Last Updated on December 6, 2022 by Claire
Let’s talk about the pressure cooker vs air fryer. Although pressure cookers have been around for a really long time while air fryers didn’t gain popularity just until a few years ago, both are so similarly inclined to an extent that it gets really difficult to tell where the differences lie in terms of kitchen use.
This article attempts to clarify the differences between a pressure cooker and an air fryer in order to find out which serves your cooking needs the best.
The main difference between both is that the pressure cooker uses built up inner pressure to rapidly increase its temperature to heat up food, while the air fryer circulates heated air like a convection oven to cook food. Both are relatively quick, but the pressure cooker is known for faster cooking times.
You must understand that although they complement each other very well, they serve different purposes, and cannot be substituted for each other.
Keep on reading for an in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences between the pressure cooker and air fryer.
How does a pressure cooker work?
A pressure cooker is a sealed pot that uses high inner- pressure to produce steam heat with temperatures of up to 250° F (121° C) in order to cook your foods significantly faster compared to normal cooking methods. It uses the liquids (broth or water) inside a pot to produce heat.
Liquids must be the basic make-up of every food cooked inside a pressure cooker. When the liquid reaches its boiling point, the steam produced inside the sealed container is trapped in there causing a steady build up of pressure inside the cooker.
The increased pressure results in a rise of temperature making the pressure cooker significantly faster compared to normal cooking methods. This is because the heated steam is trapped by the sealed container and forced deeper into the food.
Unlike the air fryer, the pressure cooker must not be opened halfway through cooking to check on the food as this would release the built-up pressure. Thus, rendering the pressure cooker ineffective.
When done cooking, you must take the precaution of making sure the pressure inside the cooker is fully released before you open the lid. This is usually done with the help of a small valve which opens up an output hole that releases the steam and the pressure from the container in a safe manner.
Failure to take this precaution could result in potentially dangerous spills, burns and injuries resulting from the built-up pressure inside the cooker blowing the lid straight off the cooker.
By technicality, instant pots are basically electric pressure cookers as they have the same features and serve the same purposes. Although they might possess other convenient and versatile features that regular pressure cookers might not.
Using a pressure cooker (electric or not) to cook is quite simple; all you need to do is to put all the ingredients in the container, switch it on and leave it to do its job.
- Highly efficient: Compared to traditional cooking tools and methods, the amount of time required to prepare meals is significantly reduced.
- Multi-functional: They are extremely versatile, thus allowing you to cook a wider range of foods.
- High content capacity: The pressure cooker can cook larger quantities in one session
- Doesn’t burn off nutrients: Pressure cookers retain all of the nutrients in your food after cooking.
- Saves energy: Due to their significantly shorter cooking time, they consume a lower amount of energy. Thus, allowing you to save money on your power bill.
- Ease of Use: Pressure cookers are simple to use and require little to no effort or supervision.
- Expensive: Compared to other kitchenware, pressure cookers are more expensive.
- Takes up more space: For those who live in small houses, the pressure cooker’s size might be a problem since it takes up too much space in their kitchen.
- Difficult to keep clean: They require more time and effort to clean after use.
- You cannot check your food while cooking: To prevent your pressure cooker from becoming inefficient, you must not open the lid to check your food halfway through. So you must follow the instructions on your recipe, else your food might be overcooked or undercooked.
How does an air fryer work?
Air fryers are basically convection ovens (Whirlpool confirms) equipped with a fan and heating element to circulate heated air (about 392° F or 200° C) at high speeds through the chamber allowing you to fry or cook food while using about 80% less oil.
When you set the appropriate temperature and time to cook foods, the circulating heated air gives them a crispy texture on the outside and preserves the juicy ‘inside’.
Compared to deep fryers, air fryers use up to 80% less oil. Using less oil means fewer calories, which aids in weight loss, resulting in a healthier lifestyle.
The chemical reaction between carbohydrates and amino acids which occurs during cooking in the air fryer is what is responsible for the brown surface and flavor common in air fried foods. This is known as the ‘Maillard reaction’.
