The world seems to have been obsessed with air fryers. Preparing perfectly crunchy food, but without all the oil and grease that deep-frying typically requires, has been an attractive concept for anyone wishing to enjoy their favorite dishes without the fat. But is this even possible? How different are air fryers from deep fryers really? Can food made in an air fryer even be considered “fried”? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and the greasy.

Cooking food by frying it in deep oil has been around for centuries. The process of deep-frying foods is said to have come about as early as the 5th millennium BC. It has long been a favorite method of cooking all kinds of dishes, from the common French fries to donuts and fried chicken.

In 1918, the Pitco Frialator was invented. This piece of equipment quickly became a staple in restaurant kitchens because it extended the life of cooking oil. This both reduced costs and improved the food quality. Ever since deep fryers have been a quick and easy way to prepare foods, allowing restaurant owners to make a larger variety of dishes. Deep fryers are used in food trucks, food stands, diners, and fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s.

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How do deep fryers work?

Deep fryers are typically made of stainless steel. They operate by surrounding the food inside with hot oil, which is heated to a temperature somewhere between 160 and 370 degrees Celsius (320 – 700 Fahrenheit). The food can be cooked anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes, depending on type and preference. The process works much like a convection oven, with the oil acting as a convection heat source. As well as this, fryers will often have a heating element at the bottom to keep the oil hot, and an adjustable thermostat so you can control how much heat is applied to your food.

The secret to successful deep frying is that oil can reach temperatures well above boiling water’s 212 degrees Fahrenheit. As food cooks in super-hot oil it forms a crispy crust, sealing in flavor and texture. This makes for a tasty meal, but cooking in such high temperatures does not suit everyone. Commercial fryers with infrared heating or convection heating are efficient, but often expensive. That’s where air fryers come in.

How does air fryer work?

How do air fryers work?

Air fryers use a similarly high-temperature method of cooking as conventional deep fryers. But instead of submerging the food in oil, they heat evaporated water vapor and circulated hot air to achieve this. This eliminates virtually all of the oil from the frying process, and variations of this basic design have been around since the 1990s.

The first prototype air fryer was developed by a company called GoWISE and was released in 2015. The early models were not very impressive and had to be assembled from separate parts, but since then they have become more user-friendly and come ready to use. Air fryers are now widely available in most retail outlets and kitchenware stores.

How do air fryers compare to deep fryers?

One of the most obvious differences between deep fryers and air fryers is that the former uses a lot of oil, while the latter does not. They both achieve similar results when it comes to cooking food, but because an air fryer doesn’t need to submerge anything in hot oil, dishes can sometimes be healthier than their deep-fried equivalent. For example, a serving of French fries with a similar crunchy texture can be made in an air fryer using as little as one tablespoon of oil, compared with the four tablespoons that deep-fried French fries contain.

Different cooking methods come with different designs: deep fryers are generally larger, more powerful and come with a basket to hold the food inside and a heating element that is usually submerged in oil. Air fryers also feature a basket, but are completely enclosed and have built-in fans that circulate the hot air inside. Air fryers are more comparable to convection ovens than deep fryers in terms of how they operate.

Deep Fryer vs Air Fryer – Ultimate Fryers Matchup


Both fryers are capable of producing crispy, crunchy food with a golden brown color. Which one is better depends on personal taste. Fat has a specific flavor profile that tends to add substance to a dish, which is why many people enjoy it. The thing is, air frying doesn’t have the fatty flavor palate that regular deep-fried food has.

If you’re a fan of the fatty, almost melty flavor of oil, then you probably won’t think that air-fried food tastes as good as deep-fried food. On the other hand, if fatty foods repulse you, you’re probably going to be an air fryer fan.

Cooking time

Deep frying usually takes less time than air frying. However, the lower heat settings in an air fryer are perfect for cooking food slowly and gently, which can yield great results when it comes to fish or meat. The key is just to use the right cooking time and temperature setting.


Air fryers tend to be easier to clean, especially if you line the baking tray with foil before using it. Deep-fryers are a bit more time-consuming because of all that oil, which is why many people use them outdoors. Frying food in oil can make a huge mess, leaving you with a deep fryer that’s both soiled and smelly. Cleaning an air fryer is a bit easier because the main casing remains clean and oil splatters are contained within the removable tray.


Oil-less cooking is much more convenient for people who live in small spaces or don’t like cooking odors in their house. This is one of the advantages for air frying, which leaves very little odor compared to deep-frying in oil.

Noise level

In general, deep fryers tend to be a bit quieter than air fryers because they don’t have powerful fans that circulate hot air rapidly in a small space. Air fryers make a bit more noise because of the fan, but not too much that it’s distracting or annoying.


While you can deep-fry pretty much anything, the only thing that a deep fryer can do is that – fry. Air fryers offer a bit more versatility in terms of cooking, since they can also roast, bake, grill and toast. The air fryer’s heating element is at the bottom of the machine, which means that foods are heated from all sides. This makes the food crispy on the outside and tender inside – just how you want it.


Air Fryer are generally more expensive than deep fryers. If you’re looking for commercial-grade equipment, then an air fryer can be quite pricey. The specific technology that the air fryer uses — rather than size — determines its final price. The majority of more expensive versions have Rapid Air technology for faster and more efficient cooking (as well as less oil usage when cooking). They are also well-equipped with features that many consumers find useful, from programmable settings to odor control and brightly lit display screens with countdown timers and alarms.

Is air-frying actually ‘frying’?

If you want to be technical about it, air frying isn’t really a form of frying. Frying is defined as using oil to transfer heat into food, and air frying doesn’t use oil in its cooking process. Air frying is mostly just a convection oven style of baking.

The fact is that this form of baking just tends to be a little crispier than your typical oven, which is why it’s marketed as “frying.” It’s a fairly smart marketing ploy.

Is air-fried food healthier than deep-fried?

For those watching their weight or suffering from conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, deep frying is a definite no-no. With the introduction of air fryers, however, cooks can now enjoy their favorite fried dishes without all the oil and grease that typically goes along with it. Instead of frying the food with hot oil, air fryers use a super-hot circulating air system that cooks food by applying intense heat to the exterior. This makes it possible to recreate fried dishes without all the unhealthy fats, but does this mean you are actually eating something healthy?

healthy alternative to frying

Deep-frying requires the use of very hot oil in order to properly cook your food – around 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius. The oil is so hot that when you plunge the food into it, bubbles form on the exterior almost immediately and continue expanding until they are large enough to break through the outer layer of the food. This creates lots of little holes in the outer surface, which exposes more area for oil to seep into. Deep frying can cause your foods to absorb up to 40 percent of its weight in fat!

It’s important to note that only the kind of oil being used matters in regards to how healthy the dish is. For example, olive oil which is often classified as “healthy” can be dangerous for high-heat cooking or frying due to its low smoke point. On the other hand, an oil with a high smoke point (for example, rice bran oil) will be less healthy than one with a low smoke point (like canola oil).

Air fryers are better than deep fryers in the way they require little to no oil compared to deep frying. This means you can enjoy fried foods without worrying about consuming too much fat or calories, making it a healthier choice. However, not all food might be better air fried. According to WebMD, air frying of fish raised the amount of a substance called “cholesterol oxidation products”, and it also appears to curb the omega-3 fatty acids. 

Bottom line

Air frying produces a nice crispy exterior on your food, while deep frying helps you cook foods with a succulent and juicy interior. Air fryers are without a doubt healthier than deep fryers, but both have their benefits depending on the kind of cooking that is being done.

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