Whether you’re considering buying a new air fryer or a convection oven, you may wonder, at some point, what is the difference between air fryers and convection ovens is.
The short answer to this question? An air fryer is a smaller appliance with a memorable name. But they have “basically” the same functions.
When you think of deep-frying, you think of pieces of food being immersed in hot oil and coming out crunchy as ever. The oil surrounds every centimeter of the food. And when we refer to baking, food is less crispy because the food is being injected with hot air.
If we were to compare the heat conduction of both air and oil, oil is the clear winner.
Let’s get more into detail, shall we?
Air Fryers: What are they?
In essence, an air fryer is a smaller, handier convection oven. Convection ovens (and ovens overall) are traditionally shaped like squares or rectangles, but air fryers are designed to resemble coffee makers as they are taller and slimmer.
Air fryers include a removable container with a handle. Inside the container, you place the basket; this is where the food goes. The container goes into the appliance and once turned on, and it starts the cooking process. The fan in air fryers is located on the overhead.
Due to air fryers being smaller, the fan is situated closer to the pieces of food. This handy device can direct heat into a smaller cooking area. This means that any food item will be cooked much quicker compared to a convection oven.
On the other hand, because it’s smaller, it can only fit less than half the food (depending on the size) of the amount a convection oven can fit. Air fryers will cook around two servings per cooking cycle. Which also depends on how big your pieces of food are. Chicken legs or wings are much bigger compared to a batch of fries.
Most of the time, air fryer users need to cook in batches if looking to feed more than two people. In the end, it takes longer to serve a cooked meal compared to a convection oven.
One of the issues of using air fryers is the small basket. It prevents from spreading out the food evenly. With air fryers, you need to stack food pieces instead. If you stack, you prevent hot air from circulating to the bottom of the basket and evenly around it. In this case, the convection effect doesn’t work.
Even cooking a small batch of onion rings or french fries will require you to shake the basket periodically to ensure the food cooks evenly. Not only will it take longer for you to finish a cooking cycle (due to batch-cooking), it requires more physical work and attention.
Pros & Cons of Air Fryers
- Visibility: You can’t see inside an air fryer. This is not an essential issue, but being capable of seeing your food while it cooks can help you know how done it is.
- Noise: Believe it or not, air fryers are louder compared to convection ovens. For instance, Philips states that its air fryer generates sound at sixty-five decibels. So that you can get an idea: This is as loud as a vacuum cleaner.
- Price: Air fryers are more expensive than convection ovens. A top-brand air fryer may cost around $250 while a $150 oven holds more capacity and cooks more food varieties (even toast).
- Space: Counter space is important. Air fryers take much less space compared to convection ovens. Ovens need to stay on your countertop all the time, while convection ovens can be stored in a cupboard while not in use. However, due to some models’ heights, not all cupboards may fit an air fryer.
- Cleanup: Cleaning an air fryer is no easy task. You’ll have to clean the basket and the bucket inside. After cooking chicken wings, for instance, there is a lot of dripping, many cleanups. But with a convection oven, clean the pan and call it a day.
In terms of healthiness, both air fryers and convection ovens cook food with much less oil. And even if we can all agree that everything tastes better when deep-fried, dunking yummy and caloric foods into hot oil isn’t the healthiest way to eat. This is why air fryers are a trendy alternative.
Final Verdict on Air Fryers
Up until now, we learned that air fryers are basically smaller convection ovens. Air fryers use the same method of hot air circulation to cook food – just like convection baking.
Because of their size, air fryers can cook food much quicker, as it circulates air more rapidly inside the chamber.
In terms of pricing, air fryers are more expensive in comparison to convection ovens. However, you can still purchase an excellent air fryer like Simple Chef HF-898 for less than $70, and it’ll fit on your countertop.
Should you buy an air fryer instead of a convection oven? Well, that depends, do you feel comfortable cooking in batches, have a small kitchen and need smaller appliances, and don’t mind paying a bit more for a catchy-looking gadget?
Convection Ovens: What are they?
Before getting into what convection ovens are, we need to know what convection baking is.
Convection baking consists of placing a fan in an oven’s interior, which allows for hot air circulation that results in cooking food. The air force generated transfers heat onto the food’s surface and allows for more crispiness than ordinary ovens. But nothing compared to deep-frying, of course.
So, in essence, air fryers are convection ovens, with some differences among them. Note that convection ovens come in many shapes and sizes, but we are comparing countertop air fryers and convection ovens for this article.
A convection oven looks like a toaster oven, only bigger. It is rectangular in shape and has an opening in the front that functions with a hinge at the bottom. As mentioned earlier, what differentiates convection ovens from toaster ovens is the fan’s inclusion in its interior. This blows hot air around and focuses on many different food types.
