I’m no stranger to the deep fryer; I grew up with one. And I’ve also owned not one, not two, but three air fryers in the short time they’ve been on the market. So, in the great air fryer vs. deep fryer debate, I’m your gal.
In this post, we’re going to tackle a few different things to help YOU decide which way to go:
- Health (yep – we gotta go there…)
Once those important things are out of the way, I’m also going to tell you why a small baking oven we keep on our kitchen counter was the clear winner for us once we settled our own air fryer vs. deep fryer argument years ago.
Air fryer vs. deep fryer: SIZE
There’s no getting around it – adding either an air fryer or deep fryer to your kitchen means adding yet another small appliance. It’s an important consideration if you’re short on space because these are generally bigger than, say, a stand mixer.
Unless you’re buying a gadget that does enough to warrant keeping it on your countertop 24/7 (which we’ll get to in the versatility section below), the first thing you need to decide is how much storage space you have in or near your kitchen or pantry. In my experience, home-use deep fryers typically have a more compact footprint, which makes stowing them a bit easier than many of the air fryers you’ll find on store shelves. Just keep in mind that ALL of the oil will need to be emptied from it before you put it away.
Air fryer vs. deep fryer: VERSATILITY
For those who have deep-fried MARS bars and OREO cookies, you’ll probably disagree with my take on versatility, but here goes…
I don’t think deep fryers are nearly as versatile as air fryers. That’s not to say that you can’t deep-fry just about anything. You can. But for it to actually taste good, it needs to be breaded or coated in some kind of batter. That’s an extra step I’m just not willing to take most of the time!
Let’s take cauliflower, for example. With an air fryer, you could toss some cauliflower florets in a bit of avocado oil and dust them in salt and pepper and air frying is going to make you some damn fine cauliflower bites.
Don’t try that in a deep fryer, though, unless you’ve also made a tasty batter. Not only does the batter create an important “seal” around your food to protect its flavour and texture, but any excess water that leaches from a given food isn’t going to make friends with all of that hot oil before you.
A whole chicken is another good example. Sure, people are known to deep fry chickens (and even turkeys!), but it’s a very precise process and there’s a reason that they often do this outdoors. But an air fryer will make quick work of your chicken without any of the fuss – or danger – and does equally well with things like chicken wings, too.
Air fryer vs. deep fryer: TASTE
Taste is, of course, a matter of personal…taste. So this is probably the least objective section in my air fryer vs. deep fryer post.
If you’re a classic French fry fanatic, I really don’t see an air fryer holding a candle to a deep fryer. I’ve tried both, and although an air fryer can do a very good job of creating super-crispy fries, it doesn’t compare to a deep fryer’s ability to have all that excess oil permeate into the deepest regions of your fry’s core.
Yet, for me, that’s where the deep fryer’s winning streak ends. I prefer everything else – from wings to crunchy chickpeas and root vegetable fries (like sweet potato, beet and parsnip) – when it comes from an air fryer. They still get the same exterior crispiness as their deep-fried cousins, but they actually still taste like what they are. Deep frying has a tendency to add too much oil flavour to foods, whereas air frying seems to maintain flavour profiles and integrity much better.
Air fryer vs. deep fryer: HEALTH
You know we had to go here. Sorry, not sorry. There’s no contest when it comes to the health portion of our air fryer vs. deep fryer debate – an air fryer wins every time. It cuts calories by 70 to 80* per cent and has a lot less fat.
You could air fry enough sweet potato fries for a family of four with just two tablespoons of oil, but you’d need to dump several cups of oil into a deep fryer to do the same.
A deep fryer relies on heated oil to cook food, but an air fryer uses a sort of “super-convection” system of hot air circulation to fry food. And that means you can eliminate that excess oil and fat when you’re making even something like chicken nuggets.
In fact, with something like chicken wings, we don’t even add oil when we air fry – instead relying on the natural fat in the skin to get crispy.
