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Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven: What's the Difference?

Love crispy fried food but want it to be healthier? Abt Electronics discusses the differences between air fryers and convection ovens to help you decide the best appliance for your kitchen and cooking style.

Getting Started

For homeowners who are considering purchasing an air fryer, there's always the question of what the main differences are between air fryers and convection ovens. But the truth is, they're very much the same. And despite the name, an air fryer does not dip into a vat of oil. It works similarly to a convection oven with a few distinguishing cooking features.
Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven: What's the Difference?
So what are these distinguishing features and what makes them different? To better understand how to choose between an air fryer vs. convection oven, we'll discuss the ways the two appliances differ–from heating to health.

What Is an Air Fryer?

First, let's discuss what exactly an air fryer is and how it works. Air fryers are much more compact than a convection oven, typically a bit larger than a toaster oven. They can live on your countertop but are compact enough to be stored in a pantry or cabinet when not in use. Air fryers use convection heating to circulate air around your food, which is held inside by a basket. There is a fan inside that rapidly keeps the circulation going, giving your food the same texture as if it had been deep-fried to yummy, crispy goodness–except without the oil and additional fat. Overall, it's a much healthier alternative.
Air Fryer with Assorted Food

Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven: Heating Differences

Convection ovens, which can be either gas or electric, produce heat that disperses into the oven over a slow period of time, building up until it reaches the desired temperature.
Much like an air fryer, convection ovens use a fan to circulate hot air throughout the cooking cavity. But the compact size of an air fryer allows it to reach cooking temperatures much more quickly than a convection oven can. The compact size also helps air fryers circulate the heat more evenly, eliminating hot spots that overcook and over crisp your food.
Person Placing Potatoes in Air Fryer

Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven: Healthier Cooking

Many homeowners assume that an air fryer is a healthier alternative to baking in the convection oven. And while this is true, the devil's in the details. In other words, it's not that straightforward.
Due to the efficient method in which they create and circulate heat, air fryers require absolutely no oil. They're able to crisp up your food simply by how hot the interior gets. However, with little to no oil being added to your dish or meal, it can be just as healthy as being baked in a convection oven.

The Drawbacks of an Air Fryer

So air fryers seem like a pretty great small kitchen appliance to have, especially if you love fried foods. But let's discuss in further detail and specifically point out some of the drawbacks and disadvantages.
  • When using your air fryer, you can't check on it as easily as you can with a convection oven. While some home chefs are perfectly fine to set it and forget it, others have a tendency to monitor the doneness of the food to get it just right.
  • Air fryers are considerably louder than a convection oven, reaching 65 decibels or so, according to Philips. To give you an idea, this is the same noise level of a vacuum cleaner. So, not exactly quiet. But then again, lots of kitchen appliances (blenders, for example) are loud, too.
  • Cleaning air fryers takes some effort. You have to clean a perforated basket along with its bucket. And if you're cooking, let's say buffalo chicken wings, you'll have to clean any drippings they leave behind, too. The convection oven is a clear winner here as all you have to do is clean the pan. For an even easier cleanup try lining the pan with aluminum foil before filling it with wings and loading it into the oven.

Is an Air Fryer Right for You?

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if you could use (or want) an air fryer as part of your cooking tool collection. If you love the crusty texture and delicious taste of fried veggies or fried chicken, this will probably be one of your absolute favorite kitchen appliances!