Fried chicken, French fries, chicken wings, onion rings... all of these fried foods are delicious, and you would love to make them yourself at home. In general, there are two appliances to consider that can help you whip up these delicacies: the air fryer and the deep fryer.
Some people have one of each, but many people have neither. If you're considering making a purchase, which is better to cook food? Or, if you already have one, is it worth it to buy the other?
We'll dissect the pros and cons of both so you can make the best decision when it comes to the question of air fryer vs deep fryer: which is the best?
What's an Air Fryer?
Air fryers have become quite popular in recent years, and Adam Graves, the president of Nestle's pizza and snacking division, estimates that 60 percent of Americans have one.
While they're not as popular as microwave ovens, they're among the top four most common cooking appliances in American kitchens.
Let's look at more information about this little household powerhouse.
The Air Fryer Cooking Process
Air fryers work by blowing hot air around within the fryer, cooking food evenly and without the need for oil or other fats. The cooking process is similar to that of a convection oven, an appliance that was trendy in the 1970s.
Air fryers have a heating element, similar to an oven or a toaster, as well as a fan that circulates the air around the food. You can set the temperature to whatever the recipe calls for, generally up to 400 degrees.
One benefit to the hot air frying method is that your food will have a crispy exterior similar to what's produced by a deep fryer.
Types of Foods an Air Fryer Can Cook
The list of foods you can cook in an air fryer is a long one. While many air fryers include a selection of settings, we'll mainly focus on the "air fry" setting, since that's probably what you'll be using the most.
French fries are a popular food to cook in an air fryer. You can use frozen fries or you can make your own by slicing up a potato, spritzing with a bit of cooking oil, and sprinkling with whatever seasonings you prefer.
Chicken wings are probably the most common food to think of when using an air fryer. These don't even need any oil added, since they'll make some grease on their own. Just apply a dry rub and cook them up!
Leftovers are great heated up in the air fryer. If you have a slice of pizza, a chicken breast with vegetables, or a leftover baked potato, you can put it in your air fryer for a few minutes to bring it back to full flavor with a nice crispy texture.
Health Considerations for Air Frying
A major benefit to using an air fryer is that you can get that crispy texture without the need for a large amount of oil. In many cases, no oil usage is needed at all. This makes air frying a healthy alternative to deep frying.
What's a Deep Fryer?
A deep fryer is, as the name implies, used for deep frying foods. If you go to a restaurant and order just about anything that's fried, particularly if it's also battered, it's most likely been cooked in a deep fryer.
People have deep fryers at home, too. These can be small or large, and while most are used indoors and use electricity, there are also outdoor versions that use propane.
The Deep Fryer Cooking Process
When deep frying, the food is cooked by the hot oil it's submerged into. You'll choose the oil you prefer (vegetable, peanut, canola, and sunflower are recommended). You'll preheat the oil and, when it's hot enough, put your food in.
The food you add will cook within a few minutes most of the time, and at that point, you can pull it out, drain it, season it, and serve.
Your food will come out crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Deep frying is the best way to get a great crust on battered meats and vegetables.
Types of Foods a Deep Fryer Can Cook
There are tons of foods you can cook in a deep fryer, including some you might have only seen at fairs and carnivals. Here are a few:
Fried chicken is a very popular type of fried food since it comes out perfectly tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
Various types of fish and shellfish can be deep fried. You might try an old-fashioned fish fry with some haddock or catfish, or you might decide to try shrimp or calamari.
Homemade fries are a winner here as well as in the air fryer; making your own is easy and quick. You could also make onion rings as an alternative or in addition to the fried potatoes.
Speaking of onion rings, other vegetables do well in the deep fryer. Consider zucchini, green beans, or even pickles.
Anything with a wet batter will do better if you deep fry it rather than air fry it.
Health Considerations for Deep Frying
To put it plainly, you're not going to want to overdo it on deep fried foods because they're really not very healthy.
