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Air Frying vs Traditional Frying: What Are The Key Differences?

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: January 25, 2024

The great debate: air frying vs traditional frying.

Both methods claim to deliver that much sought-after crispy, golden texture, but how do they truly compare? Let’s dive into the key differences between air frying and traditional deep frying, exploring their mechanics, taste, health implications, and more. By the end of this blog post, you’ll better understand which method suits your needs and preferences best.

Air Frying vs Traditional Frying: Comparison Table

Air Frying
Traditional Frying
Cooking Method
Uses hot air circulation
Immerses food in hot oil
Cooking Time
Generally shorter
Can be longer for deep frying
Oil Usage
Requires significantly less oil
Requires a considerable amount of oil
Health Benefits
Healthier due to reduced oil usage
Higher oil content can lead to more calories and fat
Texture and Taste
Produces a crispy texture
Provides a traditional deep-fried texture
Cooking Capacity
Limited capacity for larger items
Suitable for larger batches
Cooking Equipment
Requires and air fryer appliance
Uses a standard stovetop or deep fryer
Typically requires preheating
No preheating necessary
Easy cleanup with non-stick surfaces
Greasy and often messy cleanup
Can bake, roast and grill in addition to frying
Primarily used for frying
Food Moisture Retention
Retains food moisture
May cause food to be drier
Temperature Control
Precise temperature control
Control varies with stovetop heat
Initial purchase cost for the air fryer
Generally lower initial cost
Safer with no hot oil to handle
Risk of hot oil splatter and burn
Environmental Impact
More energy-efficient
Higher oil usage contribute to waste

Understanding Air Frying

air fryer fried chicken

Air frying employs hot air circulation to cook air-fried food, serving as a healthier substitute for deep frying. This method requires minimal oil, making it a healthier choice for those who still crave the satisfying crunch of fried foods.

Despite taking longer and potentially not yielding the same crispiness as deep frying, air frying has become popular for its flavour blend and health benefits.

Air Fryer Mechanics

An air fryer operates by circulating hot air around the food, enabling it to be cooked with minimal oil, which is a key difference when comparing air fry vs traditional frying methods. The Maillard reaction, a chemical process responsible for the delicious browning effect and flavour of fried foods, still occurs in air frying, albeit to a lesser extent than deep frying.

One key point to remember when using an air fryer is to avoid overloading the basket to prevent uneven cooking. Having a single layer of food in the basket or tray is suggested for even cooking.

Best Foods For Air Frying

Air frying is highly recommended for air-fried foods such as:

  • Vegetables
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • French fries
  • Salmon
  • Tofu
  • Burgers
  • Bacon
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bananas

While it is possible to fry battered food in an air fryer, a wet batter made with eggs, milk, and flour should not be used. Instead, the outside of the batter should be made of something dry, such as breadcrumbs, to prevent sticking.

Check Out Our Air Fryer Reviews…

Ninja Dual Zone
Salter EK4548 Dual

Understanding Traditional Deep Frying

deep fat fryer with chips

Deep frying is a cooking technique that involves:

  • Submerging food in hot oil or fat at high temperatures
  • Producing a browned and crispy texture
  • Speedy cooking while keeping the centre tender and juicy
  • A popular method for preparing indulgent fried foods

Nonetheless, deep frying involves extra potential risks and necessitates more sophisticated cooking techniques than air frying.

Deep Fryer Mechanics

A deep fryer is a separate appliance designed exclusively for deep frying food. The food is submerged in hot oil, and a batter, typically composed of eggs, milk, and flour or breadcrumbs, covers the food before frying. Deep fryers are not suitable for baking or roasting. Maintaining the appropriate temperature of the oil is vital to achieving a crispy crust that minimises oil absorption.

After you cook food, placing it on a paper towel helps absorb any surplus oil and enhances its crispiness.

Best Foods For Deep Frying

Deep frying is an ideal cooking method for:

  • Battered fish
  • Battered vegetables
  • Potato chips
  • Fried chicken

These deep-fried food items are particularly well-suited for deep frying, as the high temperatures and submersion in oil create a deliciously crispy exterior and tender interior.

Not all foods are suitable for deep frying, and healthier options, such as air frying, might be more fitting depending on the desired results and nutritional factors.

Taste Comparison: Air Fried vs Deep Fried

deep fried chicken on a wooden chopping board

Air frying can produce a similar crispiness to deep frying but without oil. While the taste and texture may differ, it can still be a pleasant experience. Incorporating seasonings before cooking allows the food to absorb the flavour more effectively.

