Air fryers began to build traction before the pandemic, but they’ve become even more popular today due to our increasing need and desire to convert to a healthier lifestyle.
But are air fryers worth it? Is air frying really healthy? Exactly how does an air fryer work anyway? Well, we’re here to answer all your burning questions about them.
So, stick around to understand the sorcery behind air fryers. Decide if they’re going to be a great addition for your kitchen or just a trendy new gimmick not worth your time.
And if you already bought a new one for your kitchen, do not fret! Check out this first-timer’s guide on how to use an air fryer (with tips and easy-to-follow recipes too!).
What Is An Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance designed to cook or fry food without the need to submerge your ingredients in oil. Instead, it relies on subtler browning reactions to cook your food and to produce a toasty, crunchy layer over it in a matter of minutes.
They’re said to reduce the amount of oil needed by 70% while effectively cooking your food in less time! This means that the air fryer promises a healthier eating habit and decreases the time you spend in your kitchen.
The air fryer almost sounds too good to be true, so we have to ask whether or not it delivers on its promise. Understanding how it works will confirm if it does and how well it does its job, if at all.
Parts Of An Air Fryer
There are many different types of air fryers available now, but they all have similar basic parts: the air fryer base, the fryer basket, and the drip tray.
The air fryer base is the main component. It houses the control panel, the heating element, the temperature and power indicators, and the other main mechanisms which make it possible to “air fry” your food.
The fryer basket is also called the drawer. This is where you place the ingredients you wish to cook or fry. It usually has round holes or a mesh base like those in a deep fry pot or pan.
The drip tray holds the fryer basket and catches all the crumbs, excess oils, and sauces which fall through the mesh base. Both components can be taken out completely and washed after use.
The chamber and heating element can’t be disassembled, but they should also be cleaned as well. Grease sticks easily onto the fryer’s surfaces, and allowing the gunk to stay isn’t hygienic or healthy.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Philips Electronics Company was credited for developing the first air fryer in 2010. It was introduced as Rapid Air technology then.
Many companies have followed since, but all of them, including Philips, have been critiqued for guising convection baking under a trendy new name.
Essentially, an air fryer is quite similar to a convection oven and its close cousin, the turbo broiler. They all use a circulation of hot air to cook food, although there are nuances to them.
A turbo broiler uses halogen light which emits infrared heat. Convection ovens, on the other hand, are like big toaster ovens equipped with fans to blow the hot air around.
Air fryers are like portable convection ovens. However, food is more evenly cooked, because the cooking chamber is smaller and better insulated. Cooking times are decreased too, because a high amount of heat is focused on a smaller area.
The heating element of an air fryer, usually in the form of a coil, can be found on top of its cooking chamber. Heat is radiated when the appliance is turned on and is circulated with the help of a high speed fan, which is also situated on top.
The chamber’s temperature may reach up to 252 °C (482 °F) and produces an ample layer of crispiness over your food. While an air fryer can’t achieve the same level of crispiness an actual deep-fryer can, it produces better results than a traditional oven would.
Air fryers share some similarities with its predecessors, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them a glorified convection oven. They aren’t the perfect appliance, but they do hold their own merits and deliver distinct results.
Is Air Frying Healthy?
Relatively so. Air fryers require much less oil, but they don’t fully eradicate the need for it. Without oil, the Maillard reaction, more commonly known as browning, may not occur. Oil is also needed to achieve the golden crispiness and the distinct sweetness you’re aiming for.
However, if the food you’re cooking is already naturally fatty, you can skip the oil. Otherwise, brush or spray it on as needed.
I wouldn’t advise air frying anything and everything you get your hands on though. There are still healthier alternatives to using one, so air frying shouldn’t be synonymous to healthy eating.
I suggest roasting, grilling, slow searing, and baking. Admittedly, these processes take more time than frying or air frying. But, that’s the price we pay for more nutritious meals. There aren’t many shortcuts, unless you’re willing to compromise on other things like cost or nutrition value.
Air frying is healthier than deep frying your food, but it isn’t a full proof way of converting to a more balanced diet.
Do you notice how these fryers are usually advertised beside freshly fried french fries, onion rings, cheese sticks, doughnuts, or even pizza? This marketing technique is highly effective, because these are foods we love.
