There has been an influx of new kitchen appliances in the last decade. When Instant Pot pressure cookers and air fryers came out in the 2010s, they became absolute game changers in how we cook food.
These versatile appliances can cook a whole meal in less than an hour, which is great for busy families on the go, and are healthy alternatives to more traditional cooking methods like deep frying.
While both appliances cook food quickly, they are very different in how they cook food. What are the differences between the two? Which one is more suitable for your needs?
Let's compare the two and see what each does and doesn't do and which is best for you.
- How Does an Air Fryer Work?
- How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?
- What Are the Differences Between the Two?
- Things to Consider When Looking for an Air Fryer
- Things To Consider When Looking for a Pressure Cooker
- What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
- What Can You Cook in a Pressure Cooker?
- Can You Use a Pressure Cooker as an Air Fryer?
- Which Cooker Is Right for You?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Unveiling the Winner in the Pressure Cooker vs Air Fryer Showdown
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
Air fryers are a healthier alternative to deep frying and are known for producing crispy foods while retaining the juices inside the food. Air fryers work by convection heating. The heating element is at the top of the cooking chamber, and hot air blows around the food constantly.
The circulating hot air around the food mimics deep frying because the air surrounds the food like the oil used in deep frying. To achieve the best results, the heating element should not be blocked, and the tray or basket should have plenty of ventilation so the air can circulate properly.
Air fryers are equipped with an exhaust vent to release air during cooking. As the temperature rises, so does the pressure. The exhaust vent releases excess pressure, so it is important not to block the vent during the cooking process.
The Benefits of Using an Air Fryer
There are different advantages to using an air fryer. Here are just some of them.
- Healthier food: Air fryers are a healthy alternative because even if you use cooking oil, you only need a fraction of the oil that a deep fryer does.
- Faster cooking times: They cook food faster than a conventional oven.
- Energy saver: Since air fryers are smaller than conventional ovens, they use less electricity and don't heat up the kitchen nearly as much.
- Easy to use: Air fryers come with pre-programmed settings, which make them very user-friendly.
The Downsides of Using an Air Fryer
On the other hand, here are the different disadvantages of using an air fryer.
- Small: Air fryers are small, so if you're cooking for a large crowd, you'll have to cook in batches.
- Can't use batter: Unlike deep fryers, you cannot use batter inside an air fryer.
- Outside gets hot: The outside of some air fryers gets hot to the touch during cooking, so it's best to use oven mitts when handling the air fryer.
How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?
There are two different types of pressure cookers: electric and stove-top. Stovetop pressure cookers are more traditional and require more attention during cooking. The temperature must be adjusted often to retain the correct pressure.
The earlier models were not as safe as the current ones, and one could possibly get steam burns. All pressure cookers have safety measures today, so getting burned is practically impossible.
Pressure cookers raise the pot's internal pressure to cook food faster. This is accomplished by using water or broth inside an airtight pot. The liquid boils and converts to steam, and since the moisture cannot escape, the pressure builds inside the pot.
The trapped pressure cooks food faster because the liquid reaches the boiling point quicker and at a higher temperature. When the food is cooked, the steam must be released from the pressure cooker before removing the lid. The venting can be done naturally, or you can rapidly release the steam by raising the steam release button at the top of the pressure cooker.
The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that debuted in 2010 and has grown so much in popularity that most households have one. I use mine at least 3-4 times a week, and I am constantly amazed at what I can cook in it, and I have never been disappointed in the results.
The Benefits of Using a Pressure Cooker
Here are the pros of using a pressure cooker.
- Rapid cooking: Pressure cookers reduce cooking time by a third compared to a conventional oven
- Healthier meals: The meals are healthier because fewer nutrients are lost because they cannot escape the airtight container
- One-pot meals: One of the biggest advantages of using a pressure cooker is cooking a whole meal in one pot. Plus, Instant Pots come with a delayed cooking time. So, you can set your ingredients in the pot, set a timer when you want it to start cooking, and that's it. The timer will let you know when dinner is ready.
The Downsides of Using a Pressure Cooker
Meanwhile, here are the cons of using a pressure cooker.
- Price: Instant Pots are a bit pricey but worth it when it comes to cooking delicious meals with no fuss
- Can't check on food while it's cooking: To inspect your food while cooking, you must release all the pressure before removing the lid. When you're done, you have to start the process over. However, this is a safety precaution to keep you from getting steam burns.
What Are the Differences Between the Two?
Both air fryers and pressure cookers use rapid temperature changes to cook food quickly. The key difference between the two is the cooking method.
An air fryer is a small convection oven that uses hot air to cook food. On the other hand, a pressure cooker cooks by locking in moisture and building steam, and rapidly boiling food.
While both cookers use liquid for cooking, they use different kinds and amounts. An air fryer sometimes uses oil, but only a little is necessary.
Pressure cookers rely on at least a cup of water or broth to operate. If you're using an Instant Pot, it will only build pressure if it has the proper amount of liquid.
Another key difference between an air fryer and a pressure cooker is how you can check the food during cooking. With an air fryer, you can look through the glass or lift the lid to check on the food.
With a pressure cooker, you have to release the steam before you can open the cover, and if the food needs to be cooked longer, you have to start the process over again.
Things to Consider When Looking for an Air Fryer
Air fryers are compact, but they also take up a lot of counter space and cupboard space when not in use. Still, these are great appliances for smaller kitchen spaces like dorm rooms or campers. There are a few things to consider when looking for an air fryer that will make the decision easier.
