and bottom of the bread, as well as how long it took to achieve the desired results.Hot Spots Test: We tested the basic baking capability by preheating the ovens to 350˚F without their convection function. Using the same brand of white bread, we filled each oven with as many slices as it could hold without overlapping, then baked for 10 minutes without flipping or turning. We recorded the quantity each oven could fit. By observing darker and lighter shades of toast, we were able to determine the oven’s hot and cold spots (if any).Frozen Pizza Test: Toaster ovens are great at reheating leftover pizza, but how do they handle frozen pies? We used the same brand in each oven to evaluate. After preheating the oven to 400˚F without convection, we baked the pies on the provided sheet tray for 14 minutes, then evaluated for crust crispiness and evenness of cheese melt. Frozen French Fries Test: Then it was time to air-fry. We used the same brand of frozen fries in 16-ounce batches. The brand we chose didn’t include preparation directions for air fryers; instead, we used the technique outlined in our original air fryer test: 400˚F for 20 minutes, shaking the fries only once, midway through cooking. If the oven included a “fries” setting on the air fryer (some did), we used that.Chicken Wings Test: We tested the oven’s ability to air fry meat by cooking two pounds of chicken wings in each one. We used one tablespoon of oil, one teaspoon of salt, and a half-teaspoon of pepper, then air-fried at 360˚F for 12 minutes, flipped the wings, and air-fried for another 12 minutes. To finish, we flipped the wings a second time and air-fried for six minutes at 390˚F. After evaluating for crispiness and evenness of cooking, we cleaned the unit and washed the fry basket by hand.User Experience and Cleanup Tests: With most cooking test results providing minor differences with which to compare models, our top picks relied heavily on user experience. We evaluated how intuitive it was to use the models straight from the box before reading directions, and considered the simplicity and efficiency of the controls (LCD touchscreen vs. toggle wheel vs. etc.) Finally, we considered how easy (or not) it was to manually set the temperature and time, as compared with the unit’s presets.
What We Learned
Air Fryer Toaster Ovens Didn’t Make Great Toast
Serious Eats / Will Dickey
Many older models of toaster ovens are pretty compact. They have a small countertop footprint and petite cooking chambers. But to accommodate the space needed for baking, roasting, and air frying, these new hybrid models have large, cavernous chambers. (There was one exception: the Ninja Foodi, which was a bit wider than our other models, but much more squat.) The large chamber is necessary for excellent air frying: ample room for a fry basket allows food to be arranged in a single layer, which results in crispier, golden brown food.
Unfortunately, the extra-large chamber means there’s a greater distance between the racks and the heating units. We found that toasting on the middle rack (when available) took an almost comically long time—nearing 10 minutes for darker shades. While you could ameliorate this issue by moving a rack closer to the heating rods at the top or bottom of the oven, that may result in burning or uneven toasting, and you’ll certainly have to flip the toast halfway through. We’ll admit that waiting a few extra minutes for properly cooked toast is hardly an imposition, but it’s worth taking into consideration if you plan on regularly using your unit to make toast.
If you’re hoping to use your air fryer toaster oven to roast and bake, you’ll find it useful to know not every model can be dialed in to a specific temperature. Some feature temperature changes in 5- or even 25-degree intervals (such as having options for 325F˚, 350˚F, 375˚F, and so on).
Air Frying In a Toaster Oven Was Messier than Using an Air Fryer
Serious Eats / Will Dickey
Air frying is absolutely less messy than traditional deep frying, even if you use a self-contained deep fryer. But our test quickly revealed one downside of using a toaster oven to air fry: the fat causes splatters when the tray is removed, which makes cleanup annoying. During our chicken wing tests, the rendered fat from the wings and oil splattered all over the glass door when we pulled out the basket to flip the meat. (The crumb or drip tray doesn’t automatically come out when the door is opened, so the fry basket will hover over the door as you pull it out.) We either had to balance the tray precariously over the door to flip and turn the wings, or set it on a trivet on our counter: Either way, it was a messy, oily business that required us to wash our oven mitts, kitchen towels, and of course, the oven door after each use.
By comparison, self-contained air fryers are more efficiently designed to contain oil and fat within the unit, even when removing the basket (most traditional air fryers have a handled basket, rather than the handle-less square or rectangular ones found in the air fryer toaster ovens we tested). While the finished wings were crispy and golden, the cleanup was laborious. The baskets required vigorous scrubbing with a bristle brush, and the interior of the unit had to be cleaned with a vinegar-based solution to wipe away grease.
