I first learned about the air fryer in college and since then, it has become more and more popular to a point where I only know a few people who don’t own one yet. In fact, it’s almost as common as the microwave or oven (probably an exaggeration, but it sure feels like that). As popular as it is, when comparing the air fryer versus the deep fryer, which reigns supreme?
You probably have heard that air frying is healthier than deep frying. But is this actually true? And how do they compare when it comes down to taste, texture, total cooking time and cleaning? Let’s discuss!
Benefits and downsides of the air fryer
First let’s focus on the air fryer. To start off with, it doesn’t actually deep fry anything. Really what happens is that hot air is pushed around the food, leading to browning around the edges. Honestly, I think air frying produces a more similar effect to baking versus deep frying. That’s just my opinion though!
Usually it just requires a little bit of oil, I typically use olive oil or avocado oil depending on the food. Whereas deep frying requires a ton of oil. This leads to a huge difference in taste, texture, cleaning time and cost.
First, let’s discuss taste! As mentioned before, food I make in the air fryer tends to turn out similar to foods I make in the oven. For foods like baked chicken, roasted vegetables, frozen meats and seafood, I think the air fryer does a wonderful job. It always tastes great!
I love the texture that the air fryer makes. It gets very crispy on the outside and stays nice and juice on the inside. Of course the recipe you are using plays a huge role on how the meal turns out.
I cannot even begin to rave about how much time the air fryer has saved me. It heats up in about 3 minutes (at least mine does) and for most things, I don’t need to cook it for more than 12 minutes. I can make chicken in about 8-10 minutes, french fries in about 10 minutes and frozen veggies in about 6-8 minutes.
The air fryer is super easy to clean. It’s even easier to clean if you line the air fryer with tin foil. I personally don’t use tin foil since it impedes the movement of hot air a bit, but to each their own! When I’m ready to clean I just remove the chamber, scrub with hot soapy water and rinse. It takes just as much effort as washing a large bowl.
Cost wise, the air fryer itself is going to be rather expensive depending on the brand and model you get. Most range from $70-200 from what I’ve seen. But other than that, there are no additional charges other than the food you cook with. Compared to most cooking methods, it’s about the same!
Benefits and downsides of the deep fryer
Ok, now time to discuss the air fryer’s opponent, the deep fryer! Honestly, I have only deep fried several times in the last few years, mostly just due to the set up and time it takes to cook. But, it’s super fun to do every once in a while. My favorite things to deep fry are french fries, crispy breaded chicken and hush puppies.
But, just because I don’t use the deep fryer that often doesn’t mean I hate it or disapprove of it as a dietitian. I think it can be fun to deep fry and is usually a bit healthier than getting fast food (but of course it just depends).
First off, you can’t beat the taste of deep fried foods. Our brains are wired to love high fat foods, and that’s exactly what the deep fryer produces. Delicious, greasy, crispy food. There is nothing quite like biting into a freshly made piece of fried chicken… am I right?
When it comes to texture, the deep fryer does an absolutely wonderful job. As long as you do it right, whatever food you are cooking should be evenly cooked and crispy. While I typically shallow fry my chicken katsu in a pan, I’ve been to a few restaurants that deep fry it and honestly it’s just so much better.
While the act of deep frying is pretty quick, the set up, heating up and cleaning time is quite a lot. So it may just take a few minutes to cook, but you also need to set up a deep frying pot, pour in the oil, wait for it to heat up, set up the plates with paper towels to soak the extra oil, then you need to dispose of the oil and thoroughly clean the pot and kitchen. That’s quite time consuming!
As just mentioned, cleaning can be tough when it comes to deep frying. Disposing on the oil, thoroughly cleaning out the pot and the kitchen (because you know there will be lots of splattered oil all over the place) is quite a hassle.
While getting a pot to deep fry in isn’t too much of an expense, purchasing large quantities of oil to deep fry in can get expensive. Plus, you end up wasting a lot of leftover oil in the end, which is even more of an expense. While the initial setup is cheaper, over time it is going to be expensive.
Which is healthier? Air fryer versus deep fryer
So which one is healthier, the air frying or deep frying? For most people, air frying is going to be the healthier option due to less oil being used. While oil isn’t a bad thing, it can be a big contributor to excess calories and isn’t incredibly nutrient dense.
That being said, if you struggle with weight gain or are malnourished, eating foods that are deep fried can be beneficial to help you gain some weight and make foods more palatable, therefore easier to eat. For those who are trying to lose weight, the air fryer may be a better option due to the lower caloric content of food made with it.
In the end, it depends on you and your individual needs. If you are trying to eat a more nutrient dense, lower calorie diet, the air fryer is for you. If you are trying to eat a more energy dense, higher calorie diet, the deep fryer is for you.
Who wins each category? Air fryer versus deep fryer
Taste: Deep Fryer
More fat means a better taste, that’s usually how it goes. Deep fryer is a clear winner in this category, though I have made some delicious recipes in my air fryer.
Texture: Deep Fryer
Deep fryer also wins in this category. You can’t beat the even, crispy texture the deep fryer makes. Again, I think the air fryer does a fine job, but the deep fryer does it better.
Time: Air Fryer
The air fryer may take longer to cook, but set up, heat up and cooking time is much shorter than the deep fryer. Overall, the air fryer wins.
Cleaning: Air Fryer
The air fryer is far easier to clean. If you use tin foil, then there is basically no clean up at all! But a quick scrub of the chamber is not too bad at all if you choose not to use foil.
Cost: Short Term = Deep Fryer, Long Term = Air Fryer
This was a tough one to judge since the air fryer itself is so expensive. But, in the long run, all the oil you need for deep frying will make it more expensive overall.
Health: Air Fryer
Health wise, the air fryer is going to be the best for most people. But the deep fryer can have it’s place for those trying to gain weight.
Why I prefer an air fryer + which one I use
I personally like the air fryer best. I tend to try to limit the oil I use in my diet to make more room for other nutrient dense foods. But, I do love a good deep fried food every once in a while. Plus, the air fryer is easy to use, cooks everything so fast and is easy to clean. Overally, I love it.
I’ve linked the specific air fryer I use below (just click the picture). It’s honestly the best and fits a ton of food. Also, I do make a small commission if you use my link to purchase this air fryer, it really supports my blog and business!
What to look for in an air fryer
If you are looking to get an air fryer for yourself, here are some things to consider based on my own personal experience.
First, how long is the preheat time? If it’s anything longer than 5 minutes, don’t buy it. One of the huge perks of air frying is the super quick heat up time. Mine doesn’t take more than 3 minutes to heat up and it saves so much time overall.
Next, how large is the chamber? This is all going to depend on what you are looking to make in your air fryer, but for most, you’ll want a pretty decently sized chamber. My air fryer can fit a whole pound of meat, which is perfect for me, but you may need a large air fryer if you are cooking for more people (I only cook for me and my boyfriend).
Finally, are you looking for an air fryer or more of an all in one kinda thing? Some air fryers are just air fryers, while others also act like toaster ovens, which can be useful depending on your preferences! This is definitely something to consider when looking into an air fryer.
My favorite air fryer recipes
If you are looking for some recipes that use an air fryer, here are a few of my favorites: