It’s time for the battle of the timesaving, money-saving and world-saving kitchen gadgets, where you can whip up a whole family meal for dinner with an Instant Pot or make literally every kid in the world happy by popping chicken nuggets into an Air Fryer.

All you have to do is decide which one. Let’s say an Instant Pot and an Air Fryer were both staring at you side-by-side on a store shelf, and they were both on sale for the same price, and they take up the same amount of space on your kitchen counter. Easy choice, right?

Of course not, because we are not standing there beside you and presenting all the benefits, features, strengths, weaknesses and options to help you choose. You might just buy both and spend too much for no reason. So we are going to lay it all out here, and then just remember us when you are making the most incredible food and still having more spare time than anyone.

Smart kitchen tools have changed the game so cooking is healthier and faster than ever, and it seems like everybody on your block is doing it. Both kitchen appliances can make amazing meals faster and more efficiently than traditional cookers and stovetop pots and pans, but the similarities end there. So get by with your present Crock-Pot slow cooker or your deep fryer on the stove and make the same stuff your parents made, or you can join the revolution.

Instant Pot sitting next to blue silicone molds
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All About the Instant Pot

The incredibly popular Instant Pot multicooker can replace 7+ appliances in the modern kitchen with its wide range of cooking options. Some basic models can take on the role of pressure cooker, sauté pan, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker and more.

Here is a closer look at some of the things it can do:

1. Cook fast or slow. Starting with frozen meat for both, a chili recipe that takes four hours in the slow cooker will take about 20 minutes in the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Cheesecake takes just 25 minutes to make. And guess what! You can get the Instant Pot Duo and enjoy its slow cooker function as well, for a tender pulled pork meal.

2. Sauté veggies. This mode means you brown meat, pre-cook onions or do any prep work on the stove, and it’s one less pot or pan you have to clean up. Just sauté ingredients in the bottom of the Instant Pot 8 quart pressure cooker with oil as needed and then switch to the pressure cooker function to continue with the recipe.

3. Steam rice. There’s no need to buy a separate rice cooker if you have a food steamer like this, and that means more storage space as well. Just remember to use a 1:1 rice to water ratio. The rice cooks and then you let it sit for 10 minutes and serve. If you want a good quantity and don’t do the 90-second microwave bags, then this rice maker is pretty miraculous.

4. Air fryer! Wait, what? That’s right. This is a battle between Instant Pot and Air Fryer, and here comes Instant Pot doubling as its opponent. You can get the extra CrispLid or buy the Instant Pot Duo Crisp if you want to add air fryer functionality to your pressure cooker.

5. Offer flexibility and spontaneity. Don’t have time in the morning to think about dinner that night? Come home from work and decide then and there if you have to. You still won’t have to wait long to eat. The typical reasoning here is: “I’m rushing in the morning and don’t have time to think about getting beans and veggies into the crockpot.”

Size depends on your own cooking. Needs. The 3-quart is good for families of 2-3 people, and the 8-quart giant pot is great for batch cooking. The 6-quart Instant Pot is easily the brand’s most popular size. It gives you plenty of room for nightly dinners, a whole chicken, or stews and soups. And it fits easily in most kitchens.

PowerXL Air Fryer sitting on shelf at store

All About the Air Fyrer

The name “air fryer” may be misleading, as this device doesn’t actually fry food in oil. Instead, it harnesses the power of hot air to achieve comparable results with significantly reduced oil usage, and in some cases, even without any oil at all. Air fryers don’t actually fry food, an act that requires submerging food in a hot oil deep fryer. Air fryers have an advanced fan system that uses hot air circulation to mimic frying food.

The EVOS restaurant chain is a great example of the air fryer’s popularity today, as they only use air fryers for their burgers and other foods. According to them, it means 60 percent less fat and calories compared to places that use overheated oil, meaning less grease so a more green lifestyle. An air fryer makes you an environmental steward as well. It’s the healthy alternative many people want and air fryers are now associated with a healthy lifestyle and food nutrition.

Tasty! If crispy and browned surfaces are what you want, then this might be for you. Unlike a multicooker, air fryers are only designed for one thing: making foods crispy. They have a special basket (to put the food in) that goes under a heating element and a fan that makes sure the hot air circulates all the way through the basket, thus cooking the food. As a result, the food cooks faster and there will be less drying than if you were doing this in an oven.

Like the Instant Pot, your average Air Fryer such as the market-leading Ninja Foodi or other Ninja airfryer are perfect for easy and outstanding weeknight dinners. Ninja units are more affordable than higher-end models but offer a wide range of settings and special features. Ninja air fryers reach up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they cook food quickly and deliver the crisp texture you hope for in an air-fried food. Air frying is a convenient, hands-off, and fun method of cooking for families, couples, and individuals.

Whatever you usually fry, roast, bake, grill, toast or dehydrate can be done with an air fryer. They also complement your regular oven so you can use them to bake or roast side dishes. They preheat fast and most recipes have quick cooking times due to the concentrated heat source. Figure an average of about 20 minutes for a recipe.

