When it comes to kitchen appliances, deciding which one to buy can be difficult. While looking for the right one may feel overwhelming, I’ll break down the differences for you between an air fryer and a food dehydrator in this post.
You’ll feel confident in making the best choice in what you’re looking for whether you’re cooking for your family or just making a delicious snack.
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What is an air fryer?
An air fryer uses hot air to cook foods at a high temperature without oil. The heat source is usually a fan blowing heated air through a metal basket inside the appliance.
Air fryers are great for cooking vegetables and meats like chicken wings because they don’t require any oil. They are also perfect for baking bread or cookies because the dry heat makes them crispy without burning the outside.
The air fryer is a versatile product that can often go beyond just air frying.
What is a dehydrator?
A dehydrator is a machine used to dry out foods like fruits and vegetables. It works by using heat to evaporate moisture content from the food, leaving behind dried fruit or vegetables.
The process takes less than 30 minutes for most food, so it’s perfect if you want to make sure you always have healthy snacks on hand. Food dehydrators are often loved by those on raw food diets.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
An air fryer makes quick work of frying many types of foods without oil, so you don’t have to worry about splattering grease all over your house. The device heats up quickly and evenly, allowing you to cook foods like chicken wings, fish sticks, french fries, onion rings, and vegetables without having to stand by the stovetop.
It also has a timer function, so you won’t burn anything accidentally. You can even cook most frozen foods inside of an air fryer.
The type of foods you can cook in this small appliance is an endless list. You can even make healthy snacks like air fryer apple slices.
What Can You Cook in a Dehydrator?
The most obvious answer would be dried fruit, but you can also make delicious beef jerky, bread, crackers, chips, granola bars, pizza crust, dehydrated snacks, banana chips, and so much more!
One of my personal favorites is dehydrated apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. If you want to prep surplus food for survival packs, a dehydrator is an excellent way to do that.
Air Fryer / Dehydrator – Similarities
The first thing you should know is that they both cook food using heat. They differ in the way they operate, though.
An air fryer uses hot air at a high temperature to cook food, whereas a food dehydrator uses dry heat at a lower temperature. Both types of appliances will allow you to cook foods without oil or butter.
Air fryers and dehydrators often have a drip tray for easy clean-up and you can find them at an affordable price. Both air fryers and dehydrators circulate air in a similar way with a fan and heating element and have air venting through the back of the appliance.
Dehydrator vs Air Fryer – The Differences
An air fryer heats at high temperatures, allowing you to cook foods quickly without having to worry about them getting burned. A food dehydrator works by using a low-temperature setting heat to dry out food, so it takes longer than an oven and doesn’t require any oil.
Both options will allow you to enjoy healthier meals, but they each have their pros and cons.
Advantages of Air fryers
The first thing you should look at is the size of the appliance. If you want to cook large quantities of food, then you will need something bigger than a small oven.
A larger air fryer can hold up to four pounds of food at once. This means you don’t have to worry about overcrowding your pan.
Air Fryers heat up quickly compared to traditional methods like conventional ovens. You don’t have to preheat them and food needs less time to cook because of the way they circulate air inside them.
Many air fryers come with preset options so it is as simple as popping the food in the basket and then pressing one of the cooking presets. Air fryer recipes are becoming very common among cookbook authors and food bloggers so they are easily accessible to find a recipe your family will love.
Advantages of Dehydrators
The first thing you should consider is the size of your space. If you live in a small apartment, then a countertop model might not be ideal for you.
On the other hand, if you have a large kitchen area, then a tabletop unit will likely fit into your space better than a larger countertop model. Dehydrators use low-temperature dry air for the drying process.
Very few small kitchen appliances have the ability to hold a low temperature for a longer period of time that is needed for food dehydration. Having a dedicated appliance built for this purpose helps get the best result.
Limitations of Air fryers
An air fryer has a few limitations when it comes to cooking. If you have a very large family, even the largest air fryers may not have enough capacity to feed the whole family.
Air Fryers are best used with families of 4 or less. Air fryers depend on hot air circulation to cook the food, so if you overcrowd the basket the interior food won’t be able to cook properly and crisp up.
The size of your air fryer will greatly depend on the number of people you plan to cook for.
Limitations of Dehydrators
The most obvious limitation of a food dehydrator is its size. It takes up a lot of space, so if you want to make a large batch of something like jerky, you’ll need a bigger machine.
If you only plan to make small batches of snacks, though, then a smaller model will suffice. Keep your storage space in mind when purchased a dehydrator.
Another limitation is that they don’t usually come with recipes included. So, you’ll have to find a recipe online or figure out how to adapt one from another type of appliance.
Dehydrators are also a single cooking method appliance. The only thing you will be able to use a dehydrator for is for dehydrating food.
Air fryers take less than half the time to cook foods as ovens do. They also don’t require any oil or butter, so they’re great if you want to avoid extra calories.
Food dehydrators take longer to cook but they’re perfect for drying out fruits and vegetables. Dehydrators can take up to a couple of hours to make things like beef jerky.