Besides, air fryers are rather small in size allowing them to reach the required temperatures faster, which results in a shorter cooking time.
Most air fryers feature adjustable timers and temperature settings making cooking very simple and easy. Although sometimes, you may have to shake, stir or flip the food halfway through. But apart from that, the air fryer pretty much automates the process of cooking food.
- User-friendliness: Some are even programmed with automatic time and temperature for some specific foods, like meats, fishes or vegetables making them quite easy to use. They are also easy to clean.
- Fewer calories: Since it requires less oil for cooking, you do not have to worry about your health when consuming meals prepared with them.
- Versatile: They can be used to bake, grill, roast, toast, fry, dehydrate, reheat and more.
- Time and cost efficient: They can cook your foods fast and are less expensive (You can buy an air fryer for as little as $50).
- Energy Saving: Faster cooking time, resulting in lower energy-consumption.
- Suitable for small areas: They are smaller in size than conventional ovens, making them suitable for small areas, campers, dorm rooms, etc.
- Small Size: Although air fryers come in a variety of sizes, the affordable models are generally small and can only cook for a few people.
- Not-too-tasty foods: Air fryers are noted for using a significantly lesser quantity of oil for cooking, so you may likely find your dishes to be less appetizing, and dried out if overcooked.
Pressure cooker vs air fryer comparison
Outlined below are two sections highlighting their similarities and differences.
Similarities between a pressure cooker and air fryer
1. Both require liquids
They both require liquids in order to cook food. Using a pressure cooker? You must add at least one cup of water or broth along with other ingredients you intend to cook. Using an air fryer? Just a spoonful of oil is ok.
2. Both make crunchy meals
Meals prepared in air fryers are extremely crispy. Although, when using a pressure cooker you must be sure it has a ‘Sauté function’ (frying feature) because most pressure cookers are not designed to boil oil. They are also unable to deep fry foods.
3. Less Calories
Both appliances allow you to cook delicious, healthy and nutritious dishes.
You may steam your dishes using a pressure cooker, and the nutrients will be preserved. Same with air fryers, as they require no or less oil to cook, reducing health risks associated with high levels of cholesterol.
What’s the difference between a pressure cooker and air fryer?
Here’s a table showing the key differences between a pressure cooker and an air fryer
|Features||Pressure cooker||Air fryer|
|Food||Can cook various types of foods|
But best suited for soups, oatmeal, rice, grains, vegetables, meat, fish, and any other liquid-based dishes
|Can cook various types of foods|
But best suited for crispy foods (fries, fried meats)
|Function||Uses high inner- pressure to produce steam heat||Uses hot air in a circular fanning system|
|Size and Capacity||Larger size, up to 35 to 40 quarts||Smaller size. Most affordable sizes range from 3 to 5 quarts|
|Performance||Significantly faster than traditional cooking methods||Faster cooking times|
|Electricity Consumption||Consumes less power||Consumes more power than a pressure cooker|
|Healthier Food||Maintains nutrients, resulting in higher fat and cholesterol levels||Uses little to no oil, resulting in less cholesterol consumption|
|Ease of Use||Very easy to use||Very simple to use|
|Maintenance||A little difficult when compared to an air fryer||Quite easy|
1. Cooking Functionalities
Pressure cookers are best for soups, oatmeal, rice, grains, vegetables, meat, fish, and any other liquid-based dishes since they use a steaming feature to cook food. You can also combine more than one food item in a pressure cooker at the same time.
Air fryers on the other hand, are basically convection ovens equipped with a fan and heating element to circulate heated air (about 392° F or 200° C) at high speeds through the chamber allowing you to fry or cook food while using about 80% less oil.
Meals prepared using a pressure cooker are more tender, moist, and juicy, while those prepared with air fryers are drier, crispier, and have a golden brown color.
2. Types of foods
|Types||Pressure Cooker||Air Fryer|
You can find good-quality air fryers and pressure cookers at affordable prices online.
