Air fryer vs deep fryer – which should you buy this Black Friday?

We see how these appliances measure up against one another

Three of the best dual zone air fryers on Ideal Home style background
(Image credit: Future)

Are you deciding whether to buy an air fryer vs a deep fryer this Black Friday? Air fryers are currently the star of the show but deep fryers, although having fallen out of favour in recent years, have been cooking up a storm of our favourite fried treats for decades.

The best air fryers are currently the ultimate in small appliances. Not only are they energy efficient, but they also cut down on cooking times by around 20% when compared with oven cooking. The best deep-fat fryers are still a must-have in any pro kitchen, especially if you want to nail your homemade doughnut recipe or batter just about anything to crisp perfection.

You'll come across some great Black Friday deals on both types of fryers, so which should you bag? We look at a few factors worth considering including price, clean-up, and healthiness.

At Ideal Home, we've reviewed a wealth of air fryers and deep fryers, so we're in a good place to advise you on what to buy.

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer is a mini convection oven that uses circulating hot air to cook a variety of foods, including chips, veggies, meat and fish.

A lot of air fryers can be multi-functional too. One of our top-rated air fryers, the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer can air fry, roast, bake, reheat, dehydrate and grill foods, meaning that you can cook anything from chips to cakes.

The one thing air fryers aren't so great at? Foods covered in a batter or a glaze, due to the way the heat in the oven works, and the design of the grill plate that you rest your food on (liquid just seeps through the gaps). That can make traditional batter and sauce-based recipes a no-go.

Image of Ninja Dual Zone air fryer during testing at test centre

(Image credit: Future/Millie Fender)

Plus, the new generation of air fryers can be switched from a large single-drawer model to a dual-zone air fryer thanks to new clever designs. 

If you need more space, Ninja and Instant have released excellent examples which are included in our guide to the best air fryers for a family of four, including the Ninja Foodi FlexDrawer Air fryer

What is a deep fryer?

As a household staple for decades, the deep-fat fryer fills a culinary hole that an air fryer simply can not. Anything with a wet batter like beer-battered fish or tempura vegetables needs to be deep-fried, and a deep-fat fryer is a much easier and safer option than a saucepan on the hob.

Controlling the temperature of the oil is a must when deep frying as it impacts the colour and crispness of the foods you’re cooking and it’s difficult to maintain steady oil temperatures if you try your hand at deep frying on the hob. Deep fat fryers, however, have inbuilt thermostats, so you can set the temperature dial and get on with preparing the rest of your meal.

deep fried chips inside a Delonghi deep fat fryer

(Image credit: Future PLC)

You won't need to worry about how much oil to add as most deep fat fryers have clearly defined maximum lines for oil, so there’s no danger you’ll add too much. Plus, removing and draining foods is easy with the in-built frying baskets.

One major downside to a deep-fat fryer is the dreaded whiff it leaves in the kitchen after use. Most newer versions come with filters in the lids (with varying degrees of effectiveness of course), designed to minimise this off-putting aroma.

One of the most popular models is the De'Longhi Traditional Deep Fat Fryer which with its streamlined look and easy-to-clean system can hold up to four portions of deliciously chip-shop-style chips. Our reviewer Helen found that it was the best at containing the frying smells too so we think it's well worth the extra spend for this reason alone.

Ninja dual zone with fries

(Image credit: QVC)

Air fryer vs deep fryer: Which is easier to clean?

Luckily most of the air fryers and deep fryers we have tested have removable inserts, which makes them easy enough to clean. If you have the ability to chuck things into the dishwasher, quite a few of the fried and tested fryers' inserts are dishwasher-safe. 

If you don't have a dishwasher, most of the air fryers and deep fryer components often have non-stick coatings so they are also easily cleaned by hand using soapy water. 

The main thing to remember is that if you have a preference for either handwashing or using a dishwasher, just be sure to check the specifications of any model you're thinking of buying.

Image of Tower air fryer tray being cleaned

(Image credit: Future/Molly Cleary)

However, the most common bugbear with deep fryers is the oil, which puts air fryers ahead in the cleaning stakes. Oil is tough to clean and when it's hot, it will likely spit onto your surfaces. You'll also need to wait for it to cool before disposing or storing it. You'll also find there will be oil sitting on your food after cooking, so you’ll need to soak up the excess with kitchen roll.

