Air Fryer Vs Steam Oven - Fry or Steam?

Air Fryer Vs Steam Oven – Fry or Steam?

Last Updated on August 9, 2023

Are you torn between two cooking appliances – the air fryer and the steam oven? 

These appliances have taken the world by storm, revolutionizing how we cook our food. 

Air fryers use hot air to cook food, providing a crispy and fried-like texture without the need for excessive oil. 

On the other hand, steam ovens use steam to cook food, preserving its nutrients and offering a healthier cooking option. 

It’s important to note that a steam convection oven is not the same as an air fryer, as it uses both steam and hot air for cooking. 

Additionally, if you’re seeking an alternative to an air fryer, toaster ovens or convection ovens can also cook food using hot air.

Let’s examine the air fryer and steam oven’s features, advantages, and disadvantages.

By the end of this article, you will be able to make an informed choice on which appliance to use for your cooking needs.

So let’s get started and see how these two appliances measure up against each other.

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  • Cooks up to 40% quicker than conventional ovens

Comparison of Air Fryer and Steam Oven

The comparison between air fryers and steam ovens is an interesting topic to discuss. Both appliances offer a healthier cooking method by reducing the use of oil or fat.

However, they differ in terms of cooking time, ideal food items, performance, longevity, and reliability.

An objective discussion of these key points will provide valuable insights for those who are looking for a suitable cooking appliance that fits their needs.

Cooking Methods

Air fryers use hot air circulation to cook food, while steam ovens use steam to cook food. According to a study by Consumer Reports, air fryers can cook food up to 20% faster than steam ovens. 

It works by circulating hot air around the food, creating a crispy exterior while maintaining a moist interior. 

This method is ideal for foods that need to be crispy and golden brown, such as french fries, chicken wings, and fried chicken. 

Cooking Methods

Alternatively, steam ovens use water to cook food, which helps to retain the nutrients and moisture in the food. 

This method is ideal for cooking vegetables, fish, and other delicate foods that require gentle cooking.

The table below summarizes each appliance’s cooking methods, advantages, and disadvantages to provide a clear comparison between air fryers and steam ovens.

Cooking MethodAdvantagesDisadvantages
Air FryerCooks food 20% faster, creates crispy exterior while maintaining moist interior, ideal for fried foodsLimited capacity, cannot cook certain foods such as casseroles
Steam OvenRetains nutrients and moisture in food, ideal for cooking vegetables and delicate foodsLonger cooking time, limited browning capabilities, may not be suitable for all types of food

Cooking Time

Air fryers use a fan to circulate hot air around the food, resulting in a faster cooking process. In fact, many air fryer recipes require only a fraction of the time needed for traditional oven recipes.

The high temperature and quick cooking time also yield a crispy exterior while preserving a juicy interior, which is highly desirable for dishes like chicken wings or French fries.

Meanwhile, steam ovens employ water vapor for cooking, which can be slower compared to air frying.

The steam creates a gentle cooking environment that helps retain moisture and nutrients in the food. 

Nevertheless, this method may take more time than other cooking methods and might achieve a different level of crispness than air frying offers.

Steam ovens are commonly used for cooking vegetables and delicate foods, prioritizing the preservation of natural flavors and nutrients..

Ideal Food Items

Optimizing the cooking method for different types of food can result in a more satisfying and mouth-watering culinary experience. 

Here are some examples:

Ideal for air fryers: Foods that require a crispy texture are perfect for air fryers. These include chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings.

Air fryers use hot air to cook food, making them perfect for creating crispy coatings without deep frying.

 Ideal for steam ovens: Steam ovens are ideal for foods that need to retain their moisture and tenderness.

These include vegetables, fish, and poultry. Steam ovens cook food using moisture, which helps preserve the food’s natural flavors and nutrients.

• Ideal for both: Some food items can be cooked in both air fryers and steam ovens, depending on the desired outcome. For example, you can use both appliances to cook salmon.

If you want crispy skin, use an air fryer. If you want a moist and tender center, use a steam oven.

 Not ideal for either: Foods that require a long cooking time, such as roasts and stews, are not ideal for air fryers or steam ovens.

These appliances are best suited for quick and efficient cooking methods.


The performance of kitchen appliances significantly impacts the quality of the culinary output.

An air fryer uses hot air circulation to cook food, while a steam oven uses steam. Both appliances promise to deliver healthy, tasty, and perfectly cooked food.

