The Difference Between Air Fryers and Pressure Cookers

by Véronique Raymond
Air Fryer vs Pressure Cooker: What's The Difference?

With the popularity of both air fryers and pressure cookers, you may be wondering what the difference is between these two countertop kitchen appliances.

An electric pressure cooker and electric air fryer have a few things in common, such as their need for electricity, but they have a lot of differences too.

The right appliance for you will depend on a lot of factors, so let’s get into the what’s and how’s and pros and cons of these two cookers.

Air Fryer vs Pressure Cooker: What's The Difference?

 

What Is An Air Fryer?

An air fryer is essentially a countertop convection oven. It uses a heating element and fan to circulate hot air around the foods you put inside.

It is similar to deep-frying in that it can still produce crispy fried foods, but it uses a lot less oil and has a number of health benefits over deep fryers.

It is a highly versatile machine that can be used to cook everything from French fries to chicken wings to fried chicken, and most deep-fried foods you can think of.

What Is A Pressure Cooker?

A pressure cooker uses trapped steam and a lot of pressure to cook the foods you put inside. The high temperature and high pressure work together to cook food.

Pressure cookers are commonly used for meals such as soups and stews, but they can also be used as a rice cooker, sous vide machine, yogurt maker, and more.

Pressure cookers are multicookers at their best, and they also have a lot of benefits over a slow cooker because they can cook your meals a lot faster than traditional methods.

Pressure cookers began as stovetop machines, but they are a countertop’s best friend now.

Functions of Air Fryers vs. Pressure Cookers

Both air fryers and pressure cookers can have a number of functions and cooking methods depending on how they are designed.

Many of these products are designed as multi-functional machines, rather than just for pressure-cooking or air frying.

The potential functions for an air fryer include reheating, dehydrating, air frying, baking, and all of the typical functions of a toaster oven.

The potential functions for a pressure cooker include browning/saute machines, steaming, roasting, stewing, boiling, poaching, and braising. They can also be used as sous vide cookers.

Is An Instant Pot a Pressure Cooker or Air Fryer?

This is a tricky question. When people think of an Instant Pot, they think of the starting lineup of pressure cookers. And it is true, Instant Pot as a brand makes many models of pressure cookers.

However, they also make air fryers and multi cookers, so there is no decisive yes or no answer to this question. Some Instant Pot products are pressure cookers, some are air fryers, and some combine functions from both product types.

If you’re looking for an Instant Pot pressure cooker and air fryer combo, we recommend the Instant Pot Duo Crisp.

It has two types of lids, one with a sealing gasket (pressure cooker lid) and one without (air fryer lid), to give you all the functionality of both pressure cookers and air fryers in a single machine.

What Can Be Made In A Pressure Cooker vs. Air Fryer?

Both pressure cookers and air fryers can be used to cook a lot of different foods, and the options are almost limitless in their multi-cooker versions.

Traditionally, pressure cookers are used for meals such as stew, soup, and large cuts of meat such as a roast. They are also effective yogurt makers and sous vide cookers.

Air fryers are the healthier alternative for deep-fried foods such as fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, and more. However, they can also be used with other types of food such as chicken breasts/thighs/wings, steaks, pizza, and more.

Since they function very similarly to conventional ovens, they can cook most of the things that an oven can.

To get a better idea of what each machine can offer you, we recommend looking up some popular pressure cooker recipes and air fryer recipes to see what catches your eye.

Recipe books can even be purchase on Amazon to help you get started when you choose a new machine, so don’t let their versatility and novelty intimidate you.

Pros and Cons of Pressure Cookers

Air Fryer vs Pressure Cooker: What's The Difference?

Pros

  • Stainless steel bowl is highly durable and easy to clean
  • Cuts cooking time down to 2/3 of the time it would take in traditional cookers.
  • Entire meals even for a large family can be cooked in a single pot; less mess means more time for the things that matter
  • Thanks to the way a pressure cooker works, almost all of the nutrients in your foods are retained, providing a healthier meal
  • There are a number of safety features in place such as temperature regulation and locking lids that keep everyone safe; no more flying lids when the pressure gets too high
  • Flavour is preserved during cooking, so your meals will always taste rich and delicious, the way they are meant to be

Cons

  • The hot steam can be harmful if it is not released properly
  • The cooking process doesn’t provide a lot of versatility in terms of food types that are compatible
  • Every ingredient has to be cooked for the same amount of time; unless it can be cooked the exact same way, you’ll still have to use additional pots and pans
  • You aren’t able to check on the food during cooking, so achieving the right level of doneness or seasoning may take more trial and error than you are used to
  • Overcooking is a common and easy mistake to make even as an experienced pressure-cooker user

Pros and Cons of Air Fryers

Air Fryer vs Pressure Cooker: What's The Difference?

Pros

  • They are a much healthier way to get crispy foods that traditionally required a soak in a deep fryer’s boiling oil
  • Cooks very evenly without the need to flip foods halfway through, though it is still recommended
  • The amount of oil needed is almost negligible, so you’ll save time on cleanup and money on supplies
  • Reaches temperature quickly and can often be used without preheating
  • Smaller capacity means your food will cook a lot faster than in your oven
  • Very easy to use, not as much room for error as with pressure cookers (one of their main differences)
  • Highly versatile for different food types

Cons

  • They are fairly bulky on the countertop and may be difficult to store
  • You must avoid overcrowding the basket if you want the food to cook properly, so if you’re feeding more than 1-2 people, you’ll have to cook in batches (another one of their key differences)
  • They have more components to clean than pressure cookers
  • There are still a number of foods that cannot be cooked in an air fryer, including large roasts, wet-battered foods, most dishes containing cheese, and more
  • Can get quite expensive, especially as the versatility and cooking power improves
  • When cooking meat like chicken or turkey breast, it is pretty easy to burn or dry out the food
  • Air fryers cook faster than ovens, which is good, but you’ll likely ruin some food while you learn how an air fryer cooks differently

Do I Need an Air Fryer or Pressure Cooker?

The answer to this question really is determined by your lifestyle, the types of meals you look forward to cooking, and how much type you have to give to the machine for cooking time and cleanup time.

Most of the time, the removable components of both machines will be dishwasher safe, but it is something to check on before you make a purchase.

If crispy foods are the way to your heart, you should choose an air fryer as your product. It can even accommodate different types of cookware inside to offer more versatility and less cleanup.

If you prefer hearty, stomach-warming meals, a pressure cooker is the ideal option. Use the pros and cons above to help finalise your decision.

The best part is that you can buy both, or a product that functions as both, to give you all the benefits of each cooker.

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