Air Fryers have become increasingly popular in recent years but what is it exactly and how does it compare to deep fryer? We're going to dive into the key differences of an air fryer versus a deep fryer and the pros and cons of each.

Image of an air fryer full of crispy potato fries above an image of a deep fryer basket with crispy potato fries. Text overlay "Air Fryer Vs Deep Fryer."
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If you're a fan of crispy foods (french fries, anyone?) then you're probably well aware of deep frying. That is the classic way to make crispy food. However, it tends to use a lot of oil and isn't the healthiest cooking process.

Air fryers are a fairly recent kitchen appliance, having first come onto the market in 2010 . They have changed the frying game and made it a healthier alternative to deep fryers.

So what has made them so popular lately and how do they stack up to the deep fat fryer? We're going to dive into the pros and cons of the air fryer and the deep fryer to help you decide which one is right for you.

How do deep fryers work?

Deep fryers, or deep fat fryers, cook food by flash cooking food in hot oil.

The process involves submerging the food completely in the oil. Deep fryers usually have a basket the food is placed in to help lower food into as well as help raise it out of the oil.

The hot oil evaporates the moisture in the outer layer of the food, making it crispy while trapping moisture inside the food and cooks it rather quickly. You'll tend to see bubbles forming around the food once placed in the oil, which is the moisture evaporating from the outside.

Deep fry bubbling with oil as it cooks french fries.

Deep fried food is often covered in a wet batter before frying but not always. The batter is typically made with eggs, milk, and flour or breadcrumbs.

The deep-fried food is usually dripping with oil once removed so it's common to place the food on a paper towel once cooked, to help remove excess oil and allow it to crisp up even more.

Something to be aware of is the use of water or icy foods around deep fryers. When water comes in contact with hot oil it can splash and bubble, causing a burn risk.

You'll also want to use a deep fryer in a well ventilated area as carbon monoxide can be created during the deep frying process. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors nearby and in working order.

How do air fryers work?

Air frying is exactly how it sounds: frying with air.

Food is place inside the air fryer and is cooked by hot air that circulates around it, known as Rapid Air Technology. Inside are heating elements and a powerful fan that blows the hot air around the food, similar to a convection oven. The hot air surrounds the food so that it cooks more evenly and quickly than if you were to roast it in a regular oven.

An air fryer can sometimes have a basket similar to a deep fryer, or a tray similar to a toaster oven. This can vary by brand and model.

Air fryer open with spring rolls sitting in the basket.

Air fryers are often compared to convection ovens. Convection ovens cook food faster and with lower heat than conventional ovens and this holds true for air fryers.

Air fryers can take 25-50% less time to cook than regular ovens and many only have a temperature setting up to 400F degrees. This has proven to still be plenty hot as food cooks just fine in an air fryer.

You also don't need much oil, if at all. Some people like to spray the food with a small amount of oil before air frying to help the crisping process but I've found that food still becomes crispy without any oil.

Make sure the air can properly circulate in an air fryer. This can be one of the disadvantages of an air fryer since you can't fill up the air fryer basket completely or the food won't cook evenly. Outside edges will cook faster than food in the middle so having a single layer of food in the basket or tray allows for more even cooking.

One important note is that you cannot add oil to the drum of an air fryer like you can a deep fryer. The strong air flow will cause the oil to splash around and cause damage to the air fryer.

Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: 8 Main Differences

To fully compare the two kitchen appliances I've broken it out by the following categories: Taste, Cooking Time, Oil Usage, Health Considerations, Cost, Cleaning, Ease of Use, Versatility.

Taste

Deep frying produces a browning effect known as the Maillard reaction—a chemical reaction between amino acids and a reducing sugar. It is a major source of flavor and aroma. It is essentially the browning or caramelization of food and both air frying and deep frying can achieve a brown or golden color in the cooked food, although to different extents.

Based on taste and texture, the deep fryer typically wins. This is because of the favorable flavor compounds produced from deep frying.

Deep frying also cooks more evenly since the food is fully submerged in the hot oil. The hot oil does a great job of evenly cooking the food since it is completely submerged.

However, if reusing oil be wary that previous foods can flavor the oil unsatisfactorily and then impart that flavor into the next batch of food.

Something else to consider is that although deep fryers can cook more evenly and result in a crispier texture, air fried food can in some ways be more flavorful. This is because air fried food can have the seasonings added before cooking while deep fried food typically has to have it added after. Adding the seasonings beforehand allows the food to absorb the flavor more easily.

I love marinating proteins or seasoning vegetables before air frying to amplify the flavor.

For air frying I've found that food on the outer edges cooks more quickly, so it's helpful to shake or stir the food halfway through to redistribute for more even cooking.

Food will come out dryer than deep fried food because the hot air does not trap moisture inside the food the same way oil does.

Lastly, you typically can't coat food in a wet batter in an air fryer but you can still add a batter. It just needs to have something dry around the outside like breadcrumbs or shredded coconut to prevent it from sticking to the air fryer basket.

Both air frying and deep frying produce a crispy texture but impart flavor in their own ways. It really comes down to personal preference.

Cooking Time

Deep fryers can cook really fast because of the high temperatures used. But if using the double fry method, it doesn't save too much time.

