The Problem With Using Your Air Fryer To Toast Bread

The air fryer has become a modern-day kitchen essential, thanks to its versatility and practicality. Home chefs with big culinary ideas but tiny kitchens can rely on this small but mighty appliance for a variety of cooking functions; it can even do something as simple as toasting bread. However, expecting your air fryer to turn out perfectly toasted slices without understanding how it functions differently from a toaster oven can lead to mistakes and a disappointing breakfast.

Like a smaller version of a convection oven, an air fryer cooks food by quickly circulating hot air emanating from the top with the help of a fan, resulting in crispy dishes within a shorter cooking time. There's an obvious textural difference, though, between crunchy toast and bread that's just plain dried out — and you run the risk of getting the latter when you don't adjust the toasting process to accommodate this appliance's features.

With a toaster oven, you can pop bread in on the "toast" setting and let the heat radiating from both the top and bottom do its thing. In comparison, an air fryer's heat comes only from the top and doesn't have automatic temperature control. It generates high heat more quickly, so you'll need to pause frequently to check that the bread hasn't dried out yet — hardly convenient if you're in a rush or cooking other items. You'll need to flip the slices of toast at some point, too, so both sides get equally crisped and browned.

Air fryers also limit the types and amount of bread for good toast

The high heat of an air fryer also limits the types of bread you can toast effectively. White bread can become crumbly and dry quickly, so you'll need to choose heartier loaves — such as sourdough, multigrain, and rye — and avoid slicing it too thinly. A thickness of ½ to 1 inch is advisable so the bread retains some softness inside; anything thicker might lead to uneven toasting. (Don't forget a light layer of oil or butter on both sides of the slice to keep it from sticking to the basket.)

Another drawback to air fryer toast is the amount of bread you can toast at a time. If you're making more than a slice or two, you'll have to do it in batches since you can't stack slices on top of each other. They must lie flat so that they each get toasted evenly. You'll need to experiment to determine the best cook time for achieving the toast texture and quality you want, but you can start with 3 to 5 minutes before flipping the slices for another 2- to 3-minute toast — though note this is longer than a traditional toaster might take.

For both quality and convenience, the toaster or toaster oven remain ideal for toasting bread, although the air fryer can be used for the same purpose, too. Just manage your expectations by understanding how it works, and be prepared to make necessary adjustments.