Fitted Baskets and Trays Made A Big Difference in Usability
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly
Most models we tested had simple tray baskets, which had to be situated on the wire rack or baking tray. The baking tray option is a less messy way to fry, although it will hinder the 360-degree airflow needed for adequate crisping. However, a handful of units—the Ninja Foodi, the Breville, and the Calphalon—had a basket with a wide lip meant to slide into the oven’s side grooves, just like its oven racks. Not only did it allow for better airflow, it also made pulling the basket out easier.
Some models, like the Toshiba, had so many side grooves, it was difficult to slide a rack or tray in evenly on the first try. But generally speaking, we preferred models that allowed for multiple tray positions, which meant we could situate food on the top, bottom, or in the middle of the oven. The Ninja only allows for food to be positioned at the very top or bottom of the unit: there’s no middle ground.
Fan Placement Mattered
The models we tested had fans either on one side of the unit or installed in the top. Overwhelmingly, the top fans resulted in darker, more thoroughly cooked food, thanks to direct, intense heat—but not in a good way. While this is a great design in theory, in practice it sometimes resulted in burning or blackening. The largest top fans, as in the GE and Cuisinart, often yielded overdone food.
Side-installed fans, as in the Breville and Calphalon, resulted in food that was more moderately cooked. These units tended to have more hot spots when convection was not used, but this problem could be solved by rotating the food halfway through cooking. (It’s not necessary for toast.) Equally important, they made more efficient use of their space: the fans are installed behind the control panel. We found these units to be the least imposing when left on a counter, despite having similar footprints—most of the top-fan units looked hulking, thanks to their top-heavy design.
Multiple Dials and Knobs Were Easier to Navigate than Minimalist Interfaces
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly
While every air fryer toaster oven we tested came with a detailed instruction manual, we first attempted to use the units without reading it, to gauge how intuitive the interfaces were. Overwhelmingly, we preferred models with more than one dial or knob. The greater the manual options, the easier it was to use. In contrast, the Instant Pot Omni Plus has an entirely touchscreen interface, which was more confusing to operate (and quickly got greasy when adjusted during cooking).
We didn’t like that some models had fussy interfaces that required a lot of babysitting. The Toshiba requires a preheat cycle, but it doesn’t automatically begin cooking once the chosen temperature is reached. During a few tests in the Toshiba, we overcooked food because we didn’t realize it had been sitting at temperature for a handful of minutes. (One of our top picks, the Smart Oven from Breville, also has that undesirable feature, but we liked enough of its other qualities to still recommend it.)
The Calphalon and Breville systems were our favorite, with multiple clearly-labeled buttons and dials that made choosing a setting easy. It was also easy to adjust the controls while the unit was in use.
Noise, Steam, and Smell Differences
All of the units made some noise during their cooking cycles. But we found some of them to be offensively loud. The Instant Pot was the most intrusive, particularly when air frying. The Ninja Foodi had an irritating “cool down” period that caused the fan to whirr noisily long after it had stopped cooking. The Calphalon and Breville were the quietest on all settings, but barely perceptible when toasting or simply baking without convection.
Another consideration when buying an air fryer toaster oven: steam. Every unit we tested emitted some steam when air frying, but some turned our kitchen into a meat-and-potato-scented sauna. The Cuisinart was particularly offensive here, with clouds of steam escaping through the top of the machine. Both it and the Instant produced so much steam, it collected on the glass door and eventually leaked onto the counter. The foggy kitchen windows and lingering “fried food” smell are annoying, but we see another, more serious problem with heavy steam emitters: they can damage wood cabinetry over time. We tested the units on a countertop directly under cabinets containing packaged foods. After a day of testing, there was condensation on the inside of the cabinet doors and on the shelves.
Are Air Fryer Toaster Ovens Worth It? And How Do They Compare to an Air Fryer?
Our evaluation was based on performance and user experience, although after four rounds of testing across the units’ various capabilities, we noted that all models produced sufficiently crispy food with the air fry function. However, they were all, to varying degrees, messier to use than traditional air fryers, and some were a pain to clean up. Disappointingly, a handful of the toaster ovens struggled to make evenly toasted bread. So, are any worth buying?
Ultimately, air fryer toaster ovens are passable at all tasks, but not better than their single-function competitors. However, they are larger than many air fryers and can accommodate more food, for those regularly cooking for four people or more.