However, these two appliances differ in several ways. First, an air fryer is known for its quick cooking time. It can cook food in half the time of a traditional oven.

The hot air circulation in an air fryer ensures even cooking, resulting in a crispy and crunchy texture.

Conversely, steam ovens are renowned for their gentle cooking process. The steam preserves the food’s natural moisture, resulting in a tender and juicy texture.

Regardless, the cooking time in a steam oven is longer compared to that in an air fryer.

Longevity and Reliability

The air fryer and steam oven are both designed to last for a long time, but their reliability may differ depending on the brand and model. 

Generally, air fryers are more durable than steam ovens because they have fewer components, which means fewer things can go wrong. 

Air fryers also have a simpler design, making them easier to repair if something does happen to go wrong. 

On the other hand, steam ovens have more components, such as heating elements and water tanks, which can sometimes malfunction and require repairs or replacement.

To compare the longevity and reliability of these two appliances, the following table summarizes the key features of each appliance:

Air FryerGenerally long-lasting due to simple designFewer components, making it more reliable
Steam OvenVaries depending on brand and modelMore components, making it slightly less reliable

Features and Specifications

Air fryers are specifically designed to cook food using hot air circulation and minimal oil, resulting in crispy and crunchy healthy and flavorful dishes. 

They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, with some models including additional features such as built-in timers, adjustable temperatures, and multiple cooking functions.

Features and Specifications

On the other hand, steam ovens use steam as the primary cooking method, which is ideal for retaining the natural flavors and nutrients of the food. 

They also come in different sizes and styles, with some models featuring additional features such as multi-level cooking, temperature control, and self-cleaning options.


Air fryers are known for their ability to fry food without the need for oil, creating a healthier alternative to traditional frying methods. 

However, they can also be used for other cooking methods such as baking, grilling, and roasting. 


On the other hand, steam ovens are versatile in that they can cook a variety of foods, from vegetables and meats to baked goods and even eggs. 

They are also a healthier alternative to traditional cooking methods as they cook food using steam, preserving nutrients and reducing the need for added oils or fats.

To emphasize the versatility of these appliances, the following table compares the cooking methods that can be used with air fryers and steam ovens:

Cooking MethodAir FryerSteam Oven

As shown in the table, air fryers are better suited for frying, grilling, and roasting, while steam ovens excel in baking and steaming. 

Temperature Range and Power Usage

Interestingly enough, the temperature range and power usage of the air fryer and steam oven may surprise some consumers who assume that one appliance is more energy-efficient.

The air fryer typically has a temperature range of 200 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower compared to the steam oven, which ranges from 212 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regarding power usage, air fryers consume less energy than steam ovens. The average air fryer uses about 1,400 watts of power, while steam ovens consume around 1,800 watts of power.

Consumers should also take note that the cooking time of the food in both appliances may vary, affecting their overall energy consumption. For instance, the air fryer may take a shorter time to cook a chicken than a steam oven, reducing the overall energy consumption of the appliance.

However, consumers should consider the fact that the air fryer is a smaller appliance that can only accommodate a limited amount of food, while the steam oven can hold more food and is suitable for cooking for large families or groups.

Preheating Requirement

Preheating is the process of heating the cooking chamber or basket before placing the food inside it. This is done to ensure that the cooking temperature is consistent and the food is cooked evenly.

In terms of preheating, air fryers have the advantage over steam ovens. Air fryers do not require preheating and can be started immediately after being turned on. This is because air fryers use a heating element that is located above the food basket, and the heat is directly supplied to the food.

On the other hand, steam ovens require preheating as they use steam to cook food. The steam must be generated and circulated throughout the oven before the cooking process begins. As a result, steam ovens take longer to preheat as compared to air fryers.

Noise Level

A steam oven generally operates quietly, with only a slight hum or hissing sound as it produces steam. In contrast, an air fryer can produce a loud noise as it circulates hot air at high speeds to cook food.

This noise can be particularly noticeable when cooking foods that require longer cooking times or at higher temperatures. 

The noise level of these appliances may not be a major concern for some users, but it can be a significant factor for those who want to use them in quiet environments or during specific times of the day.

For example, if you plan to use your appliance early in the morning or late at night, the noise level may be a critical factor to consider. 

Similarly, if you live in a small apartment or have a sleeping baby, you may prefer a steam oven that operates quietly to avoid disturbing others.

Cooking Capacity and Accessories

Air fryers typically have a smaller cooking capacity compared to steam ovens, making them more suitable for individuals or small families. 