Number of Servings
A standard air fryer is designed to cook for 1-2 people, but you can buy larger models for bigger crowds. A 3-4 liter air fryer can cook for 3-4 people, and a 6-liter air fryer can cook for 4-6 people.
The bigger the air fryer, the more space it takes up. Suppose you have a standard-size air fryer and are cooking for more than two people. You'll have to cook the food in batches.
There are three types of air fryers: single-basket style, double-basket style, and convection oven style.
The single basket is the smallest air fryer, the double basket allows you to cook two batches simultaneously or two different foods, and the convection oven style looks like a toaster oven.
I prefer the convection style because it holds larger batches, has a glass door for viewing, and is a multi-purpose unit. It can bake, dehydrate, and cook with other methods as well.
Settings and Presets
There are a variety of settings and presets to choose from, and different air fryers have different settings. Determine what you will use the most and pick an air fryer to suit your cooking style.
You will need to store the air fryer when it's not in use, so finding a spot ahead of time and taking measurements will help narrow down your choices.
Things To Consider When Looking for a Pressure Cooker
As with air fryers, there are a few things to consider before you purchase a pressure cooker. The main features to look for are the safety options. Electric pressure cookers are less dangerous than their stovetop predecessors, but if misused, they can cause severe burning.
Fortunately, newer electric pressure cookers have many safety features that won't allow you to open the lid while the pot is under pressure, and it will only build pressure if the pot has the appropriate amount of liquid to steam.
Steam Release Valve
Pressure cooking means using high pressure, which produces a lot of steam. The pressure release valve safely releases the moisture before you open the lid. It can naturally release the steam, which takes at least five minutes, or you can pull the valve up for a rapid release, depending on the recipe you're using.
You want to make sure that the pressure cooker has a locking mechanism to ensure that the lid is secured tightly during the cooking process.
Pressure settings are essential so that you can adjust the pressure in the pot. The pressure indicator shows the level of pressure.
This is an optional feature and purely depends on your style of cooking. A steam basket not only gives you crisp vegetables but also acts as a divider and allows you to cook multiple things simultaneously.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
Knowing what you can cook in an air fryer is also a deciding factor. We all love fried food, and you will be amazed at the array of dishes you can make in an air fryer and by the delicious flavor that comes from this innovative cooking method.
Some of the more popular cooking choices in an air fryer include chicken wings, French fries, and other popular deep-fried foods. Vegetables crisp nicely in an air fryer as well. Broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, and squash are just a few vegetables that benefit from air frying. You can even air-fry rice for a delicious side dish.
What Can You Cook in a Pressure Cooker?
Anything you use a pot for can be cooked in a pressure cooker in a fraction of the time it would take on a stovetop. Soups, stews, beans, and rice are just a few of the things you can cook in a pressure cooker.
Instant Pots are so versatile that you can cook pulled pork, pork loins, chili, and even make yogurt. Instant Pots even have a sauté option that is perfect for roasts, making this a true one-pot cooking machine.
If you leave the lid off the pot, select the sauté option, and add a ½ teaspoon of oil to the pot, you can get a beautiful sear on the roast before you pressure cook it. There is an unbelievable amount of recipes centered around the pressure cooker.
Can You Use a Pressure Cooker as an Air Fryer?
You can air fry in a pressure cooker with a unique air frying lid like a Mealthy CrispLid or an Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid. The Instant Pot is a wildly popular kitchen appliance, but it lacked an air fry option. Naturally, someone developed a specialized lid that converts the pot into an air fryer.
Instant Pot came out with an air fryer called the Duo Crisp that comes with two lids, one for air frying and one for the ten other cooking methods. It has a 6-quart capacity and is excellent for larger crowds.
Which Cooker Is Right for You?
Now that we've examined both types of cookers, which one is right for you? Food cooks fast in both, and each one consistently delivers tasty meals, but there are critical differences in how they cook and the texture of the finished product.
If you're looking for crispy foods, an air fryer will be your first choice. If you're looking for a cooker that can produce whole meals in under an hour, the pressure cooker is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is a pressure cooker the same thing as a slow cooker?
Although slow cookers and pressure cookers look the same, they are vastly different. Slow cookers (crock pots) cook foods at a low temperature for long periods. Pressure cookers use heated steam to cook food rapidly.
2. Can I use my air fryer as a pressure cooker?
No, air fryers cook with convection heating, and liquid cannot be added to the cooking chamber. The heating element would short out, and the air fryer would be ruined.
3. Are air fryers safe?
Air fryers are safe so long as you use cooking mitts while it's air frying. Obviously, the food will be hot, but the outside of the air fryer will also be hot. This is a safer alternative to deep frying because you don't have to deal with hot splashing oil, but you can still be burned without taking precautions.
4. Are pressure cookers safe?
Instant pots and other electric pressure cookers are incredibly safe. Several built-in safety features will only allow the feature to operate if everything is correct. The locking lid mechanism is probably the best safety feature. With the lid locked, there is no way to open the cooker while it's under any kind of pressure.
Unveiling the Winner in the Pressure Cooker vs Air Fryer Showdown
Air Frying and pressure cooking are healthy ways to deliver delicious meals consistently, but they cook in different ways. Air fryers utilize hot air circulation for cooking foods, while a pressure cooker's key cooking method is rapidly boiling water, allowing the steam and boiling water to cook foods.
Both the air fryer and the pressure cooker are great additions to any kitchen and provide a no-fuss way of cooking food in a hurry during those hectic weekdays when we're pressed for time. Which cooker you choose depends on your cooking style and the number of people you are cooking for.