The introduction of smart, highly efficient kitchen appliances like the air fryer and convection oven has transformed kitchens across the country.
This new generation of appliances are better than traditional deep fryers and conventional ovens in just about every aspect. They can cook faster and more evenly and are more energy efficient.In the air fryer’s case, it can produce healthier food for the family as well.
Better yet, their prices have become a lot more affordable over the years.
But there is an ongoing tussle between cooks over which is better: the air fryer vs convection oven. If you’re caught up in this predicament and don’t know which one to choose, this buying guide will tell you everything you need to know before you make a purchase.
Differences Between an Air Fryer and a Convection Oven
What Is a Convection Oven?
On the outside, a convection oven looks exactly like a regular oven, with a boxy, rectangular design. Even the downward-opening front door that is reminiscent of the traditional oven.
The difference lies in the way that the convection oven cooks the food.
A conventional toaster oven has a heating element to blast the food with heat. But the newer convection oven comes with an extra fan. This fan circulates the hot air generated by the heating element around the cooking chamber.
This fast-moving current of hot air — called convection —is what’s going to cook your food in a convection oven.
There are plenty of advantages to harnessing the convection effect.
The first is that convection applies more heat to the exterior of the food than a normal oven. As a result, a convection oven will cook your food much quicker.
Furthermore, thanks to the force of the hot air impacting the food, it comes out crispier.
Evenness is the second advantage. The circulating air will apply heat equally in all directions, thus, your food will cook more evenly. You won’t end up with some parts being piping hot while others are too cold.
In order to maximize the smoothness of the hot air flow, the interior of a convection oven is designed to be as wide as possible. Its width allows you to place your food in a single layer on the interior cooking rack (which can usually fit a full-size baking sheet).
This is important. When arranged in a single layer, hot air can travel between the food pieces and cook them more evenly. If you stack your food, the hot air flow can be broken, resulting in an uneven cook.
What Food Can You Cook With a Convection Oven?
Like we said earlier, a convection oven isn’t all that different from a normal oven.. Any food that you can normally cook in a regular oven, you can also cook in a convection oven.
You can use it to make pastries like scones and cookies, bake pizzas and casseroles, and roast meat or vegetables.
Toasting is also an option. There are plenty of recipes for oven-toasted granola, nuts, and sandwiches.
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is simply a smaller, more compact version of a convection oven. It works using the same principle. First, a heating element heats up the air inside the air fryer. Then, a fan will kick in to blow and circulate the hot air inside the cooking bucket. The resulting convection effect heats up and cooks the food.
Because the convection effect can make food very crispy, it gives the impression that air fryers “fry” the food. However, air fryers don’t actually “fry” anything.
Rather, they bake the food.
Despite being more or less a convection oven, the design of an air fryer is different. It doesn’t have the same boxy design. Instead, most models either look like a cylindrical coffee maker or a square-ish cooker.
The air fryer will come with a bucket that you can remove by pulling a handle.
Inside this bucket is a frying basket, which will contain the food that you intend to air fry. Place your food into the basket, slot the bucket back into the machine, turn it on, and the air fryer will get to work.
Directly above the bucket is the heating system consisting of the heating element and the blowing fan.
One thing that differentiates the air fryer’s heating system from that of a convection oven is that it is much closer to the food. That way, more heat can be imparted onto the food. The intensity of the heat is primarily how air fryers achieve a better browning effect and greater crispiness compared to convection ovens.
The cooking bucket is also smaller in size than an oven’s cooking chamber. As a result, air fryers typically finish their job much faster than a convection oven.
But there’s one downside to the air fryer.
Unlike a convection oven, which has a wide cooking chamber for you to arrange food in a single layer, an air fryer’s bucket is small. That means, more often than not, you have to stack or pile up the food. This can substantially decrease the air fryer’s efficiency.
What Food Can You Cook With an Air Fryer?
The greatest advantage to using an air fryer is that it allows for oil-free cooking.
Yes, around a tablespoon of oil spray (avoid dripping oil directly into the air fryer) will make the food crispier. But if you want your food to be as healthy as possible, you can opt to air fry it without oil.
Oil-free cooking is a godsend if you love fried foods but also want to maintain a healthy diet. Research has shown that air fryers’ oil-free cooking mechanism can have positive impacts on your dietary health.
Take advantage of this and switch to preparing your favorite fried recipes with the air fryer. You can cook fried chicken, fish, vegetables, French fries, and more. All in all, you can use the air fryer to make any fried recipe.
Frying isn’t all that an air fryer can do nowadays, though. A few premium air fryers, besides air frying, can also bake, grill, and roast.
In the end, the choice between air fryer vs convection oven comes down to you. Make your selection in accordance with your personal preferences and what you like to cook on a daily basis. Either appliance will make your kitchen a whole lot more adaptable and allow you to prepare more recipes than ever before.
A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen. Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it. Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.