Easy To Use
Air fryers are easy to use, but they don’t always produce the same results as ovens. They can sometimes cook foods unevenly, so you might end up with some undercooked parts and others overcooked if you don’t rotate them throughout the cooking process.
Food dehydrators are great because they allow you to dry out fresh fruits and vegetables without losing any nutrients. Food dehydrators also require very little to no interaction during the cooking process.
Can you dehydrate in an Air Fryer?
Some air fryers have a dehydration setting for dehydrated food like the Ninja 4qt Air Fryer. However, some do not have this dehydrator function and will not give you the best results compared to a dehydrator on its own.
Air Fryer vs Dehydrator – Main Differences
From the heating elements to the functionality of how the dehydrator and air fryer work, there are many differences between these two small kitchen appliances. They function in different ways to get the results.
Typical cooking temperatures:
- Dehydrator: 90°F – 145°F
- Air Fryer: 325°F – 450°F
The dehydration process requires a low temperature over a long time. Most dehydration recipes call for a temperature between 90°F – 145°F.
If you choose to buy an appliance specifically made for dehydration, your temperature settings will be available in this range. Most air fryers do not offer this low heat setting range.
Air fryers typically have a high-temperature range of 325°F – 450°F. Most food cooks with air fryers in a range similar to a conventional oven or toaster oven.
This is way too high to dehydrate food. If you’re looking for that crispy, crunchy exterior or a small appliance to replicate an oven, the air fryer will give you that quick heat and temperature range to do so.
The air fryer cooks food while the dehydrator removes the moisture from food. With air frying, you can achieve crispy, crunchy food without the use of oil and deep-frying.
You can also cook various meats and vegetables quicker than using a conventional or convection oven.
When it comes to a dehydrator, you can make beef jerky, dehydrated fruit, homemade fruit leather, and even vegetable chips.
Rather than achieving a crispy, crunchy exterior the way an air fryer does, the dehydrator lowers the water content of the food items.
In an air fryer, the heating element is often placed at the top with a fan. This results in the ability for them to heat quickly and efficiently while maintaining a higher temperature.
The most efficient dehydrators have heating elements at the back with a fan and utilize air flow racks. This gives even results without certain shelves getting more heat than others because it keeps a good airflow throughout all of the shelves at a lower temperature.
The warm air can circulate through all shelves without being obstructed by other layers.
Getting the best results
There are a few important things to keep in mind that will give you the best results for each of these appliances and give you the tasty food you want.
When it comes to dehydrating food, you want to be sure to keep your food in thin slices, an even single layer, and provide enough room around each piece of food to let the air circulate correctly. By following a few simple steps the dehydrator will dry food properly without becoming uneven.
With air frying, you never want to overcrowd your air fryer basket. If it becomes too full, the interior portion where the food is touching will end up steaming instead of air frying.
The best way to get crispy, crunchy results in your air fryer is to use the right temperature, don’t overcrowd the basket, and give it a quick shake halfway through.
Do I buy an air fryer or a dehydrator?
The best option for you is going to ultimately come down to what you plan to use the appliance for. Are you wanting crispy food cooked at a higher temperature?
Do you plan to make beef jerky or dried fruit often? Are you on a raw food diet? You’ll get the most out of your money by choosing the appliance that you will cook with the most and have the counter space for.
If you’re looking for healthy food options, both of these will give you the versatility to achieve that. Whether you’re looking to ditch deep frying and have crispy food without the oil or delicious fruit snacks, you can achieve these in a great way with air fryers and food dehydrators.
It comes down to what your ultimate goal is for your food.
Air Fryer and Dehydrator
Depending on what type of appliance best suites your needs, here are a list of air fryers and dehydrators to consider.
Dual basket air fryer
If you find yourself needing more than one air fryer basket, this Ninja Air Fryer has dual baskets and a digital display. This is the one I own myself and we love it.
The control panel offers you the ability to have the baskets complete their cooking at the same time even if it’s different food. It also has dishwasher-safe parts.
Air fryer with rotisserie capability
This air fryer from Instant brand has a rotisserie spit capability if you’d like to make your rotisserie chicken at home and includes a dehydration feature on the control panel
Stainless steel air fryer
Stainless Steel Dehydrator
If you want to keep all of your appliances with the same stainless steel finish, this stainless steel dehydrator from Cosori will fit perfectly with the rest of them right on your countertop.
Food dehydrator under $150
When looking for a dehydrator that will still give you all of the options for under $150, you’ll find the Chefman dehydrator. It has a touch screen with 6 slide-out, drying rack trays.
The best air fryer under $100
This Instant brand air fryer is not only under $100, but it is also dishwasher safe and offers roasting and baking options.
High Capacity Air Fryer
If you’re feeding a large family or want to cook higher quantities of food at one time in your air fryer, the Chefman Air Fryer has a whopping 8-quart capacity and is under $100. It is also nonstick, stainless steel, and offers a digital display.
Compact Air Fryer
Whether you have a small kitchen, you’re just cooking for one, or want an air fryer for your dorm, you can use a compact air fryer. This compact air fryer is only 1 quart capacity and takes up very little counter space.