Air fryer vs. deep fryer, that is the question.
Here's the truth: fried food is delicious. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. It's crispy, it's flavourful, and it's impossible to resist.
But, deep fried food can also be extremely unhealthy. In fact, it's one of the most significant contributors to obesity and cardiovascular disease.
So, what does a healthy person do if fried food is their guilty pleasure? They get an air fryer.
Today, I’m diving deep into the differences between air fried and deep fried food, and answering your burning question once and for all: can your air fryer really replace your deep fryer?
- Difference between air fryer and deep fryer
- How does an air fryer work?
- Benefits of an air fryer
- Air fryer recipes
- How does a deep fryer work?
- Benefits of a deep fryer
- Is air frying healthier than deep frying?
- Does air fried food taste like deep fried food?
- Things to consider before buying an air fryer
- Shop my favourite air fryers
- Things to consider before buying a deep fryer
- Shop my favourite deep fryers
- Air fryer vs. deep fryer: which is better?
- Similar articles
Difference between air fryer and deep fryer
The primary difference between the air fryer and deep fryer is how each appliance cooks your food. A deep fryer requires you to submerge your food in hot liquid, while an air fryer circulates hot air to crisp up your food with minimal use of oil.
So, if you can only buy one, which one should you get?
The truth is, they each have their pros and cons. Both air fryers and deep fryers produce "fried food". But, deep fried food will taste more similar to the restaurant-style you're used to. On the other hand, air fried food is much better for your health.
So, your best bet is to focus on how each appliance fits in with your lifestyle. Are you looking to treat yourself to the real deal once in a while? Or, are you looking for a healthy way to incorporate your favourite fried foods into your weekly meal plan?
I’ll help you evaluate all of this in detail, but if you want the speedy version, here’s a chart that compares the pros and cons of both appliances.
Air fryer versus deep fryer:
How does an air fryer work?
The air fryer is similar to a convection oven. It has a powerful fan that circulates hot air to cook food quickly and evenly, resulting in that much desired crispiness that we love in fried food.
The main difference from a convection oven is its size (obviously a lot smaller). But, also the fact that its heating elements are all located at the top.
Air fryers are best used for anything that you would deep fry, fry in a pan, cook in the oven or grill. You can use it to roast almost any vegetable, bake potatoes, crisp up bacon, or create crispy brussel sprouts, salmon fillets, chicken wings, and much more.
Benefits of an air fryer
The air fryer is the right choice for you if you like deep fried foods, but don’t want to worry about the health consequence that come along with them.
Here’s why I love my air fryer:
- Taste: Air fryer meals are ridiculously tasty. They closely imitate the flavour and texture of deep fried foods.
- Health: It’s easy to create healthy dinners with an air fryer. Very little cooking oil is needed to create food that tastes similar to your favourite deep fried dishes.
- Speed: Air fryers are great for weeknight dinners. They preheat very quickly and most recipes have short cooking times due to the concentrated heat source and power of the fan.
- Simple clean up: Most baskets and racks are dishwasher safe. And, even if they aren't, there are very few components to hand wash.
- Versatile: Air fryers can be used to create a variety of dishes. They work well for anything that you normally bake, roast, grill, toast, fry or dehydrate. They’re also useful for reheating leftovers.
- Size: Most air fryers are small enough to fit in your cupboards or pantry. Just be sure to look at the dimensions before buying.
- Price: Basic air fryers are affordable compared to other appliances. Base models start at $50 and increase in price from there. The more expensive models primarily come with more cooking space, which may be necessary if you’re cooking for a family. Some of the more expensive models also come with additional features like pre-programmed function modes, automatic shut-off feature, and additional accessories (grill rack, pan, skewers, etc.)
Air fryer recipes
How does a deep fryer work?
A deep fryer is a stand-alone cooking appliance that holds a basin of oil. It heats the oil up to an extremely high temperature (varies by recipe, but generally around 400°F). From there, you drop your food in and allow it to bubble away until it's fried.
But, how exactly does that create a crispy, golden exterior? Well, deep frying removes moisture from the external layer of your food. This moisture then steams the food from the outside in, and the process of crust formation begins.
Deep fryers create extremely tasty food, but they can really only do one thing: fry food. It’s a great appliance if you love french fries, chicken tenders, fried pickles, churros, or any other deep-fried favourite.
Benefits of a deep fryer
The deep fryer is the right choice for you if you want to quickly replicate the taste and texture of restaurant-style deep fried foods. But, if you're looking for a more versatile kitchen appliance or a healthier cooking method, this probably isn’t the right appliance for you.
Here’s what's great about the deep fryer.