With this in mind, we determined that user experience trumps all when buying an air fryer toaster oven. If you have the room in your kitchen and will regularly use both appliances, we suggest investing in both an air fryer and an air fryer toaster oven or toaster oven. That said, budget and space may dictate your decision. Three of the models we tested outshone the competition, with better-than-average performance, as well as interfaces that were truly pleasurable to use.
The Criteria: What to Look for In an Air Fryer Toaster Oven
Serious Eats / Grace Kelly
The best air fryer toaster ovens have spacious chambers with plenty of options for situating racks, trays, and fry baskets. Interfaces that weigh heavily on manual knobs are preferable for ease of use—and to minimize grease on touchscreens. Look for doors that open and close smoothly, without snapping or spring-back, which will extend the longevity of your unit, and work to keep steam inside. Finally, consider the footprint versus usable space. Some units are very large but have relatively small cooking chambers. Overwhelmingly, units that had convection fans on the top of the unit were bulkier and took up more space. Our top winners made efficient use of their size with large chambers and had side fans.
What we liked: An attractive, charcoal-colored model that doesn’t buy into trendy designs, this model excelled at every cooking test; it even re-crisped day-old chicken wings to near perfection. Although the messier air frying process was still present, it was such a high performer in the other tasks (toasting and baking), we feel it’s worth buying for those capabilities alone. It measures slightly taller than the Breville, but is five pounds lighter, and has a clear, unobstructed glass door for easy monitoring. The timer is precise—it includes seconds—and the light is bright and helpful, especially for monitoring doneness while air frying. It is tops at keeping steam and cooking smells (relatively) contained inside the unit. The fan is installed in the side of the unit, behind the control panel. The air fry basket is standalone, meaning you don’t have to rest it on another rack or tray.
What we didn’t like: The temperature can only be adjusted in 25-degree increments (like 325˚F, 350˚F, and 375˚F), so it’s not a good choice for precision baking. The preheat cycle, while speedy, does not automatically kick into cook mode. Although that’s not a deal breaker, you’ll want to either add your food as soon as you set the timer and start the machine—or stay close by until the countdown has begun. The fry basket is smaller than the Breville’s, which may result in overcrowding (or require multiple batches). The dials have small grooves, which could collect crumbs or grease over time.
Price at time of publish: $288.
Weight: 22.5 poundsDimensions: 11.6 x 18.7 x 15.8 inchesType and dimensions of air fry basket: Standalone wire basket, 12 x 9 inchesInterface type: Manual, with two dials and 5 push-buttons total, including turbo convectionCapabilities: Air Fry, Bagel, Bake, Broil, Defrost, Dehydrate, Keep Warm, Pizza, Roast, ToastMinimum temperature: 150˚FMax temperature: 450˚FSerious Eats / Will Dickey
What we liked: A good choice for countertops short on real estate, the Breville has one of the smallest footprints of any of the models we tested, thanks to its side-installed fan behind the controls. Happily, it doesn’t feel lacking in cooking space. We liked the easy-to-use interface that was intuitive, thanks to multiple dials and buttons (and a high-contrast LCD screen). The fry basket is wide and roomy, which means you can cook a large volume of food without sacrificing crispiness. It also fits directly into the grooves of the side walls, making it more efficient to maneuver in and out. It’s a hardworking multitasker, with keep warm, dehydrate, and slow cook functions. And while aesthetics aren’t everything, they do count in an appliance that will live on your countertop. The Breville is available in a handful of neutral-adjacent shades, including a deep blue and a creamy white.
What we didn’t like: At $350, it’s one of the priciest models we tested. However, it’s still less expensive than buying a standalone toaster oven and an air fryer (the top two from our reviews are around $469 together). The individual components—including the wire fry basket—must be hand-washed, which is cumbersome after messy cooking tasks, like frying chicken. It does everything speedily, including making toast and preheating, but its performance sometimes fell behind other models as a result. Condensation and steam can be overwhelming during high-heat, high-convection cooking tasks.
Price at time of publish: $350.
Weight: 28 pounds, 12 poundsDimensions: 18.5 x 15.75 x 11 inchesType and dimensions of air fry basket: Standalone wire basket; 11 x 12.75 inchesInterface type: Manual, with 3 dials and 5 push-buttons, including turbo convectionCapabilities: Air Fry, Bagel, Bake, Broil, Cookies, Dehydrate, Reheat, Roast, Slow Cook, Toast, WarmMinimum temperature: 120˚FMax temperature: 450˚FSerious Eats / Will Dickey
What we liked: The air fry function was top-notch, with fries and wings coming out crispy, golden, and juicy. The large cooking chamber makes this a good swap for traditional oven cooking, allowing the user to roast and bake for a (small) crowd. The ability to cook with convection (even when not air frying) is a huge time saver, and we appreciated the truly expansive list of functions.
What we didn’t like: A fair amount of condensation collects at the door during certain cooking tasks. The app can be a little glitchy and we would like to see further developments and oven-app integration. It’s undeniably pricey.
Price at time of publish: $500.
Weight: 23 poundsDimensions: 21.5 x 17.3 x 12.8 inchesType and dimensions of air fry basket: Standalone wire basket; 11.75 x 15 inchesInterface type: Manual, with three dials and six push-buttons, including an “A bit more” button to add a little extra cooking timeCapabilities: Air Fry, Bagel, Bake, Broil, Cookies, Dehydrate, Pizza, Proof, Reheat, Roast, Slow Cook, Toast, Warm Minimum temperature: 80˚FMax temperature: 480˚FSerious Eats / Grace Kelly
Cuisinart Digital Air Fryer Toaster Oven: This air fryer runs aggressively hot, in large part due to the XL fan on the top; every test produced dark, almost-burnt results. In high-fat foods, like the chicken wings, this resulted in a large amount of rendered fat to clean up. The cooking chamber is small compared to most other models.GE Digital Air Fryer Toaster Oven: This stainless steel appliance has the smart look of a “chef’s kitchen.” The large top-of-unit fan produced extra-dark, extra-crispy results, which may not be to everyone’s taste. It’s loud, and the timer begins automatically, without accounting for preheating. That resulted in over- and under-done food. There are no presets for things like fries and wings, but the user manual offers helpful guidelines.Instant Pot Omni Plus Air Fryer Toaster Oven: With an entirely touchscreen interface, this techy model was a pain to keep clean and grease-free. It was also the loudest and largest of the models we tested, with a hulking overhang that doubled as a door. The temperature can be set to specific degrees, but every button pressed sounds in an irritating beep.Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fryer Oven: This model initially caught our eye due to its smaller footprint; it’s very short. But with only room for “top” and “bottom” rack positions, food got too dark no matter where it was situated. Its small chamber is tricky to clean well, and the side-handle door was awkward to use. We did like the standalone fry basket, that slid neatly into the side grooves.Toshiba Air Fryer Toaster Oven Combo: While this model has the potential to toast, bake, and air-fry well, we found it frustrating to use. A confusing interface, and the inability to adjust settings while it was in preheat mode resulted in overcooked food in most of our tests. Folks who plan on air frying often will appreciate the 11 settings under that function, including chicken nuggets, squid rings, and spring rolls.
Can an air fryer replace a toaster oven?
Although air fryers perform some cooking tasks very well, they are not a 1:1 replacement for a toaster oven. The design of standalone air fryers is not ideal for cooking in large batches; we found that XL air fryers lagged in efficiency and function. Air fryers are best for approximating fried food with minimal oil and easier cleanup. Toaster ovens excel at traditional baking and cooking tasks on a smaller (and quicker) scale. They’re both pretty great at heating up leftovers, though.
Is a toaster oven the same as an air fryer?
Toaster ovens and air fryers work differently. A toaster oven functions like a miniature oven that cooks food by heating a chamber to a set temperature. An air fryer uses a built-in high-speed fan to more efficiently circulate air around that chamber. Food that has been roasted or baked in an air fryer can have a very crispy texture, similar to deep fried food. Toaster ovens with air fryer capabilities include a convection fan. Cooks can manually turn the fan on and off for cooking functions like bake and roast, although it automatically turns on when the air fry function is chosen..
What is the best air fryer toaster oven?
Our tests revealed the Calphalon Air Fryer Oven,Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer, and the Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro are the best air fryer toaster ovens in all categories, including user experience. They performed basic toasting functions well, with minimal hot spots, and air fried sufficiently. And, finally, they were the most intuitive to set, adjust, and use.
Can you toast bread in an air fryer oven?
First, a clarification: air fryers and air fryer toaster ovens use similar technology, but are not interchangeable. You can absolutely toast bread in a dual air fryer-toaster oven unit; just use the “toast” function. While standalone air fryers do have additional functions, like bake and roast, they’re not the best appliance for making toast (though with some jiggering and watching you could make toast in one).