Air Fryer vs Pan Frying: What’s the Best Cooking Option for You?


Last Updated: August 5th, 2023

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You might be wondering what the best way to cook your food is. Should you pan fry, or use an air fryer instead?

Both have their benefits over deep fat frying, but one way certainly has the edge. Keep reading and we’ll let you know who wins between an air fryer vs pan frying. 

Air Fryer vs Pan Frying featured

Health Benefits of Air Fryer vs Pan Frying

When it comes to cooking your food, an air fryer will be much healthier for you than if you were to use a frying pan. 

This is because air fryers use very little oil, and some foods don’t even need oil at all in order to be cooked to perfection! This is due to the fact that as the air fryer rapidly moves air around the compartment, it can circulate the oil effectively, allowing for an even coat to help food to get crispy. 

This is important, as consuming too much oil or fat can be detrimental to your health. Saturated fats, such as butter, ghee, and coconut oil are commonly used when pan frying. These fats raise your LDL cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of suffering conditions such as a heart attack or stroke. 

Although there are healthier oils, such as olive and canola oil, cooking with too much oil, in general, can still lead to weight gain from the extra calories they contain, as well as digestive problems such as bloating and stomach pain. 

Cooking Benefits of Air Fryer vs Pan Frying

Compared to using a pan to fry and cook your food, using an air fryer has some distinct advantages. 

Even cooking

Because an air fryer uses convection to cook your food by circulating hot air rapidly around the compartment, this means all of the surface area of the food that you are cooking is being heated to the same degree. 

This means that your food will be cooked evenly, although we do still recommend that partway through you flip or shake the food on the rack or in the basket. 

With pan frying on the other hand, the heat is only being applied to one side of the food, and can lead to one side being cooked more than the other, and not to the same consistent temperature. 

It can also be tricky to cook items with narrow sides. For example, when cooking a steak, it can be tricky to render the fat on the sides without perilously holding the steak with tongs, or basting it with oil. An air fryer removes this problem by ensuring every part of the meat is cooking at the same time.

Faster cooking time

An air fryer is one of the quickest ways in which to cook your food. It preheats in just a matter of minutes, and can cut cooking times by up to a third compared to other cooking methods such as a traditional oven.

In the same way, it can often be quicker, or just as quick as pan frying. This is especially true when it comes to electric or induction stovetops, as these can often take a while to get to temperature before you can start to cook your food on them. 

Bigger capacity

While you are limited to the size of your frying pan and burners when it comes to pan frying, air fryers come in all shapes, sizes and styles. 

This can often mean that there is a larger capacity to be able to cook food, and in the case of dual basket air fryers, the option to cook more than one food at a time rather than needing to wait for one thing to finish cooking before placing on the next as can be the way when frying. 

Easier to clean

Thanks to their non-stick coating, air fryers are often far easier to clean after use than frying pans. Food residue can be removed within no time at all, whereas those cleaning a pan may have to battle against it, especially on pans without a non-stick coating.

The close proximity of the food to the direct heat source in a pan can also lead to more burnt or stuck on residue.


There are countless things that you can do with an air fryer, and so many foods that you can cook in it. 

Conversely, there are certain items that aren’t really suited for cooking in a pan, that may require the oven or another cooking method to get the most out of the food. 

Is There Anything you Can Cook in a Pan that You Can’t Cook in An Air Fryer?

While an air fryer is a fantastic piece of kit, there are still some things were a frying pan might win out. These include:

  • Things with a wet batter coating, such as home made fried chicken. This is because the batter will find it hard to adhere to the food it is coating , and particles of batter could end up flying around the air fryer, potentially causing damage.
  • Some vegetables also take better to being pan fried rather than going into an air fryer, such as broccoli and leafy greens. When cooked in an air fryer they have the tendency to burn or dry out in places, making them unpleasant to eat.
  • Things with a high liquid content also tend to fare better when pan fried vs air frying them.
  • For those that are very exacting with their steaks and cooked meats, pan frying allows for more control to make sure that it is cooked to specification.

In Summary

Overall, when it comes to the battle of an air fryer vs pan frying, the air fryer wins out. Although pan frying is great for some foods and can cover some shortfalls of an air fryer, the sheer versatility, health value and cooking style of an air fryer make it a clear winner. 

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Rebecca P.

Hi there! I'm Rebecca, a dedicated foodie and a professional content writer specialising in the food niche. I blend my passion for gastronomy and the written word to create narratives that inspire and tantalise your tastebuds. Navigating the busy streets of the UK as a commuter, time is of the essence. But who says quick can't be delicious? My air fryer is my best companion, serving up piping hot, scrumptious meals with impressive speed and convenience. When I'm not writing or commuting, you'll find me indulging in one of my favourite pastimes - foraging. There's something exciting about discovering a bounty of nature's own produce and experimenting with it in my recipes. You'd be amazed what can be cooked up in an air fryer!