Can air fryers replace deep fryers? In most cases yes

Reasons To Choose an Air Fryer:

  1. Healthy Food Cooked Using Little to No Oil
  2. Cooks a Wider Variety of Food
  3. Lots of Pre-Sets to Remove the Guesswork
  4. Makes Non-Greasy Food
  5. Easy to Clean
  6. Less Dangerous Than a Deep Fryer
  7. Don’t Have to Pre-Heat an Air Fryer

Reasons To Choose a Deep Fryer:

  1. Super Delicious & Crispy Food
  2. More Affordable Than an Air Fryer
  3. Cooks Very Evenly
  4. Very Fast Cooking
  5. Cooks Larger Quantities of Food

Nobody likes to waste money, right? So, doing your research before buying a new kitchen appliance is essential to avoid throwing money down the drain on a product that isn’t right for you.

Fortunately, we’ve done all the research for you to explain, in the simplest terms, the differences between air fryers and deep fryers so that you can make an informed decision on which appliance is right for you. Saving you time, money, and a lot of painful Googling.

While there are some similarities between these two products (though probably not the ones you’d think), there are many differences that give air fryers and deep fryers their own place on the market. We’ll look at what they can cook, how fast they can cook it, features, cooking style, size and capacity, price, and ease of cleaning.

By the end of the article, you’ll have a clear understanding of whether an air fryer or deep fryer meets all your needs.

What’s the Difference Between Air Fryers & Deep Fryer?

Don’t be fooled by the word “fryer” in the names of both these appliances. There’s only one dedicated fryer here, and that’s the deep fryer.

A deep fryer cooks by completely submerging your food in large quantities of oil heated up to temperatures of up to 400°F (depending on the smoke point of the oil you’ve chosen to use). While this cooking method makes for some of the most delicious food on the planet, excessive amounts of deep-fried food can be detrimental to your health.

While recent research has shown that consuming fat isn’t as bad for you as initially thought, deep-fried food is incredibly high in calories and should be consumed only in moderation.

On the flip side of the coin, air fryers “fry” food using super-heated air circulated via a high-powered fan, using very little fat to achieve crispy golden brown food that you can eat every day.

Size & Shape: There isn’t a massive difference in the size and shapes of air fryers and deep fryers. Though the measurements of machines with similar capacities aren’t majorly different, a deep fryer will often have more depth than height, while an air fryer is often taller.

However, because the food in a deep fryer is submerged in oil, you don’t have to worry about stacking the food as you do in an air fryer (which can cause unevenly cooked food). This means despite similar capacities you can cook a large quantity of food in a deep fryer.

Heating & Cooking: An air fryer cooks food using almost no oil (in some cases, it can get away with using none at all) thanks to a heating element at the top of the appliance and a high-speed fan that circulates the hot air around the food cooking it relatively quickly.

If you want a crispy golden brown finish, your ingredients will need to be spaced out to allow the hot air to make contact with all the surface area on the food. Because the hot air this appliance produces is almost instantaneous, you never have to pre-heat an air fryer.

A deep fryer element needs to heat the entire vat of oil before you can start cooking, which can take anywhere from seven to thirty minutes, depending on the type of oil you’ve chosen to cook with.

While the pre-heating in a deep fryer takes considerably more time than an air fryer does, the hot oil surrounds all the food and cooks it from all angles simultaneously. This means to cooks food far faster than an air fryer will.

Storage & Portability: There’s very little to separate these two in terms of storage and portability. Similar sized capacities usually yield the same ease of storage and mobility.

Even the largest examples of air fryers and deep fryers can be easily (for the most part) moved around your kitchen and positioned in and out of cupboards. However, you must make sure that the deep fryer has had all the oil removed before you ever attempt to move it.

What Foods Can They Cook & How Fast?

Probably the most significant disparity between these two types of appliances is found in the kinds of food they can cook.  Most of the food you can cook in a deep fryer can also be cooked in an air fryer (to varying degrees of quality), but an air fryer is far more versatile and has a much broader menu to choose from.

There are many creative recipes for deep fryers on the internet (you can pretty much deep fry anything), but we’re going to stick to the more traditional foods you’d usually cook in a fryer.

Fries: The staple of any fryer. Air fryers can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to cook fries depending on their thickness, while a deep fryer can get the job done in 5 minutes (if you ignore the 30 minutes pre-heat time). Deep-fried fries are, in our opinion, more crispy and delicious.

