Deep Fryer Vs Air Fryer – What’s The Difference?

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Air fryers have become incredibly popular in the last few years as a cooking gadget that produces crispy, crunchy foods without all the oil and calories found in deep-fried foods.

But are they worth the hype? Do they get food as crispy as a deep fryer?

I love my air fryer, but I don’t necessarily think it’s going to exactly replicate deep-fried foods. I consider it more of a convenient mini convection oven that cooks food quickly, gives a pretty good crunch, and is super hands-off to use.

Deep fryers, can be a little more labor-intensive to use, but the final result truly can’t be beat.

That’s why I like to save my deep frying for days when I have more time and energy to spend in the kitchen. With that being said, how do air frying and deep frying compare to one another in other areas?

So, what’s the difference between air fryers and deep fryers? As the name suggests, air fryers circulate hot air in order to quickly cook food, like a mini convection oven. Deep fryers cook food by heating oil which then evaporates the liquid inside of whatever food you’re cooking.

Based on these different cooking techniques, there are some other differences between these methods.

Read on to discover how air fryers and deep fryers work, how quickly they cook your food, how your food tastes, and a basic nutritional breakdown!

How Do Deep Fryers And Air Fryers Work?

To understand the difference between an air fryer and a deep fryer, we should first take a look at what they are and how they work.

Generally, air fryers are mini convection ovens that circulate super-hot air to create a deliciously crispy texture on whatever food you’ve placed inside.

The whole purpose of an air fryer is to make foods crispy, like a deep fryer, but without the use of tons of oils or fats, so that the final product is lighter and fresher than something deep-fried. It uses dry heat to do this.

It’s a pretty hands-off process: pop your food in the air fryer basket, hit the timer button, and remove it when it beeps. Easy, peasy!

Essentially, deep fryers steam food from the inside by heating the moisture inside of your food to the point that it evaporates.

This evaporation cooks the food, so your deep-fried item is generally cooked once it stops bubbling in the fryer- that bubbling is the moisture evaporating.

In order to deep fry, you need to heat the oil to at least 345°F, though some recipes may suggest you get your oil hotter. You will need a meat thermometer or a deep fryer that has a temperature gauge.

You don’t want to put your food into the oil when it’s too cold or it will start to absorb the oil instead of cooking and crisping the food.

If your oil is too cold when you add your food, you’re going to end up with a soggy, oil, rather gross final product.

Once you add your food to the deep fryer, you’ll have to keep an eye on what you’re cooking and you may need to flip it over depending on what you’re cooking and how deep your oil is.

You’ll want to have something called a spider strainer to make deep-frying easy.

The spider strainer allows you to flip your food and to safely remove and drain it. As your food is cooking, watch for the bubbles. You want to remove your food from the fryer when the bubbles start to slow down and disappear.

Finally, you’ll place your fried food on a piece of paper towel to absorb any excess oil. You may want to sprinkle with salt to season it before serving.

As you can see, deep frying is more hands on that an air fryer. For air frying, you just pop your food in and remove it when the timer beeps, maybe flipping it once halfway through.

Deep frying may be best for when you have a lot of time on your hands since it is more involved than air frying.

Which Cooks Faster: Air Fryer Or Deep Fryer?

Depending on what you’re cooking, deep fryers can cook slightly faster than an air fryer.

For example, to deep fry some chicken breast, it takes about 14 minutes or so. To air fry the same chicken takes about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breast.

Even though the deep fryer method can be the faster of the two, it is also more hands on than air frying. Typically, when you put something in the air fryer you place it in the basket, set the timer or pick the right setting and then walk away.

Sometimes you need to flip the food halfway through, but doing that is a pretty quick and easy process.

It’s great if you’re trying to make multiple things for dinner at once and don’t want to be tied to one place for extended periods of time.

Deep fryers on the other hand can cook batches of food slightly faster, but you have to stand over the fryer the whole time to make sure it doesn’t splash hot oil or burn your food.

Using a deep fryer is also quite a bit more work than an air fryer for a couple of other reasons:

  • You need to use a lot of oil
  • You need to discard the oil after you’ve cooked with it
  • You need to have a kitchen with good ventilation to clear the frying fumes
  • It can leave a greasy residue on your kitchen

That’s not to say that deep frying is any better or worse than air frying, but these extra steps are something to consider if you’re hoping to get dinner on the table quickly.

Air frying may take a couple extra minutes to cook, but you save time in the set up, the heating of the oil, and the cleaning up afterwards.

In the end it might be the better choice for quick and easy dinners, while deep frying can be saved for when you have a bit more time to play in the kitchen.

What Is The Taste Difference Between Foods Cooked In An Air Fryer Vs A Deep Fryer?

As you can imagine, there is definitely a taste difference between foods that are either air-fried or deep-fried.

The cooking method and flavor you prefer will depend on your taste buds, though when it comes to crispy crunchiness, deep frying really can’t be beat.

Since air doesn’t transfer heat quite as well as a deep fryer, it can be tough to get that same really good crunch on the outside that you get with deep-fried foods.

That’s because the exterior just won’t dehydrate and crisp up as much with air as it would by being cooked in hot oil.

