Food Steamer Vs. Air Fryer: Which Is The Best?

Food steamers and air fryers are popular small cooking appliances, but they differ. 

This article compares food steamer vs. air fryer to see which is best for your needs.

11 The Differences Between Food Steamer And Air Fryer

There are 11 differences between food steamers and air fryers, which we will discuss.

1. Functionality

The main difference between these two small appliances is their functionality and what they are primarily designed to do. 

A food steamer is designed for steaming food; it is not intended to do anything other than that. 

On the other hand, an air fryer is designed to air fry food to achieve the same taste and texture as a deep fryer without the added oil. 

However, air fryers can roast, bake, dehydrate, defrost, and more.

Related: Bamboo Vs. Metal Steamer [The Comparison]

2. Size and Weight

Air fryer takes more space

This can be subjective depending on the models of each small appliance. 

However, for the most part, you can expect an air fryer to take up more space and be heavier than a food steamer. 

Food steamers are relatively small and lightweight, don’t take up much counter space, and some might even consider them portable. 

Food steamers are a little more convenient.

3. Cost

The next significant difference has to do with the cost. For an average food steamer, you can expect to spend between $35 and $70 and no more than $100. 

They are affordable cooking appliances that won’t break the bank. 

Since air fryers are larger, more complex, and can perform many functions, they tend to be more expensive. 

You’d be lucky to find an air fryer for under $100; they can easily cost several hundred dollars, depending on the model.

See the article about how economical air fryers are.

4. Cooking Capacity

Food steamer capacity is big

You then always have to consider the cooking capacity of both appliances, and here, the food steamer is the clear winner. 

Air fryers can have pretty large baskets, some of which may even be able to fit a small chicken or similar.

However, there is just one cooking basket in an air fryer, which often isn’t too large.

Therefore, the amount of food you can cook in an air fryer is limited and usually won’t feed more than two or three people. 

On the other hand, a food steamer often comes with stackable baskets that can stack on top of each other.

Many also allow you to purchase additional baskets. Theoretically, a food steamer will allow you to stack as many baskets on top of each other as you have. 

This means that a food steamer will enable you to cook much more food at once, making it ideal for larger groups of people.

On that note, you can’t separate food in an air fryer because there is only one basket. Therefore, everything needs to be cooked together. 

However, in a food steamer, you can separate foods into different baskets, thus allowing you to cook many dishes simultaneously.

5. Ease of Use

Another factor to consider has to do with user-friendliness. A food steamer is perhaps one of the most straightforward cooking tools. 

You have to add water to the reservoir, turn it on, set the time (if there is one), and you are good to go. A food steamer is easy to clean.

Also, because it cooks with steam, there is no chance of burning your food or sticking to the baskets.

Things are a little more complicated with an air fryer because you must know how to use the different functions. 

Air fryers have more parts and are harder to clean; if you don’t use them right, you may also burn your food. Food tends to stick to the air fryer baskets as well.

Also, see: How to Use an Air Fryer for Fries.

6. Food Texture

Another difference is that with a food steamer because the food is cooked in hot steam, the texture will be relatively soft and mushy, especially if the food cooks for too long. 

Most agree that the texture of steamed food isn’t fantastic. 

However, food turns out golden brown and crispy with an air fryer. It looks much better and has a far better texture to it as well.

7. Food Taste

Next, the taste of the food is also going to be different. Food usually tastes good regardless of your cooking method with an air fryer. 

Cooking that food using convection and a bit of oil produces a good flavor. On the other hand, with a food steamer, food often becomes a bit bland and tasteless.

8. Cooking Time

Air fryer cooks faster

Air fryers get very hot, up to 450°, so they cook food quickly. Many will find the short cooking time of an air fryer very convenient. 

However, food steamers only go up to around 240°, as this is all it takes to boil water and turn it into steam. 

Therefore, air fryers are much faster at cooking food than steamers. This time difference is something that many people consider.

9. Versatility

Something else about food steamers is that they can only steam food, and the foods that can be steamed are somewhat limited. 

Veggies, meat, and maybe some stuffed buns are about all a food steamer can cook. 

However, because an air fryer can air fry, bake, roast, defrost, dehydrate, and much more, it’s the more versatile tool that can cook virtually any food. 

You can even bake cookies in an air fryer.

10. Safety

Air fryers are more dangerous to use than food steamers. 

However, food steamers don’t get nearly as hot as air fryers, so as far as a fire risk is concerned, the steamer is the safer of the two.

11. The Health Aspect

You also have to consider that air fryers still use a small amount of oil for cooking, which isn’t perfect, although healthier than deep frying. 

Food steamers do not use any oil and even go so far as to melt fat out of meat. The food steamer is the much healthier cooking method of the two.

Food Steamer Vs. Air Fryer: Comparison Table

Below is the comparison table to summarize all the talking points:

Food SteamersAir Fryers
FunctionalitySteaming foodAir fry food
Size and weightSmall and lightweightHeavy and take up more space
CostCheaperSlightly expensive
Cooking capacityCan cook more food at onceSpace is limited to the size of the basket
Ease of useStraightforwardA bit of a learning curve
Food textureTend to be soft and mushyHave better structure
Food tasteA bit bland and tastelessTaste better
Cooking timeTakes timeFast
VersatilitySomewhat limitedAny food
SafetySaferA bit risky
The health aspectHealthierLess healthy

You might be interested in comparing a food steamer vs. a pressure cooker.


As you can see, there are differences between food steamers and air fryers. Now that you know the differences, you can choose the best one.