On the other hand, deep frying, a cooking process, generally yields more desirable flavour compounds due to the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a chemical process that takes place when an amino acid and a reducing sugar are heated together, resulting in changes in the colour and flavour of foods.

Time Efficiency: Cooking Speeds And Preparation

Regarding cooking time and preparation, air frying typically takes less time. It is less labor-intensive than deep frying, presenting a more convenient option in the air fry vs traditional frying debate. An air fryer requires only a short time to preheat- just 5 minutes! On the other hand, a deep fryer may need around 10 to 20 minutes or even longer to get ready.

Health Implications: Oil Usage And Nutritional Value

fried chips in a white bowl

With minimal to zero oil usage, air frying poses a healthier alternative than deep frying, which requires submerging food in hot oil. When comparing the two methods, it is important to consider calorie intake and nutritional value.

Air frying has been demonstrated to reduce calorie intake and minimise exposure to unhealthy fats, which have been linked to various diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, making it a healthier choice when comparing air fryer vs deep frying.

Conversely, deep-fried foods usually have higher fat content than foods prepared with other cooking methods.

Cost Analysis: Appliances And Oil Expenses

british currency: notes and coins

Considering the cost analysis between air fryers and deep fryers, it is important to take into account the initial cost of the appliance, the ongoing cost of oil expenses, and the long-term maintenance costs.

Air fryers tend to be pricier than deep fryers. However, the frequency of oil changes required for deep fryers constitutes a recurring cost of oil expenses, which should also be factored into the overall cost analysis.

Cleaning And Maintenance

a white air fryer, 3 saucepans and bits and bobs on a kitchen bench

Air fryers have several advantages over deep fryers:

  • They require less oil and have fewer detachable parts, making them easier to clean and maintain.
  • They are more convenient to store and discard surplus oil, as they use far less oil than deep fryers.
  • They are a more practical choice when comparing air fryers vs deep frying.

In contrast, deep fryers demand more rigorous cleaning and maintenance, including oil filtering and changing, to guarantee longevity and proper functioning.

Versatility: Cooking Methods And Recipe Options

Offering more flexibility, air fryers become preferable for those seeking varied cooking options in the air fryer vs deep frying comparison. An air fryer can be used to:

  • Fry
  • Roast
  • Reheat
  • Steam
  • Bake food

This versatility allows a wide range of recipes, such as appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts, to be prepared using an air fryer.

Conversely, deep fryers are designed exclusively for deep frying food and are unsuitable for baking or roasting.

Air Frying vs Traditional Frying: Summary

In conclusion, both air frying and deep frying have pros and cons, with air frying offering a healthier, more versatile, and cost-effective option. In contrast, deep frying delivers a more traditional taste and texture. Ultimately, the choice between air frying and deep frying comes down to personal preferences, dietary considerations, and cooking needs. By understanding the key differences between these two methods, you can make an informed decision and enjoy the delicious world of fried foods in a way that suits you best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Air Frying Better Than Regular Frying?

Air frying is a healthier alternative to deep-frying since it uses significantly less oil and produces less fat and calories. It also reduces the amount of potentially harmful compounds in food and may promote weight loss compared to deep-fried foods. Air fryers have proven to be effective in cutting down on unhealthy oils and calories, making them a beneficial cooking method.

What Is The Disadvantage Of An Air Fryer?

Air fryers offer the taste of deep-fried food without the unhealthy side effects, but they have downsides like being bulky, hard to clean, and having limited cooking capacity. However, air fryers are still a great option for those looking for a healthier alternative to deep-fried food. They are easy to use, require minimal oil, and can cook a variety of foods. Plus, they are much more affordable than traditional deep fryers

Can Air Fryer Replace Frying?

Air frying can be a healthier alternative to deep-fried foods, as it uses significantly less oil than deep fryers. However, for wet batters like churros, you will still need a deep fat fryer. Having tested air fryers on various types of foods, the results can be satisfactory and may replace your need to deep fry.

What Foods Are Best Suited For Deep Frying?

Deep frying is ideal for battered items, potato chips, and fried chicken.

How Long Does It Take To Preheat An Air Fryer Compared To A Deep Fryer?

An air fryer preheats in just 5 minutes, while a deep fryer can take 10 to 20 minutes or more.

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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