What’s not to love about fried food? The tender insides with the crunchy outer layer make my mouth water just thinking about them. (I should say it’s almost dinnertime, so I admit to being hungry!)
The principal reason that many of us may limit our intake of fried food is due to health considerations. So, for those of us who delight in eating fried foods, from potatoes to vegetables, to fish, to chicken, what are our options?
We have to limit how much fried food we eat. Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of oil usually involved in the frying…that is until recently!
Thanks to the invention of air fryers, manufacturers claim that we can get the same tasty satisfaction of eating fried food without all of that oil. So, as a true aficionado of fried food, I decided to create the challenge in my own kitchen. Can an air fryer compete with a deep fryer, much less replace it?
I already own a deep fryer, so I decided to invest in an air fryer and do a taste test with my family. I prepared the same dishes in both fryers and waited to see if anyone noticed any differences.
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These handy little machines can be used to cook lots of various types of food. I’ve used mine to prepare French fries all the way up to chicken wings and chicken pieces. Some larger deep fryers can cook a turkey!
The method used by a deep fryer is called flash cooking. You place your food in a basket and then submerge it in hot oil. Since oil is a great thermal conductor of heat it will cook the food evenly on all sides because it has been submerged. Deep fryers reduce your cooking time when compared to frying in a pan, if nothing else because you don’t have to flip your food to get all the sides cooked.
When you deep fry, you are creating the Maillard effect. This reaction will break down proteins and sugars on the surface of your food, causing them to turn a crispy golden brown. Deep frying also removes moisture from the outside of your food, so it turns crispy and crunchy, while the inside remains tender.
Air fryers, instead of oil, use air that is highly heated to cook your food. A fan is positioned at the top of the fryer, and it will blow air through a heating element.
Like with a deep fryer, food is placed in a basket. The heated air will circulate around the food and through the food. This heated air can, incredibly enough, cook your food thoroughly. It will also create the Maillard effect for a nice crisp crust.
The Differences Between Deep Fryers and Air Fryers
Here are some of the differences that I noted as the cook:
- Since I used little or no oil in my air fryer, clean-up was quick and easy. If you need to save time, the air fryer is a great choice in this regard, and there is no problem with disposing of a lot of cooking oil as with deep frying.
- With a deep fryer, I can only fry food. Instead, I discovered that my new air fryer will allow me to grill and even bake. That was a huge surprise.
- With my deep fryer, I need to use quite a bit of oil because I have to submerge the food for it to cook completely. With the air fryer, I don’t have to use oil at all. If I choose to use some oil, I can get by with a tablespoon.
- The crust! The crust is one of the primary reasons we fry food. Undoubtedly, in my deep fryer, the oil penetrated the food more deeply, so my crust was quite a bit thicker when I fried in the deep fryer. As a result, it was also a bit crispier and crunchier.
- Some of my foods came out a bit drier when fried in the air dryer due to the fact that I didn’t use any oil.
Which Fryer Is Better?
Good question! The answer will depend on your priorities when cooking.
If you are concerned with your health, the air fryer wins hands down.
Deep-fried foods are fully immersed in oil and therefore contain more fat. With an air fryer, you don’t have to use oil or use only a tiny bit. This means your reducing the quantity of fat present in your meal.
If you like the idea that your appliance can cook in more ways than one, the air fryer wins this contest.
Remember a deep fryer only fries the foods, whereas an air fryer will allow you to grill and bake. Many air fryers offer accessories that let you cook in other styles while using the same fryer. Pretty convenient!
If you want the best crust, however, the deep fryer really has no rivals.
This is the best part of cooking and eating: taste. if you want really good, deep-fried food, the deep fryer would be my choice. While the air fryer did a nice job, the crispy crust is not really the same as the crust found on food that has been deep-fried.
Also, the food was a tad dryer when fried in the air fryer. (And my family noted the difference, even if they ate everything despite how it was prepared.)
If you absolutely love fried food, crave the traditional taste of classically prepared fried dishes, and don’t really worry about any health considerations, a deep fryer can’t be beaten.
If, on the other hand, you like the idea and convenience of a cooking appliance that is not limited to frying, is more versatile, and protects your health at the same time, choose the air fryer. You’ll give up a bit in the taste category, but probably not enough to make you want to give up all the other advantages.
In the end, you could get both and have the best of both worlds!