Fried foods are what many will turn to when looking for a comfort dish that has the potential of lifting the spirits almost instantly. When it comes to making these foods, there will be basically two main appliances that you can use which are the air fryer and deep fryer.
Both have their enough share of fanatics, but the deep fryer is the more popular of the two given that it has been around much longer.
Air fryers, on the other hand, are presented as a healthier alternative and are slowly catching up in popularity. But while both are typically used for frying, they will not work the same way, and the food they make will also not taste the same.
Hence, to make sure you choose the fryer that suits your particular preferences, you need to understand how they differ. But, this what this piece is all about, and we also show the advantages and disadvantages of using these appliances.
Air Fryer Overview
Photo: Power Air Fryer XL
While deep frying makes some nice crunchy and delicious foods, it also means that you take in lots of calories given the high quantity of oil involved, and for any health-conscious individual, this is bad. The air fryer is designed to address this while still allowing you to enjoy fried foods.
It is a modern take on the deep fryer designed to offer a healthier alternative and instead of using hot oil, it will fry the food with hot air.
Like the deep fryer, it is an electric appliance that uses one or a couple of heating elements to heat the air inside the cooking pot and then spread it around the food using fans. This allows the food to brown and to get a crisp outer layer like when deep frying.
Because air frying uses up to 80% less oil, it is often considered a healthier frying method as the food you make will end up with relatively fewer calories.
Read More: Pros and Cons of Air Fryer
It is relatively more versatile as besides frying, it can also bake, grill and roast. When compared to the deep fryer, it is safer and easier to operate.
However, given that air fryers are a more recent technology that is still trending, they will often be more expensive, and their hot air does not cook as fast as the hot oil in a deep fryer.
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- Makes relatively healthier foods
- Cheaper to operate
- More versatile appliance
- A little pricier to buy
- Food will not be very crunchy or tasty
- Cooking takes longer
Deep Fryer Overview
Photo: Hamilton Beach
Deep frying is an older method of cooking, and it has been around for so long that it is hard to pinpoint exactly when people started using it.
Given the delicious and crunchy foods that this method of cooking delivers, it is also one of the most commonly used across the globe, and you will hardly find any food outlet without one.
This cooking method requires food to be submerged in hot oil to cook, and it will hence require a lot of oil. Also, once the oil gets hot, it cooks much faster than an air fryer. And given that the deep fryers have been around for ages, they are significantly more affordable.
The hot oil is also able to penetrate deeper into the food which results in more even cooking, and you can always be certain of getting a nice crunchy food exterior.
But given the amount of oil used, deep dried foods will often have more calories and hence less healthy when compared to air fried ones. And the huge volumes of oil required also makes this a more expensive cooking method.
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- Great tasting food
- Faster cooking
- More affordable to buy
- Delivers more even cooking
- Less healthy
- More expensive to operate
- Not very versatile
How they Cook
Frying, baking, grilling, and roasting
Cooking Time (fries and snacks)
10 to 20 minutes
3 to 5 minutes
Taste is acquired
Crunchy and tastier
Safer to use
Poses greater risk
Ease of Cleanup
A little hectic
$100 to $300
$50 to $250
Air Fryer vs. Deep Fryer
While both air and deep fryers can fry food effectively, everything from the technique they use to achieve this to the food taste that you get will be different. With these differences in mind, it should be easier to choose which will work best for you between the two.
1. How they Cook
Despite both being fryers, the main difference between the air fryers and the traditional deep fryer is how they will do the frying.
A typical air fryer will consist of three main parts which are the heating element, pot with a lid and fans. To fry foods, the heating element will super heat the air inside the pot which will then be blown over the food by the powerful fans.
While this cooking process does not always require oil, you need to add a few drops to give the food some crunchiness and also to prevent it from sticking on the pot.
Deep fryers will use a more convection cooking method and unlike the air fryer, they have two main components which are the cooking pot and the heating element. And here a lot of oil is required as it is what will be heated to cook the food.
In a regular home deep fryer, you will need between 1 and 4 quarts of oil. To cook the food you need to heat the oil and then add the food and make sure it is fully submerged to allow for even cooking on all sides.
