Big Box Reviews
Air Fryer Guide: Countertop vs built-in
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
By now most people have heard of air fryers. They're so mainstream that even Drew Barrymore makes an air fryer now. They allow for a healthy alternative to deep frying that everyone can get behind. The increase in popularity of these devices brings up some questions though, especially if you own a convection range or oven. Many brands actually sell built-in wall ovens and freestanding ranges that already have an air fry setting incorporated. So is there really a difference?
Convection vs Air Fry
Convection is basically just an oven with a fan in the cavity to move the air around. Think of it like when you blow on hot food to cool it faster, but instead the fan blows hot air to heat food more quickly.
There are two kinds of convection, traditional convection (also known as American convection) and true convection (also known as European convection). The big difference is that traditional convection ovens just have a fan, whereas true convection ovens include an additional heating element behind the fan to heat the air before blowing.
At it's core, air fry is basically a countertop true convection oven. While the name air fry is new, the basic technology has been used by professional chefs in commercial kitchens for years to help with consistent browning of food and decreased cooking times.
Countertop vs built-in air fry
Time to preheat
Built-in ovens with any form of convection will preheat faster than those without, but the real winner in this category is the countertop air fryer. The smaller size means less air to heat, leading to incredibly fast preheating. The small space also leads to faster cook times than the built in models.
The built-in has the edge here. A larger oven cavity means that you will be able to cook enough food for several people at once. Definitely better that cooking multiple batches and constantly having to empty the basket.
This one is a toss up. Most full sized built-in ovens will have a self clean cycle, but the better ones now have steam clean as well, which uses steam to clean the oven cavity at a lower temperature so your house doesn't stink like burning food for hours.
On the other hand, a countertop model typically has a removable basket that can be taken out and cleaned easily.
One of the biggest benefits of a built-in oven with an air fryer is that you remove some countertop clutter. For kitchens with a lot of appliances it is always nice to combine two and save space.
Countertop models are significantly cheaper and easier to replace. There are entry level models available for less than $100, which is a great way to try an air fryer if you have never used one, without committing to a major appliance purchase.
The bottom line
Air fryers are becoming popular because they are a great way to get the benefits of frying without the health issues and danger of boiling oil. Whether a built-in or counter top model is better for you depends on your needs, but hopefully this guide helps.
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