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I'm in the market for a new range. As the subject line asks, “Is there a difference between a Convection Oven and an Air Fryer?”

I ask because I can't tell the difference. They both seem the same to me. They are both dry heat circulated by a fan.

I'm looking at ranges that say they are air-fryers, at a cost over ordinary convection ranges. I have a counter-top air fryer that I love, but how is it different from an ordinary convection oven? Does the code word air fryer really carry any science with it?

EDIT UPDATE: I understand the marketing behind the little countertop Air Fryers. I have one and enjoy it. It's great when you need a small quantity. My confusion is when large convection (fan) ranges advertise an Air Fry function. Such as this one: image of a convection range I'm trying to imagine the difference between convection (fan) mode and Air Fry mode for such a range. To me, I don't see any difference between fan mode and Air Fry mode--I'm beginning to think it's a gimmick so that they can charge slightly more.

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    @BillyKerr Confusingly, 'convection oven' is the standard term (in the US at least) for an oven which uses a fan to drive air circulation inside the oven.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 20 at 9:37
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    @dbmag9 Precisely the opposite here - convection for us is natural convection currents, i.e. without a fan. We call these ovens "fan ovens". Huge potential for confusion here, and possible failed recipes if the temparatures are given for "convection ovens" in the US. UK cooks will switch the fan off. I've done it myself, learned that lesson a while ago.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 20 at 11:42
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    @BillyKerr Yes, I'm also UK-based. I don't think I've ever used an oven without the fan on except to grill (US: broil), though.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 20 at 11:51
  • @dbmag9, Has anyone compiled a list of differing national food-related terminology? It would be very handy. ¶ I myself have ruined recipes by using corn-flour (finely ground maize) instead of corn-starch (starch extracted from maize), because the recipe was British; and by boiling milk for several minutes rather than warming it, because the recipe was Indian and apparently "boil" simply means "heat" (I later found a similar recipe that said "gently boil for a few minutes until luke-warm"). Apr 20 at 14:53
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    @Preston. Thank you. Given the wide range of contributors, [language - Translating cooking terms between US / UK / AU / CA / NZ ](cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/784/…) and language - What international cooking terms sound similar but have different meanings? should be the first two articles on this site that everyone reads. Apr 20 at 16:21

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Yes, when you switch the fan on, it is essentially a large air fryer. The only real difference is that air fryers have a smaller volume of air to heat, which makes them more efficient. It's not all just marketing hype, these little fan ovens do have benefits over large fan ovens.

Just a note here about oven nomenclature - what Americans call a "Convection oven" is called a "fan oven" here in the UK, and I suspect some other English speaking countries. For us "convection" means without a fan, using natural convection currents, precisely the opposite of what it means in America. It's a total mystery to me as to why/how this has happened.

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  • I learn something new about US/UK language pitfalls every time I visit this stack. Thank you. I suspect fan ovens must be much more popular there. I’ve never seen one in the US outside of a commercial kitchen.
    – Preston
    Apr 20 at 16:10
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    @Preston - that's interesting. Fan ovens are by far the most common domestic electric oven in the UK these days. Another one to watch out for is "grilling" in the UK - which usually refers to the use of a salamander grill (i.e. heat from above) which is known in the US as broiling.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 20 at 17:05
  • In my corner of the US (Great Lakes) I frequently hear the term "convectionary oven"....
    – gnicko
    Apr 22 at 15:01
  • @gnicko - "convectionary"???!!! -, now that is interesting!
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 22 at 15:04
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    There are two kinds of convection: natural and forced. In a laboratory setting, ovens with fans are often called forced convection ovens to make the distinction more clear. Apr 26 at 21:10
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Air Fryer is a great example of an old technology being sold as something new with some good marketing.

Air Fryer is in essence a micro convection oven. The technology certainly not new and is in certain ways just a rebranding of an old technology.

That being said, it does not take away from an air fryers usefullness. Although some of the marketing is a bit tosh there is no denying the convenience it can provide.

It certainly makes sense to have a mini-oven for when you want to cook something small that does not justify using a full oven for.

It has much more merit to it than a lot of kitchen-gadget fads we have seen over the years.

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  • When you say “micro convection” do you mean small or microwave?
    – Debbie M.
    Apr 20 at 15:23
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    I mean small. It is a mini.oven
    – Neil Meyer
    Apr 20 at 18:49
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Air fryers really took off during the pandemic as people suddenly started cooking for themselves more. There are a lot of people familiar with an air fryer that don't realize a convection oven does essentially the same thing. "Convection oven" often either means nothing to people or reminds them of the old toaster oven their grandma had with the mechanical timer you turn.

So if they want to attract that demographic who might want to make larger batches of their favorite air fryer recipes, marketers use the "air fry" phrase. I doubt "air fry" is actually a distinct mode from regular convection, although they might add some of the features of higher-end air fryers, such as food-specific presets.

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