We then associate the air fryer as a miracle appliance. Convection is misinterpreted as the sorcery behind guilt-free treats and meals. However, the truth is, using an air fryer doesn’t make any of these foods more nutritious. They’re all still junk food.
Air fryers simply reduce the amount of oil you need, but they don’t magically turn chicken nuggets into fish sticks or tofu.
If you don’t have much time to spare for meal prep and if you already heavily rely on an air fryer, simply cook healthier food!
Avoid processed meats and fries. Instead, cook fish, white meat, and vegetables. If you choose healthy recipes, then using an air fryer for most of your meals won’t be a problem.
Are Air Fryers Worth The Money?
The success of air fryers may be largely attributed to modern marketing, however, that doesn’t mean that they’re simply fads.
The technology was already around even before Philips released the first air fryer. It was only recognized differently then. If the hype surrounding air fryers dies down tomorrow, they may just be marketed as another appliance with a different name.
This means that air fryers are probably here to stay.
The advantage of air fryers lies in the fact that they’re able to cook things faster than a traditional oven can. Preheating an air fryer isn’t all that necessary either, because the temperature rises faster and the heat transfers a lot more evenly in their small chambers.
This makes them a very reliable and convenient countertop appliance. The drawback is that air fried food doesn’t taste or feel exactly like deep-fried food. There’s a subtle difference that not everyone might appreciate.
Air fryers come in relatively small sizes as well. Their drawers can only cook and contain up to two servings, so they’re great for people who live alone. Any bigger than a family of three, and you might need an upgrade. Bigger models may make more food, but they cost more too.
So, are air fryers worth the money? Well, if you prioritize fast cooking, they are! You can always cook food in batches, if you don’t mind consuming just a bit more electricity. Air fryers aren’t very expensive anyway. Compared to ovens, they’re definitely a bargain.
If converting to a healthier eating habit is your top priority though, I wouldn’t be too quick on investing in one. Air fryers are not direct replacements for other appliances after all.
Air frying is healthier than deep frying your food, but no study proves that it’s better than slow searing, roasting, grilling, or baking.
If you truly want to cultivate a more balanced and healthy eating habit, you should ditch frying altogether. Air fryers shouldn’t be used as a cheap band aid solution for an unhealthy lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a revolutionary kitchen appliance that has gained popularity for its ability to cook food with hot air instead of submerging it in oil. It operates on the principle of convection, where a powerful fan circulates hot air around the food at high speeds. This circulating air creates a crispy outer layer on the food, simulating the texture and taste of deep-fried dishes without the need for excessive oil. Air fryers come in various sizes and designs, typically featuring a cooking basket or tray where the food is placed. It has become a go-to appliance for health-conscious individuals who want to enjoy fried foods with fewer calories and less unhealthy fats.
2. How does an Air Fryer work?
Air fryers utilize convection technology, a process that involves the circulation of hot air to transfer heat to the food. The heating element inside the air fryer generates the required heat, and a powerful fan distributes this hot air rapidly and evenly around the food. As a result, the food’s surface dehydrates and forms a crisp outer layer, while the inside cooks thoroughly. The continuous circulation of hot air ensures that the food is cooked uniformly from all angles, eliminating the need for flipping or turning the food during the cooking process.
3. Is it healthier to use an Air Fryer?
Yes, using an air fryer is generally healthier compared to traditional deep frying methods. Since air fryers require little to no oil for cooking, they significantly reduce the overall fat content of the food. Traditional deep frying involves submerging the food in hot oil, which can lead to high calorie and unhealthy fat intake. With an air fryer, you can achieve similar crispy and delicious results without the excess oil, making it a healthier alternative for frying various dishes.
4. Can I use oil in an Air Fryer?
While it is not necessary to use oil in an air fryer, you can still use a small amount to enhance the taste and texture of certain foods. Spraying or brushing a light coat of oil on the food’s surface before air frying can help achieve a golden and crispy exterior. However, it’s essential to use oil in moderation to maintain the health benefits of air frying.