Air fryers, although faster than a traditional oven, will still take more time than a deep fryer.

Depending on the food, air frying can be double the time it takes for a deep fryer.

However, something to consider is the preheating time. Air fryers can preheat in just 5 minutes whereas a deep fryer may need 10 to 20 minutes (or more!) to properly heat up the oil. This can negate the faster cooking time of a deep fryer.

Oil Usage

Deep fryers require a lot of oil since the food has to be completely submerged in the oil. You'll need 6 to 19 cups of oil for a standard electric deep fryer.

Air fryers on the other hand don't require any oil to use. You can still toss food in oil before air frying, but you don't need cups upon cups of oil to achieve a crispy texture.

Health considerations

For those more health conscious, an air fryer can be a better choice. Without the need for oil, air frying can help reduce calorie intake for those interested in weight loss.

Oils can also be higher in saturated fats and trans fats which are linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Deep frying transfers these harmful fats to the food during the cooking process.

To help reduce the amount of oil absorbed by deep fried foods, make sure the oil is at the proper cooking temperature. If it is too low, it will cause the food to become soggy and absorb more oil.

The right temperature helps produce a crust around the food that limits oil absorption. Make sure to not leave food in the deep fryer longer than needed. As soon as the food is done you want to remove it to help reduce the amount of oil seeping in.

Regardless, deep frying causes oil absorption so it cannot be completely avoided.

Another concern is the amount of acrylamide produced from deep frying. Acrylamide, a potential carcinogen to humans, can occur in starch-rich foods that have been heated such as potatoes and it is more likely to occur in fried foods.

Interestingly, post-drying (the process of drying food in a hot air oven after frying) has been shown to decrease the acrylamide content of some foods.

Air frying is definitely the healthier option compared to deep frying.

Cost

Air fryers typically range from $50 to $200+, with most right around the $100 mark.

Deep fryers typically range from $40 to $200+ with many options available around $50-$60.

You'll also need to consider the cost of oil with a deep fryer. You must use oil with it and usually a significant amount. This can add up overtime whereas the air fryer doesn't require any oil.

Cleaning

Deep fryers require a more in depth cleaning. You'll most likely have oily paper towels to dispose of and you'll need to do something with the excess oil still left in the deep fryer. Some deep fryers allow you to save the oil for multiple uses but you'll still need to remove it to clean the deep fryer.

There can be more spills and splatters to clean as well and disposing of the oil can be a hassle. Never dispose of oil down a drain.

For an air fryer you can typically put the air fry basket in the dishwasher for easy clean up. And without the need for oil it's much easier to clean. They also come with a non-stick surface which makes cleanup a breeze. Look for non-teflon air fryers, which use a ceramic or metal basket instead of the traditional teflon-coated baskets.

Ease of Use

Air frying is a fairly hands off process with minimal effort required. Occasionally you need to stir or shake the food contents around to make sure everything is evenly cooking as the outer edges tend to cook faster. Otherwise, you can set it and forget it since air fryers shut off after the allotted time.

Deep fryers are a more involved cooking method because you can't really leave while it's running. Since deep frying poses more risks, it's important to be close by. Some deep fryers come with an automatic shut off but you need to be there to remove the food right away when it's done since the food can more easily overcook.

Versatility

Deep frying can only do one thing: deep fry food.

Air fryers can cook different types of food in a variety of ways. It can fry, roast, reheat, steam, and even bake food!

The air fryer is definitely a more versatile appliance. You can roast vegetables, air fry french fries, and air fry breaded food similar to deep frying. I even use it to make toast! I've also seen people use it to bake with the right accessories.

The bottom line

The air fryer is very convenient to use. It preheats quickly and is easy to clean. It's also much simpler to use compared to a deep fryer. The versatility of it and the reduction in fat content and extra calories from less oil needed makes the air fryer a great choice.

However, if you want that classic crispy crust and flavor, then the deep fryer is better. Deep fryers are also slightly more affordable upfront but you'll need to take into consideration the cost of oil.

Both result in a delicious and crispy texture, but the clear winner here is the air fryer based on all of the criteria. I've been using this air fryer for over year and absolutely love it! You won't regret adding an air fryer to your to collection of kitchen appliances.

Cooked sweet potato fries in air fryer basket.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you fry battered food in an air fryer?

You cannot use a wet batter made with combination of eggs, milk, and flour. You can still fry battered food in an air fryer but the outside of the batter should be made of something dry like breadcrumbs to prevent sticking.

Can an air fryer replace a deep fryer?

In most instances, yes. It can fry pretty much anything except foods with wet batters. It won't provide the exact same results but will still get food reasonable crispy and more evenly than an oven.

What are the disadvantages of an air fryer?

An air fryer can take longer to cook than a deep fryer and won't produce the same crust although it will still get crispy. Air fryers also tend to be slightly more expensive.

Which do you prefer, an air fryer or a deep fryer? Let us know in the comments and make sure to share this article if you found it helpful!

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2 Comments

  1. Ok I'm convinced to get an air fryer over a deep fryer! Just seems way more convenient and cooking with all the hot oil scares me haha Thanks for the info!