So one of the main differences in taste between air fried and deep-fried foods is that decadent crispy crunch that just can’t be replicated when “frying” with air.

I have found that the inside of most foods is still going to be tender and juicy with air frying, similar to what you achieve when deep frying.

Another minor difference that I’ve found with air frying and deep frying is how it cooks vegetables.

I have found that in order to get a soft and tender center to something like a Brussels sprout, it needs to be steamed before being put in the air fryer, otherwise the outside can burn before the middle is done.

If you pop a Brussels sprout in a deep fryer the center cooks pretty evenly as compared to the outside. So, for hardier veggies with a denser center, the deep fryer can give you a better result.

Another difference in taste between air fried and deep-fried foods is that deep fried foods tend to have a fattier, richer taste.

This flavor profile makes sense since the foods are cooked in oil, some of which gets transferred to whatever is being fried.

Personally, I love the richness of fat in my foods, so I enjoy that texture and taste in deep fried foods. Not everyone is a fan of such richness though, so if you prefer less fat, then go with the air fryer for your cooking needs.

What Is The Nutritional Difference Between Air Fried And Deep-Fried Foods?

One of the reasons that air frying gained so much popularity is because they were marketed as a healthier alternative to deep frying that still creates a crispy, crunchy outside with a soft and tender inside to your food.

As mentioned, when air frying the outside of your food doesn’t get quite as crispy as when you deep fry, but the difference in terms of calories and fat content is pretty big.

Some estimates claim that air fried foods have up to 70% fewer calories and a major difference in fat content.

Depending on the food you air fry, it can have as little as 3% fat, while some deep fried foods can be up to 24% fat, which is a pretty big difference. If you are trying to watch your fat intake, then air frying may be the better choice for you.

Below I’ve shared the estimated calorie content for air fried versus deep fried food.

Remember that there can be flexibility in these counts based on the serving size, but it’s a good place to start to give you an idea of the difference frying can make to overall calories.

  • Jalapeno Poppers
    • Air Fried: 135
    • Deep-Fried: 430
  • Tater Tots
    • Air Fried: 50
    • Deep-Fried: 220
  • Chicken Wings
    • Air Fried: 270
    • Deep-Fried: 530
  • Fried Chicken
    • Air Fried: 280
    • Deep-Fried: 550
  • French Fries
    • Air Fried: 175
    • Deep-Fried: 470

What Are The Best Uses For A Deep Fryer?

Honestly, when it comes to deep-frying there isn’t really much that it can’t do.

Almost any food that you put in your deep fryer is going to come out tasting delicious, crispy, and rich taste. And not everything that goes in the fryer needs to be battered either.

If you love deep-frying, but perhaps want to lower the calorie content a little, a great option is to fry your food with a thin batter, a dry rub, or no batter.

You’ll still get a deliciously crispy outside, but it won’t be quite as rich and heavy as battered foods.

Some of my favorite foods to deep fry include:

  • Chicken wings, thighs, and drumsticks
  • Veggie Pakoras
  • Falafels
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • French fries and Tater tots
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Homemade potato chips
  • Fish- battered or plain

What Are The Best Ways To Use Your Air Fryer?

There are tons of ways you can use an air fryer to create delicious meals and snacks in no time at all. Since air fryers are powerful mini convection ovens, they can often cook your food much faster than a regular oven.

Aside from staples like crispy air-fried chicken, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and other typically deep-fried goodies, you can use your air fryer in some other cool ways

They are also great for folks who are looking for an alternative to deep frying that uses less oil, is less messy, and can take less time to cook.

Read on for some of my favorite ways to use an air fryer to save time in the kitchen while creating crispy, delicious meals!

Air Fry Vegetables

This function is one of my favorites to use on an air fryer. You can make crispy vegetables that taste like they’ve been fried, without using tons of oil. I love using my air fryer to make delicious French fries and potato wedges.

It’s also great for making crispy broccoli, green beans, asparagus, and other garden staples.

You don’t need a ton of time and you don’t need a ton of oil to get perfect results every time. Lots of these veggies will be ready to eat in under 10 minutes.

Dehydrate Fruits And Vegetables

Many air fryer models now come with a dehydration function which is great if you’re a kale chip addict like me.

I make a batch or two every week, and they always come out crispy and perfect as opposed to whenever I try to make them in the oven, and they end up burnt and but also soggy. Not good.

You can also use your air fryer to make homemade fruit roll-ups using fruit purees.

Or you can dehydrate extras from your garden to make yummy fruit snacks that you can take with you on the go. I love dehydrating strawberries, peaches, mangoes, and blueberries.

Dehydrate Excess Herbs

If you grow herbs like dill, mint, and thyme, then you may end up with an overabundance at the end of the summer season.

Instead of wasting your fresh herbs, you can spread them out and dehydrate them in your air fryer. Then you’ll have your own homemade dried herbs to use all winter long.

Use The Rotisserie Function To Cook Meats

Not every air fryer is going to have a rotisserie function, but if you’re a fan of rotisserie chickens, I highly recommend finding one that does.

I use mine regularly and it makes the juiciest, crispiest, most amazing rotisserie chicken I’ve ever had.

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