NuWave ovens vs air fryers: what’s the real difference and should you buy one?

Written by David Lewis
6 Min read
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We’ve come a very long way since the days when the only appliance available to cook our food in was the humble oven. Now you can choose from a microwave, crockpot, electric grill, outside grill and air fryer (to name just a few options!)

But there’s another underrated cooking appliance that consistently receives rave reviews from those lucky enough to own one, and that’s the NuWave oven.

NuWave is an American manufacturer based in Illinois and is known for creating innovative, useful and environmentally friendly products that help consumers live well for less.

What is a NuWave oven?

A flat design styled air fryer icon on a transparent background. Can be placed onto any color. Color swatches are global so it’s easy to edit and change the colors.

The NuWave oven was released in 2002 and there are two models of NuWave oven currently available, the NuWave Pro Plus and the NuWave Elite. Both models cook food in three different ways – infrared, convection, and conduction.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of these elements:


When you walk barefoot on hot sand at the beach, the heat you’re feeling is from infrared radiation emitted by the sand, which has been heated by the sun.  Infrared cooking works in a similar way, heat waves are emitted that are absorbed by the food to heat it up, a process that is helped by shields and reflectors.


Convection ovens have a fan that blows hot air over and around the food and an exhaust that vents it back out. Convection ovens cook food quickly and evenly, creating a dry atmosphere that caramelizes sugar faster which gives food an appetizing brown color whilst remaining moist inside.


Conduction is probably the most intuitive way to cook and refers to heat transfer. In a nutshell, conduction cooking is when something hot touches something cool and the cool thing heats up from the outside inwards (such as pan-frying). The efficiency of conduction cooking relies on the conductivity of the thing that’s getting heated up, which is why large joints of meat can be so difficult in a conventional conduction-only oven – you must cook it by getting the outside really hot, hot enough to travel through to the inside, by which time the outside may be overdone.

How do NuWave ovens work?

They have the benefit of utilizing all three of the above cooking methods – infrared, convection, and conduction – cooking food safely and evenly from the inside out. This results in delicious, healthy, and moist meals every single time, using up to 75% less energy than conventional cooking.

In addition, the NuWave oven creates super healthy dishes as it requires little to no extra fats or oils and was found to collect up to 250% more oil and fat than when cooking in a traditional oven.

What can you cook in a NuWave?

The NuWave is an incredibly versatile appliance, meaning you can cook pretty much anything and everything that you usually would in your oven, grill, microwave, or fryer. It cooks food from frozen and can also:

  • Roast
  • Boil
  • Grill
  • Barbeque
  • Bake
  • Steam
  • Dehydrate
  • Air-fry

What is an air fryer?

Air fryers are the latest craze in kitchen gadgets and their popularity has swept the nation over the last few years, but did you know that air fryers don’t actually fry the food at all?

Patented by the brand Philips, an air fryer is essentially a convection oven that mimics the results of deep fat frying with hot air and a tiny bit of hot oil (or no oil at all with some foods).

How do air fryers work?

Food is placed into a perforated basket and the machine blows hot air all around it, the force of this air creates a convection effect that cooks the food and browns the outside, much like a deep fryer but without the oil.

What can you cook in an air-fryer?

The internet is filled with delicious and creative recipes that go far beyond typical fried foods. Many people chose to invest in an air-fryer because they want to eat their favorite foods prepared in a healthier way. This includes:

  • Fast foods such as burgers and fries
  • Chicken goujons and nuggets
  • Roast meats such as chicken and turkey
  • Roast potatoes
  • Healthy snacks like sweet potatoes
  • Re-heating leftovers
  • Crispy bacon

Is a NuWave oven the same as an air-fryer?

The NuWave oven is an extremely versatile and multifunctional appliance that uses convection, infrared, and conduction to cook food quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly with a minimum of oil or fat. NuWave ovens circulate heat from the top, bottom and all around the food and you can air-fry, grill, roast, steam, bake, and more in them.

Air fryers use a top-down heating mechanism that cannot match the circulating effects of a NuWave oven – this is why the basket must be shaken occasionally when cooking in an air fryer; to reduce the risk of any soggy or undercooked ingredients that may have missed the hot air.

NuWave ovens are typically larger than air-fryers, with air-fryers generally able to cook for one and NuWave ovens having enough capacity to feed a family. The temperature is measured and controlled in NuWave ovens, with an automatic shut-off feature that helps prevent overcooking, air-fryers do not have this technology.

Which should you buy: a NuWave oven or an air-fryer?

This decision is dependent on two questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • What do you need it for?

Both offer convenience, lower energy costs, and healthier foods than traditional cooking methods, but they are very different machines in terms of versatility, price and size.

NuWave ovens are larger and are therefore better for families, air-fryers need less counter space but are best used for solo-meals.

Whilst air-fryers do much more than fry chicken, you are more limited with what you can cook in one. However, NuWave ovens can do pretty much everything and everything including baking and cooking pizzas – they can even dehydrate foods to make dried fruits or biltong.

But when it comes to price, air-fryers can be picked up relatively cheaply and NuWave ovens are more of a considered purchase. They usually cost in excess of $100 just for the oven, with the kits making it possible to bake or dehydrate foods available at an additional cost.

Summing it up

Both NuWave ovens and air-fryers offer people the opportunity to cook foods in a healthy, convenient, and affordable way. However, NuWave ovens offer more versatility in terms of what they can cook and are better suited to bigger families.

Air-fryers can be more affordable and need less counter space but can only cook and circulate heat from the top down and are more limited in terms of size. The decision on which one to buy depends on what you need it for and how much budget you have available for this purchase.


Is a NuWave oven the same as an air-fryer?

In a nutshell no! A NuWave oven cooks food in three different ways: infrared, convection, and conduction. You can air-fry, roast, bake, steam, and boil in one and cook food by circulating hot air from the top, bottom, and all around the food. Air fryers are convection cookers and mimic deep fryers but use little or no oil to do so.

Is NuWave cooking healthy?

NuWave cooking is extremely healthy as it can cook foods with very little additional oil or fat whilst retaining the moisture of the food during the cooking process. In recent studies, the NuWave was found to collect up to 250% more oil from food than traditional cooking.

How do you cook pizza in a NuWave oven?

Follow these instructions for perfect pizzas every time in your NuWave oven:

1.       Select your favorite frozen pizza
2.       Position the reversible rack in your NuWave oven and place a sheet of parchment paper on top of this
3.       Put the pizza face down onto the parchment paper
4.       Cook on high power level until the crust is golden brown
5.       Flip the pizza using the NuWave pizza flipper
6.       The pizza should now be the right side up on the rack, you can now remove the parchment paper
7.       Cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the cheese has fully melted
8.       Enjoy your perfect pizza!

Can I put aluminum foil in my NuWave oven?

Yes, you can use metal containers and aluminum foil in the NuWave oven, lightweight foil works best and should be used to either line shallow dishes or cover food to prevent over-browning. The heat will still circulate and cook the food, but the foil may make the process slower than without.

Appliances made simple. 

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