What Does An Air Fryer Do That An Oven Doesn’t (Discover Differences)

What Does An Air Fryer Do That An Oven Doesn’t

Chances are you’ve heard the air fryer hype. These cylindrical countertop wonders promise all the crispy crunch of fried faves like chicken wings and french fries without the oil, grease, and guilt. Air fryers are having a major moment, but are they really better than your tried and true oven?

As someone who loves cooking, I was curious to find out. I’ve experimented with air frying and standard oven cooking to compare the pros and cons. After putting both appliances through their paces, I have some thoughts to share on which is best for different types of meals.

In this article, I’ll break down what air fryers actually do, their benefits over ovens, and where they fall short. I’ll also give my tips on when to use an air fryer versus when your oven is the better bet. Whether you already own both or are deciding which to purchase, let’s dive into this showdown between two kitchen all-stars!

What is an Air Fryer and How Does It Work?

Air fryers are small countertop convection ovens that use a concentrated blast of hot air to cook food quickly and crisp the exterior. A heating element and high-powered fan circulate air up to 400°F around food at high velocity. This rapid air circulation closely mimics the results of deep frying. The difference is air fryers require little to no oil since the food is not submerged. Models range from 2-7 quarts in capacity.

Benefits of Air Fryers:

Oil-free cooking:  Air frying reduces calories and fat by up to 80% compared to deep frying. It’s a healthier cooking method.

Quick cooking times: The powerful airflow cooks food 2-3x faster than an oven. Most foods take only 10-20 minutes.

Delicious crispiness: The concentrated hot air flow creates a crispy fried texture on chicken, fries, tots, and more.

Easy cleaning: Minimal oil means less splatter and simpler cleanup. The basket is removable and dishwasher-safe.

Compact size: Designed for countertops, air fryers have a small footprint perfect for small kitchens.

Downsides of Air Fryers:

Small capacity:  The compact chamber fits just 2-5 servings of food at once. You may need to cook in batches.

Can’t roast:  Air fryers lack the ambient heat needed to evenly roast meats and vegetables.

Limitations:  Air fryers excel at air frying but can’t bake, broil or slow cook like an oven.

Batter Issues:  Thick batters like fried chicken don’t get as crispy; a deep fryer works better.

When is an Air Fryer Your Best Choice?

Air fryers really shine for cooking smaller portions of popular crispy foods. They are the better choice for:

  • Making snacks like fries, tater tots, chicken wings, and frozen apps for 1-3 people
  • Quick weeknight meals like fish fillets, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and chicken fingers
  • Reheating leftovers like pizza slices, mozzarella sticks, and potato skins
  • Cooking frozen convenience foods like nuggets, fritters, and potato pancakes 

The Benefits of Using a Full-Sized Oven

While air fryers are great for small batches, ovens have advantages for larger meals and more complex cooking:

Generous capacity: Ovens hold multiple racks of food or pans for family-sized meals.

Versatility:  Ovens bake, roast, broil, slow cook, and more using various heating modes.

Baking: For pizza, bread, casseroles, and more, an oven provides the ambient heat needed.

Self-cleaning: High heat burns off residue to simplify cleaning the large cavity. 

Multi-level cooking:  Unlike air fryers, ovens allow cooking on different racks at once.

When Should You Use Your Oven Instead?

Ovens remain the best choice for:

  • Baking pieces of bread, cakes, cookies, casseroles or pizza
  • Roasting whole chickens, pork roasts, or sheet pans of vegetables
  • Broiling steaks, chops, and seafood
  • Making a meal for more than 3 people
  • Slow-cooking stews, braises, and pot roasts
  •  Crisping foods coated in the thick batter prior to frying 

For the Best of Both, Have an Air Fryer and Oven

The optimal setup is owning both appliances so you can leverage the advantages of each. Use the air fryer for smaller crispy foods and the oven for larger meals and specialized baking. The combination allows you to fry, bake, roast, broil, and more.


Can you bake in an air fryer?

Air fryers don’t work well as a substitute for an oven when baking. They lack the ambient heat needed for even dough and batter rising. Stick to oven baking for best results.

Is an air fryer just a small convection oven? 

Essentially yes, but air fryers use a much more powerful fan and concentrated hot air flow specifically to mimic fried texture.

Can you roast a chicken in an air fryer?

It’s not recommended. Air fryers don’t have enough space or ambient heat distribution to properly roast a whole bird. Use your oven instead.

Is it better to bake, broil, or air fry chicken wings?

Air fryers make the crispiest chicken wings with the least amount of oil. Broiling in the oven is second best. Baked wings won’t get as crispy on the outside.

Can you cook a pizza in an air fryer?

You can cook frozen pizza bites or rolls in an air fryer, but air fryers don’t work well for making full-fresh pizzas. Use your oven for the best homemade pizza.


For even crisping and crunching with less guilt, air fryers can’t be beaten. I love how air frying makes snacks and small portions come out perfectly golden and delicious using little to no oil.

However, when it comes to family-sized meals, baking, roasting, broiling, or cooking with lots of liquid, my trusty oven still rules. 

The best solution in my book is having both an air fryer and a traditional oven on hand. Use the air fryer for quicker weeknight bites for 1-3 people and the oven when you’re cooking larger quantities or need more versatility. Keep air frying for crispy wings, fries, and nuggets, but utilize your oven for everything from pizza night to Sunday pot roasts. 

Owning both appliances allows you to leverage the strengths of each. With an air fryer and oven ready for action, you can be prepared to cook just about anything life craves!

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