Whether you’re looking to make fast, fluffy fries or quick crispy bacon, both air fryers and deep fat fryers are great options. The deep fat fryer is a classic, delivering on familiar taste and texture. Air fryers are becoming increasingly popular, establishing themselves as a kitchen staple.
After extensive research and testing, our expert team has the professional advice to guide you to an informed decision. We've tested the best air fryers on the market. After comparing these products to a classic deep fat fryer, we can give a fair verdict on which you’ll want to have in your kitchen.
When it comes down to it, an air fryer is better than a deep fat fryer. However, there's a lot to consider before you choose. We've compared both appliances on price, space, and taste to tell you what you need to know before you buy.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer - Method
Deep fat fryers heat oil to high temperatures. Once the oil is hot, you plunge your food into the oil, turning it to get an even fry. The cooking itself is quick, but make sure to account for time to heat and cool the oil before and after. Bear in mind that you’ll need to stay by the fryer the whole time that your food is cooking, too.
Air fryers work with little to no oil. They are smaller machines which rapidly circulate hot air around a basket container to cook your food. The cooking takes a little longer, but it can produce results which have a comparable taste and a similar texture. You won’t need to stay near the appliance, because they often have paddles to keep food moving while it cooks. If they don’t, the most it’ll need is a shake or mix half way through.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer - Results
WINNER: It's a tie
To start, air fryers will only cook battered foods if they're frozen, like breaded chicken or fish. If you want to make food with wet batter like churros, you’ll need a deep fat fryer. Having tried frozen food, vegetables, and – the benchmark for all frying – fries, we were pleased with the results of both appliances.
Our team felt that deep frying gave the perfect results, as expected. However, Millie, our air fryer expert, preferred the taste of her air fryer's food. She told us that tthe air fryer and deep fryer produced food which was shockingly similar in taste. The main difference was, ‘when deep-frying, I wasn’t able to season my fries until after I had cooked them, which meant that the air fried plate was more flavorful. You could say that the flavors were baked right in during the cooking process’.
If there isn’t much difference in the way of taste, air fryers might win overall, since they have a lower fat content. However, if you want to make churros, you’ll need a deep fat fryer.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer - Cleaning Up
WINNER: Air fryer
A common grievance with deep-fryers is the clear-up process. Oil is tough to clean and, when hot, the fryer will likely spit oil onto your surfaces. Your food will have oil sitting on it after cooking, so you’ll want some kitchen roll to soak that up.
Once finished with frying, you’ll need to wait for the oil in your deep fat fryer to cool before either disposing of it, or storing it somewhere. The most common solution is to let your oil cool, pour it into a nonrecyclable container and either keep it, or put it in the garbage. Oil also has a lingering smell, so make sure you ventilate your kitchen.
On the whole, air fryers are easy to clean. They come with removable baskets which are often dishwasher safe. There isn’t much oil involved in the process, so it doesn’t get as messy as deep frying.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer - Cost
WINNER: deep fat fryer
Air fryers tend to have a higher upfront cost than deep fat fryers. You can buy ovens with integrated air fryers if you are looking for value. We love the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid for covering multiple functions in one. Deep fryers tend to be less expensive, however, you’ll need to replace the oil in the deep fryer regularly. An example of a comparable deep fat fryer is the Progress EK2969P Compact Deep Fat Fryer. It’s small and easy to store.
We love this because it's so much more than an air fryer. It performed exceptionally, was easy to clean, and had capacity for everything from roast chickens to mash potatoes. We loved that this has 11 different functions, so is an appliance that can do more than air fry.
- Automatic pressure release
- 13 cooking functions
- Instant Pot’s top-of-the-range model
- Simple settings
- Easy one-pot cooking
- Cooking pot isn’t non-stick
Millie, our expert, liked it because it's a competitive size in comparison to air fryers. It's easy to store and doesn't need a huge amount of oil. However, because it is small, the capacity isn't particularly large, so it is really a single-person appliance.
- Compact design
- Doesn't need much oil
- Very small
- Not easy to clean
- Awkward to drain
- Not the sturdiest
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer - Size and Look
Size and look
WINNER: air fryer
As air fryers continue to improve, they are getting smaller, more storable, and much slicker. If you want to pack it into a drawer, the Ninja Max XL Air Fryer is a brilliant option. Equally, our team loved the look of Beautiful by Drew Barrymore Touchscreen Air Fryer to leave on your countertop. Deep fryers have less of an aesthetic appeal, but you can buy small ones and stow them away in a cupboard.
