Air fryers are the craze now. You’ve been hearing all about how they’re healthier, more convenient, and cook faster. But how many of those claims are true, and how do they hold up across different kinds of foods?
You might have also heard that they work on principles similar to a convection oven. To what extent is this true? Most importantly, how do they compare to the convection oven you already have at home?
In this article, we discuss how an air fryer actually works, how it compares to a convection oven, and if one is better than the other. Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
How Do Air Fryers Work?
If you’re not familiar with how air fryers work, it’s actually very simple.
First of all, the name is a little misleading. While you might think some magical frying is happening inside, the process is closer to baking. In particular, it’s very similar to what’s happening in a convection oven.
Air fryers have a heating mechanism and a fan in the interior of the unit. Hot air is being produced, while at the same time, being circulated and forced around the interior. What this does is make the hot air flow around the food, which produces an effect similar to convection heating. The process makes the outside of the food crispy, similar to deep frying.
As the air is greatly heated up to a high temperature and circulated rapidly in the interior, browning occurs. This allows the air fryer to basically ‘fry’ without the grease and oil needed in deep frying.
To sum it up, an air fryer is pretty much the same as a small convection oven. However, a convection oven with air frying capabilities is able to do everything an air fryer can – albeit more slowly – while an air fryer isn’t able to do everything an oven can.
Why Air Fryer Over Oven?
Now that we’ve mentioned how similar air fryers and ovens work in principle, why choose one over the other? The general consensus is that air fryers are generally healthier and more convenient to use than ovens. Why so, and how true are these claims?
Generally speaking, they’re all true to some extent, but it also depends on what kinds of foods you’re cooking. For the most part, cooking times become much shorter. Because there is almost no oil required to air fry, this results in healthier meals as well.
Because each advantage that the air fryer provides needs its own detailed explanation, we’ve broken it down into their own sections below.
Which is Healthier?
Comparing air fryers and ovens, the foods cooked with air fryers are definitely healthier most of the time, if not all of the time.
Because air frying is not technically ‘frying’, it does not need nearly as much oil as deep frying would require. In fact, for many recipes, not even a single drop of oil or fat is needed. That being said, ovens don’t require oil to bake as well. So which one has the edge here?
Honestly, because they rely on pretty much the same cooking technique, the results aren’t that much different. Both air fryers and ovens are able to produce foods that are healthy. Especially when comparing greasy foods coming out of a deep fryer, it’s night and day.
Which is More Convenient?
If you don’t know the answer to this already, it’s pretty simple. Convenience is what the rave is all about for air fryers. That statement holds true here – once you start getting used to an air fryer, baking in an oven feels almost like an eternity (okay, a little hyperbolic here).
Because air fryers are built in more compact sizes, they’re able to circulate heat better. Even though they work in the same principles as ovens, the size difference is more than enough to cut short the cooking time. In some recipes, the time saved isn’t significant, only cutting around 20% of the total cooking time. However for certain foods, using an air fryer can save up to 60% of your time!
Air fryers not only cook faster, they are generally easier to clean as well. Having a removable drawer that wipes and washes easily, the racks and trays that ovens use are just no match for convenience of cleaning. If you’re not careful with ovens, the oil and fats might also drip, which means more cleaning work.
For convenience, air fryers definitely take the cake.
Can Air Fried Foods Beat Oven-Baked Ones?
Apart from health and convenience, a big part of choosing between these two is also how the food actually comes out.
From our experience, the results aren’t that much different. Well, since both employ very similar processes to get the food ready. Air fried foods are usually as good, or in some cases, even better than their oven baked counterparts. If you’re simply worrying about the quality of food you’ll get by switching from an oven to an air fryer – trust us on this, that worry is non-existent.
That being said, if you’re a deep fry lover and you’re coming from a deep fryer, be warned – neither of these two is able to recreate that deep-fried flavor. But hey, they’re really close.
Can One Replace The Other?
To put simply, yes. If you’re not doing a ton of ‘bake fry’, an air fryer is just a smaller version of a convection oven, and could easily replace a small convection oven. However, the long answer is, it depends.
The first thing to consider if you’re looking to entirely replace one appliance with the other, is what are your typical uses for the air fryer or the oven. If you’re doing a lot of baking, e.g. large batches of cookies, and not just ‘fried’ foods like fries or bacon, then an air fryer might not be sufficient for your use cases.
While they work on the same principles, an air fryer is built for, well, ‘fried’ foods. While they can achieve almost the same effect of baking as in convection ovens, they lack the space to effectively do so. On top of that, most air fryers also don’t come with a ton of rack accessories (if at all), which is crucial for any serious baking business.
For this reason, if you love baked goods and treats, an air fryer might not totally replace the oven for you. What’s more, for higher-priced models with air frying functionalities, you can use the convection oven as an air fryer. Best of both worlds!
If you’re considering between an air fryer or an oven, our advice is this: get both if you can. While both of these appliances work very similarly, they’re arguably to achieve different purposes in the kitchen. For quick bites and fried snack cravings, the air fryer is an excellent time-saving tool that allows you to quickly put out some food. However for more complex baking tasks and generally more flexibility, an oven is still a great appliance in the kitchen to have.
If you’re only able to fit one in your kitchen, the choice comes down to this – are you looking for convenience and time-saving features more, or are you looking for flexibility and the ability to cook larger amounts of foods more? If you resonate with the former, an air fryer is going to satisfy you really well. The latter though, and you’re better off getting a full-fledged convection oven with air frying capabilities.