Instant Pot vs Air Fryer is a question many novice cooks have asked themselves over the years. At first glance, the two appear to be quite similar – both are bulky kitchen gadgets designed to cook food quickly and conveniently. But the functionality between these actually differs quite a bit, making them distinct categories of machines.
Here we are going to talk you about some of the key differences between the best instant pots and the best air fryers. We’ll cover what to expect in terms of design, performance and price so you can decide which best suits your circumstances. That way we can finally put the question to bed – which is better for you: Instant Pot vs Air Fryer.
Instant Pot vs. Air Fryer: Appearance
As mentioned, these two devices may seem quite similar at first glance if you are new to them. Both are boxy kitchen appliances that can have a large footprint depending on the model. Each will also tout the ability to produce quick and delicious recipes that can save you the hassle in the kitchen. But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that there are key differences that can help you tell these devices apart.
Instant Pot actually comes from the Instant brand, although it has enjoyed such success over the years that many now consider these machines a separate product category. As the name suggests, an Instant Pot features a large removable saucepan with a lockable lid. On the front there is a control panel with several functions and settings to choose from. As soon as you turn it on and start cooking, a large timer will appear on the display to count down what’s left.
These machines tend to have a 6 liter capacity, although there are larger 8 liter options and even a mini 3 liter model. Most models are fairly large considering this – about the size of a basketball – and therefore take up a lot of storage or display space. Accessories usually include a steam rack.
Air fryers, not to be confused with the best toaster ovens, generally feature a basket that you pull out from the front using a handle to load the food. The design usually looks square rather than pot-shaped, although this can vary. Control panels are usually on the front or top of the machine and these can really differ in appearance. Some can look as complicated as what you would see on an Instant Pot, with multiple settings and choices. Others can go back to basics, with two simple dials to control temperature and time, similar to the Dash Compact Air Fryer.
Once again, the capacity and size of an air fryer can really vary. Some are as small as 2 liters and others as large as 7 liters. Because of this, they can be similar in size to Instant Pots. Accessories are more limited and less likely with air fryers, but crispier platters are sometimes provided.
Instant Pot vs Air Fryer: Price
In terms of price, Instant Pots range from $80 to $200 depending on size and features. Air fryers, on the other hand, start at just $30 and can go as high as $300. The price of air fryers is much more diverse since there is such a wide variety of brands in this market. Even Instant has its own air fryer design called the Instant Vortex (opens in new tab).
In general, air fryers are a bit cheaper compared to Instant Pots, but that largely depends on the model and brand you choose.
Instant Pot vs Air Fryer: Design and Functionality
Now the important part – the difference in design and functionality. Instant Pots are designed to offer multiple functions in one appliance, typically pressure cook, soup, sauté, slow cook, steam, rice, oatmeal, yogurt, poultry and more. This makes them incredibly versatile machines that can cook all sorts of recipes using different methods. This versatility in design is one of the reasons for Instant Pot’s popularity – although it’s bulky, it arguably replaces multiple devices.
Certain Instant Pot models can even be used as an air fryer, as long as you have the right attachments. The Instant Pot Duo Crisp and Pro Crisp range comes with a dedicated air fryer lid that gives you access to this functionality as well as options like roast, bake, grill and dehydrate. There is one model that offers everything under one cover – the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid (opens in new tab)although it comes at a hefty price tag of $229.
However, an Instant Pot is primarily a pressure cooker. That means if you select one of the default settings, it will start to heat up internally and slowly build up pressure. This is then maintained for the programmed time before the pressure is slowly released at the end of the cycle.
Air fryers, on the other hand, can be thought of as mini convection ovens. With temperature and time controls, they essentially circulate hot air around the cavity to cook food quickly and evenly. Air fryers can also grill and roast using this method, so they’re not a one-trick pony.
Both Instant Pots and Air Fryers can come with advanced features such as: B. Smart connectivity that lets you control and monitor progress from your phone. Certain air fryers also have two baskets instead of one, allowing you to cook at two different temperatures at the same time, e.g Ninja Foodi Dual Basket Air Fryer.
Instant Pot vs Air Fryer: Performance
In our experience, each device performs best for what it is designed to do. This means air fryers are generally better at air frying food. The overall food becomes crispier, crunchier and more appealing. Here are 9 things you should never put in an air fryer.
However, Instant Pots are popular for a reason – the quick cook and slow cook features are second to none. This means these are excellent for cooking stews, meats and all kinds of recipes to a professional level with succulent and even results. Be warned, however, that we’ve found that alternative dedicated appliances like rice cookers tend to work better than the equivalent setting on an Instant Pot. So, while versatility is a selling point, it’s not a guarantee of performance in every setting.
Instant pots and air fryers are often similar in size, but there are more compact air fryer designs that you can use to save space. Additionally, if you choose an Instant Pot with air frying capability, remember that you’ll also need to keep the extra lid. Additionally, air fryers typically weigh less than Instant Pots, making them more maneuverable.
Both devices usually come with dishwasher-safe parts to make cleaning easier, although the Instant Pot generally takes up more space in the dishwasher than the basket of an air fryer. (Be sure to follow our air fryer cleaning tips to keep your unit looking and working like new.)
Instant Pot vs Air Fryer: Verdict
Broadly speaking, you should choose between the two depending on what you want to cook and how you want to cook it. If you want crispy and crispy results, stick with an air fryer. If you want that and more, you can opt for an Instant Pot that can do it all, but chances are the air fried results won’t be quite as impressive.
If you’re short on space and you value the versatility of multiple devices in one more than anything else, an Instant Pot might be the right choice. It’s arguably better value for money, and the quick cook and slow cook features won’t disappoint. Personally, I would go with both and use each for different recipes and cooking methods, but I know that countertop space is limited.
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