Deep Fryer vs. Air Fryer: Which Is Best?

You may be in the market for a new fryer, but looking at a bulky, expensive deep fryer may give you pause. Air fryers often cook food in a similar way as a deep fryer, but without all that grease and at a much for the affordable price. But which is better?

This is usually the category that makes or breaks someone’s purchasing decision. Most deep fryers come with a removable oil tank, an extra oil filter, multiple or spare food baskets, adjustable heating controls and an automatic timer. This is just the basics, as many deep fryers also come with digital controls screens, automatic temperature adjusts, a ready signal, a digital readout screen, and even touch button controls with presets to make it as easy as possible. Some even come with ways to vent or control odors that come with frying food at high temperatures.

Air fryers usually come with the same set of feature, just not the kind aimed at cooking with grease. Most have the most basic of features since an air fryer is meant to simplify the frying process. Just a simple on/off switch are on the most basic of air fryers. They can also some with digital controls, a digital timer, a buzzer. The reason a deep fryer may come with more features is that air fryers are meant to be simpler and more user-friendly. That, however, does not mean that they can’t be inventive. Many air fryers also double as roasters, baking ovens and grills. These variations often include grilling or baking accessories as well. It all depends on the kind of air fryer you get.

Size and Cooking Capacity
This should be obvious, but air fryers are generally smaller than deep fryers. There are mini deep fryers you can buy that are no bigger than a blender, but the standard size of a deep fryer is at least the whole depth of a counter top and two to three times the width of a toaster – depending on how many frying baskets your fryer comes with. Air fryers are generally the size of a toaster oven, though they can hold up to two pounds of food inside them.

The main deciding factor is the volume of food you need to prepare in a given time frame. Restaurants often use fryers because they need to prepare for the high volume of food in a short period of time. If you intend to only cook for your family, then there really is no need for a home deep fryer. If you’re throwing a party, however, and you want to cook for lots of people as quickly as possible, then a deep fryer that holds from 5 (enough for 1 to 3 people) to 12 cups (enough for 5 to 8 people) of oil might be a smart investment.

This should come as no surprise, but fried food isn’t necessarily the healthiest option for you. It’s estimated that a diet heavy in fried food can cause heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer in some cases. The amount of trans-saturated fat in vegetable oil, animal fat, and even corn or canola oil is enough to clog arteries and lower insulin counts if you eat too much food prepared in this glop. You can drain away much of this oil when you take food out and let the grease leak away, but by this time, so much oil has been cooked on the surface that this doesn’t make much difference.

Air fryers don’t use the vast amount of grease to cook your food in. It usually involves only a small amount of oil being spread over the surface of food in a thin film as it’s placed in a basket, which itself is placed in the air fryer as hot air cooks the food rather than grease.

Maintenance and Reliability
At least one trait both appliances share is the fact that they’re both low-maintenance. With a deep fryer especially, once you fill it up with the oil, you just need to give it ten minutes to heat up before you can start cooking. There’s virtually no prep time – unless you want to batter your own food, that is. The same goes for the air fryer, though this might require more vigilance with the models meant to be more versatile and also bake, grill and roast food. An air fryer might have more plastic components that can break and be hard to replace. Any plastic components of a deep fryer tend to be superfluous and not affect your ability to deep fry food with it.

One burden of deep fryers, however, is a disposal of used oil, which can be difficult if you don’t know of any business that disposes of it for you. In either case, as long as you do a moderate amount of upkeep, both a deep fryer and an air fryer should last you years before needing to be replaced.

Deep fryers usually cost anywhere from 20 dollars for miniature versions to over $100 dollars for big, double bucket home models. The specific and recent technology that powers an air fryer often mean that it can cost twice this much for some models due to the durability of their components. In either case, you will pay a significant amount up front.
Any saving you might have with a deep fryer often get counterbalanced by the need to constantly drain and refill the tanks with oil. Typically, a 2-gallon container of vegetable oil can cost around 20 to 40 dollars depending on the brand. This expense over the course of a year can add up, so this is important to consider as well.

When it comes to taste, it all depends on how you prefer your fried foods. Do you like it extra crunchy yet oily or do you prefer it lighter yet not crispy enough? This pretty much describes the experiences you’ll encounter when you deep fry as opposed to air frying foods. The main cooking difference is in how food is prepared for each device. The deep fryer does give you more versatility in how to cook the batter since you’re can fry food dipped in wet batter immediately to achieve that distinctive taste. When it comes to an air fryer, the fast moving hot air tends to blow the batter away once you have inserted it.

