Air Fryer or Instant Pot: Which One Is Right For You?

Reasons To Choose an Air Fryer:

  1. Better for Baked & Roasted Food
  2. Healthy Food Cooked with Minimal Oil
  3. Easy to Clean
  4. More Affordable Option
  5. More Straightforward to Use
  6. Very Convenient

Reasons To Choose an Instant Pot

  1. Better for Stews & Soups
  2. Cooks Extremely Quickly
  3. Makes Large Quantities of Food
  4. Very Versatile
  5. Slow Cooker & Rice Cooker Functions
  6. Self Cleaning

Air fryers and Instant Pot are two of the most popular types of small kitchen appliances on the market. However, before you spend your hard-earned dollars one or the other, let’s discuss the difference between each one to ensure you get the most for your money.

It’s not just the cooking systems that separate air fryers and Instant Pots, the menus each machine can produce are vastly different too. So, here we will look at which device cooks what, how fast they can cook, how they cook, portability, ease of cleaning, and general price points.

By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a clear understanding of how these machines function and which one (or maybe both?) is right for you.

What’s the Difference Between Air Fryers & Instant Pot?

Despite sharing similarities in general size and shape, air fryers and Instant Pot pressure cookers are fundamentally different. The methods they use to cook and the foods they specialize in cooking are (for the most part) poles apart.

Before we talk about what they cook, let’s look at the physical components of air fryers and Instant Pot pressure cookers, so you know what to expect.

Size & Shape: The most common aspect of these machines is their size and shape. Of course, different models have different footprints, but generally speaking, most air fryers and Instant Pots have a similar cylindrical shape and comparable measurements.

Their control panels are found on the device’s front face, though a pressure cooker’s internal capacity is accessed through the top, while the air fryer drawer is removed by sliding it out of the bottom.

This makes an air fryer more accessible without moving the whole thing if you keep your appliance under a cupboard. Using an Instant Pot will need an open area of your kitchen as the lids are commonly attached to the appliance, which effectively doubles the machine’s height when it’s open.

You’ll find both air fryers and Instant Pot pressure cookers with similar capacities are similar in weight too.

Heating & Cooking: As an air fryer’s name might suggest, this kind of machine uses super-heated air to cook food. However, it doesn’t actually fry anything. 

A high-powered fan circulates the hot air around the air fryer inside to quickly heat then ingredients from all sides simultaneously. This cooking method makes it possible to achieve a crispy golden finish on your food using only a small amount of oil.

Air fryers are essentially small countertop convection ovens that can air fry, roast, bake and broil different meats, vegetables, cakes, and poultry.

Instant Pot uses a whole different method to achieve equally delicious but very different results. An Instant Pot machine’s primary pressure cooker function uses a small amount of water and a tightly sealed capacity to build up the internal pressure and force steam into your food for quick and efficient cooking. This method also keeps your food from drying out.

It’s tough to overcook food using a pressure cooker as the steam keeps the food tender and juicy.

Many Instant Pot models also have slow-cooker functions that gently heat food (such as casserole and stew) over many hours for tender results. It’s not uncommon to find rice cookers, steamers, and yogurt-making functions on Instant Pots either.

Storage & Portability: These relatively compact devices can be easily moved from the worktop to the cupboard and back again because they’re not overly heavy. The larger models can be a little cumbersome, but they are far smaller than toaster ovens and microwaves that generally need a permanent home in your kitchen.

What Foods Can They Cook & How Fast?

Air fryers and Instant Pot cookers have very little in common regarding the foods they cook, and the menu options they do share are cooked in a very different way.

They can both cook food faster than traditional ovens, stoves, and grills and are very convenient appliances. Below is a list of foods that air fryers and Instant Pot appliances can cook and some approximate cooking times.

Meat & Poultry: The hot air of an air fryer coupled with a minimal amount of oil will achieve a golden brown and crispy exterior on joints of meat and roast chicken. A whole chicken will take around an hour.

An Instant Pot Pressure cooker, however, makes tender and juicy meat such as pulled pork, beef, or chicken. You can cook a whole chicken in an Instant Pot, and a 5lb bird will take about 30 minutes to cook. It will taste delicious; however, it will look pasty and unappetizing.