There are two basic styles, an air fryer toaster oven style or basket style. You can usually find air fryers on sale, especially around Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping. Starting price is around $50 for 1-2 liters and go up from there depending on whether you want extra features such as pre-programmed function modes, auto shut-off or accessories. More costly versions have extra cooking surface space, so just work around the size of your eating crew and get a small air fryer or a large air fryer.

The air fryer doesn’t take up that much space, and it is safer to use than appliances that need a lot of oil. These don’t make as much of a splatter mess, and cleanup is easy. Racks and baskets are typically dishwasher safe, but hand-washing takes no more than a couple of minutes so that is recommended.

Head to Head: Instant Pot vs. Air Fryer Strengths and Weaknesses

In the big picture, air fryers are incredible at getting the most crispy goodness out of potatoes, chicken, eggs and more . . . while the Instant Pot is one of the most versatile things on Earth and replaces many kitchen appliances plus a pressure cooking module. Decisions, decisions.

Both are healthy options, but give a slight edge to Instant Pot cookers because they use steam to cook food and keep nutrients inside. Air fryers use heat and a dab of oil to create crispy textures, but they also can sacrifice some nutrients in the process. It’s a close call; both are healthy.

Each cooking appliance is here to make your life easier in the kitchen, but let’s give a slight edge here to the Ninja airfryer or other brand for efficient energy consumption. You’re more likely to have the Instant Pot on more often than the air frying appliance.

Which one is fastest of the fast? Give the nod to the air fryer, which has only one cycle. Even though “instant” is literally in its title, it does have to build up pressure before cooking.

Which one is most versatile of the versatile? TRICKY! This is where many consumers lose the battle and they put both appliances in their cart and go up to the cashier with a defeated yet contented look, like “I couldn’t choose.” See, the Instant Pot is a multicooker, with many options ranging from steamer, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, sauté pan and more. The instapot can be an air fryer, but not the other way around. An air fryer can make fried food, right? Ah, but then you look at that ninja foodi air fryer with so many settings and capabilities, and you just sigh because it’s like two heavyweights and a controversial split decision.

An Instapot multicooker means you have more options to cook, so you can make meals quickly and manage a busy lifestyle. You can make whole one-pot meals that are consistent so you know what you’re getting, plus it’s energy-efficient. But on the downside, the Instant Pot can’t make your food crisp, and you have occasional burnt-on meats and veggies, long preheating that increases time of cooking, and odors retained by sealing rings that will need cleaned.

Air friers can be bulky as the cost goes up and yet have limited cooking capacity. For food to crisp up in one of those, it has to be put in a single layer with enough room for air to circulate. The inside components of most air fryers are coated in a non-stick coating, which is convenient but can be a health concern if Teflon and other forever chemicals are used. Far, far more strengths than weaknesses for this kitchen tool, though.

Who Is It For?

According to a global study by data analyst firm Reportbuyer, “Increasing number of health conscious people is anticipated to boost the air fryer market. End-users across the globe are preferring oil free food as it is cholesterol free, which is also driving the air fryer market.” Meanwhile, we didn’t even have to look for data on Instant Pot. One quick look on Amazon recently and it was the first thing showed to all users across all channels, for a good reason: People have been buying this up for the last five years or more in ever-increasing numbers. We’re an instant society with Instagram and instant messages and we want Instant Pots.

Final Thoughts: Instant Pot vs. Air Fryer

Instant Pot uses pressure cooking method to make food faster and easier, while air fryer uses hot air method so it’s free of oil and super healthy. Of course, you can still make healthy and oil-free recipes with the Instant Pot, but it can also help you pack on the pounds with irresistible sweets and junk food. It’s up to you to know what you’re in it for, how many people you are feeding, and which of these two items will be best-suited for your needs.

You’ll want to choose the Insta Pot if you cook for the whole family and need ample cooking space, if you need versatility to experiment with new recipes, if you feel like downsizing your whole kitchen cookware in favor of a 7-in-1 gadget, and if you want to throw in the ingredients and walk away for a while.

You’ll want to choose the Air Fryer if you have enough counter space for another appliance, and if you love fried foods but want a healthier version like the Ninja toaster, and if cooking large amounts of food or meals with more than two components.

So you’re standing there looking at the Instant Pot and the Air Fryer on that shelf, and now it’s time to make the big decision. In the end, it depends on who you are cooking for and why you like to cook. Here is our advice: If you want easy access to the widest variety in cooking, go with an Instant Pot. Although you may not get the deep-fried foods you crave, the number of foods you can prepare like Bone-In Beef Ribs or these 25 Ground Beef Recipes is far greater than what you will be able to do with an air fryer. Or just buy both and you won’t be alone.

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About Mark Newman

Mark has 20-plus years of BBQ experience working on just about every device and cooking medium.

He is a crafted expert on open fire cooking.

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