Prices for both begin at about $50-60 dollars for the cheapest models. Pressure cookers can cost anywhere from $60-350 but most models are in the $100-150 range.
While there are plenty of affordable air fryers available for less than $100, many ‘feature-rich’ models tend to fall in the $100-200 price range with the larger air fryers with more features and functions costing even more.
To justify the price for both appliances, the customer has to look at the functions, features, and possibilities provided by the specific model of interest.
4. Size and Capacity
Both the air fryers and pressure cookers are available in various sizes, although pressure cookers are generally bigger than air fryers, which makes them more suitable for restaurants.
The smallest air fryers are measured to be 1-2 quart (equal to 0.94liters) and are only able to handle 1-2 chicken breasts at a time.
However, larger sized air fryers of 5.3 quarts and over are capable of cooking a whole chicken, while the largest air fryer of 16-quart known as ‘Big Boss’ can cook enough food to feed a large family or gathering.
On the other hand, pressure cookers also come in a broad range of sizes from small 1-quart models, to mid-range and all the way up to 35-40 quarts.
Both have faster cooking times compared to traditional cooking techniques. However, the air fryer cooks faster because it only has one airing cycle unlike the pressure cooker which must first create pressure from the heat.
You must also note that cooking times vary depending on the type and quantity of food.
6. Energy consumption
Electricity consumption for each of them is based on the cooking time. Pressure cookers consume less electricity compared to air fryers making them more energy efficient.
So expect more energy consumption if you use an air fryer more frequently.
Meals prepared in an air fryer have less cholesterol and are healthier for your health since they require little to no oil to cook.
On the other hand, although pressure cookers preserve heat-sensitive nutrients due to faster cooking times, they maintain all of the nutrients in your meal after cooking. Thus allowing you to absorb all the fat and cholesterol contained in your foods, making them less healthy.
It’s a matter of preference here, more nutrients or less cholesterol?
Some parts of a pressure cooker, particularly sealing gaskets require certain precautions for safety during use. Leaky or damaged sealing gaskets may result in the lid being unable to close properly, thereby causing a nasty burn due to the released steam.
Similarly, an air fryer may expose you to burns while processing your food as the exterior layer is extremely hot.
Therefore, you have to be very careful when using both appliances to avoid any injuries.
9. Ease of Use
Trying out recipes with the pressure cooker is not as forgiving as it is with the air fryer, mainly because experimenting is much easier if you can check on food halfway through, which is not an option due to the pressure cooker’s sealed container.
However, since both appliances come with pre-programmed options for specific foods, cooking is as easy as selecting a suitable preset, placing the food in the appliance and starting it. The more expensive models come with more features but even the basic models tend to have at least a few presets.
Compared to pressure cookers, air fryers are a bit easier to clean. This is because they are smaller than pressure cookers, their components are removable and can be easily put in the dishwasher or a bath of soap and water after each use, and the air fryer’s chamber can be easily cleaned with a rag or piece of wet cloth.
Cleaning a pressure cooker is more time-consuming and delicate than cleaning an air fryer because they are larger, have more parts and need to be air tight.
Can you air fry in a pressure cooker?
The pressure cooker and air fryer apply different principles to cooking meals. The air fryer circulates heated air via a fan and heating element to produce a crispy outer layer while preserving as much of the juicy interior as possible.
The pressure cooks food when water boils, producing moist hot steam. Air frying cannot happen in moist heat. Therefore, the pressure cooker cannot be used to air fry.
Which is better between an air fryer and a pressure cooker?
This is simply a matter of preference depending on which one best serves your needs and how you intend to use the appliance.
In some ways, one is better than the other and vice versa. Both have certain advantages and disadvantages.
You must understand that although they complement each other very well, they serve different purposes, and cannot be substituted for each other.
So, technically none is better than the other.
If you can’t decide on which to buy, there’s an appliance called a Multi-pressure cooker (Multi-cooker for short). It’s an appliance with a 2-in-1 solution.
It can both air fry and pressure cook, and is more expensive compared to both appliances. However it’s a viable option if you simply can’t make your mind about which to go with.