The hot oil seeps into the food, causing the ingredients to be filled with fat and calories, and might even predispose you to various health issues, like obesity, heart disease, or high blood pressure.
Air Fryers and Deep Fryers Head to Head
If you're having a hard time choosing between air fryers and deep fryers, here are some quick runoffs to see which one will take the prize when it comes to your preferred appliance.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Taste and Texture
The taste and texture of air fried vs deep fried food are similar. Both will produce a crisp texture and will cook the food thoroughly, keeping it tender in the middle.
Some might say that deep frying foods will give them a better crunch, particularly if you're using batter, which cannot be used in an air fryer. Others might say that air fryers work better at keeping foods from getting too greasy since they're cooked by the air and not with hot oil.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Cooking Time
The cooking time for deep fried foods is shorter, in general, than the cooking time for air fried foods. With that being said, it's important to remember that both cook foods quickly.
One example is that deep frying will take an average of 10 minutes to cook up chicken wings, but in an air fryer, they'll take about 20 minutes. Both of these times are much shorter than the 45 minutes or so they'd take in a traditional oven, though.
Another common example is from-scratch French fries, which take only a few minutes in a deep fryer and closer to 20 minutes in an air fryer. They'll take about 30 minutes in the traditional oven.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Cleaning Up
Cleaning up after using an air fryer is substantially easier than cleaning up after using a deep fryer.
With an air fryer, you won't be using excess oil, and that keeps it easy to clean up. Simply wash out the basket with warm, soapy water or, if it's dishwasher safe, just run it through a regular cycle with your other dishes.
After deep frying, though, the appliance will need to be taken apart. The oil will need to be disposed of or carefully saved, and the fryer basket and the oil tank will need to be thoroughly cleaned. This takes a lot more time and energy.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Cost
If you're thinking about how much an air fryer costs vs how much a deep fryer costs, it's important to keep in mind not only the initial price but also the ongoing costs.
Air fryers tend to be more expensive than deep fryers, in general. However, air fryers don't use much oil at all. You can just spritz your air fryer basket with cooking oil and you're good to go. In some cases, you don't need to use oil at all. This keeps costs down.
Deep fryers require a good amount of cooking oil that you will be changing out frequently, and depending on the type you prefer, that could add up to an expense over time if you deep fry a lot.
It's also helpful to keep in mind that deep frying foods frequently could raise your healthcare costs if you're overindulging since they are not the healthiest option.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Environmental Impact
If you're environmentally conscious, you might be concerned about which appliance is more eco-friendly, deep fryers or air fryers.
Air fryers win the points here since they use less oil and create less waste. Also, there are no potentially harmful fumes from smoking or burning oil when you choose an air fryer.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Cooking Capacity
Unless you're going to be using a large air fryer, a deep fryer will almost always be larger and will have a greater cooking capacity.
If you're cooking for a large family or for a holiday get-together, this is something to keep in mind.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer: Safety
Without question, air fryers are much safer than deep fryers. There is very little or no oil to splatter, splash, drip, or burn. The risk of fire is much lower, and there's little risk of a child or pet accidentally getting burned, as long as you keep the air fryer up on a counter or other appropriate flat surface.
Deep frying requires constant supervision. You need to be very careful that the oil doesn't get too hot, as it could ignite. Also, the oil could splash or otherwise burn someone standing nearby. This is not an appliance you'll want to use in the vicinity of children or pets.
Final Considerations and Thoughts
Deep fryers and air fryers are both good kitchen appliances worth considering. My pick between the two would be an air fryer. Using the hot air fryer is going to be a healthier alternative to deep frying. Also, the safety differences aren't even a question, and the clean-up after cooking is going to be much simpler with an air fryer.
With that being said, some people prefer deep fried foods, and I can't fault them for that! As long as you're eating them in moderation and being careful, you might really enjoy the crispier texture, the greater cooking capacity, and the shorter cooking times of deep fryers.
Think through all of the factors to make the best decision for you and your household!
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