Settling the whole air fryer vs. instant pot debate isn’t easy. Both are designed to cook delicious food, reduce cooking time to the bare minimum and combine a whole bunch of functions into one kitchen appliance. They are both versatile in terms of cooking options, simplifying the process of cooking recipes and meals at the touch of a button.
But assuming you only plan on picking up one of the two, should you go for an air fryer or an instant pot? Is there one of the two that can do everything its counterpart can, and more?
Hot Air Vs. Multifunction
As with most things, choosing between an air fryer and an instant pot is primarily about personal preferences. However, there are major differences between these two appliances in terms of how they work and what types of common foods they are compatible with.
What Is An Air Fryer?
First up, an air fryer is designed to air fry food without using nearly as much oil as a deep fryer. In fact, you can often use an air fryer to cook up fantastic fried food with no oil at all. From French fries to chicken wings (see 'Best Air Fryers for Chicken Wings') to all types of deliciously crispy foods, air frying is an alternative to deep-frying that cuts out the negative health implications, as already explained here.
You can cook foods with ease with an air fryer, but making foods crispy is basically the sole purpose of the device. It can make your favorite meals healthier by reducing the oil required, as hot air circulates in a similar way to a convection oven. But as the basket in an air fryer is perforated, it cannot support liquid ingredients.
What Can You Cook With An Air Fryer?
The list of things you can cook with an air fryer is practically endless. The basket can be used as a grill pan or baking pan for a wide variety of dishes and ingredients, including things like baked potatoes, grilled vegetables, cakes, muffins, fried chicken - see 'Best Air Fryers for Chicken' - and, so on.
Of course, cooking soups or your favorite cheesy bacon casserole may be out of the question due to the perforated basket. That is unless they were first placed in a suitable oven-friendly dish, which you could then place in the air fryer basket to bake.
Pros And Cons Of Air Fryers
In a nutshell, air fryers were invented to make it easier and healthier to enjoy deep-fried foods, with none of the associated mess. They combine a heating element with a fan to blast food with hot air, with different features and functionalities in accordance with different air fryer models.
What Is An Instant Pot?
The term ‘instant pot’ doesn’t really do these fascinating appliances any justice. For one thing, instant pots aren’t actually ‘instant’ in any way. They cook food quickly, but instantaneous preparation of meals really isn’t a thing.
In any case, the versatility of an instant pot can be quite remarkable. This one single cooking pot can be used to replace any number of essential kitchen appliances. It can work as an electric pressure cooker, a convenient slow cooker, a precision rice cooker, and so much more besides. Some can even be used to prepare stir-fry foods and (to some extent) work in a similar way to an air fryer.
Not to mention a long list of special instant pot recipes designed around these devices.
What Can You Cook With An Instant Pot?
It’s probably easier to consider what types of foods you can’t cook in an instant pot. With such a huge range of features and functionalities, almost any instant pot model can be used to prepare just about anything.
Popular instant pot recipes vary from soups to stews to casseroles to pot roasts and so much more besides. They can be used to bake, roast, poach, steam, and pressure cook just about anything to perfection.
The mechanism uses the steam from the ingredients to create a high-pressure environment inside the pot, using hot pressure to cook ingredients quickly and evenly. In-built safety features ensure the pressure never reaches dangerous levels, releasing hot steam as required to keep things balanced.
Pros And Cons Of Instant Pot
The versatility of an instant pot is unrivaled, in terms of the number of appliances it can replace and the functions it can perform. Nevertheless, there are limitations to all instant pots, as there are with all cooking appliances.
Air Fryer Vs. Instant Pot: A Roundup of Key Points
By now, you’ve probably figured out that there is no obvious answer to the question. Choosing between an air fryer and an instant pot is all about deciding what works for you personally.
Preparing veggie soup for a large family (check out 'Best Air Fryer for Family of 4') is a breeze with an instant pot, but the taste of crispy French fries from an air fryer is unbeatable.
Hence, it’s a case of considering the most important attributes of both, in order to help you make the right choice.
Here’s a Brief Overview of Key Points to Keep in Mind:
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: Size
An air fryer makes a compact and convenient addition to the kitchen, whereas instant pots tend to be significantly larger. But there are always exceptions to the rule in both instances – some air fryers can be bigger than their instant pot counterparts.
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: Versatility
There’s really no disputing how a good instant pot can be exponentially more versatile than a comparable air fryer. However, even the very best devices on the air fryer market are designed primarily or exclusively for dry frying – not the same long list of food preparation methods as an instant pot.
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: Cooking Times
It’s more or less a dead heat here. On the one hand, you could say that the typical air fryer heats up and is ready to use much faster than any pressure cooker. Heated air is circulated almost instantly after turning it on, and you can use air fryers without having to preheat them.
By contrast, instant pots and pressure cookers can take longer to preheat. Though after reaching the correct temperature, an instant pot could cook the food inside faster. Therefore, there’s no real difference between the two – it all depends entirely on what you are cooking.
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: Price
You can spend as much or as little as you like on either device. A decent instant pot or air fryer can be picked up for no more than around $100 – take a look at 'Best Air Fryer Under 100' bucks. But if you want to step up to something more powerful and versatile, you can easily spend double or triple this.
Compared like for like, an air fryer would usually be the cheaper of the two appliances to bring into the kitchen. Though again, it depends entirely on the brand and model of the device in question.
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: User Friendliness
With both devices, you need absolutely no cooking skills whatsoever to cook fantastic meals with ease. The only difference is that with an instant pot, there is a slightly steeper initial learning curve. This is simply due to the fact that there are more cooking functions to get to grips with, of which most can be activated at the touch of a button.
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: Safety
It’s extremely rare to come across instant pots or air fryers that are not loaded with essential safety features. This may include things like cool-touch exteriors, pressure vents, and plenty of other things to protect you and your family from harm.
Safety should always be your priority when shopping for an appliance of any kind.
Instant Pot or Air Fryer: Durability
The durability and longevity of any device will be determined by its all-around quality. Some air fryers are designed to work flawlessly for years, whereas others show signs of wear after just a few months. The same can also be said for instant pots, which in terms of quality and durability vary significantly from one make and model to the next.
Again, this is something you will need to look into before deciding on a product to purchase. Use customer reviews and recommendations to find out which pots and fryers are built to last.
Which Is Better: Air Fryers Or Instant Pots?
Once again, declaring an outright winner is practically impossible. It is entirely up to you to decide what you will be cooking, how you will be cooking it, and for how many people.
For example, if you absolutely adore the taste of fried foods but want to cook meals that are much healthier, air frying is for you. If you’re a huge fan of things like fried chicken and potatoes, you’ll get a ton of use out of your machine.
By contrast, an instant pot is ideal for anyone looking to experiment with a wide variety of different dishes. Not to mention, replace several essential appliances with one all-in-one unit.
And for the best of both worlds, why not buy both?