This year’s hottest cooking trend, air frying, is really just a fun new name for something that’s been around for decades: cooking with convection. If you already own a convection toaster oven we’ve got good news…you can air fry with it and in this post, we’ll show you how!
To see if a convection toaster oven could produce the same crispy results as an air fryer, we used a COSORI Air Fryer Max XL (5.8 QT) and our 5-year-old Breville Smart Oven Pro (BOV845BSS) to cook a variety of vegetarian air fryer recipes.
Most of the recipes only needed a few tweaks while others did require a bit more experimenting. In this post, we’ll share everything we’ve learned plus all of our top tips for cooking air fryer recipes in a convection toaster oven.
Let’s get started. Crispy, tender, delicious food awaits!
What is an Air Fryer?
Air fryers are basically small countertop convection ovens. They use a high-powered fan to circulate heated air around food in a perforated basket.
This super-heated situation results in food with crispy browned exteriors, tender juicy interiors, and cooked in less time than a traditional oven.
Most manufacturers promise that air-fried food will have the same taste and texture as your favorite fried foods but without the mess and grease of deep-frying.
Does the food actually taste fried?
Nope. It’s hot air, not magic. So the food is never going to taste like it was deep-fried in a vat of oil. But it will taste good. Like really good – moist, tender, and oh so crispy.
Can you air fry with a convection toaster oven?
For the past year, we’ve been playing around with a basket-style air fryer and a few air fryer toaster ovens. (If you’re curious about air fryer toaster ovens, hold on, we’ve got a post coming soon).
Knowing that the convection technology in those appliances is similar to how a convection toaster oven works got us thinking…could we forgo having a second appliance and just cook air fryer recipes in our convection toaster oven?
Then readers started emailing asking the same thing and we knew we had to give it a try!
Recipes Tests – Air Fryer vs. Convection Toaster Oven
For the most accurate results we followed these steps for each recipe we tried:
- Fully preheated the air fryer and the convection toaster oven.
- The air fryer was cleaned and the toaster oven was wiped down between recipes.
- In the convection toaster oven we used the BAKE function with the convection fan on and put the oven rack in the bottom rack height position.
- To mimic the air flow of the air fryer basket when cooking with the convection toaster oven, we placed food on a wire rack inserted inside of a quarter sheet pan. *I also slid a silicone baking mat in the bottom of the sheet pan to make any drips or potential mess easier to clean.
First, we made half a batch of this recipe for Easy Air Fryer Donuts from the Kitchn in our drawer-style air fryer.
- The recipe directions are to make a hole in each biscuit, spray the air fry basket with oil and add the biscuits.
- Air fry the donuts at 350°F for 5 minutes, flipping them after 3 minutes of cooking.
- To make donut holes, air fry at the same temperature but reduce the cooking time to 3 minutes total.
Overall, the recipe’s temperature and timing were super accurate, the “donuts” tasted yummy, and they were fun to make.
Next, we made a half-batch in our convection toaster oven. Initially, we tried baking the donuts at 350°F like the original recipe. They took about 13 minutes and were not as crispy as we wanted.
So we cranked up the oven by 25 degrees to 375°F and tried again. After 8 minutes the tops were nicely browned but the bottoms were pale so we carefully flipped them over. After 5 more minutes of baking, they were fully cooked and browned all over.
To make the donut holes, we kept everything the same but baked them for just 8 minutes, flipping after 5 minutes.
The final batch of convection-baked donuts had lots of golden flaky layers. The donuts were deliciously crispy outside, light inside, and had a great flavor that tasted just like the air fryer donuts…maybe even better!
Both varieties were best when enjoyed warm but the convection baked donuts stayed crispy even after cooling while the air fryer ones immediately lost their crispness and became dense once cooled.
Here’s a recap of the changes we made to the original recipe for our convection toaster oven:
- Increased temperature by 25 degrees to 375°F.
- Baked for 11 minutes total, carefully flipping the donuts after 8 minutes.
- We didn’t spray the metal cooking rack with oil and had no issues with sticking.
Fresh Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts were one of the first things we tried to cook in the basket-style air fryer when we initially brought it home.
It took some experimenting, but we eventually found the right time and temperature to get them crispy and tender without turning them almost black.
For the air fryer batch, we cooked the sprouts at 370°F for about 11 minutes, flipping them after 6 minutes.
We love, love, love, to make toaster oven Brussels sprouts so I already knew that 400°F was the temperature to use. But, I’d never tried cooking the sprouts on a rack and was curious if it would improve them in any way.
So we cooked two batches in our convection toaster oven at 400°F. One with the sprouts on the rack, and one with them on the pan.
The rack batch took about 20 minutes, while the pan batch was ready in 18 minutes.
