Air Fryer vs Convection Oven – What’s the Difference?
Air fryers are one of the most popular kitchen appliances, and for good reason. Between the convenience, health benefits, and delicious foods of an air fryer, already more than 40% of Americans have pulled the trigger and purchased one, according to a 2020 report by the NPD group (National Purchase Diary Panel). Factor in that 80% of households prepare food at home since the beginning of the pandemic and that Air Fryer sales have increased by 76% within the last two years and that household number is probably much greater than 40%.
Judging by these stats, there’s a good chance you already own an Air Fryer, or you’re looking join the rest of us and buy one. You may have heard some things about countertop air fryers from home cooks, your neighbors, or online about how they work, different types of air fryers, and that they have similar qualities to a convection oven but are still very different.
How Air Fryers & Convection Ovens are Similar
Is an air fryer a convection oven? For all intents and purposes, yes. With a name that includes “fryer”, air fryers don’t actually fry your food. An air fryer works with heated air circulating throughout the machine that cooks your food and makes it replicate a “fried food” texture and taste. Although they have their differences, air fryers are essentially miniature convection ovens. Both utilize fans to circulate hot air equally around the chamber for evenly cooked or baked foods, like fried chicken, with a finished crispy exterior. Because of the convection heating, both convection ovens and air fryers will also cook your food faster without sacrificing any juiciness or flavor.
Convection cooking is usually a feature found in toaster ovens, higher end conventional ovens, and air fryers, all sharing similar basic features such as a timer, ability to change temperatures, and a removable rack or basket that houses your food. You will also be able to use parchment paper and aluminum foil in an air fryer as you would with any convection oven.
How Convection Ovens & Air Fryer Ovens are Different
The largest difference between air fryer and convection oven is the size. You will obviously be able to prepare much more food in a standard size oven with convection heating than an air fryer as the chamber is significantly larger. Another difference with most air fryers is that they use a perforated basket instead of a cooking rack. Because of the smaller size the perforated basket’s design is to allow air to flow perfectly throughout the chamber and around your food. These baskets also are called crisper trays and cooking in them will result in crispier chicken tenders, veggies, and more. This also creates a difference between air fryers and convection ovens when using aluminum foil or parchment paper. In order to maintain the proper air flow, you have to configure and shape the foil or paper to not block these holes, or it can potentially interfere with the cooking process. The smaller size of an air fryer compared to a typical convection oven will result in several main differences between the two.
· Air fryers need little to no oil
· Air fryer foods will have a crispier texture similar to deep fried foods
· Air fryers will cook your food faster
· Air fryers are much easier to clean
· Air fryers take up less counter space
Owning a proper oven is necessary if you’re cooking for a large group or family, but if you’re only cooking for yourself or a couple people, an air fryer can be way less expensive then upgrading your traditional oven to convection.
As a result of all this information, is an air fryer the same as a convection oven? Yes and no. Let’s look at some of the benefits and drawbacks between the two.
Pros & Cons of Convection Oven vs Air Fryers
Even with similar qualities, the delineation of an air fryers benefits shows why these are winding up in almost every kitchen.
Healthy food without sacrificing taste, is the prime benefit air fryers provide. Because of its size, components, and cooking method, you don’t need oil to get that “fried” food texture as you would with a convection oven. Air fryer foods will have about 60-80% less calories than your typical food from a deep fryer. When you air fry in a convection oven you will get a reduced calorie count over food from a deep fryer as well, but the reduction in calories won’t be as great as food from an air fryer because you need to add oil, and the food won’t be as crispy from air frying in a convection oven either. You will also need a crisper tray if you want to attempt achieving that perfect crust while air frying in a convection oven.
Air fryers are also designed to cook your food in a convenient way with timers and simple action buttons for functionality, needing very little of your time for preparation. This is plus over convection ovens that may need you to monitor and check your food periodically potentially causing over or under cooking whereas an air fryer will just do it and let you know when it is done.
Air fryers require much less energy than your classic standard oven with convection cooking. Consequently, it’s a great way to reduce your bills while keeping things green. They’re portable so you can take them anywhere and designed for convenient functionality so they’re extremely easy to clean.
The only drawback of an air fryer is its size. Even though its size is what brings its glory, you won’t be able to cook a 3-course meal for 5 so easily with an air fryer alone. For larger parties, an air fryer does come in handy though as an added place to cook sides and starters while you use your classic oven for the heavier lifting.
With all the great benefits of an air fryer vs a convection oven, you really do get a lot and is why you hear raving reviews from just about every person who uses one.
To recap of an air fryer benefits over a convection oven.
· Healthier foods thanks to not needing oil
· Crispier food texture while maintaining a juicy core
· Easy to use and function
· Costs less
· Uses less energy
· Simple to clean and is portable
· The only negative is you can’t cook large batches at once
What Foods Come Out Better in Air Fryers
Generally speaking, if you can bake it, then you can air fry it, but you should refrain from cooking anything with heavy liquid or sauces as it will leak into the components and could break the machine. Now that we know all about air fryers and why they’re so great, let’s have a look at some of the best foods to cook in them.
· Frozen foods – Anything from French fries and dumplings to breakfast burritos and hash browns, experience these foods as if they were deep fried or cooked on the griddle
· Vegetables – From fresh to frozen, you will get the perfect texture no matter if its green beans, or broccoli, or even brussels sprouts, the air fryer will get the job done easily and quickly
· Chicken Wings – arguably one of the most common foods I have seen air fryer recipes for is chicken, some even have a built-in rotisserie
· Desserts – From cookies to lava cake to fried Oreos, baking in an air fryer is easy and makes delicious desserts
Cooking these foods in the best air fryer available will result in amazing food that tastes delicious, although the types of foods you can cook in an one is almost endless.