What’s the difference between air frying vs. deep frying? Air fryers circulate hot air to quickly cook food, while deep fryers cook food by using hot oil to evaporate the liquid inside the food.
Air fryers have risen in popularity over the last few years. Many people are turning in their deep fryers for the healthier and much-hyped alternative.
But is air frying that much better than deep frying? Can you get the same great-tasting results as a deep fryer?
Keep reading to learn about how air fryers and deep fryers work, the pros and cons of each cooking method, and other important information.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Even though both appliances have the word “fryer” in them, air frying and deep frying are distinct cooking methods.
An air fryer is essentially a miniature convection oven that uses a powerful fan to circulate hot air to cook food and create a golden, crispy texture on the food.
Air fryers are designed to deliver crispy results like deep fryers, but without using a lot of cooking oil or fat.
While some air fryers are designed like an oven with baking trays, most air fryers have a basket-style design. These models are easy to use.
Just place food inside the air fryer basket, set the timer dial or button, and remove the food when it’s done. Voila!
You might have to flip the food halfway through the cooking cycle, but other than that, air frying is pretty hands-off.
How Do Deep Fryers Work?
A deep fryer steams food from the inside by using hot oil to evaporate the moisture inside the food. The bubbling that you see when using a deep fryer? It’s the moisture evaporating from the food.
For successful deep frying, the oil must be at a minimum temperature of 345°F (175°C), although some recipes and deep fryers require higher temperatures than that.
To check the temperature of the cooking oil, you’ll need a meat thermometer or a deep fryer with a temperature gauge.
Once the oil is hot enough, put your food inside the deep fryer. If you put your food into the oil when it’s too cold, it will absorb the oil and turn soggy. Yuck.
As the food cooks, keep an eye on the food to determine when to flip it over. A spider strainer makes it easy to flip and turn food when deep frying. It resembles a cross between a mesh strainer and a ladle.
Remove the food from the fryer when the bubbles start to slow down or disappear. Place the deep-fried food on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
Is Air Frying as Tasty as Deep Frying?
While air fryers and deep fryers can both deliver tasty results, there is definitely a taste difference between deep-fried and air-fried foods. The main difference is in the texture.
When it comes to taste and flavor, it largely boils down to personal preference. But if you want that perfectly crispy crunchiness, you can’t beat a deep fryer.
Air doesn’t transfer the heat quite as effectively as a deep fryer. While air frying can produce a crispier texture, it doesn’t give you that same crunch on the outside.
The interior texture, on the other hand, is similar. Air frying will cook foods that are tender and juicy on the inside, just like deep frying.
Another difference is that deep fryers will cook vegetables more evenly than air fryers. This is especially true with hard, denser veggies. Think carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc.
If you want don’t want to deep fry vegetables but still want them evenly cooked, you might consider steaming them before air frying. This will soften them up and ensure the middle is thoroughly cooked.
Lastly, deep-fried food tends to have a richer, fattier taste than air-fried food. Obviously, using that much oil will transfer some flavor to the food, especially with stronger-tasting oils.
This fatty flavor gives food like fried chicken and french fries their characteristic richness. It’s also why fried foods are considered indulgent treats.
Some people prefer that rich taste, while it can be overwhelming for others. If you prefer little or no oil, go with an air fryer.
Why Are Deep Fried Foods Bad For You?
As much as we might enjoy french fries or chicken wings, they aren’t exactly healthy food. There are plenty of reasons people choose to forgo deep-fried foods.
Fried foods are high in calories.
Deep frying adds a lot of extra calories. For starters, many fried foods are coated in flour or a wet batter before frying. Foods like fried pickles or corn dogs, for instance.
Not only that, but deep-fried foods lose water and absorb fat, adding even more to their calorie content.
Wet batters + more oil = calories, galore
Fried foods are typically high in trans fats.
Trans fats are formed when unsaturated fats undergo a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is when food manufacturers use high temperatures and hydrogen gas to increase the shelf life of oils.
Hydrogenation can also occur when oils are heated to a very high temperature during the cooking process.
Our bodies find it difficult to break down and process these fats, leading to several adverse health effects.
Trans fats are associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. And that leads me to the last reason.
Fried foods may increase your risk of disease.
Eating deep-fried food correlates to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. It also appears that the more frequently you eat those foods, the higher the risk.
Is Air Frying Healthy?
Yes and no. Super clear, right? Let me explain.
When compared with deep frying, the air fryer is a healthier option because a deep fryer requires more oil usage, leading to higher calories and fat content.
If you’re choosing between an air fryer and an oven, it’s not exactly clear. Both appliances cook food with hot air, but an air fryer allows you to cook food with less cooking time.
