Air fryer vs deep fryer: the differences, pros and cons, and choosing which is best for you

Select the best cooking appliance for you with our expert guide

Air fryer vs deep fryer
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Air fryer vs deep fryer — it's time to solve this kitchen conundrum once and for all. 

Our industry experts lift the lid on the pros and cons of these famous foes, with top tips and product recommendations to help you decide what works best for you. From size, speed and cooking capabilities, through cleaning, energy consumption, and versatility, they will walk you through the pros and cons of both air fryers and deep fryers in each department.

Comparing the best air fryers with what the deep fryer can offer will have you cooking up a storm in no time. 

Size: how air fryers and deep fryers compare

Hamilton Beach Triple Basket Electric Deep Fryer - Amazon

(Image credit: Amazon)

One of the most noticeable differences between air fryers and deep fryers is their size. 

Air fryers are typically compact and designed to fit easily on a kitchen counter. They are ideal for small kitchens, apartments, or those who need a portable cooking option. Small air fryers have an equally small footprint and take up less space and are easy to store when not in use. However, the compact size can also limit the amount of food you can cook at one time, which might be a drawback for larger families or entertaining, but perform for dorm, shared space or solo living.

Deep fryers, on the other hand, come in a range of sizes from small countertop models to large commercial units. While a small deep fryer can be suitable for home use, larger models can take up significant counter space and may be more challenging to store.

The benefit of a deep fryer is its capacity to cook larger quantities of food at once, making it ideal for gatherings or when cooking for a crowd. The downside is that it requires more space and can be cumbersome to handle and store.

Kevin Ashton, culinary advisor at Restaurantji, says, "Typically more compact in design, air fryers are usually more suitable for smaller kitchens or places where counter space is limited. Deep fryers' larger size makes them ideal for use in commercial kitchens where large quantities of food are prepared."

However, if you're looking for a deep fryer and have a small kitchen or apartment, Kevin recommends the Hamilton Beach Triple Basket Electric Deep Fryer from Amazon. He says, "I love this deep fryer as it's well-designed to fit in small spaces, affordable, and delivers top-notch results. 

"It comes with three separate baskets — one full-size one and two half-sized, which allows you to fry two different food items at the same time. It's also so easy to use — simply set the temperature knob, wait for the green light, and you're good to go."

Speed: how air fryers and deep fryers compare

Air frying waffle potato fries at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Speed is an important consideration when choosing between an air fryer vs deep fryer.

Kevin says, "Air fryers are generally faster for cooking compared to deep fryers. Air fryers use rapid technology to circulate hot air around the food at high speed. This allows them to heat up quickly and cook food faster compared to deep fryers, which require a lot of time to heat large quantities of oil to frying temperature.

"Furthermore, air fryers cook through convection, where a stream of hot air rapidly surrounds the food, crisping it up efficiently. The process is faster than deep frying."

The best deep fat fryers often require more time to heat the oil to the desired temperature. Once the oil is hot, deep fryers can cook food quickly, producing a crispy exterior and tender interior. However, the initial heating time and the need to maintain a consistent temperature can add to the overall cooking time. 

If speed and convenience are your priorities, an air fryer might be the better choice.

Cooking: how air fryers and deep fryers compare

Preparation of fried donuts in a hot oil using a deep fryer

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The cooking capabilities of air fryers and deep fryers differ significantly, influencing the texture and taste of food. 

Air fryers use hot air to cook food, mimicking the effect of frying but with little to no oil. This results in a healthier cooking method, reducing fat content by up to 75% compared to traditional frying. 

Deep fryers, on the other hand, are the gold standard for achieving that classic fried texture and flavor. Submerging food in hot oil produces a crispy, golden-brown exterior while keeping the inside moist and tender. For those who prioritize taste and texture, a deep fryer might be the preferred option.

Kevin says, "Air fryers are ideal for preparing foods that require less oil for cooking and benefit more from dry heat. They include mozzarella sticks, and chicken nuggets. They are also great for roasting vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

"Deep fryers are ideal for foods that benefit from deep frying because the cooking process involves submerging the food in hot oil. Ideal foods for a deep fryer include fish fillets, fried chicken, tempura, onion rings and doughnuts."

Kevin recommends the Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro from Amazon for its culinary prowess. He says, "I love it because it is relatively affordable and has 13 preset functions, including slow cook, roast, pizza and bagel. Its pre-heating function adds a level of precision to my cooking. And a handy bonus — it's easy to clean."

Adonis Icalina is an experienced chef and author at Carnivore Style. He says, "For me, when it comes to deep fryers, you can't look past the Breville Smart Fryer from Amazon. Its precise temperature control with digital interface is incredibly helpful in my restaurant because it ensures our fried foods come out at consistent quality — perfectly crispy every time. 

"Another thing I'm obsessed with is this deep fryer's 'Cool Zone' technology, which helps keep the oil cleaner for longer. This is a huge benefit for us as it reduces the need for frequent oil changes, saving both time and money. Cleaner oil also means better-tasting food and less waste, which is important for both the environment and our bottom line."

Cleaning: how air fryers and deep fryers compare

Hand holding air fryer cooking a whole roasted chicken.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cleaning is a significant factor to consider when choosing between an air fryer and a deep fryer. 

Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless Cleaning, says, "Air fryers are typically easier to clean because they use little to no oil. Most models have dishwasher-safe components, such as the basket and tray, which simplifies the cleaning process. Additionally, because air fryers don't involve large amounts of hot oil, there's less risk of greasy splatters.

"Deep fryers can be more challenging to clean due to the large quantity of oil used, which can splash and leave a greasy residue. The oil reservoir and other components usually need to be cleaned by hand, and disposing of used oil can be messy and inconvenient."

Some deep fryers come with removable parts that are dishwasher-safe, which can help with the cleaning process, but the overall maintenance is generally more demanding than that of an air fryer.

When it comes to cleaning an air fryer, Karina trusts one above all else — the Phillips Premium Air Fryer XXL from Amazon. She says, "This model is renowned for its ease of cleaning, with dishwasher-safe parts and minimal oil usage."

For deep fryers, Karina recommends the Cuisinart Deep Fryer from Amazon. She adds, "I like how it offers a large oil container with a pour spout for easier oil management and cleaning."

Energy: how air fryers and deep fryers compare

View of fresh squid rings cooking into the deep fryer

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Energy consumption when comparing the air fryer vs deep fryer.

Adonis says, "Air fryers operate by circulating hot air around the food at a high speed, using convection technology to cook food quickly and evenly. This method requires less energy because it heats up rapidly and maintains a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. Air fryers also have shorter cooking times compared to deep fryers, which further contributes to energy savings.

"On the other hand, deep fryers use a significant amount of energy to heat and maintain large quantities of oil to high temperatures. Once the oil reaches the desired temperature, the fryer must continue to expend energy to maintain that heat level throughout the cooking process. Plus, deep fryers may need to heat up again between batches if the oil temperature drops significantly, further adding to energy consumption."

Kevin adds, "Air fryers typically have precise temperature controls and can quickly adjust temperatures as needed. On the contrary, deep fryers require more energy to maintain a consistently high temperature of the oil."

For those looking to minimize energy consumption, an air fryer may be the better choice.

Versatility: how air fryers and deep fryers compare

New modern ai high technology luxury beautiful electronic product design air fryer black square machine for bake cook fried skew on white background for house kitchen and restaurant

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Versatility is a key category where air fryers often outperform deep fryers. 

The best small air fryers can cook a wide range of foods beyond just frying, including roasting, baking, and grilling. This makes them a more versatile kitchen appliance that can replace multiple other devices. For individuals with limited kitchen space or those who enjoy experimenting with different cooking methods, an air fryer offers a broader range of culinary possibilities.

Deep fryers, while excellent for traditional frying, are more limited in their cooking applications. They are specifically designed for frying and do not offer the same versatility as air fryers. However, for those who frequently prepare large quantities of fried foods and prioritize achieving the perfect fried texture and flavor, a deep fryer is an unmatched tool.

Adonis recommends the Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 Air Fryer from Amazon, saying, "There's so much to love, from its large capacity, with two separate baskets allowing you to cook multiple items at once, to its 'Smart Finish' technology, which allows different foods to finish cooking at the same time. 

"The ability to synchronize cooking times helps us streamline our workflow and deliver consistently high-quality dishes to our restaurant customers."

Meet our experts

Kevin Ashton profile photo
Kevin Ashton

Kevin Ashton is the Culinary Advisor at Restaurantji, a website helping more than 5 million visitors a month find great places to eat in the USA and Canada. A seasoned chef with more than 40 years of experience, Kevin has worked at a host of prestigious venues, and served VIPs including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as former US Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Adonis Icalina profile photo
Adonis Icalina

Adonis Icalina is a culinary expert and author at Carnivore Style — an online hub for all things meat-related. Boasting a National Certificate II in Culinary Arts, Adonis has worked as a chef at a plethora of high-end restaurants and resorts around the world.

Profile photo of Karina Toner, operations manager at Spekless Cleaning
Karina Toner

Karina Toner is operations manager at Spekless Cleaning, which prides itself on exceptional cleaning, professionalism and client satisfaction. With over a decade of hands-on experience in the cleaning industry, Karina specializes in providing expert, tailored advice for clients on natural cleaning methods that prioritize both effectiveness and sustainability.

So there you have it — air fryer vs deep fryer, solved. 

Choosing between an air fryer and a deep fryer depends on your cooking needs, lifestyle, and personal preferences. If you value healthier cooking, quick meal preparation, and easy cleanup, an air fryer might be the best option for you. Its versatility and energy efficiency make it a practical addition to any kitchen. 

On the other hand, if you prioritize achieving the perfect fried texture and flavor, enjoy cooking large quantities of food, and don't mind the additional cleaning and energy usage, a deep fryer might be more suitable.

Next, check out when we put an air fryer and deep fryer to the test

Andy van Terheyden
Freelance Writer

I'm a senior writer with an English degree and NCJ qualification, plus years of experience writing news, lifestyle and consumer articles for the national and international press. I'm also a copywriter, working on a breadth of consumer and corporate projects, and a private education consultant. I live in the quiet of the countryside and spend my weekends mooching around homeware shops, completing DIY tasks to breathe life into my small, newly-built home.