Chicken Wings: Another fan favorite. While a taste test will show there’s little difference between air-fried and deep-fried chicken, there’s a certain unappetizing anemic appearance to the chicken wings from an air fryer, and they take twice as long to cook too.

Donuts: Following a similar path, donuts taste better and cook far faster in a deep fryer, but again, they’re not as healthy as donuts cooked in an air fryer.

Onion Rings: You guessed it, deep-fried onions look and taste better and are cooked in a shorter period than with an air fryer.

Food With Wet Batter: Deep fried foods covered in any sort of wet batter come out crisp and delicious. If you try this cooking method in an air fryer, you’ll make nothing but a mess. Don’t try it.

Roast Foods: We won’t list them all, but because an air fryer is essentially a small, high-powered convection oven, you can roast meats and vegetables of all types inside, which isn’t possible in a deep fryer.

Baked Goods: As above, making bread, cakes, and buns (even small pizzas) is entirely possible in an air fryer but impossible in a deeper fryer.

What Kind of Features Can You Expect?

While an air fryer’s quality (cost) can determine how many and what kinds of features a particular model might have, you can usually expect some sort of pre-sets for food types that will automatically set the time and temperature to remove the guesswork.

Unfortunately, even premium deep fryers have relatively few features. The standard operating functions include a time and temperature setting. This means you need to know how long to cook the food for and at what temperature.

Listed below are some common features you’ll find on each standard appliance.

Air Fryer:

  • Air Fry
  • Air Roast
  • Air Broil
  • Dehydrate
  • Chicken Wings
  • Fries
  • Fish
  • Reheat
  • Auto Shut-Off

Deep Fryer:

  • Air Filtration Systems to Reduce Odors
  • Doube (or sometimes triple) Baskets
  • Auto Shut-Off

How Easy Are They To Clean?

An air fryer is hands down the easiest appliance of the two to clean. It’s not even close.

Most air fryers come with dishwasher safe baskets, draws (and if yours comes with a rack, those too). All the components of the air fryer that come into contact with food are removable. Pop them in the dishwasher, and you’re done (or a quick wash with dish soap if you don’t have a dishwasher). You’ll occasionally need to clean the heating element if fat or grease has splashed upwards.

While you won’t need to fully clean a deep fryer after every use (though the basket should be dishwasher safe and washed once you’ve finished cooking), you’ll need to remove the oil after each use for storage. Periodically you’ll need to clean the whole appliance down and change the oil (after around ten uses). The entire process can be messy and time-consuming.

A deep fryer will have to have the oil removed (a challenge in itself), all the excess oil and food particles wiped clean, have the inside cleaned with soap, and then dried.

Is There a Big Difference in Price?

There is a broad spectrum of price points with all products, starting with very basic low-budget (often more problematic) models, ranging to more expensive all-singing all-dancing premium appliances. 

The best value is usually found somewhere in the middle.

We’ve found that, by and large, deep fryers are much cheaper than air fryers. It’s possible to pick up a basic deep fryer for as little as $25 like the extremely popular ‘Presto FryDaddy’ while the sweet spot for value appears to be around the $50 mark, which is approximately the price of a lower-end air fryer.

The most popular and highly rated air fryers can be found for $100 and upwards. Models like the Instant Vortex Plus and the Ninja AF101 are the champions of this genre, though decent budget appliances from brands such as GoWise USA and Ultrean can be had for around $60.

Final Verdict:

Despite the similar-sounding names, air fryers and deep fryers are two very different beasts. Sure, you can cook a few of the same foods in them, but you’ll get very different outcomes.

Though food cooked in an air fryer isn’t (in our opinion) quite as delicious as food cooked in a deep fryer, the health benefits far outweigh the difference in tastes. And even then, air-fried food is still pretty darn good.

While small kitchen appliances have made great strides in safety over the last couple of decades, there’s still a stigma surrounding deep fryers and how dangerous they can be. Though they’re unlikely to randomly burst into flames, keeping large quantities of blistering hot oil in your kitchen is far more dangerous than using an air fryer.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a fryer to use regularly, we can only recommend buying an air fryer. Yes, they are more expensive, but an air fryer is healthier, safer, more versatile, and are more in tune with modern values and cooking methods.

If you still want a deep fryer for occasional use, they’re so affordable you might be able to buy both.