5. What types of food can I cook in an Air Fryer?
Air fryers are versatile appliances capable of cooking a wide range of foods. Some popular items include french fries, chicken wings, chicken tenders, fish fillets, vegetables (such as zucchini fries or roasted brussels sprouts), and even desserts like donuts and cakes. You can also reheat leftovers in an air fryer, preserving their crispy texture better than traditional microwaving.
6. Are Air Fryers easy to clean?
Yes, most air fryers are designed with convenience in mind, making them relatively easy to clean. Many models have non-stick coatings on their cooking baskets or trays, reducing the chances of food sticking to the surface. Additionally, some parts of the air fryer, such as the cooking basket and tray, are often dishwasher-safe, further simplifying the cleaning process.
7. Can I reheat food in an Air Fryer?
Absolutely! Air fryers are excellent for reheating leftovers because they can re-crisp the food’s exterior, providing a texture similar to freshly cooked items. Whether it’s pizza, fried chicken, or other fried dishes, the air fryer can restore their original deliciousness better than a microwave.
8. What size Air Fryer should I choose?
The size of the air fryer you should choose depends on your cooking needs and the number of people you typically cook for. Smaller air fryers with a capacity of around 2 to 3 quarts are suitable for individuals or couples, offering enough space for cooking small portions. If you often cook for a family or a larger group, consider getting an air fryer with a capacity of 5 to 6 quarts or more to accommodate larger batches of food.
9. Is it safe to use an Air Fryer?
When used correctly and following the manufacturer’s instructions, air fryers are generally safe to use. However, like any kitchen appliance that involves heat, caution should be exercised. It’s essential to place the air fryer on a flat, stable surface and maintain adequate clearance around it to allow proper ventilation. Additionally, users should avoid overcrowding the cooking basket, as it may hinder even air circulation and cooking. As with any appliance, it’s recommended to read the user manual thoroughly and follow safety guidelines for optimal usage.
10. Can I cook frozen food in an Air Fryer?
Yes, you can cook frozen food in an air fryer without the need for defrosting. The air fryer’s high-speed hot air circulation effectively cooks frozen items, and you might only need to adjust the cooking time slightly to ensure thorough cooking. It’s a convenient feature, allowing you to prepare quick meals with frozen foods without sacrificing taste and texture.
11. Are there any foods I should avoid cooking in an Air Fryer?
While air fryers are versatile, some foods with excessive liquid content or extremely high water content may not be suitable for air frying. Soups, stews, and foods with high moisture levels may not cook properly in an air fryer and could make a mess. Additionally, foods that are too small or lightweight might get blown around by the circulating air, making it challenging to cook them evenly.
12. Do I need to preheat the Air Fryer?
Preheating an air fryer is not always necessary, but it can be beneficial for certain recipes. Preheating can help achieve more consistent and predictable cooking results, especially for baked goods and recipes that require precise cooking times.
13. Can I cook multiple items at once in an Air Fryer?
Yes, you can cook multiple items simultaneously in an air fryer, but it’s essential to arrange them in a way that allows sufficient space for proper air circulation. If the items are overcrowded, the hot air may not reach all surfaces, leading to uneven cooking. For the best results, consider batch cooking or cooking items of similar sizes and textures together.
14. Can I bake in an Air Fryer?
Absolutely! Air fryers can function as compact convection ovens, making them suitable for baking a variety of dishes. You can bake muffins, cookies, cupcakes, and even small cakes in an air fryer. Just like with traditional baking, using the right temperature and cooking time is essential for successful baking in an air fryer.
15. Do I need to shake the basket while cooking in an Air Fryer?
Shaking the cooking basket or stirring the food halfway through the cooking process can help ensure even browning, especially for smaller, lightweight items like fries or potato wedges. By shaking the basket, you ensure that all sides of the food come into contact with the hot air, promoting uniform cooking and crispiness.
With an air fryer, food can be cooked in a matter of minutes. They use less oil and are hailed as a convenient replacement for traditional ovens and deep fryers too.
However, air fryers are easily misconceived as a miracle appliance. We have to remember that they don’t turn junk food into a nutritious meal.
Air fryers are worth the money if you prioritize fast and convenient cooking. Reducing the use of oil makes it healthier than deep frying, but that doesn’t make it synonymous to healthy eating.