They come in a variety of sizes, with the average cooking capacity ranging from 2 to 6 quarts.

Alternatively, steam ovens are designed to accommodate larger meals and can have a cooking capacity of up to 20 quarts. 

This makes them more suitable for families or individuals who entertain guests frequently.

In terms of accessories, air fryers and steam ovens come with various options to suit different cooking needs.

Air fryers typically come with a frying basket, which allows for easy frying of foods such as French fries and chicken wings. 

Some models also include grilling racks and baking pans, which can be used to cook a variety of different dishes.

On the other hand, steam ovens come with a range of accessories that allow for versatile cooking. 

These can include steam baskets, baking trays, and roasting pans, which can be used to cook a range of different dishes.

Is a steam convection oven the same as an air fryer?

A comparison between steam convection ovens and air fryers reveals that while both appliances use hot air for cooking food, steam convection ovens offer a more versatile range of cooking options, with some models boasting up to 12 cooking modes (Consumer Reports).

On the other hand, air fryers are designed to mimic the taste and texture of fried foods using minimal oil. While some steam ovens may come with an air fryer function, they cannot be considered the same appliance.

Steam convection ovens use steam to cook food, which helps to retain moisture and nutrients. They also allow for cooking at lower temperatures, reducing the risk of overcooking or burning.

On the other hand, air fryers use a high-powered fan to circulate hot air around the food, creating a crispy exterior without the need for deep frying. While air fryers are great for small portions and quick meals, steam convection ovens offer more cooking options and can handle larger portions.

Additionally, steam ovens can be used for other cooking methods, such as baking, roasting, and broiling, making them a more versatile appliance overall.

What is the alternative to an air fryer?

While steam convection ovens are not the same as air fryers, they offer similar benefits regarding healthy cooking and energy efficiency. 

Nevertheless, halogen ovens may be a viable option for those looking for an alternative to air fryers altogether.

Halogen ovens use halogen bulbs to release infrared heat circulated around a glass bowl by fans. 

This efficient cooking method allows food to be cooked quickly and evenly while also saving energy and reducing electricity bills.

In the table below, we compare the features of air fryers, steam convection ovens, and halogen ovens to help you decide which appliance best suits your needs.

FeatureAir FryerSteam Convection OvenHalogen Oven
Cooking methodRapidly circulating hot airCombination of hot steam and hot airHalogen bulbs releasing infrared heat
Health benefitsReduced need for oilRetains nutrients and moistureReduced need for oil
Cooking timeQuickModerateQuick
Energy efficiencyHighModerateHigh
Cooking capacitySmall to mediumMedium to largeSmall to medium
Price range$50 – $300+$500 – $1000+$50 – $150+

Can you put water in an air fryer to steam?

Adding excessive amounts of liquid to this kitchen appliance is not recommended for steaming purposes. 

Air fryers are designed to work by circulating hot air around the food inside the basket, allowing it to cook evenly and quickly.

Adding water or any other liquid to the air fryer can potentially damage the heating element and cause a short circuit. 

Moreover, the water may not evaporate completely, leading to a buildup of moisture inside the appliance, which can cause mold or bacteria growth.

If you want to steam food, opting for a steam oven or steamer basket is best. 

These appliances are specifically designed for steaming and can handle high levels of moisture without any risk of damage.

A steam oven works by heating water in a reservoir, which then generates steam that is circulated around the food inside the cooking chamber. 

Meanwhile, a steamer basket is a stovetop accessory that sits inside a pot of boiling water, allowing the steam to cook the food placed inside the basket.

Making a Choice: Air Fryer vs Steam Oven

If you crave the taste and texture of fried food with less oil, an air fryer may be the right choice for you. It offers convenience, quick cooking times, and a crispy finish. 

On the other hand, if you prioritize retaining the nutrients in your food and prefer a healthier cooking method, a steam oven can be an excellent option. 

It uses steam to cook food gently and evenly, resulting in moist and flavorful dishes.

Consider your cooking style, dietary preferences, and the types of food you frequently prepare when deciding between an air fryer and a steam oven. 

Ultimately, the decision should be based on what aligns best with your needs and preferences in the kitchen.

So, whether you go for the air fryer or the steam oven or even explore other hot air cooking options like toaster ovens or convection ovens, you can elevate your cooking experience and enjoy delicious meals in a healthier way.

Make your choice wisely and let your culinary adventures begin!

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Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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