The convection effect is a term used to describe the air’s motion inside the oven. This results in quicker cooking cycles due to high temperatures being transferred directly onto the food’s surfaces. Convection ovens will accelerate cooking while crisping and browning the pieces of food.
Just like toaster ovens, convection ovens include a rack inside as well as a sheet pan. Most come with perforated pans that allow for better airflow.
One of the biggest differences between the two is the way you set out the food. Layering (air fryer) impedes maximum airflow and results in unevenly cooked food. However, when you arrange food in a single layer (convection oven), you allow for even cooking.
Pros & Cons of Convection Ovens
- Cooking: Convection ovens cook food more evenly and much faster—no need to rotate the pan for certain meals.
- Settings: You can set your convection oven to brown foods quicker and keep them juicier as well as other settings.
- Temperature: The temperature inside a convection oven is more consistent
- Cleanup: Some models come with a self-cleaning feature
- Noise: Fans tend to be louder than traditional ovens
- Burning: Food can get burnt more easily if cooking times aren’t adjusted accordingly.
Final Verdict on Convection Ovens
If we were to compare the two in terms of convenience, convection ovens take the win. They fit various foods, achieve an even crisp, and there are a variety of sizes fitting for any countertop.
For instance, Amazon released its own convection oven at $250 (that also microwaves). It works with voice commands for Alexa and can cook custom foods too.
Convection baking/cooking is not a contemporary way to cook food, it’s been around for a while, the ovens in our kitchens are just bigger convection ovens. Then again, regular ovens will use more energy and take longer to preheat.
Convection ovens surpass air fryers, especially when cooking food that isn’t frozen or breaded.
Healthiness: Convection Ovens vs. Air Fryers
Both these appliances treat food in an extremely healthy way. As mentioned earlier, both air fryers and convection ovens use a similar technique involving hot air circulation. Also, both use fans who enable and produce hot airflow throughout the unit’s interior and cooks and crisps food.
Unlike conventional ovens, both appliances can focus their heating elements, which means you cook much faster.
In terms of healthy eating, convection ovens offer various possibilities as to what type of food you can cook. Basically you can pop anything into these ovens, which may not always be the case with air fryers.
However, most air fryers require no oil addition whatsoever.
“Oil-less” is on-brand when referring to air fryers. But when frying or baking in convection ovens, you’ll need to add some moisture (oil) for a thorough crisp.
Air fryers will reach higher temperatures in less time; therefore, cooking cycles are much shorter. This is important since your food is not drying out and conserves its healthy ingredients. Convection ovens will slow-cook foods, and some nutrients may disappear in the process.
Nevertheless, both convection ovens and air fryers require less or no oil at all. They continue to be a healthy alternative to other cooking techniques, especially deep frying.
Maintenance & Reliability: Convection Ovens vs. Air Fryers
Cleaning & Maintenance
Nobody wants to waste time and money to maintain their culinary gadgets. All those oil splatters, food drippings, and stains can cause mess and stress in the kitchen.
If you’re someone that doesn’t fancy cleaning, you’ll appreciate these comparisons.
Air fryers are relatively easy to clean, depending on the model. For instance, the Actifry T-Fal FZ7002 is very simple to maintain.
Air fryers like these rock a non-stick pan that will only take just a few moments to wipe clean. Some air fryers’ interior and exterior are made of a super easy to clean material. Another point in favor of air fryers is their size; the smaller, the quicker you can clean them.
On the other hand, convection ovens can be reasonably easy to clean (depending on the model). However, these are bigger appliances, and depending on what type of food you just cooked, you may need to roll up your sleeves and get in there.
If there are any drippings or stains outside of the pan, it may be difficult to reach. Also, you may want to use abrasive detergents to ensure you’re getting all the grease out.
How reliable a certain appliance actually is, tends to be subjective to each person. What determines these two gadgets’ reliability would be the unit’s quality, materials, settings, cooking preferences, and a few other factors.
If you’re comparing air fryers and convection ovens in terms of reliability, our advice is to regard each one individually. Pay close attention to the quality, design, and the longevity of the material. This is where you ask about the warranty, which is essential regardless of certain factors.
Generally speaking, the stainless steel designed convection ovens may offer more reliability in specific aspects, depending on the model.
The bottom line is that when you come home from work, want to host a dinner party or have a big family; you need an appliance that you can rely on in terms of speed, even cooking, and added features.
However, if you live in a small apartment that lacks a conventional oven, a convection oven may be the way to go. This way, you get a “bigger” air fryer and get more versatility for your money.
So, which one would you choose?