- Taste: Deep fried foods are delicious. Frying at high temperatures causes the Maillard reaction to occur, which gives browned foods their unique flavour.
- Speed: It's a quick cooking method. Because food is submerged, it cooks evenly, consistently, and quickly. Most recipes are done in 3-6 minutes.
- Simple clean up. Cleaning it is as simple as filling the deep fryer with water and dish soap, then turning it on for several minutes. However, it does take additional time to store and dispose of hot cooking oil.
- Price: Basic deep fryers are affordable. Base models start as low as $30 and increase in price from there. The more expensive models primarily come with more cooking space, which is probably only a concern if you’re cooking in an industrial setting.
- Size: The appliance comes in a variety of sizes. Most commercial deep fryers will be small enough to fit in your cupboard.
- Safety: Deep fryers come with with safety features that ensure they're no more dangerous to use than pan frying.
Is air frying healthier than deep frying?
Air frying is definitely healthier than deep frying. Most recipes contain up to 80% less fat. That's all thanks to the decreased need for unhealthy cooking oils. The best part is that this reduction in fat doesn’t mean air fried foods taste bad. In fact, Air Fryer meals can be even better than deep fried alternatives. It's all in the recipe!
Does air fried food taste like deep fried food?
Air fried food does not taste exactly like deep fried food. Instead, it tastes like extra-crispy oven-roasted food. That said, if health is your priority, air fried foods are very close in flavour and texture to their deep-fried counterparts.
Things to consider before buying an air fryer
- Know how many people you’ll be cooking for. If you decide to spring for an air fryer, be sure to purchase one that suits your cooking needs. The cheapest models are small and compact (1-2 litres). These are generally suitable if you’re cooking for 1 or 2 people. Go for a 3-4 liter air fryer if you’re cooking for 2-3 people and a 6+ litre air fryer if you’re cooking for 4-6. Essentially, get one that can hold the amount of food that you’ll be cooking in it.
- Be sure you have room to store it. While air fryers are smaller than convection ovens, they do still take up cupboard and counter space - which is a hot commodity in every kitchen. I personally think it’s worth making room for an air fryer, but it’d be a miss not to mention this consideration.
- Understand that there are different kinds of air fryers. When picking the right air fryer, know that there are a variety of styles, with the two primary being basket-style and toaster-oven style. I prefer the basket style as I find it cooks more evenly.
Shop my favourite air fryers
- Best for families: Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven
- Price: near the $300 mark depending on the retailer
- Benefits: beautiful design, large capacity that works well for cooking for four people or more
- Most versatile: Ninja AF161 Max XL Air Fryer
- Price: near the $150 mark depending on the retailer
- Benefits: sturdy, compact and good for cooking for two to four people, also allows you to roast, bake, and dehydrate
- Best for small kitchens: Dash Compact Air Fryer
- Price: near the $50 mark depending on the retailer
- Benefits: very compact and good for cooking for one person
Things to consider before buying a deep fryer
- Know how many people you’ll be cooking for. If you decide to spring for a deep fryer, be sure to purchase one that suits your cooking needs. The cheapest models are small and compact (1 quart). These are generally suitable if you’re cooking for 1 or 2 people. Go for a 1.5 quart deep fryer if you’re cooking for 3 or 4 people. And, scale up from there. Essentially, get one that can hold the amount of food that you’ll be cooking in it.
- Be sure you have room to store it. You might want to choose a smaller model and cook in batches. The larger models may be tough to store if you're in a small space.
- Look for safety features. Cooking with extremely hot oil can be dangerous. So, make sure to choose a model with good safety features.
Shop my favourite deep fryers
- Most versatile: T-fal Easy to Clean Deep Fryer
- Price: near the $200 mark depending on the retailer
- Benefits: the 3.5 litre size is ideal for families, has a patented oil filtration system for easy oil storage
- Best for small kitchens: Salton Compact Deep Fryer
- Price: near the $50 mark depending on the retailer
- Benefits: the 1.2-litre size is ideal for small spaces, individual portions, and price-sensitive budgets
Air fryer vs. deep fryer: which is better?
Air fryer vs. deep fry. I get it, you're looking for an answer. That's why you've read all the way to the bottom.
But, the truth is, it depends on your priorities.
- If taste is all that matters, get the deep fryer. You'll enjoy authentic deep fried foods.
- If health is your top priority, go with the air fryer. The taste will be similar and the meal will contain up to 80% less fat.
- If you want an appliance that can do it all, go with the air fryer. In addition to frying, you'll be able to use the air fryer to roast, bake, and dehydrate foods.
Air fryer v deep fryer. Let me know in the comments below which appliance you prefer. Your opinion could help others decide what's best for them.