How to Air Fry Without an Air Fryer
Make yummy chicken wings and crispy fries with your convection range, wall oven, or toaster oven
The appeal of an air fryer is obvious. With a few teaspoons of oil, you can make crispy golden chicken, french fries, tater tots, and more—all of which are far healthier for you than deep-frying because you use so little oil.
But what if you don’t want another appliance eating up space on your countertop? Or you want to air fry in larger portions than the typical air fryer will hold? The answer may already be in your kitchen.
How to Fry Food in an Oven
An air fryer works by rapidly circulating hot air and a small amount of oil to fry foods. The oil and air work in tandem, transferring heat both via conduction (the direct contact of the hot oil) and convection (the heavy rotation of hot air). In a wall oven or the oven of a range with convection, the air fry function works the same way.
In our range lab, we tested the air fry functions of two ranges from Frigidaire and one wall oven from Café. With the Frigidaire ranges, we purchased and used the optional air fry basket ($50) for making frozen fries and chicken wings; for the Café wall oven, we simply used an aluminum pan.
Both ranges and the wall oven produce golden, crispy French fries with just a few teaspoons of oil—and in record time. They shave a staggering 20 to 30 minutes off the total cook time compared with using a regular bake setting. The time savings over baking is largely due to the fact that the oven doesn’t need to preheat on the air fry setting; the heat ramps up almost immediately.
Our fries weren’t quite as beautiful as when we cooked frozen fries in a countertop air fryer. Standalone air fryers' small capacities allow more hot air to circulate around the food, plus they typically have baskets that rotate, allowing for more even browning. But the range and wall ovens are each able to hold more than twice as much food as a standard air fryer. For large families, the larger capacity and shorter cook time can be a real mealtime game changer.
If your convection oven doesn’t specifically have an air fry setting, you can still get similar results. “Try using the convection roast setting,” says Tara Casaregola, CR’s test engineer in charge of ranges, cooktops, and wall ovens. “Use a dark or nonstick pan in the oven to get better browning than you would from a glass dish or a shiny aluminum pan.” Darker bakeware absorbs more heat in the oven than a shiny, reflective pan. In turn, darker bakeware will radiate more heat onto foods, helping them brown.
CR members can see below for ratings and reviews of the ranges and wall ovens with air fry settings we test. For more information on all kinds of gas and electric ranges, see our range buying guide and our range ratings.
How to Fry Food in a Toaster Oven
Convection toaster ovens can air fry in the same way a convection oven can. We test two models, one from Breville and one from Cuisinart, that have a dedicated air fry setting. Both perform admirably, doing a great job with frozen curly fries and fresh chicken wings, though all-around performance is better in the Breville.
Both toaster ovens produce wings and fries in about the same time as the oven air fryers, using 1 to 3 teaspoons of oil. But of course, you can’t fit in as many wings or fries as you can in an oven.
If you have a toaster oven that has convection but no air fry setting, try using convection roast (or convection bake), and just as with an oven, use a dark pan to get the best, crispy fried results.
Cooking With Countertop Appliances
Countertop appliances have come a long way over the years. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Sara Morrow shows host Jack Rico how it's possible to cook an entire meal without using your oven or range.