The Ninja Max XL Air Fryer can crisp up fries in minutes and is perfectly sized for small households, but its plastic finish lacks refinement
- Very speedy cooking
- High temperature limit
- Max Crisp mode
- Good size for smaller households
- Dishwasher-safe inserts
- Lacks that high-quality feel
- Circular cooking basket lacks versatility
The Beautiful 6-Quart Digital Air Fryer stands out thanks to its attractive design, which will look right at home in any contemporary kitchen.
- Attractive contemporary design
- Easy to operate
- 5-degree temperature increments
- Larger than average cooking basket
- Easy-clean nonstick interior
- Lacks additional cooking modes
- Low-quality materials
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer - Our Verdict
For me, the air fryer is the clear winner. Even though the upfront cost can be a little more, it’s easier to store, clean, and use. The taste test really helps the air fryer sit in the top spot for me; it’s a healthier option, without compromising on flavor or texture. However, if you are looking to make churros and battered food, you’ll need to buy a deep fryer.
How We Tested Our Air Fryers
How we test
We like all of our products to have been fried-and-tested, so we make sure that we have personally used an appliance before reviewing it. Where we haven't tried it, we research and read reviews thoroughly.
We were unable to try a deep fryer, but, luckily, Millie had already tested the T-Fal Actifry Genius + (alongside many others) against a Progress EK2969P Compact Deep Fat Fryer.
When testing, Millie was assessing each appliance on a number of factors:
Noise: Lots of noise doesn't always equate to lots of power and can make it hard to do other things around the house.
Speed: Deep fryers are quicker in cooking time, so it was important to look at how long these appliances would take exactly. Fries would take around 25 minutes in the air fryer, but some on our best air fryer list took 12 minutes.
Looks: These are often on your countertops, so we wanted to make sure that we accounted for how these look. In our roundup, we highlighted the less attractive features, if there were any.
Cleaning: Cleaning an air fryer is advertised as easy. Most baskets can do in the dishwasher. This was a key factor for choosing the air fryer over the deep fryer, so we scrutinised cleaning.
For more insight, our review guidelines explain more about our product review process.
Does air fried food taste the same as deep fried food?
For the most part, yes. Our expert tester, Millie Fender, told us that her partner couldn’t tell the difference between most of the foods which she tested in the air fryer and deep fryer. However, if you’re being picky, and looking for that guilty-pleasure grease, you’ll need a deep fat fryer.
Is an air fryer healthier for me?
That depends on what ‘health’ means to you. Air fryers are praised for using less oil to cook your food. For example, rather than plunging fries into a deep fat fryer, you will use a tablespoon, at most, of oil in an air fryer. This means that the fat content of your food will be reduced. This is considered to be generally ‘healthier’, but that doesn’t apply to all people.
Can you fry battered food in an air fryer?
Yes, but not homemade batter. You can make bacon, fries, vegetables, and heat up frozen battered food like chicken and fish or fish. However, the air fryer cannot crisp up a wet batter like a deep fryer can.
Can an air fryer replace a deep fryer?
In many instances, yes. As above, you can do most of the jobs of a deep fryer with an air fryer, including making competitively crispy and fluffy fries.
What’s the difference in cooking time?
Air fryers take longer to cook your food. They can take up to twenty minutes where the deep fryer might only take two. That being said, the clean-up process is much faster with an air fryer.
Can you deep fry without a deep fryer?
Yes. If you have a deep pot or pan, some oil, and a slotted spoon you can use your home equipment as a fryer. This is a good option for saving on space too.
What oil do you use in a deep fryer?
Vegetable oil, canola oil, and peanut oil are the most popular options. They have a higher smoke point, so are the best oils to use.
Can you reuse oil in a deep fryer?
People tend to recommend that you change the oil after eight to ten uses. The color and quality of the oil will affect the taste, so it depends how sensitive you are to flavor.
There are lots of benefits to both appliances and you can use them to make some great meals and snacks. Deep fryers are classic and, in many ways, offer you more versatility in what you can fry. However, lots of air fryers are becoming integrated into other multi-cookers, which offer fantastic value for money. Think about space, taste, and price and you won't go wrong.
Millie Fender is Head of Reviews. She specializes in cooking appliances and also reviews outdoor grills and pizza ovens. She was tasked with reviewing the market leading air fryers, so is our expert on the topic. When she's not putting air fryers, and other appliances, through their paces in our testing kitchen, she'll be using the products at home in her day-to-day life.
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Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.
- Millie FenderHead of Reviews