Comparing Instant Pots to air fryers
You’ve undoubtedly heard rave reviews about Instant Pots and air fryers. It’s true that both appliances bring tremendous advantages to the kitchen, but if you’re debating which one to buy, it helps to understand the pros and cons of each so you can select the one that best aligns with your cooking goals.
Instant Pot basics
An Instant Pot is a multitasking wonder. You can perform many different cooking functions with an Instant Pot, such as roasting meat, steaming rice, sauteing vegetables and simmering soup. Basic Instant Pots have seven functions; advanced Instant Pots have 10 or more functions.
Instant Pot pros
Instant Pots come in a range of sizes, from as small as 3 quarts to as large as 8 quarts, making them suitable for families. Frozen ingredients do not need to be defrosted first, which is helpful when you’re trying to fit dinnertime into a busy evening schedule.
The fact that Instant Pots are made of durable stainless steel is another time-saver, as the unit is easy to clean, and the interior pot can be placed in the dishwasher. If you’re struggling to choose between an Instant Pot and an air fryer, note that some Instant Pots have an air frying function, eliminating the need to purchase a separate air fryer. However, Instant Pots with air-frying functionality usually cost more than basic Instant Pots.
Instant Pot cons
It's notable that, in spite of the word “instant” in the name, food is not instantly ready to eat once thrown in an Instant Pot. It takes time for pressure to build within the pot, and after a long wait, some buyers have questioned why they didn’t just use traditional kitchen equipment. Further, a few buyers have noted an inconsistent performance among the presets. For example, a preset may overcook your meal one evening, but not another.
What can you cook in an instant pot?
Hand-in-hand with functionality is the type of food you can cook with each appliance. Here are some delicious recipes you can make with an Instant Pot.
- Use the sauté function to make savory chicken alfredo
- Use the steam function to make moist banana cake
- Use the pressure cooker and sauté functions to make a hearty pot roast
- Use the pressure cooker and sauté functions to make vegetable stew
- Use the pressure cooker function to create a quick apple crisp
- Use the slow cooker function to make fudge brownies
- Use the yogurt function to make homemade yogurt
- Use the air fryer function to make crispy French fries
- Use the rice function to prepare garlic and herb rice
Bear in mind that not all Instant Pots have all the aforementioned functions. If you choose to buy an Instant Pot, make sure the model you select has the functions your favorite recipes require.
Some of our favorite Instant Pot products also act as air fryers. For example, the Instant Vortex 4-in-1 can air fry, reheat, roast and bake foods, and the price is not excessive. The Instant Vortex Pro 9-in-1 Air Fryer Oven is a more advanced machine. For a bit more money, it can also toast, broil, proof, dehydrate and act as a rotisserie.
Best Instant Pots
This deluxe Instant Pot offers 11 cooking functions, including an air frying function. It is valued for its powerful heating element, which prepares food quickly, and its built-in safety features that make pressure cooking (and all other functions) a rewarding experience.
Instant Pot 7-in-1: available at Amazon
If you’re looking for a low-cost Instant Pot, we suggest the 7-in-1. It retails for around $100, but because it’s a customer favorite, it is often on sale. Choose between several capacities (3, 6, or 8 quarts), and enjoy the use of seven cooking functions and 14 presets.
Air fryer basics
An air fryer can make crispy, delicious food with little to no oil — most recipes require a tablespoon of oil or less. Instead, an air fryer employs convection technology to constantly circulate hot air around food. It’s a healthy alternative to deep-frying for people who want to trim fat from their diet without giving up their favorite crunchy, fried foods. In addition to “frying,” some air fryers can be used to steam, roast, reheat and bake.
Air fryer pros
The majority of air fryers hold between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds of food, which translates to two to four servings. This makes them suitable for couples and smaller households — unless you are okay with cooking in batches or paying a bit more for a larger air fryer with a 3-pound capacity.
Many air fryers have divided baskets so you can cook two types of food at once. For example, if you want to air fry chicken nuggets and breaded dill pickles at the exact same time, you can do so. This broadens your options, but bear in mind that the quantity of each type of food will be smaller if you subdivide your interior cooking space. Notably, the fry basket and other parts of an air fryer are typically made of nonstick material that is easy to clean.
Busy families like the fact that air fryers heat up quickly. For most recipes, there is no need to preheat the machine, so you can add in your ingredients and serve them soon thereafter. And let’s not forget the fact that you can enjoy healthy versions of your favorite “fried” foods without the oil of traditional deep frying. Some air fryers capture and drain excess fat from food for an even healthier eating experience.
Air fryer cons
Although frozen food can be prepared in an air fryer — a welcome convenience after a long day at work or school — the cooking time may need to be extended. Food prepared in an air fryer will be dryer than food prepared in a deep fryer, and some air fryers have a maximum temperature of 360 degrees.
What can you cook in an air fryer?
While an air fryer does not offer as many functions as an Instant Pot, the possibilities are still numerous. Here are just a few items you can prepare in an air fryer.
- Crunchy chicken wings
- Breaded white fish filets
- Air-fried salmon and broccoli
- Teriyaki strip steak
- Crispy egg rolls
- Twice-baked potatoes
- Brussels sprouts with olive oil and garlic
- Toasted s’mores
- Cinnamon and sugar churros
Best air fryers
Philips AirFryer XXL: available at Bed Bath & Beyond
The sleek and user-friendly Philips AirFryer XXL is a customer favorite that can prepare 2 pounds of food at once. Food is crispy on the outside and delicious on the inside. You can also use it to bake, grill, dehydrate, toast and roast foods.
If you want an air fryer but don’t want to invest a lot, the Dash air fryer is a no-frills option that holds 2 quarts of food and operates through a dial control. It’s available in several fun colors and makes a great gift for yourself or someone else.
Which should you choose?
At first glance, Instant Pots appear to offer more functions and therefore more variety. You may be intrigued by scrumptious entrees that can be prepared using the sauté and pressure cooker function, or you may be interested in learning more about delicious desserts you can bake using the steam function. With all of this functionality comes a learning curve, but if your goal is to plan and prepare entrees to feed a family, an Instant Pot would be right at home in your kitchen.
An air fryer offers a great deal of functionality, too — especially if you purchase an advanced air fryer with multiple settings. What’s more, an air fryer gives you the option of recreating your favorite deep-fried recipes without all the fat and calories. If you’re interested in preparing sides, snacks and low-fat fried-like entrees for a smaller group of people (or a larger group, working in batches), an air fryer is an apt choice.
Melissa Nott is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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