Vegetables: Both these appliances can cook delicious vegetables. An air fryer can roast vegetables to go perfectly alongside a roast dinner, while a pressure cooker produces wonderfully steamed vegetables. Both delicious but with slightly different tastes, textures, and mouthfeel.

Fries & Potatoes: Fries are a staple of the air fryer, and this machine can knock out a batch of fries in 10 minutes or so. A pressure cooker is incapable of cooking fries. Roast potatoes are great in an air fryer, while a pressure cooker makes excellent boiled spuds in 10 minutes.

Rice: Instant Pots can function as a rice cooker and can make fluffy, soft rice in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the quantity. Trying to cook rice in an air fryer would end in disaster.

Cakes & Donuts: The ‘bake’ function of an air fryer is brilliant for folks with a sweet tooth. You can bake cakes, muffins, and donut muffins with relative ease. 

Dehydrating Food: Many air fryers have a dehydrating function to reduce food’s moisture for unique ingredients with varied tastes. As the primary cooking method of Instant Pots is steam, obviously, this style of cooking isn’t possible with that genre of machine.

Stew, Soups & Chili: Making wet foods is where an Instant Pot excels. The appliance is ideal for slow cooking stews and soups, allowing the ingredients’ flavors to infuse into each other. Air fryers are unable to cook this style of food.

Frozen Foods: Both air fryers and Instant Pots can cook foods from frozen. However, the cold food will cause the Instant Pot to take longer to get up to the required temperature.

What Kind of Features Can You Expect?

Air fryers and Instant Pot pressure cookers are, more often than not, multi-functional appliances with many settings that help remove the guesswork from cooking.

An air fryer leans towards golden brown and crispy food, while an Instant Pot specializes in juicy and/or wetter foods like stew, chili, and soup.

Listed below are some of the most commonly found features on air fryers and Instant Pot appliances.

Air Fryer:

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

Instant Pot:

  • Pressure Cooker
  • Steam
  • Slow Cooker
  • Rice Cooker
  • Stew/Casserole
  • Yogurt
  • Keep Warm
  • Porridge

How Easy Are They To Clean?

Both air fryers and Instant Pot appliances are pretty easy to clean as all the components that come into contact with food are removable and dishwasher safe.

Though air fryers are marginally more straightforward to clean as there are fewer parts. Instant Pot pressure cookers also have a seal (to keep the steam pressure inside the machine) that needs to be removed, cleaned, and replaced before the next use.

However, you can use an Instant Pot to clean itself. Using the pressure system, a little water, and some baking soda, you can run a cleaning cycle to make it easier to remove stubborn, baked-on food. It can be time-consuming, though.

Is There a Big Difference in Price?

Instant Pot multi-cookers are markedly more expensive than air fryers. While some models exceed the $150 average price point of Instant Pot appliances, they are few and far between.

Some of the best air fryers, such as the Ninja Max XL or the Cosori Air Fryer Max XL, are usually available for around the $120 mark. You can buy a budget air fryer for as little as $60, while you will need to spend a minimum of $100.

Final Verdict

Air fryers and Instant Pot multi-cookers are two very different appliances with their own corner of the market and kitchen. Neither one is better than the other; in fact, there is no particular reason to choose an air fryer over an Instant Pot or vice versa.

In fact, if you have spare kitchen space and the budget, air fryers and pressure cookers can work side by side to produce creative meals of different tastes and textures, juicy meats, and crispy friends and vegetables.

If you’re only in the market for only one appliance, the choices are relatively simple; air fryers for dry, roasted, and baked meals and snacks or Instant Pot multi-cookers large volumes of wet foods, stews, or pressure cooked meats that are so juicy and tender they fall apart in your hands.

Instant Pot has recognized not only the difference between air fryers and pressure cookers but also the need (and consumer wants) for both and combined the two. The ‘Instant Pot Air Crisp Duo’ comes with all the benefits of both appliances thanks to a specially designed and interchangeable lid.

The Duo Crisp is far more expensive than a standard Instant Pot pressure cooker, though it could save you money over buying separate air fryers and pressure cookers.