There’s a wide array of kitchen appliances designed to help speed up cooking times and ensure you can prepare a wide array of meals without having to be a professional chef. However, while some are a go-to gadget you’ll use time and time again, others are one-hit-wonders that end up lying unused in the back of a drawer or cupboard.
The best air fryers are a must-have for your kitchen, as they allow you to indulge in healthier versions of indulgent treats such as fries and chicken wings. So it’s no surprise that two million air fryers were sold in the US between April and June last year, according to market research firm NPD.
Air fryers use a powerful fan to circulate hot air around food so you can achieve a crisp, crunchy exterior without the large quantities of oil required when deep frying. However, you’re probably wondering how they differ from a convection oven, which also uses hot air to cook foods, and whether you need to invest in both kitchen appliances.
Know whether you want an air fryer or a convection oven. Rather than read on and find out the differences between the two types, check out the best prices for some of our top models.
How does an air fryer differ from a convection oven?
A convection oven is a bulky, rectangular countertop appliance. The front door has a glass panel so you can see inside and a hinge on the bottom, so it opens in the same way the smaller top oven of a range cooker does.
In the main cavity, you’ll find a rack, which can fit a sheet pan, along with a powerful fan that pushes hot air created by a heating element around the convection oven, cooking the food inside while also crisping and browning the exterior.
Air fryers are much smaller kitchen appliances, usually taller but not as wide as a convection oven. They come in two styles; basket fryers and bowl fryers, but neither of these has a hinged front door like a convection oven.
Basket air fryers have, unsurprisingly, a removable basket with a handle built into the front. The food is placed in the basket, which is then inserted into the air fryer to be cooked. Bowl air fryers have a hinged glass, which can be lifted up so food can be placed inside. They also feature a paddle, which moves food around during cooking.
In the same way as convection ovens, both models of air fryer circulate hot air around the food inside to cook and crisp it. As air fryers are smaller than convection ovens, the fan sits closer to the food and ensures the hot air is more concentrated, which cooks the food quicker.
However, their smaller size also means they can’t cook the same quantities as a convection oven, so if you’ve got several mouths to feed, you may have to split the food up into smaller batches.
Air fryers also require food to be shaken or turned halfway through cooking so the hot air can reach every inch of the food, but this isn’t the case with convection ovens.
On the whole convection ovens are also more affordable than air fryers. A top-of-the-range air fryer can set you back up to $150 / £150 /AU$299, while you can pay up to $399 / £299 / AU$499 for an air fryer.
Should I buy an air fryer or a convection oven?
Both convection ovens and air fryers are effective when it comes to cooking food quickly, while at the same time creating a crisp, crunchy exterior. However, what you plan to cook in the appliance, and how much countertop space you have, will dictate whether you opt for an air fryer or a convection oven.
Those that are on a budget, and plan on cooking large quantities should consider a convection oven. However, if you plan on mainly cooking fries in the appliance, an air fryer is the way to go. The concentrated heat means the fries have a satisfyingly crunchy, crisp exterior in a short amount of time which is something a convection oven just can’t compete with.
As we’ve already mentioned, consider how much space you have in your kitchen – as convection ovens can be bulky, but they do let you keep an eye on your food – something only bowl air fryers offer.
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