- The rack-cooked sprouts were our least favorite, they were a little dried out and not as flavorful as the other batches.
- The air fried sprouts had the crispiest leaves and a nice flavor.
- The sprouts cooked directly on the pan were the most flavorful and had perfectly tender middles.
- If you closed your eyes and tried one of the air fryer sprouts and one of the toaster oven sprouts it was almost impossible to tell them apart.
Want to try air frying sprouts in your little oven? This Toaster Oven Brussels Sprouts Recipe has step-by-step directions, photos, and tips. The convection adjustments are in the recipe card notes.
If you’re not a tofu fan yet, this recipe for Crispy Air Fryer Tofu from Jessica in the Kitchen might just change your mind. The spice blend is fantastic, I want to put it on everything.
Using her recipe, we pressed and prepped the tofu exactly as directed for both the air fryer and the convection toaster oven batches.
For the air fryer batch, we cooked the tofu at 400°F. Ours took about 12 minutes to get crispy (including shaking the basket to toss the tofu after 6 minutes).
We debated over increasing the temperature for the convection toaster oven batch given how well that had worked in the previous recipes. In the end, we decided to keep it at 400°F.
After 10 minutes of cooking, the coating was starting to dry but the tofu was still very soft. We flipped the pieces and continued cooking for an additional 15 minutes. After 25 minutes total, the edges were a little crispy.
We both loved the flavor of the tofu, it was bold, smoky, and a little spicy from the black pepper and paprika.
- The air fried tofu was crispy outside with a little chew and tender inside. Tim described the texture as similar to crispy chicken skin which he said was a good thing.
- The convection toaster oven tofu was not really crispy at all but tasted great and was nice and tender inside.
- They both tasted good at room temperature (and even cold), though the air fryer tofu did soften and lose most of its crisp texture once it had cooled for a bit.
We plan to try this recipe again in our convection toaster oven next week with an increased temperature of 425°F. I’m also going to tear the tofu instead of cutting it into cubes. I love to use this tearing method when we make our toaster oven tofu recipe, it creates a neat craggy surface and gives the tofu a more unique (less uniform) texture.
Frozen Meatless Crispy Strips
Since we’d don’t eat fake meat items often I had never tried making these in the air fryer before.
Looking at a few recipes online, the consensus seemed to be to cook the strips at 400°F for 12 to 13 minutes, flipping them after 10 minutes.
Following those directions, our strips were golden, crispy, and ready to be dipped in sauce after 12 minutes of cooking.
For the convection toaster oven batch, we followed the manufacturer’s oven directions:
- Preheat to 425°F.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.
After 10 minutes of cooking, we flipped the strips. After 5 minutes more they were just starting to brown so we let them go for the full 20 minutes and tested them with our instant-read thermometer to make sure they had reached an internal temperature of 165°F.
While both sets of strips were tender and moist inside, the batch cooked in the air fryer was substantially crispier which gave them a better overall flavor and texture. The crisp breading made those strips seem almost like what you would expect to get at a restaurant.
That said, we have a few ideas that we plan to try in the future to make the convection toaster oven-cooked strips a little crispier.
- Once they are fully cooked, we’ll broil them on each side for 1 to 2 minutes to brown and crisp up more.
- If that doesn’t work we’ll try increasing the cooking time or the temperature to 450°F. I’m a little hesitant on this one because if you overcook meatless nuggets they can get really tough.
Frozen French Fries
Fun fact: Ore-Ida actually includes directions for air frying on their bags. So to make both batches of fries, we just followed the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Using either method, they instruct that the fries should be cooked in a single layer for the best results.
Air Fryer Directions: Preheat to 400°F. Cook for 5 minutes, remove the basket and shake fries, cook for another 5 minutes and test to make sure internal temp. is at least 165°F. Our final cook time ended up being 12 minutes, after shaking the basket twice.
Baking Directions: Preheat to 425°F. Arrange fries in a single layer, bake for 22 to 24 minutes until golden color. Our fries took about 20 minutes to bake on the rack without any flipping or tossing.
Pro Tip: Salt the fries right when they finish cooking and are at their warmest. The hot oil on the outside will help the salt stick to them better.
Both batches were identical in flavor and texture – crispy outside while soft and fluffy inside. Just like fries from the drive-thru, they immediately started to get cold once removed from the pan/basket and eventually lost their crispness but neither batch got soggy.
Overall we were both pretty surprised with how similar the results ended up being.
The air fryer did a great job cooking the tofu and frozen foods but I wouldn’t say the convection toaster oven did a bad job. It was just slower and the food was a little less crispy. If you’ve never used an air fryer before you probably wouldn’t even notice a difference.
