At first glance, deep fryers and air fryers seem quite similar. Both give regular food (such as veggies or pieces of meat) a delicious taste and crunchy exterior. However, the method a deep fryer uses (dunking food into a large amount of hot oil) is much different from that of an air fryer, which coats food with a little bit of oil then blasts it with hot air. If you love traditional fried food, the deep fryer could be your best bet. If you’re a bit more health conscious and want to achieve similar results without entirely giving up that distinctive fried taste and texture, an air fryer could be the optimal choice.
Whether you’re shopping for a deep fryer or an air fryer, you’ve probably settled on a budget. You may also have considered certain features, such as easy portability or automatic temperature control. Comparing features, reliability over time, general healthiness, and other factors can help you narrow down the available deep fryers and air fryers to find what’s right for you. Be sure to browse our list of the best deep fryers for a wider selection.
1. Deep Fryers vs. Air Fryers: Features
For some consumers, a fryer’s features (or lack of features) can be the deciding factor. One feature-rich fryer we like is the Secura 4.2L/17-Cup 1700-Watt Stainless-Steel triple basket electric deep fryer. This particular fryer includes a removable oil tank, an extra oil filter, adjustable heat controls, a see-thru window in the lid, and an automatic timer.
Generally speaking, both types of fryers share some similarities in terms of features, particularly when it comes to digital screens, adjustable temperatures, and user-friendly controls. The pricier the air fryer, the more features it’s likely to have. For example, you can find a well-equipped fryer with an adjustable temperature control and a timer with a ready signal and automatic shut-off. Some fryers even come with cooking pre-sets to take the guesswork out of the cooking time.
If you appreciate convenience, you’ll want to consider an air fryer with a simple touch operation and a convenient on/off switch. If you’re the type to forget about food when it’s cooking, a fryer with a digital countdown timer and buzzer can be a great choice. Other features to consider include easy to clean materials or fryers that come with a recipe book.
Deep fried food smells delicious when it’s cooking, but it can also leave an unpleasant aroma behind, especially if it’s been overcooked or burned. If you’d rather avoid this unpleasant experience, look for a deep fryer with adequate odor control (especially ones with charcoal filters). Since cooking with all that oil can also be cumbersome — especially when it’s time to clean up — you might also consider a removable container with an oil pouring spout.
Other handy features are cool-touch or collapsible handles and a digital timer with an easily readable display screen. If you want to stay in control of your food throughout the cooking process, look for a deep fryer with an adjustable thermostat. Some units come with display windows built into their lids to let you take a peek without having to open up the top. Another feature to consider is the unit’s overall power. A 1,600 watt power fryer might not seem that much different from a 1,800 watt dryer at first glance, but the more powerful unit typically heats and cooks food faster.
2. Deep Fryers vs. Air Fryers: Size and Cooking Capacity
One of the biggest differences between air and deep fryers is size. Most air fryers are significantly smaller than deep fryers, as their contents don’t need to be dunked into a large amount of oil for deep frying. One model that has a great capacity is the AIGEREK Digital Electric 3.2L air fryer. This should be ample room for most home cooks.
If you’re looking for a fryer that’s more likely to fit on your counter, the air fryer is your best bet. Don’t let the smaller size fool you, though, as most air fryers have plenty of space for a decent amount of food. You can easily find an air fryer with a 1.5 to 2 pound capacity, which is more than enough room to feed two to four people. If you want the air fryer for an occasional snack or small meal you can get away with a lower food capacity, but it’s best to find a larger unit if you’re interested in making meals with the fryer.
Unless you plan on making the occasional deep fried side dish, you’ll want a deep fryer with enough capacity to hold whatever food you’re cooking. The general range is 2 to 12 cups, although the majority of deep fryers fall somewhere in the middle. While the serving size will vary based on individual needs, a 6 cup fryer is often enough for a decent amount of food for two people.
Some fryers come with two large baskets or a mix of large and small baskets in case you feel like making a smaller amount. Many deep fryers on the market today are quite large, requiring designated counter space or storage area. Deep fryers are common in restaurant settings, but they’re also becoming increasingly popular among homeowners.
3. Deep Fryers vs. Air Fryers: Healthiness
Let’s face it — fryers aren’t the healthiest cooking appliance around. It’s impossible to get those mouth-watering results (and just the right amount of crispiness) without using oil. Deep fryers operate by using a large amount of oil, which the food is then plunged into and removed from. On the other hand, air fryers don’t dunk food into hot vats of oil. Although you will put your food into a basket with the air fryer, it’s coated with a small amount of oil. The air fryer then blows hot air over it to cook the food.
If you’re in the market for an air fryer, you may want to consider one with Rapid Air Technology. This type of technology is fairly new on the market and generally requires a minimal amount of oil. Some of the top air fryers on the market with this technology use up to 70 percent less oil than traditional fryers.
One air fryer we like is the Phillips Air Fryer with Rapid Air Technology. If you want a deep fryer instead, the Hamilton Beach 35034 Professional-Style Deep Fryer is nice because it has double baskets with hooks for easy draining, so you get every last drop of excess oil off the surface of your food.
If you don’t like high maintenance appliances, you’ll be quite happy with a deep or air fryer. Both types of fryers typically last for a long time without much effort on your end. One option that might appeal to you is the GoWISE USA GW22621 Electric Air Fryer, which produces a variety of crispy foods using little to no oil and won’t break the bank.
The biggest complaint among customers of both types of fryers is that the plastic components, such as knobs or even bowls to catch excess oil, can break off or wear down over time. However, these problems (if they do occur at all) seem to accumulate after a few years of steady use. The best way to maintain both types of fryers is to routinely inspect them, clean the units at regular intervals, and periodically check for signs of wear and tear. Most fryers (both types) also require the oil to be drained or filtered.
5. Deep Fryers vs. Air Fryers: Price
You generally get a lot of bang for your buck with both types of fryers. You’ll pay a bit more upfront for either one, but the overall reliability, low maintenance over time, and consistently delicious results makes a fryer a great investment. It might seem like deep fryers are more expensive because they’re much bigger than air fryers. However, most air fryers tend to cost more, especially if they’re using cutting-edge technology or innovative frying systems. A fair price range for a high quality deep fryer is generally between $50 and $100. You can easily find a well-rounded fryer for less, though, especially if it has a more compact size.
Air fryers on the other hand tend to range between $100 and $200. Unlike deep fryers, it’s the specific technology that the air fryer uses — rather than size — that dictates the final price. Most pricier models have Rapid Air technology for faster and more efficient cooking (not to mention less oil use when cooking). These units are also well-equipped with features that many consumers find quite useful, from programmable settings to odor control and brightly lit display screens with countdown timers and alarms. If you’re on a tight budget, though, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a perfectly good air fryer at a slightly more affordable price. One low cost option you might like is the VonShef Stainless Steel Deep Fryer, which only costs $49.99 (50 percent off MSRP).
Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.