This means that food deep fried often tastes crunchier and melts in your mouth faster. But this difference is literally only skin deep. The exterior of air fried food may not be as crunchy as their deep-fried counterparts, but that doesn’t mean the inside of the food itself isn’t just as moist and tender. The advantages of an air fryer involve using no oil or grease, meaning it won’t be as rich or as fatty. You can spray or brush on some oil to cook it in the air fryer, but it won’t be as crunchy. But if lighter fare that still manages to be tantalizing minus that oily taste is what you are looking for, then the air fryer is exactly how you want to fry food from this point on. Another way the air fryer is much preferable to a deep fryer is that you can also bake, grill, broil or roast food inside – giving it a different texture other than deep frying.

Oil vs Oil-less
The reason deep fried food is so crunchy, to begin with is due to the manner it’s cooked – in super hot oil or grease to be exact. Though the taste of deep fried food might make you forgive all the hassles that come with deep frying, these obstacles should still be addressed. For one, it takes anywhere from 1/2 to 3 gallons of oil or grease to use a deep fryer, as opposed to maybe a teaspoon with an air fryer. So just to begin using a deep fryer requires a bit of an investment.

But what about when all that oil you bought for your deep fryer has been in there for over a year and it’s time to change it out or risk making people sick? Disposing of used fryer oil is another hassle you have to worry about. There are some establishments that will dispose of that oil for a fee, but it doesn’t come cheap. If you have to try and dispose of it yourself, you might want to rethink just chucking into a dumpster. Most disposed of grease that ends up in a landfill often contaminates the surrounding water table, damaging the environment as well.

Cooking Time
In this regard, the advantages of a deep fryer are undeniable. Since heat is being transferred so fast due to the food being submerged in hot grease, it only takes ten minutes at the most of the majority of foods that are typically fried. For comparison, an air fryer often takes 5 times the amount of time to cook the same amount as a deep fryer. This means the volume of food you can prepare in any given time period is significantly lower if you use air frying as opposed to deep frying. This is why so many fast-food restaurants primarily serve deep-fried foods due to the lightning fast prep time.

But if you want to reheat previously cooked food and you hate the way it comes out of the microwave, then air frying is much preferable and has an equal prep time as a microwave. And it’s way too cumbersome to try and prep a deep fryer when all you want to do is reheat last night’s leftovers. So it depends on how cooked your food already is when deciding which is faster.

Here’s another detriment to using a deep fryer: safety. With an air fryer, there’s no exposed grease or any splatter risking damaging your skin or even eyes. Most air fryers come with a lid that traps heat, thereby accelerating the cooking process. It’s not only user-friendly but safer to trust younger family members with. An air fryer won’t give you third-degree burns or cause a kitchen fire if left unattended.

Cleaning up
Most of the mess associated with a deep fryer usually concerns any splattered grease on countertops or spilled fries or chicken tender batter. But there is another surface that a deep fryer can soil – walls and ceilings. As the vapor from the hot oil rises, it tends to leave grease streaks that you would have to use glass cleaner to remove as this oily film gets thicker the longer it accumulates. The larger ones can be bulky and too big for a dishwasher.

An air fryer, on the other hand, often comes with a cooking basket and a drip pan to catch the fat, not oil. There is little to no oil vapor and most air fryers have components that are dishwasher safe

Multiple usage and advantages
Another advantage of an air fryer is its versatility. It often comes with additional accessories that allow it to not only fry but the grill, roast, bake and even broil inside the air cooker itself. This means you can save money using a smaller appliance that uses less energy to cook in a variety of ways that supplant your stove of even your oven. All you can do with a deep fryer is, well, fry.

This is not to say that food cooked with a deep fryer is inferior or vice versa. But one cannot deny that an air fryer is more economical, less messy, safer, and cooks much healthier meals than a deep fryer with its lack of versatility is capable of. If you only value the crunch of deep fried food and nothing else, then these major issues won’t really matter to you. For the rest of us, especially those who want something for a home kitchen and not a restaurant, an air fryer makes a whole lot more sense than it’s deep-fried counterpart.

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