Whether something tastes good is really subjective since we all have unique pallets. For us, the difference between food cooked in an air fryer vs a convection toaster oven is negligible. Everything we cooked in each appliance tasted great. Whether you agree is going to come down to your personal preference and tastes.
Lastly, as every toaster oven performs differently we can’t promise that your convection toaster oven will air-fry exactly like ours. But the easiest (and tastiest) way to find out if it does is to grab an air fryer recipe you want to make and give it a try!
Convection Toaster Oven Air Frying Tips
Ready to get cooking? Here are a few things you should know about making air fryer recipes in a convection toaster oven.
Cut Pieces The Same Size
When food is cut into pieces that are similar in size and thickness they will cook more evenly and will be ready at the same time.
Arrange Food In a Single Layer
If the pan is overcrowded and the pieces are piled on top of each other the food will steam while it cooks and the fan won’t be able to remove the surface moisture. This will keep everything from cooking evenly and crisping up.
An air fryer’s basket is perforated on the sides and bottom to allow the hot air to better circulate around the food during cooking. To mimic this, you can place food in a single layer on an oven-safe rack inserted into a rimmed sheet pan. We’ve found this rack + pan combo is best for cooking frozen foods, breaded items, and some pastries. When air frying vegetables, you’ll get better results if you cook the food directly on a sheet pan instead.
Don’t Skip The Oil
Although air-fried recipes are made with substantially less oil than deep frying, most recipes do still need some oil to facilitate browning and for flavor so follow your recipes’ recommended amounts. *In our tests, frozen foods like meatless nuggets and french fries did not need any extra oil to crisp up.
Take The Time Preheat
Make sure to fully preheat your convection toaster oven (at least 5 minutes) before adding the food to ensure faster and more even cooking.
Try Convection Bake First
On our toaster oven, you can use the convection fan with the BAKE and the ROAST settings. We tried cooking with both options and found the BAKE setting worked substantially better for air frying. Also, if your toaster oven is advertised as having “natural convection” it likely does not have a fan and won’t be ideal for air frying.
You May Need To Turn Up The Heat
We found that increasing a recipe’s temperature by 15 to 25 degrees helped to produce results that were closer to that of a basket-style air fryer. But if your toaster oven tends to run hot, you should start with the same temperature as directed in the recipe. It’s easy to cook things longer but pretty hard to unburn something.
Don’t Forget To Flip
For most recipes, you’ll want to flip or toss the food about halfway through cooking. This will help to make sure all of the pieces crisp up.
Expect Recipes To Take Longer To Cook
Until you get used to air frying with your convection toaster oven, start checking on the food a few minutes early and then keep checking on it every 2 to 3 minutes until it’s crisped and browned outside and has reached a safe internal temperature.
In our experience, most air fryer recipes take at least a few minutes longer to cook in a convection toaster oven. While some items like frozen foods can require almost double the cooking time of an air fryer to achieve similar results.
Bonus Reader Recipe
Readers Charlie and Maria recently switched to a plant-based diet and have been air frying up a storm in their Oster French Door Toaster Oven. They bought this Cosori basket on Amazon and used it with the convection setting to make crispy falafel, seasoned soy curls, and more.
Charlie was kind enough to send over their soy curls recipe so we could share it with you!
If you’ve never heard of Soy Curls before, they’re a single ingredient item: soybeans that have been cooked and dehydrated.
The curls look kind of funky but are a fun meat substitute for things like tacos, BBQ dishes, and salads and are a great source of plant-based protein. You can learn more about them on the Butler Foods website.
How To Air Fry Crispy Soy Curls In A Convection Toaster Oven:
1. Preheat the toaster oven to 350°F on the BAKE setting with the convection fan on.
2. Soak 3/4 cup (30 grams) Butler Soy Curls in warm water for 8 to 10 minutes. Then drain in a colander. *For the crispiest curls, press them down into the colander and squeeze out any excess liquid.
3. Add the curls to a bowl and spray with oil. Charlie uses canola oil and we had success with olive oil spray too.
4. Toss with 1½ teaspoons umami sauce (we didn’t have any so I used soy sauce), some Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (about ¼ teaspoon), and a dusting of nutritional yeast (about ⅛ teaspoon).
5. Spread the curls in a single layer on a lightly oiled air fryer screen (or a rack inserted into a sheet pan).
6. Cook until dry and crispy outside and chewy inside, about 15 minutes. (Similar to cooking frozen fries, we didn’t need to flip these for both sides to crisp up).
The curls are seriously snackable and delicious. They taste great on their own but Charlie did mention that the flavor “could be enhanced with taco or hot sauce” so we tried them with Cholula, Sriracha, and Frank’s Buffalo Sauce which ended up being our favorite.
Have you tried cooking air fryer recipes in your convection toaster oven? Let us know how it went in the comments!