Are you trying to choose between an air fryer vs. convection oven? Maybe you already have a regular oven and you’re not sure how best to upgrade, or you simply want to know whether to cook your food in an air fryer or a convection oven.
If you have a limited budget or limited space in your kitchen, you might be struggling to know which to opt for. So what’s the difference between air fryers and convection ovens, what are the benefits of each, and what foods can you cook in them?
What’s an Air Fryer and How Does It Work?
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An air fryer oven (also called an air frying oven) is designed to produce the same results as traditional deep frying … but with only a little oil, or even no oil at all.1
It works by rapidly circulating hot air around your food, using a high-powered fan. This creates a crispy layer on the outside. You get that nice crunchy finish without all the calories from deep frying.
Air fryers are great for cooking things like:
- Potato fries
- Frozen foods like chicken nuggets
- Small chickens (or chicken wings, drumsticks, etc)
- Homemade chips
- Egg rolls
One big selling point for the air fryer is how inexpensive they are compared to a convection oven. You can easily find a quality air fryer for under $100.
You can even cook things you might not expect in an air fryer, like cookies and even cakes: just make sure you follow a recipe that’s specifically designed for use with air fryers. You’ll need to reduce the baking temperature and lower the cooking time compared with using an oven.2
Air fryers tend to be quite a bit cheaper than convection ovens, too, unless you’re buying a countertop-sized convection oven.
What’s a Convection Oven and How Does It Work?
Image courtesy of Pixabay
A convection oven also uses a fan and exhaust system to circulate air around the oven. This helps food to cook more quickly and evenly than it would in an oven without a fan.
This means a convection oven is a great way to bake lots of food at once, as the temperature should be consistent in different parts of the oven. It also preheats more quickly—and you’ll likely get improved results from browning, crisping, and roasting your food.
Convection ovens are great for:
- Baking cookies and cupcakes
- Roasting large pieces of meat
- Cooking lots of food at once
- Cooking food with a wet or loose coating (which might fly off in your air fryer)
If you’re used to cooking with a non-convection oven, you’ll likely find that you need to lower the temperature slightly and get your food out sooner, due to the increased efficiency of the convection oven.
Frequently Asked Questions About Air Fryers vs Convection Ovens
Is an Air Fryer the Same as a Convection Oven?
No, an air fryer isn’t the same thing as a convection oven, though it’s sometimes described as a type of convection oven. Air fryers tend to be small, counter-top appliances. While you can get toaster-oven-sized convection ovens, you can also get full-size convection ovens that you use in place of a regular oven. (You don’t have to use the convection feature each time, you can switch it on and off.)
Can I Use My Convection Oven as an Air Fryer?
Your convection oven can’t fully replace an air fryer, though you may find you get similar results for roasting potatoes and certain veggies. If you’re using an air fryer as an alternative to deep-frying, then a convection oven isn’t really a good replacement.
Which is Better: Convection Oven or Air Fryer?
Whether you opt for a convection oven vs. an air fryer depends on what you most often want to cook. A convection oven is the better option if you’re cooking large family meals: you simply won’t fit enough food into an air fryer. However, an air fryer is perfect if you want to cook food quickly—and if you want a lower-calorie alternative to crispy, fried food like your favorite fried chicken.
Do Convection Ovens and Air Fryers Work on the Same Principle?
Essentially, air fryers are a small, efficient type of convection oven. They’re faster and more energy-efficient, circulating hot air at a very high speed. The food inside the air fryer rests in a basket with holes, letting even more air get to it. In a regular oven, you’ll more likely use a solid tray or roasting pan.
Ultimately, the choice between an air fryer vs convection oven is up to you. The main difference is that air fryers are a lot smaller and that they don’t offer such versatility—but they do cook faster, and get you results on fried foods that you might not be able to achieve using a convection oven.
You might well want to invest in both an air fryer and a convection oven, to get the full benefits and the flexibility of cooking in different ways and at different speeds.
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- Joshy CG, Ratheesh G, Ninan G, Ashok Kumar K, Ravishankar CN. Optimizing air-frying process conditions for the development of healthy fish snack using response surface methodology under correlated observations. J Food Sci Technol. 2020;57(7):2651-2658. doi:10.1007/s13197-020-04301-z
- Mior Zakuan Azmi M, Taip FS, Mustapa Kamal SM, Chin NL. Effects of temperature and time on the physical characteristics of moist cakes baked in air fryer. J Food Sci Technol. 2019;56(10):4616-4624. doi:10.1007/s13197-019-03926-z