Make no mistake: when you’re making this comparison, they both still fry your food! There are still healthier ways to cook, but you came here looking for observations on air fryer vs. deep fryer, not “is air frying as healthy as steaming,” so my guess is that you don’t need me to provide further explanation.
You’ll see that I don’t have a section on air fryer vs. deep fryer COST, and that’s because when we’re talking air fryer vs. deep fryer, the price range is so vast and comparing apples to apples could be an entirely separate blog post. But once you have a handle on everything we’ve already discussed, and you know which way you’re leaning, you can do some cost comparisons yourself to find something that works for your budget.
That said, one of the budget considerations you will want to keep in mind is the ongoing cost of filling up a deep fryer with oil. If you’re keeping it on your countertop and re-using oil several times, it’ll be more cost-effective than dumping it every time you want to put it back into your pantry (or wherever). Regardless, it’s always going to cost you more in oil if you choose a deep fryer over and air fryer.
Air fryer vs. deep fryer: WHAT I OWN
I’m sure after reading everything so far, it’s clear that we chose an air fryer for our home. When we were getting our first one, we had a choice between a standalone air fryer or the multifunctional Breville Air Oven, which was the best toaster oven air fryer combo available at the time. I wrote a pretty detailed Breville Smart Oven Air review about it, and we ultimately used that thing more than our own oven!
So when Breville asked me to try its new Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro, I was intrigued but wondered if we really needed the extra Joule features. I mean, we already loved what we had and the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro’s price tag did make me do a double-take; at $849.99 (USD$549.99) for the Black Stainless Steel finish and $799.99 (USD$499.95) for the classic Brushed Stainless Steel finish, it’s a step up from the Breville Smart Oven Air and it does a lot of the same things.
After nearly three months of almost-daily use, however, I would never go back to our pre-Joule days. The improvements to this small baking oven that sits quietly in our kitchen corner are impressive.
If you’re reading this because you’re thinking of upgrading, let me just run through what stayed the same and some of the most basic improvements between the Breville Smart Oven Air and the new Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro:
- The size, shape and design of both ovens are basically the same (still similar to a standard microwave oven)
- Both ovens have the same 13 cooking functions (see below), including Air Fry – and it might just be the largest air fryer you can get
- Both ovens come with the same accessories in the box – the oven itself, a crumb tray, an air frying/dehydration basket, two wired racks, a broiling rack, an enamel roasting pan and a pizza pan
- Both ovens use Element iQ cooking technology for fast, even cooking
- The quick-start instructions that come with the new Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro are much better than the ones that came with our older Breville Air oven, leaving absolutely no confusion about how to set it up and get cookin’ right away
- When it’s pulled down to remove your food, the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro’s door doesn’t graze my countertop so I never worry about it potentially chipping our quartz
- The Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro model now displays which rack position your tray should be in for each cooking function
- The new Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro has a “Rotate Remind” option; you can use this feature to remind you to switch the position of food in the oven for the most consistent, even results
- The Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro is truly a smart appliance, connecting to our smartphones using the Joule Oven app, and it’s been glitch-free from the beginning (which I can’t say about many of our “smart” home connections. More on this below)
About the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro
As I mentioned, the upgraded Breville Air oven still has 13 key cooking functions, but they’re now in a different order on the display:
- Air fry
- Slow Cook
But the key difference with the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro is the integration with the Joule Oven app, which is free on both iOS and Android. It connects you with the folks behind ChefSteps and the makers of Joule’s popular technology. It brings smartphone connectedness, temperature control and the integrated ChefSteps recipes from the app to your oven.
And the best part? Even if you decide that the app isn’t your jam (but you will – trust me on this one), the Breville oven works without any of this smart-home business in play.
Every day from their home base in Seattle, a group of chefs, scientists, writers, photographers and video-makers create and test recipes to create user-friendly content that turns even the most novice cooks to at-home chefs. Pair that with the power of Breville, and it’s a match made in foodie heaven.
