Differences Between Air Fryers And Ovens
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Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by Gabriel Goddy
Having to choose between an air fryer or an oven is not so easy if you don’t know what differentiates them. This is why we have taken out time to research and come up with this guide on the differences between air fryers and ovens. You should read through.
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a compact, countertop appliance that can be used to quickly cook (and reheat) a wide range of foods. Essentially, air fryers are just miniature versions of convection ovens whose size (along with a few other differences detailed below) allows them to do the same job, but faster.
These handy kitchen helpers have also carved out a niche for themselves because they work wonders when it comes to getting food nice and crispy without a gallon of oil. In fact, a good air fryer can cook up food without any oil at all in most cases.
That’s right, an air fryer can churn out food that very closely mimics a deep-fried dish, minus the grease. So, if you want frozen French fries that taste like the real deal or a crispy chicken cutlet that you don’t have to pat down with paper towels, this cooking device might be right up your alley.
Pros and Cons of an Air Fryer
- With an air fryer, you can’t see inside. This might not be super important, but being able to see your food can help judge doneness.
- Air fryers are louder than a convection oven. Philips says its air fryer generates 65 decibels, which is about as loud as a vacuum cleaner.
- An air fryer is more expensive than a comparable convection oven. A top air fryer might run $250, but a $150 convection oven will cook more food and more varieties of food (including toast.)
- Air fryers take up less space. A convection oven will pretty much have to live on your countertop full-time, whereas an air fryer can go in a cupboard when you’re not using it (although because of its height, it might not fit in every cupboard).
- Air fryer cleanup is more difficult. With an air fryer, you have the perforated basket to clean along with the bucket that it fits in. If you’re cooking something like chicken wings, there will be a lot of dripping. With a convection oven, you just clean the pan.
What Is An Oven?
An oven is a tool that is used to expose materials to a hot environment. Ovens contain a hollow chamber and provide a means of heating the chamber in a controlled way. In use since antiquity, they have been used to accomplish a wide variety of tasks requiring controlled heating. Because they are used for a variety of purposes, there are many different types of ovens. These types differ depending on their intended purpose and based upon how they generate heat.
Ovens are often used for cooking, where they can be used to heat food to the desired temperature. Ovens are also used in the manufacturing of ceramics and pottery; these ovens are sometimes referred to as kilns. Metallurgical furnaces are ovens used in the manufacturing of metals, while glass furnaces are ovens used to produce glass.
How Is an Air Fryer Different from an Oven?
The heating method in an air fryer is pretty much the same as a convection oven in that both use circulating dry heat to cook food. However, the small size of an air fryer means that both the food and the appliance itself heat up much faster (which is a very good thing when you get so peckish that the pre-heat phase feels like purgatory). Another difference that accounts for the efficiency of the air fryer is the fact that—again, due to its smaller size—the food is much closer to the heating element itself, which is located at the top of the appliance.
Because of its larger dimensions, a convection oven has heating elements on both the top and the bottom, but when using the middle rack to cook—the preferred placement in a convection oven—the food is never in such proximity to the heat source.
Aside from the heat itself, another difference is in the way that heat circulates: In both cases, there’s a fan to help spread the heat for even cooking, but the fan of an air fryer, located directly beneath the heating element, operates at a significantly greater speed (and it’s bigger).
If you eat a lot of frozen foods or prepare finger foods on the regular for the picky eaters in your home, an air fryer is a convenient appliance. That said, these guys aren’t quite as small as a toaster oven, so you’ll have to be willing to sacrifice some precious counter space to find a home for one. And although they can do quite a bit, there are also some things that they can’t do:
The smaller interior space means that an air fryer is best suited for small portions—so it won’t do you any favors when you’re feeding a group. Air fryers are also not a great option when it comes to baking cakes or any other food that starts with a runny batter unless you take an extra step and freeze it first.
Finally, air fryers do such a good job at getting food extra crisp because they feature a fryer-style basket that allows the hot air to penetrate while oils fall away into a perforated tray below. This means that less tossing and turning are required throughout the cooking process.
Which One Is Healthier?
Cooking with an air fryer instead of a convection oven does not produce healthier food per se, but there is an advantage to using an air fryer if you’re trying to cut back on calories—namely, that the design prevents food from sitting in and absorbing excess oil. In other words, frozen French fries prepared in an air fryer will be healthier than the deep-fried kind, which has been steeped in oil to achieve that satisfying texture.
That said, when it comes to health considerations the air fryer vs oven question is kind of a moot point: If you don’t typically use oil when heating frozen foods (like chicken nuggets, fries, mozzarella sticks, etc.) in the oven, all the air fryer really gives you is a crispier snack, while sparing you the hassle of having to turn it halfway through the cooking time. That said, in instances when you’re adding oil to a dish, the air fryer is healthier…and it’s always better for you than a deep-fried indulgence.
Should You get an air fryer or an oven?
Here are a few aspects to think about when deciding what’s best for you.
- Kitchen space
If you’re not keen on spending more than $300 on a new appliance, an air fryer has a few nifty functions to help in the kitchen. The fact that it doesn’t require much oil might also mean saving a few extra bucks on groceries in the long run, so it’s a win-win for your wallet.
But if you’re willing to put your hard-earned cash on a high-end model, then it’s worth checking out different types of ovens as well as air fryers. A bigger price tag usually means more features, not just capacity. Although the cost of air fryers usually fluctuates depending on the number of functions, many multicookers are also often stocked under the same category. So, you’re likely to find a basic 17L model for much cheaper than a 5L air fryer with all the bells and whistles.
Without a doubt, ovens knock it out of the park when it comes to features. This also includes models from brands like Westinghouse, which contain air frying functionality in addition to things like pyrolytic self-cleaning and grilling. The large capacity is also ideal for cooking hearty, family-sized meals.
- Kitchen space
Depending on which model you get, an air fryer can still take up a decent amount of bench space. But it’s a convenient option if your kitchen doesn’t have much room for many appliances, especially bulky white goods. Plus, air fryers perform many of the same basic functions as ovens, so they can prove a much more practical cooking solution to anyone who’d rather use the oven for storage.
What Can I Make in an Air Fryer?
Like any sane person, you hate to see restaurant-quality fried chicken go to waste, but only an air fryer can really bring back the magic on the reheat…which is possibly why you now have one in your kitchen and are wondering what else that puppy can do. Good news: You can reap many rewards from your new friend. Don’t believe us? Just check out some of these delicious air fryer recipes for fish, chicken, and just about everything else. Oh, and don’t forget the dessert!
If your apartment doesn’t have a full-size oven, a toaster oven is a way to go. Try one with an air fryer function built-in, and you’ll get the most versatility for your buck. If you already own an oven, especially one with convection, you won’t be blown away by an air fryer’s performance.
If you’re a fan of breaded, frozen foods, having an air fryer around saves time and energy compared with a convection oven and cooks them nearly as well.
Like so many parts of a kitchen, deciding to add small appliances comes down to personal factors like budget, counter space, and how often you cook certain types of foods. Each of these appliances has pros and cons. At the end of the day, the best appliance for you is the one you’ll use the most.