Air fryer countertop oven vs air fryer – what's the difference?

What's the deal with those American-style toaster oven air fryers? I tried one versus my normal two-drawer air fryer to find out

Sage Air Fryer Oven
(Image credit: Sage)

Any comparison between air fryer ovens vs air fryers with a standard basket design comes with the question of nationality. While air fryer sales absolutely took off last year in the UK, our American friends across the pond have long favoured a different type of appliance – an air fryer oven. 

They actually don't even really call them air fryer ovens either. Instead, they refer to them as countertop ovens and rely on them for anything from making toast in the morning to cooking lasagne (and even then, they actually spell it lasagna...). 

So, to establish whether our classic British iteration of the best air fryers are better, or whether we should convert to air fryer ovens instead, I tried out both at home. 

If you're in the mood to shop thanks to Black Friday sales, then you can find different types of air fryers on sale right now, all of which are being rounded up on our Black Friday live deals page

Air fryer oven vs air fryers: What's the difference?

Standard air fryers act just like a conventional oven, but they live on your countertop and are a lot easier to use. They also tend to be a lot more efficient than your built-in oven, and a lot quicker at cooking whatever you put inside. Our explainer on an air fryer vs an ovens has the full details but the bottom line is this – that air fryers are very handy appliances indeed to use for everyday cooking.

And the most popular type of standard regulation air fryer? The best dual-zone air fryers, like the Ninja Foodi Maz Dual Zone Air Fryer AF400UK. With two drawers that you can set to two distinct temperatures and times, it really is the dream air fryer for weeknight meals. I've used that particular model for two years straight at our test centre whenever I need a quick lunch, and it has never once let me down. 

Testing an air fryer by cooking chips

(Image credit: Future/Phillip Sowels )

Air fryer ovens are a completely different story. Whilst they also tend to have the power of an oven, they look more like souped-up microwaves than anything else. The model I tried was from Sage, as detailed in my Sage The Smart Oven Air Fryer review

The main difference you'll notice from the offset with air fryer ovens is that they are going to make a very noticeable impact on any countertop space you have. The one I tried from Sage is particularly big and has ten different functions which I found downright scary when I first got my hands on it. The functions range from 'crumpet' to 'pizza', and there's a range of different inserts to help you supercharge each task.

Sage Air Fryer Oven

(Image credit: Sage)

After facing my function-related fears, however, I realised just how useful an air fryer oven could be. Rather than being limited to whatever I could cook in the space of one basket with my dual zone air fryer, I had all of the cavernous space of a small oven. I find it much easier to reheat leftovers and cook pizza in my air fryer oven, and I love that in the same appliance, I can slow cook and grill if I fancy. 

Air fryer oven vs air fryers: Performance

I'm a big fan of both my air fryer (the Ninja) and my air fryer oven (the Sage). So much so, I've kept both in my relatively small and now very cluttered London flat. But they do have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performance. 

While my standard dual zone air fryer is a lot quicker to preheat and to cook with from scratch (if you're air frying chicken, for example), my air fryer oven is much better at reheating food, as well as grilling alongside air frying. 

Image of Ninja Dual Zone during testing at test centre

There's nothing better than cooking Quorn nuggets in your air fryer.

(Image credit: Future/Molly Cleary)

And while the Ninja is so easy to clean, the Sage can be a real struggle, especially due to the glass door and the different inserts, which seem to hold grease like nothing else. 

The two-zone element of my Ninja air fryer also means that I can cook at two different temperatures, which is not the case with my Sage oven, where everything has to cook along together.

Should you buy an air fryer oven or an air fryer?

If you want a simple-to-use appliance that can help you cut down on your energy bills and cook food much faster, then a standard basket-design air fryer is the way to go. My favourite after being Ideal Home's product tester for over a year is the Ninja FlexDrawer, which has all of the space of an air fryer oven with the merits of a standard air fryer. 

Conversely, if you've already got a standard air fryer and you're looking to upgrade, or if you've got excess space and a little more to spend, a top-of-the-range air fryer oven will suit you well. The door design means that you can fit plenty in, and for reheating leftovers, this kind of device is second to none.

Molly Cleary
Ecommerce Editor

After writing for all of Future's Homes titles, Molly is now an Ecommerce Editor at Ideal Home, working across a range of shopping content to find the best buys for your space. Previously, she was the Staff Writer at TopTenReviews, another Future site, where she covered home content, which to a US audience is anything from turkey fryers to ride-on lawn mowers. Now, she spends her time writing reviews of appliances she’s tested at home and at our testing facility (we're talking air fryers, vacuums, dehumidifiers and more!), as well as curating buying guides. She's a certified Consumer Expert for several product categories after passing a five-step program including hands-on experience, consumer interviews and extensive research into her specialist areas including kitchen appliances and vacuums.