Deep fryer vs Air fryer: Which is better?

Apr 09, 2023
Source: Supplied

There they stand, side by side, locked in a do-or-die battle for ultimate supremacy over that most sacred household domain – the kitchen.

Gleaming defiantly in all its old-school stainless steel glory is the deep fryer, the traditional cooking vessel with its protruding cooking basket, thick protective lid, steam vents and, of course, its giant tub of volcanic cooking oil.

Standing tall next to it, black as Darth Vader and almost as intimidating, is the new kid on the cooking block, the dreaded air fryer.

Sleek in design, it strikes an imposing presence on the kitchen counter. Eager to establish its dominance, it aims not only to merely supplant the deep fryer, the air fryer demands to be admired, respected and, ultimately, to be loved.

Such fierce rivalry is new. Until now home appliances have all adhered to a policy of peaceful co-existence.

The vacuum cleaner never replaced the broom; the capsule coffee machine never replaced the percolator; the dishwasher never replaced dishwashing; the microwave never replaced the oven.

And just to labour the point, we still use traditional grills even though we all have access to the George Foreman Grill, the best invention in the history of humankind.  

Yet here an upstart appliance seeks to depose another and obliterate its legacy.

So, which is better?

A month-long study subjected both appliances to a series of gruelling comparison tests to assess the pros and cons of each. 

Conducted with the scientific rigour of a rocket launch the project has now been completed with the definitive answer to this all-important question. 

Here are the findings.

The huge advantage of the deep fryer is its remarkable ability to approximate the taste and texture of the fried food we all love and enjoy, despite the advice of our doctors.

The deep fryer also holds powerful nostalgic appeal for those who grew up with fish-and-chip shops in that blessed era before health magazines, aerobics classes, TV dieticians and weight-loss infomercials came along and ruined everything.

How blissful to revisit those carefree days, reminiscing how a mere 40 cents would get you four potato cakes, three dim sims, a piece of flake, a bunch of chips and a can of cola followed by a feeding frenzy joyously oblivious of the coronary issues to come.

Air fryers struggle to replicate the crunch and crispiness of a traditional deep fryer, especially when it comes to such dietary staples as dim sims, onion rings and beer-battered fish fillets.

There are also things you can do with a deep fryer that you wouldn’t dare do with an air fryer, such as deep-frying a doughnut or a slice of pineapple or a banana.

Oh, the joy of smothering said banana in batter and deep frying it to the point of crispy perfection. It is one of the greatest things any single human being can achieve in this life – and it’s not something an air fryer can match.

Supermarkets are primed for the deep fry fan, with the shelves of refrigerated cabinets stuffed with nuggets, fillets, spring rolls, samosas, chicken pieces, crinkle-cut chips and mozzarella balls, all packaged and specially prepared for their journey to deliciousness. Yum yum.

The small downside to this culinary nirvana is that while it might all be absolutely scrumptious, it’s about as healthy as…as…well, as eating lots of deep-fried food. Which allegedly isn’t good for you.

Source: Supplied

Such is the great advantage of your air fryer, and why it commands respect and love. It might not bring your chips or dim sims or onion rings to the same peak of crispy brilliance as a deep fryer, but at least it won’t have you wondering why your heart is suddenly beating faster than a Madonna dance mix.

Truth be told, air fryers aren’t fryers at all – they’re essentially convection ovens and so don’t need any oil to cook.

As such they are great at warming and reheating stuff, such as pies, sausage rolls, pasties and dessert pastries. Can’t do any of that with a deep fryer. You wouldn’t stick a cold Danish in a deep fryer. Not if you’re sane, anyway.

For all its health credentials, perhaps the biggest hold the air fryer has over its deep frying adversary is how low maintenance it is.

Once you’re finished, the only cleaning required is the basket, the tray and the pan that holds them. A few seconds under the hot water tap, a couple of swirls with the dish brush and you’re done. Good as new, ready for the next meal.

Deep fryers are a whole other deal. Love them all you like, they are a world of toil – and possibly more trouble than they’re worth.

The main drawback is all that oil. That horrible, awful, sludgy, smelly oil. 

Image: Supplied

Once it’s heated a deep fryer might cook a rissole four times faster than an air fryer can, but it’s a false economy, for it takes 15 minutes for the oil to heat up and, once you’re done, a good half an hour to cool down.

As for having a tub of oil the temperature of lava sitting in your kitchen, that can be dangerous. And Heaven help you and your insurance coverage should you knock it over.

And the smell. Oh Lord, the smell. Even with the aid of an extractor fan a session with a deep fryer will leave a nose-wrinkling odour in the kitchen that can take an hour and a half a can of Forest Mist air freshener to eradicate, and that’s with all the doors and windows opened. 

And good luck with getting the smell out of the curtains and with confining the stench to the kitchen. Should it drift down the hall into a bedroom your dreams will not be sweet.

No odour problems with the air fryer.

But the big drag with a deep fryer is the aftermath. Do you think disposing of nuclear waste is difficult? Try getting rid of used cooking oil.

Those litres of fluid might look like Golden Nectar From The Gods as you’re pouring it in, all glistening and shiny and translucent, but after a few prolonged frying sessions the stuff takes on the appearance of sump oil.

Getting rid of this gunk requires a perilous, industrial-sized operation. You’ve got to lift the heavy tub of disgusting oil and carefully position it over a large water-tight container, being oh-so-mindful not to lose your grip and so cover your floor with a nightmare stain that will never come out.

Once that’s done you’ve got to close the lid and throw the container in the bin, hoping like heck it doesn’t leak while it’s on the premises.

And don’t think of pouring the oil down the sink or flushing it down the toilet – a “quick fix” that has paid for the luxury holidays of many a plumber.

Then there’s the fryer itself that’s got to be cleaned, with all manner of crud encrusted in the basket and inside the tub. Try spending half a day doing this. It is literally easier to just throw the blasted thing out and buy a new one.

That’s if you’re willing to invest so much of your life maintaining a deep fryer.

As it is, the taste and crispy goodness offered by a deep fryer doesn’t outweigh the trouble, toil, danger, health risks and smell that come with regular use.

It simply doesn’t compare with the convenience, cleanliness and stress-free operation of your average air fryer. 

Sad to say, the deep fryer might be on the fade, even though its successor can’t quite bring a batter-soaked banana to the same degree of succulent, forbidden perfection.  

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up