But that doesn’t mean that air frying is automatically “healthy.”
The biggest influence on whether food is healthy is what types of food you put in the air fryer. Fish, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats are full of nutrients and taste great in the air fryer.
But if you plan to use the air fryer to eat loads of processed foods like french fries, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings? You won’t see much in the way of health benefits.
It’s also important to remember that one of the main health advantages of air fryers is that they don’t require much oil. So if you want to reap the benefits, avoid adding much (if any) oil to air-fried foods.
The bottom line?
If you’re searching for a healthier cooking method, air frying can provide some benefits. But be sure to use your air fryer for nutrient-dense foods, like lean meats and veggies.
Pros of Deep Frying
Deep fryers deliver perfectly crispy, crunchy food.
If you want a crispy golden texture, nothing beats a deep fat fryer. Make sure the food is completely submerged in the heated oil to get the best results.
Deep fryers cook food quickly.
You can deep fry foods in just a matter of minutes. The hot oil quickly evaporates the moisture, leading to fast results.
Cons of Deep Frying
Deep-fried food is high in calories and fat.
There are obvious health concerns that come with deep fryers. If you’re trying to limit your caloric or fat content, you’ll be better off with an air fryer over a deep fryer.
Deep fryers are higher maintenance.
A deep fryer requires more hands-on cooking than an air fryer. You’ll have to stand over the deep fryer the whole time to make sure it doesn’t splash hot oil or burn your food.
And you’ll need a lot of oil. Once you’re done cooking, you’ll have to discard the oil or strain it for reuse (I don’t recommend reusing oil).
Using a deep fryer can also be messy, making cleaning up a pain. Be sure to have good ventilation. You might have to clean a greasy residue on kitchen surfaces.
Deep fryers can be a safety hazard.
If you choose to deep fry food, be sure to take proper safety precautions. Keep children away from the deep fryer while cooking. Use a spider strainer with a long handle to avoid getting close to the oil. And keep a close eye on food to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Pros of Air Fryers
Using an air fryer has its advantages. Here are just a few reasons you might opt for an air fryer over a deep fryer:
Air fryers cook food faster than other cooking methods.
Air fryers don’t require a long preheating time, like an oven. And since the air fryer basket and cooking chamber are smaller, the food cooks faster. Air fryers even cook frozen foods faster.
Air fryers are energy efficient.
Air fryers are compact, so you don’t have to worry about heating your kitchen during the summer. They don’t require as much power to run as an oven, either. Not only are you cooking faster, but you’re using less energy to do it.
Air fryers use less oil and save calories.
Air fryers work much like mini convection ovens, cooking food by circulating hot air around the cooking chamber. This cooking method allows you to “fry” food with little to no oil. Less oil equals less calories.
Air fryers are compact.
This stand alone cooking appliance requires some counter space, but the compact size of most air fryers means you don’t have to sacrifice too much space. Air fryers are also highly portable, so you can store them in a cabinet, if you wish.
Air fryers are easy to use.
For many air fryer models, the cooking process is as simple as 1-2-3.
- Place food in the air fryer basket.
- Set the timer.
- Turn food over halfway through the cooking cycle (if necessary).
- Remove food when the timer is done.
Cons of Air Fryers
You can’t cook food with a wet batter.
Wet batters are a no-no for an air fryer. They’ll drip down and make a big mess. So the next time you crave corn nuggets or fried fish, you’ll have to pull out the deep fryer.
Food doesn’t cook as evenly with an air fryer.
Air fryers can deliver delicious results, but they aren’t always even. It’s easy to air fry food for too long, leading to a burnt exterior. The lack of oil can also dry out food.
You can’t cook as much food with an air fryer.
The compact size of an air fryer is a plus, but it’s also a drawback. With such a small space in the cooking chamber, you can’t cook a large volume of food at one time. If you’re cooking for a crowd or a large family, you’ll mostly likely have to cook in batches.
Does an Air Fryer Use Oil?
Air fryers use rapid air technology, where a high-powered fan blows hot air rapidly around the cooking chamber. This circulating hot air cooks and crisps food without using less oil.
Sometimes you can get away with spraying non-stick cooking spray on the food before air frying. Other times, you might want to spritz a small amount of cooking oil on the food.
Either way, you will use significantly less oil when air frying than with deep frying. You can cook your family’s favorite meals without loading up on fat and calories.
Air Frying vs. Deep Frying: Final Thoughts
If health considerations are your top priority, you should stick to air frying. It’s a healthier alternative to deep frying that allows you to enjoy that crispy texture.
If you want to indulge in a guilty pleasure and don’t mind the added calories, grab the deep fryer and have fun!
Looking for an air fryer? Check out the best oil-less air fryers to help you choose.