It’s 2021 and we are cooking our food in everything BUT an oven. Let’s face it, the oven can be a hassle and there are so many alternatives. 

Sure, you’ve heard of the cult of the Instant Pot and the Slow Cooker fanatics. We’re moving onto bigger and better. Namely, the NuWave Oven and the air fryer. 

Both appliances are loved for their health benefits, but is there any truth to the hype or is it all a gimmick? Also, if you go this route, which is the better option? Let’s break it all down in the battle of the NuWave oven versus the air fryer. 

What is an Air Fryer?

The electronics company Phillips released their AirFryer branded convection oven in 2010. Since then, we’ve all adopted the term “air fryer” to refer to any such device. Credit where credit is due to Phillips though!

Today, many big name brands produce their own version of the Phillips’s original. Big-names in the game include Ninja, Cuisinart, and GoWise. Even NuWave has its own air fryer!

How does an Air Fryer work?

Despite the name, air fryers don’t actually fry anything. Traditional frying requires dropping food into hot oil which gives the food a crispy exterior. As tasty as this may be, it’s not exactly healthy.

air fryer
An Air Fryer uses hot air and fans to cook food without oil

For those looking for healthier choices, air fryers need little to no oil. Instead, these appliances cook with hot air and fans. If you are familiar with convection ovens, air fryers work in the same way. 

To cook with an air fryer, food is placed into a fryer basket. Once closed and started, the fryer’s heating mechanism circulates hot air all around the food to cook it. The hot air is what provides that tasty crisp.

What is a NuWave oven?

The NuWave Oven as it is known today was released in 2002. There are two models of NuWave Ovens currently: the NuWave Pro Plus and the NuWave Elite.

While air fryers are convection cookers, NuWave ovens use infrared (more on that later). The brand NuWave is responsible for the first mass-marketed infrared oven but since its debut, competitors have released their own versions.

How does a NuWave oven work?

The NuWave Oven is an interesting appliance. It actually cooks in three different ways. It uses infrared, conduction, and convection. I won’t turn this into a science lecture, but I’ll briefly explain how each of these heat transfer methods cooks your food.

NuWave Oven
NuWave Oven uses infrared, conduction and convection for cooking

Conduction is the most basic of heat transfers. Simply put, a hot thing makes a cold or cool thing hot too. You preheat your oven to make the interior hot. Once heated, you place your food inside, and the heat transfers. 

Convection is the method of cooking air fryers use. This involves hot air being circulated with a fan to surround the food and cook it. Convection is much like conduction but it adds the element of movement. In this case, the movement comes from air. 

Infrared is the unique aspect of the NuWave. It actually involves energy waves that are absorbed by the food to heat it up. In an infrared oven, shields and reflectors help transfer these waves. 

This triple threat makes a NuWave Oven cook faster and with up to 75% less energy than traditional cooking.

Which is better? 

Now we know what both these appliances are and how they work, but you came here to learn which one is worth your money. Let’s dig deeper.

Health

Good news! No matter which appliance you choose, in this case, you’re getting a healthy option. Both cookers prepare food with less fats and oils.

The NuWave Oven is known for removing and collecting fats and oils. In fact, the oven was tested by a third party (Silliker Inc.) and was found to collect 250% more fat drippings than traditional ovens. Consider the possibilities – if you cook chicken or fish or any meat, you’re getting less fat than its convection oven-cooked counterpart.

Air fryers don’t collect oils, but they don’t use extra to begin with. Air fryers use little to no oil to fry, so you get the crisp with less fat and more yum. 

Versatility

Unfortunately for the air fryer, it doesn’t stack up to the Nuwave in terms of versatility. Air fryers do more than make fried chicken, certainly. For example, did you know you make stuffed bell peppers in an air fryer? Some crafty home chefs have even found ways to bake in their air fryer. Don’t knock an air-fried lava cake until you’ve tried it!

On the other hand, NuWave Ovens practically do it all. It can roast a chicken. It can grill a burger. It can even dehydrate and give you beef jerky or dried fruits. 

To restore a point back in the air fryer’s favor: air fryers can manage to make some tasty baked goods. Imagine my surprise when I tasted how good an air fryer donut was! 

Meanwhile, the NuWave Oven also advertises baking abilities. However, in practice, NuWave baked goods leave something to be desired. Infrared baked cookies and cakes tend to lose moisture and can be dry. 

Convenience

This head-to-head battle also goes to the NuWave Oven. Air fryers are convenient for what they do. They’re easy to use, easy to clean, and fry foods without oil. 

So what makes NuWave more convenient? It’s also all of those things – but it can also cook multiple foods at the same time. Since it has a larger capacity (10 quarts to air fryers’ six or below) and it has triple combo cooking, you could theoretically prepare an entire meal in a NuWave oven. Yes, you could put an entire chicken and your veggie sides all together!

Time

When it comes to time, we’re going to consider two factors: preparation and cooking times. While both appliances are speedy, the NuWave inches ahead ever so slightly. 

To illustrate, we will consider chicken. According to the NuWave cookbook, a chicken breast will take about 8 minutes when on the HI setting. On the other hand, that same piece of meat will take almost 20 minutes in an air fryer.

Understandably, a nearly 10-minute difference may not impress you. Consider, though, your prep time. NuWave Oven does not require preheating, while the air fryer does. Preheating can add additional 10 minutes to your preparation time. 

Price

Budget is an important factor in any purchasing decision. If you’re looking to save some green, one of these options is not for you.

Air fryers vary in price. As I type these words, you can buy several different types of air fryers on sale for $20. The average price for one is typically around $70, but you can pay up to $300 for a high-end model. 

NuWave Ovens certainly aren’t on sale for $20. If you want one of these infrared ovens, you’ll have to pay upwards of $140. That price only includes the actual oven. If you want one of the brand’s kits, like a baking, pizza, or dehydrating kit, the costs really start to add up. 

Maintenance and upkeep are important as well. To work, the NuWave Oven requires a plastic dome. It isn’t the strongest of materials and customers find it breaks sooner rather than later.

You could always buy a replacement dome, of course. NuWave sells these domes for $35. Owners often find themselves trying to save themselves the replacement costs. In fact, YouTube is full of videos of NuWave owners attempting to fix their dome with epoxy and high-temperature tape. 

Can you use a NuWave oven as an air fryer?

Yes, you can use a NuWave oven as an air fryer. NuWave ovens are capable of many methods of cooking including:

  • Bake
  • Broil
  • Roast
  • Grill
  • Steam
  • Dehydrate
  • Barbeque

Last, but not least, it can air-fry. The NuWave Oven can get you that health(ier) fried crisp and taste. The NuWave Oven is also larger in capacity than the average air fryer, so it is capable of frying larger quantities of food at one time as well.

NuWave Ovens and Air Fryers – Pros and Cons

To break the decision down to the essentials, let’s do some pros and cons. 

NuWave Ovens

ProsCons
Uses less energyShort lifespan 
No preheatingExpensive
Fast cooking timesPricey accessories/kits
Larger Large, takes up space
Can cook multiple foods separately
Dishwasher safe parts
Easy-to-use control panel

Air Fryers

ProsCons
Affordable Limited to one type of cooking
Healthier fried foodsLimited basket size
Variety of sizesFood can dry out
Easy-to-useLarge, takes up space
Dishwasher safe parts

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, the best countertop cooker depends on what you need it for. NuWave Ovens offer cooking versatility while air fryers give an affordable and healthy way to fry foods. Both are easy to use and clean but both will also take up valuable counter space!

Hopefully, this guide helped you make the best decision for your kitchen and your family. If you have any other decisions to make, why not check out some of our other guides below?