Do I Need An Air Fryer If I Have An Instant Pot? Complete Comparison

Do I Need An Air Fryer If I Have An Instant Pot

If you share my passion for discovering innovative kitchen tools that simplify and enhance the cooking process, you’ve likely noticed the surge in popularity of air fryers and Instant Pots. These two appliances have recently become staples in domestic kitchens, renowned for their rapid cooking capabilities and ability to produce tasty dishes. The question arises, though: is it beneficial to own both, or does having just one suffice?

I used to ask myself this same question. As someone with a tiny apartment kitchen, counter space is precious real estate. I already loved my Instant Pot for quick weeknight meals. Did I really need another bulky appliance like the air fryer?

After doing some research and comparisons, I realized the air fryer wasn’t just a fancy version of my Instant Pot. Each appliance actually works differently and excels at different tasks. Once I understood their unique strengths, I decided adding an air fryer to my lineup was well worth it. 

Let me walk you through what I learned about the key differences between Instant Pots and air fryers. I’ll also share when having both can be useful versus when one may be sufficient.

The Crispy Magic of Air Fryers

First, let’s talk air fryers. I know the name is a little misleading – air fryers don’t actually fry anything. Instead, they use super hot air to mimic the taste and texture of fried food without all the oil.

Here’s a quick rundown of what air fryers do:

  • Circulate scorching hot air around the food at high speeds to cook and crisp the exterior
  • Produce crispy “fried” results with little to no oil needed
  • Excel at making food super crunchy like french fries, chicken wings, fish sticks, etc. 
  • Cook foods very quickly thanks to intense heat blasting from all sides
  • Come in small sizes perfect for apartments or dorm rooms 

So in a nutshell, air fryers use targeted hot air to make food crispy. Their specialty is guaranteed crunch.

The Magic of the Instant Pot

Now let’s look at the Instant Pot. Unlike the air fryer, this is actually a multifunctional electric pressure cooker. Here are its key features:

  • Uses pressurized steam to cook food up to 70% faster than normal
  • Makes tough meats and beans tender and cooks food throughout 
  • Has settings like pressure cooking, slow cooking, steaming, sautéing, and more
  • Available in larger sizes perfect for big batches or meal prepping
  • Includes safety features like overheating protection 

The Instant Pot takes a different approach to fast cooking by using pressurized steam instead of hot air. This lets it cook food all the way through while also softening tough ingredients.

Head-to-Head Comparison

Now that you understand the core functions of each appliance, let’s directly compare them:

  • Air fryers excel at creating crispy, crunchy exteriors on foods. Instant Pots don’t brown or crisp nearly as well.
  • Instant Pots use pressure to thoroughly cook meats and stews. Air fryers only cook smaller pieces or foods needing a crispy outside.
  • Air fryers work best for fries, chicken wings, fish sticks, roasted veggies, etc. Instant Pots are more versatile.
  • Instant Pots require liquid to pressurize. Air fryers can cook more freely without oil or water.
  • Air fryers cook small batches of food very quickly. Larger Instant Pots are better for big batches. 
  • Both can make some recipes like fried chicken, but get different results based on their technologies.
  • Instant Pots are more versatile while air fryers specialize in crisping.

As you can see, the Instant Pot uses an entirely different cooking method than the air fryer. While both can cook food fast, the air fryer is specially designed for crisping in ways the Instant Pot isn’t.

When Having Both Makes Sense

Now we’ve gotten to the real question – is it worth having both appliances or is the Instant Pot enough? 

In general, the Instant Pot is plenty sufficient for most people’s cooking needs. However, if you cook a lot of traditionally “fried” foods and want that amazing crunch, the air fryer can be a game changer. 

Here are some examples of when I think owning both appliances is worthwhile:

  • You cook fried chicken, french fries, fish sticks, etc. all the time. That’s where the air fryer shines.
  • You make big-batch meals in your Instant Pot but also need to quickly “fry” small side dishes. 
  • You want to use them together, like cooking meat in the Instant Pot and then getting crispy skin in the air fryer. 
  • You have room on your counters for another appliance and would use the air fryer often.

For me, even as a small space dweller, buying the air fryer was worth it. I use it several times a week to make chicken wings, Brussels sprouts, and other dishes with crispy edges. It perfectly complements one-pot meals from my Instant Pot.

When to Skip the Air Fryer 

On the other hand, here are some cases where I think the Instant Pot may be enough on its own:

  • You mostly cook large batches like big cuts of meat, soups, or stews. Instant Pots excel here.
  • You don’t fry foods that often and are happy without crispy edges.
  • Your kitchen is very cramped and you need more room for another appliance.
  • Most recipes you cook day-to-day don’t require an air fryer’s specialized talents. 

The Instant Pot does an amazing job with steaming, braising, meal prepping, and more. For many home cooks’ needs, it can be the only device needed for fast and delicious dinners. 


Can you air fry foods in an Instant Pot?

No, the Instant Pot cannot properly air-fry ingredients. The sealed lid and internal pot don’t allow air to circulate like an air fryer. You may get slightly crispy results for some foods, but it won’t be nearly as crunchy as a real air fryer.

Which makes better french fries – an air fryer or Instant Pot?

Hands down, the air fryer will make better french fries every time! The intense hot air circulation cooks them to crispy, golden perfection on the outside while keeping them fluffy inside. Fries never get truly crispy in the Instant Pot.

Can you pressure cook or steam foods in an air fryer?

Nope, air fryers don’t have the ability to pressurize internally like Instant Pots. Air fryers simply blow around hot air – they can’t deeply cook meats or perform other Instant Pot functions beyond crisping.

Is it worth having both appliances in my kitchen?

It depends on how often you cook certain types of food! For fried food lovers, having an air fryer in addition to the Instant Pot can be awesome. They complement each other when used creatively. But for many others, just the Instant Pot may suffice on its own.

Should I get an air fryer or Instant Pot if I only have room for one? 

If your kitchen space is limited, I’d recommend starting with the Instant Pot. It can perform so many tricks beyond air frying. Unless you cook fried foods all the time, the Instant Pot is probably the more versatile choice for a single appliance.


Hopefully, this comparison has helped show the distinct strengths of air fryers and Instant Pots. Here’s my takeaway advice:

The Instant Pot works excellently on its own for many pressure cooking and one-pot meals. But air fryers have a very specific purpose they’re engineered for – getting food crispy and crunchy. 

Think about your favorite recipes, cooking habits, and kitchen space. For fried food fanatics like me, buying an air fryer to pair with my Instant Pot gave me the best of both worlds. But you may be happy with just the Instant Pot if you only fry food sometimes.

Understanding their unique capabilities allows you to make the right choice for your needs. That’s how I decided adding the air fryer to my kitchen lineup was worthwhile, and I’ve never looked back since!

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