Air fryers are therefore the perfect choice for busy households when it comes to the clearing up involved. Make sure you know how to clean an air fryer so that you can keep yours in tip-top condition.

Air fryer vs deep fryer: Which is healthier?

With the many healthy air fryer ideas out there, it's safe to say that air fryers are deemed the healthier option over deep fryers. If you need more convincing, the extra oil needed for deep fryers means more calories and higher cholesterol.

'There’s a big difference between air fryers and fat fryers – air fryers don’t actually fry your food, ' explains Thea Whyte, small appliances expert at 'They use fast-spreading hot air instead, which means you don’t need extra oil to get those delicious meals cooked to perfection.' 

'And when you do need a drop of oil for that crispy finish, it’ll be far less than a traditional fat fryer, so your dishes will be a lot healthier and just as tasty.'

Testing the Instant Vortex 4 in 1 at home

(Image credit: Future)

Which is more affordable?

The two things to consider when it comes to affordability are initial cost and long-term price to run. 

On the face of it, unless you're opting for a premium deep-fat fryer, an entry-level air fryer will probably cost more. However, there are quite a few top-rated air fryers for under £100 like the Instant Vortex 4-in-1 Digital Air Fryer. In comparison, you can pick up a good, compact deep fat fryer for as little as £25 like the Progress EK2969P Compact Deep Fat Fryer.

However, with all the different cooking modes available with an air fryer, you can use it to substitute a number of different appliances, like a microwave or even the best multi-cooker. Whereas deep fryers have one job. And by doing that job you'll need to consider the amount of oil you'll need if you use it a lot. 

And how much does it cost to run an air fryer? If you switch your cooking from a conventional oven to an air fryer, you'll be using less energy and your bills will subsequently go down. 

breakfast kitchen cabinet with microwave and toaster by two windows

(Image credit: Martin Moore)

Air fryer vs deep fryer - which should you pick?

So, which should you buy? Well, deep fryers are really helpful to have in your culinary arsenal because they tend not to cost much and when you want perfectly crisp, chip-shop chips, they are the ultimate go-to appliance. However, they're a lot of effort to use and clean, while also not being the healthiest of options.

Air fryers, on the other hand, can cook so much more and require a lot less setup, and maintenance. Plus overall they are easier to clean with minimal faff so they are the perfect appliance for busy households. And the best part? They don't require nearly as much oil, making them a lot healthier to use on a daily basis.

How we compared these products

At Ideal Home, we know that how we test products is really important, as it enables you to trust the opinions we give. That's why we've included links here to reviews of various air fryers and deep fryers, so you can read up for yourself on what makes them so great (and not so great, sometimes). 

We test as many air fryers and deep fryers as we can at home or at our test centre in Reading. Often, we will test products out for a number of weeks or even months before we come to a verdict. Below, you can read more about who tested the products featured here.

Molly Cleary
Molly Cleary

Molly is the Ecommerce Editor for Ideal Home and writes about all things air fryer-related for the site. She regularly visits Future's Test Facility in Reading to thoroughly put products through their paces, as well as testing products out at home.

Millie Fender

Millie was previously the Head of Reviews for Ideal Home, working to ensure that the products we feature have been thoroughly tested before we recommend them to you. 

Image of Helen McCue, Freelance Contirbutor
Helen McCue

After completing a Home Economics degree, Helen went on to work for the Good Housekeeping Institute and has been reviewing home appliances ever since. She lives in a small village in Buckinghamshire in the UK.

Hopefully this has helped you come to your decision about whether an air fryer or a deep fryer is right for you and your needs. 

Jenny McFarlane
Senior Digital Editor

Jenny is Senior Digital Editor and joined the team in 2021, working across Ideal Home, Real Homes, Homes & Gardens, Livingetc and Gardeningetc. Since getting on the property ladder, her passion for interior design and gardening has taken on a new lease of life. She loves collecting and salvaging unique items (much to her other half's despair) but sniffing out stylish home bargains is her one true love. When she has a spare minute, she loves to do a spot of crafting, having studied textiles at university – although she hardly gets the chance with her daughters keeping her permanently on her toes.