Pro Tip: before you start cooking with your Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro from Breville, I strongly recommend lining the crumb tray with some tin foil. Cleaning the crumb tray is one of those easily forgotten tasks and I assure you it will be absolutely disgusting if you don’t do it after every single use (and ain’t no one doing that, except maybe Mrs. Cleaver). The tin foil makes a monthly clean-out quick and easy with a simple replacement.
You don’t need to buy a ChefSteps membership to take advantage of the Joule Oven app’s integration with the platform, because there are recipes built right into the app. In just the three months I’ve been testing out the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro, I’ve seen the recipe catalogue grow by leaps and bounds in the app (download it here). And I’ve never logged into ChefSteps even once.
We have loads of smart-home connectivity in our house – from our outdoor lights and thermostat to our range and laundry set. We’re no strangers to apps like Joule Oven, but I will say this – it’s the first one that hasn’t given me a shred of trouble at any point, from set-up onwards.
Whether you’re a visual learner or prefer to just read directions, the Joule Oven app is ultra-user-friendly technology that offers both – and it might just be the most intuitive new app I’ve ever used. Recipes are truly step by step, and you don’t have to go back to the ingredient list like you do with most online recipes because in the Joule Oven app, the ingredients and the quantities required are listed in each new step, leaving little room for error.
As you progress through a given recipe, a feature called AutoPilot (a.k.a. my kitchen BFF) ensures that Breville’s Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro preheats, automatically changes cooking functions if needed, and even provides “A Bit More” if you want more doneness. With many of the recipes, the using AutoPilot via the Joule Oven app also ensures the oven switches over to “Warm” if you don’t take your food out immediately.
I’ve cooked many, many things now in our Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro – both with and without AutoPilot – and been successful with both. So you definitely don’t need to use the recipes in the app with AutoPilot turned on. But once you discover how easy it is to prepare and cook things like steak, croissants and even S’Mores (yes, S’mores!) with it, I think you’ll find yourself looking for recipes in the app first.
Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro & AutoPilot
I feel like AutoPilot is most effectively explained using an example you can see play out. Let’s use a from-scratch recipe to illustrate why AutoPilot is so freaking amazing.
To really put this oven to the test, I wanted to tackle something I’ve always found too intimidating to try: croissants. Even with all of the sourdough I mastered during the pandemic, I never attempted croissants.
You can search the Joule Oven app for specific recipes or ingredients, or explore categories like beef, poultry, snacks and more. There’s also a “Try these first!” section at the top of the app, with some of the easier recipes to help build confidence. Croissants are not in that section, in case you were wondering…even though these aren’t real, Parisian-style croissants, they still have a number of steps and require more hands-on attention than some fries.
But I needn’t have been so intimidated, because the Joule app version of croissants turned out to be very easy:
Step 1. Open the Joule app and either type “croissants” into the search bar or go to the “Bread/Bake” category and scroll until you find the “Buttery Croissant-Style Crescent Rolls.”
Step 2. Gather ingredients and thumb through each slide in the recipe, such as blooming the yeast, cutting in butter and moving through three sets of folds. Every step of the way, ChefSteps guides you with written instructions and a video walk-through that you can watch on a loop.
Step 3. Start AutoPilot, which will proof your dough at the right temperature for the right amount of time and then start baking and even switch to a quick broil at the end to give the tops of your croissants that extra bit of golden gorgeousness.
Step 4. Stare wide-eyed at your beautiful baked goods and then eat ‘em all!
Did they taste like croissants that were folded 80 times in seven pounds of butter? Of course not. But they also didn’t take two days and $50 worth of butter to make. My family LOVED them; I loved the automation and time-saving approach thanks to AutoPilot. And this is just one example.
What we’ve made in the Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro
Just like before, we use our new Breville Air oven more than our oven range. Here are just a few of the other things we’ve made during our first three months with our favourite do-it-all small baking oven:
Seriously – this is just a sliver of everything we’ve made in our Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro from Breville. We’re so excited to keep exploring.
So, yeah…when it comes to air fryer vs. deep fryer, we are clearly Team Air Fryer!
DISCLAIMER: Breville Canada compensated me for this post. All opinions, ideas and food experiments are my own.