Air fryers first burst to prominence back in 2010 and the nifty devices have become increasingly popular over the past decade.
While air fryers were first used to reheat food on planes, they have now entered most of our homes, promising and delivering a cooking method that allows you to use much less oil than deep-frying food, while still returning food that’s crispy and golden on the outside and tender inside.
Many of the best air fryers offer you 10 or more different cooking applications, so you can roast, broil, bake, roast, toast, dehydrate, and crisp your food as well as straight air frying it.
Now, one of the most common questions we get here at Madiba is whether there is a difference between air fryers and convection ovens.
- TLDR: There’s not much difference between an air fryer and a convection oven.
I. Air Fryer 101
Air fryers have a heating element and a fan that pushes hot air around inside the cooking chamber just like a convection oven does.
These appliances are typically smaller than a convection oven, and they also circulate air more rapidly.
Requiring little or no pre-heating and only a tablespoon of cooking oil, you can get fast results from an air fryer, and the food tastes great, too.
While you can’t expect to achieve the same results as when you’re deep frying, your food should still be crispy and golden yet tender inside. We suggest reserving deep-fried food for an occasional treat and using your air fryer to get creative with new recipes. You’ll soon find out you can do much more than cook fries and chicken wings in these things.
Although many air fryers are too small to serve as a realistic replacement for your oven, you can find plenty of large-capacity air fryers if you need to cook bigger batches of food.
II. Convection Oven 101
Convection ovens have powerful fans that circulates hot air inside the oven. This not only slashes cooking times, but it also leads to superior consistency, as well as allowing you more latitude when it comes to browning foods.
Long a mainstay of commercial kitchens, convection ovens are now commonplace in the home kitchen.
Convection ovens work wonderfully for:
- Cooking pizza
- Roasting meats
- Baking scones
- Making cookies
- Preparing casseroles
- Roasting veggies
If you’re using a recipe intended for a conventional oven, you’ll need to adjust cooking times when you’re using a convection oven.
III. 5 Key Differences Between Convection Ovens and Air Fryers
Although superficially similar and both harnessing the same principle of pushing hot air around inside a cooking chamber, air fryers and convection ovens differ in the following ways:
- Fan placement
- Fan speed and size
- Range of accessories
Most air fryers are small countertop appliances, while a convection oven is usually a full-sized oven. You can find smaller convection toaster ovens, but these are toasters first and foremost.
2) Fan placement
Air fryers have fans positioned at the top of the appliance, just below the heating element. With convection ovens, you’ll find the fan tucked away at the back of the oven, either to one side or flush in the center.
Heat comes from the top in an air fryer. With a convection oven, by contrast, heat comes from the top as well as the bottom.
It is this more concentrated and top-down style of cooking that means you get great results so quickly when you’re air frying.
4) Fan speed and size
The fans in air fryers are typically larger and quicker than those you find in a convection oven. The settings of the fans are usually around one-third quicker than fans in convection ovens.
5) Range of accessories
You can use a variety of perforated accessories in an air fryer to promote quick and even results that call for little tossing or flipping. Trays, racks, and baskets are all standard. Many air fryers also offer rotisserie spits and skewers.
With a convection oven, you won’t need any specialty accessories at all.
IV. Doesn’t This Mean an Air Fryer is Just Like a Convection Oven?
If you examine the above differences between these appliances, you’ll see they are negligible.
While the vast majority of convection ovens can air fry your food, not every air fryer can return the same results as a convection oven.
The primary notable difference is size, and in a convection oven, you’ll have the space to cook a whole tray of cookies or scones rather than being limited to much smaller batches.
V. Which is Better, an Air Fryer or Convection Oven?
If you’re looking for the quickest results, an air fryer beats a convection oven hands down.
Using an air fryer allows you to cook with far less oil then other cooking methods, and fat should drip away and into the drip pan meaning your food won’t absorb any excess fat as it’s cooking. This not only helps you to cut down on calories, but the food also becomes crispier with less moisture.
If you want to cook larger batches of food, though, all but the biggest air fryers are likely to leave you coming up short. Although you can layer fries in your air fryer – you’ll need to toss them at least once if you do – the majority of foods need to be cooked in a single layer when you’re using an air fryer.
For anyone concerned about noise, many air fryers can also kick out quite a racket. It’s worth exploring some user reviews before you buy to avoid any nasty surprises.
VI. Which Cooking Method is Healthier?
With an air fryer, you can use no oil at all, or as little as tablespoon if you prefer. The unit heats up so quickly and to such a temperature that your food will come out crispy even if you don’t add any oil at all. You really cannot achieve this same effect using a convection oven.
If you are cooking dishes that don’t require any oil in the first place, you’ll end up with results that are just as healthy if you use a convection oven.
When you’re choosing whether to use a convection oven or an air fryer, it comes down to personal preference.
For many consumers, this is not an either/or choice. Buying an air fryer certainly doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your convection oven completely.
If you invest in an air fryer with a range of other cooking functions, you’ll find you have a remarkably versatile addition to your kitchen, but it should not be considered as a replacement for your convection oven.
If you’re undecided, you can also find air fryer toaster oven combos. These powerful and multipurpose appliances give you the best of both worlds in a countertop unit.
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