Here's The Real Difference Between Your Oven And An Air Fryer

Somehow, there are still people in the world that do not own an air fryer. And, if you are one of those who are contemplating the trendy new appliance, chances are you don't need it if you already have a convection oven — air fryers are essentially tiny versions of those (via The Spruce Eats). 

Both convection ovens and air fryers cook food by circulating hot air around your food, but the air fryer's size and one key feature are what change the outcome of what you're preparing, especially when compared to a regular oven. Air fryers are smaller than your typical oven and they circulate air faster, heating it up, which helps cut down on the cooking time. 

Conventional ovens, on the other hand, use a heating element to heat the air inside the oven which then rises and cooks your food. This means cooking takes longer, which also means it also doesn't get nearly as crispy as an air fryer could make it (via Taste of Home). The lack of air circulation can also create hot spots in regular ovens that may cause your food to overcook in some places.

Another big difference between the two appliances is that air fryers have a basket instead of a solid bottom like a baking sheet. This means that the hot air can more easily reach the bottom of your food, making it crispy all the way around (via CNET).

Consider what you're cooking

The real selling point on whether or not it's worth buying an air fryer is what kind of food you eat most often. Air fryers really excel at cooking pre-made or frozen breaded foods like chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, or french fries. The countertop appliance is less successful when it comes to cooking things like burger patties, freshly-battered items, or anything that could ooze and drip or stick to the basket, according to CNET.

Foods that are frozen and breaded can get really crunchy in an air fryer, which is healthier than deep-frying. While you can cook these foods in a regular oven, they won't get as crisp as they would in an air fryer. Though you can try some other techniques like baking food until it's done and then hitting them with the broiler to crisp it up (or baking it on an oven-proof wire rack), you might still be disappointed (via Epicurious). 

Keep in mind that you can closely replicate the results of air fryers in convection ovens, but not conventional ovens. Conventional ovens take much longer to heat up and cook your food, and often times the moisture that's trapped by food sitting on a flat surface causes it to get soggy. Conventional ovens do not circulate air either, so the food could burn on the bottom as the air rises while you wait for the top to get perfectly crisp. So, if you eat traditionally-fried foods often, an air fryer is a good appliance to have.