Contrary to what some people might assume, how you cook your food affects its healthiness almost as much as the kind of food that you cook.
When it comes to the food healthiness, air fryers are the clear winner here simply because they will cook with up to 80% less oil when compared to the regular deep fryers. This means your food will not end up with any unnecessary calories.
As an example, one serving of air-fried French fries will contain a little over 175 calories which are close to 300 calories less than the 471 calories you get from a serving of deep-fried French fries. And this clearly shows air fryers are way much healthier.
3. Typical Uses
As the name suggests, a deep fryer will be typically used to fry foods, and besides from frying, you will hardly be able to use it for anything else given the rather basic design with no extra features.
While an air fryer is also built for frying foods, it is a way more versatile appliance when compared to a deep fryer as you can use it for other styles of cooking.
The design of this appliance allows you to use it to bake, grill or roast food. Some modern air fryers models will also have extra features that allow you to steam vegetables and use a few other cooking methods.
4. Cooking Time
When it comes to cooking time, a few cooking methods can outperform a deep fryer because once the oil is hot enough, it will only take a few minutes to fry your food perfectly.
When cooking a standard size portion of French fries and other snacks, a deep fryer will only take between 3 and 5 minutes to have the food ready for serving. With an air fryer, you would have to wait for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes for the same portion of food to cook.
Besides cooking the food much faster, a deep fryer will also have a relatively larger food capacity than an air fryer which means you can more food at a go which saves you even more time.
5. Food Taste
Just like with the cooking time, there is hardly any other cooking method out there that can beat the deep fryer when it comes to the food taste, and this should explain why fast foods are highly popular across the globe.
The obvious health implications that come with fried foods notwithstanding, the food that you get with a deep fryer is just heavenly as it has all the qualities that many people yearn for from the perfect crunchiness to nice oily taste.
With an air fryer, you can still get some crunchiness if you dab some oil over the food before cooking, but it will not be the same. Also, the air fryer can still make some delicious food, but the taste is an acquired one that takes some getting used to.
There is nothing like an appliance that is completely safe. Provided there is some electricity or heat involved, you will always be exposed to a significant danger.
But with that said, air fryers are generally safer than the deep fryers. These fryers will cook on their own without you having to stand there as they typically have a timer, and they are also completely covered when cooking which makes them safer.
Deep fryers have to remain open when cooking which leaves the users exposed to the hot oil. Because they cook super-fast, you need to be there to turn food and to ensure it does not get burnt. Also, there is the risk that comes with the hot air and oil that evaporate from the fryer due to the high heat.
7. Ease of Cleanup
Cleanup is much easier when using an air fryer than with a deep fryer regardless of the size. This is because, with most air fryers, you only need to empty any oil that might be left behind and then put the individual parts in the dishwasher if they are dishwasher-safe or wash them in the sink.
With the deep fryers, things are a little more complicated than this. First, you have to wait for ages for all that oil to cool down before you can even do anything as the hot oil is extremely dangerous.
Once the oil is cool enough, you can now discard it, a process that can be quite hectic and tedious, and this is more so if the pan on your deep fryer is not designed to be taken apart for cleaning.
8. Average Prices
What you pay for either of the two fryers will depend on factors like the size and brand that you are buying from, but the initial cost of buying an air fryer tends to be higher.
Although you can still get an air fryer for under $100, good models will retail from $100 to around $300. With a deep fryer, on the other hand, typical prices will range from $50 to $250.
But, note that while the air fryer might be expensive to buy, it will be cheaper to operate in the long run than a deep fryer given that you will not need to spend a lot of cash on frying oil.
If like many people out there you love fried foods, it will be a great idea to know how to make them at home, and this will start by knowing the best appliances to use which in many instances means choosing between the air and deep fryers.
While both can make fried foods, one uses hot air to do the job while the other relies on the more convection hot oil cooking method. Also, the two differ in various other aspects which are highlighted above.
But for those looking for a healthier frying method and want a safer fryer that can also cook food in different ways, an air fryer is perfect. However, if you want crunchy and great tasting food and a fryer that cooks super-fast, nothing beats the good old deep fryer.