Should you buy a rice cooker or an air fryer? If I was to buy only one of these, which of these would it be? Here I weigh up the options and compare the two products to help you decide (plus answer some FAQs). If you scroll to the bottom you’ll find my cheat sheet.
Uses of air fryer vs rice cooker
The basic difference between a rice cooker and an air fryer is the cooking method and types of meals you can prepare. It depends on the model how many functions are on offer. Both air fryers and rice cookers can have multiple uses. They are versatile in that respect and both come with presets to make life easier.
The main use of a rice cooker is to cook rice and other grains. It uses moist heat. You’re able to also steam vegetables and fish. Some function as slow cookers and some have cake and yoghurt. settings.
Air fryers deep fry foods without oil using dry heat though adding oil gives crispier results for some foods, as I explain elsewhere. Air fryers can roast, grill, bake, and dehydrate food. Reheating food is a popular use of air fryers because the food stays crisp unlike how it becomes soggy with microwave reheating. Air fryers aren’t promoted as rice cookers, but they can be used to cook rice…see below.
Can you cook rice in an air fryer?
Yes, it takes about ½ hour to cook uncooked rice in an air fryer preheated to 360℉ using a cake baking basket (vs a pizza pan – see below).
It’s not as straightforward as with a rice cooker.
With an air fryer you preheat the unit. Meanwhile boil water in a kettle or other water cooker. You’ll need to work out the rice to water ratio yourself and then add the required amounts to the pan. Cover and wrap the cake basket with aluminum foil before setting the timer and running the appliance.
Air Fryer Accessories
available at Amazon
Compare this with a rice cooker, where you simply add the rice and then cold water up to the mark inside. Then simply shut the lid and select the controls for the particular rice setting.
Choosing an air fryer versus a rice cooker
Here are the different features in some detail. You’ll find a quick comparison in my cheat sheet at the bottom of the page.
How to choose air fryer size
In choosing an air fryer size, you might want to factor in your family size, food you wish to prepare, energy consumption, and price.
The bigger the size in wattage the more energy you will use and higher the price of the unit.
Because the air fryer uses a fan to force hot air around the food in the cooking process, this fan creates a sound. Compare this to the relative quietness of a rice cooker. The good thing is that not all air fryers are as loud as others. I wrote an article on the noise output from air fryers, where you can find out more.
This will vary with size and make. Both an air fryer and a rice cooker are small appliances and so would use low energy relatively speaking.
Here’s how to work out the electricity drawn by any appliance:
- Wattage x the number of hours per day = A
- A ÷ 1,000 = Answer as daily kilowatt-hour (kWh)
Can you fry foods in a rice cooker?
I don’t recommend it. So, unless designed for it…no, you can’t deep fry foods in a rice cooker. This article covers what to do if you burn the bottom of your rice cooker.
Air fryers are fairly compact and thus portable. Rice cookers can vary in how compact they are. Some are quite bulky. I compared the dimensions in my article on the popular brands of rice cookers, where you’ll find more info.
You’ll find inexpensive air fryers just as you will with rice cookers. Price will vary depending on the brand, the size, and the features included (as indicated in the table below). The multifunctional rice cooker/pressure cooker types are the ones you can expect at the higher end of the scale.
But as far as the best versatility for price, my take is an air fryer has the advantage.
Comparison table – air fryers ranging from around $50 up to about $150
|Cosori Air Fryer
|Ninja Air Fryer
||Best for simplicity
4 functions inc dehydrate
|Ultrean Air Fryer
|Ultrean Air Fryer
||Best for large family
|Ninja Air Fryer
5 functions inc dehydrate
What are the health benefits of cooking with an air fryer? The obvious upside of cooking with an air fryer is that you can enjoy deep fried food without the high fat or oil content.
What are the health benefits of using a rice cooker? Modern rice cookers give you the options of preparing healthy grains and yoghurts at home. I wrote about the types of grains in my article on cooking brown rice in a rice cooker. Examples include GABA function and germinated brown rice.
Dry heat vs wet heat cooking method
An air fryer uses the dry heat cooking method versus the moist heat type used by a rice cooker. Meaning, water is not a medium needed to cook the food, unlike with a rice cooker. Water creates a moist environment and the wet heat or steam is part of the cooking process of a rice cooker. An air fryer uses uses hot air (dry heat) to cook the food.
The following explains how an air fryer works.
How does air frying work?
Air fryers work by fanning hot air and creating a convection effect, just like a conventional oven, to brown and crisp the food. The process needs at least 320 ºF heat. This technology involves a heating element with a fan to circulate the heat. Think of it as more of a mini oven than a fryer.
It’s not as fast as conventional deep frying, but air frying limits the need for oil or fat.
Finally my cheat sheet: Rice cooker vs air fryer
There are several factors to consider if you are torn between buying an air fryer or a rice cooker. In any case it comes down to personal preferences. It’s why I put together the cheat sheet and I hope it helps. My take is that if you want versatility and price is a concern, an air fryer may be the best option. The condition then is whether you enjoy the type of foods an air fryer can cook vs those possible with a rice cooker.