In the age of countertop appliances, there is an endless selection of cookers, coffee makers, toaster ovens, fryers, toasters, grills, and more.
They are an excellent way to save energy and cook smaller meals in a more efficient manner. If an air fryer has caught your eye, and you’re wondering how they work and what they can be used for, this article will answer all of your questions.
What Is an Air Fryer, and How Does Air Frying Work?
An air fryer is essentially a kitchen appliance that functions as a mini countertop oven.
Just like a convection oven, an air fryer circulates very hot air in order to cook the food placed inside.
The cooking process uses only a little oil to achieve the crispy effect you love for staple foods like French fries.
A fan in the bottom or top of the appliance pushes hot air from the heating element around your food.
It is effective at cooking all the traditional deep-fried foods. However, an air fryer can do more than just fry foods.
It can also be used as a dehydrator, roaster, and baker to give you freedom in your kitchen.
Air fryers are really easy to use too, because you just need to mist in some oil, put your food in the non-stick basket, select a cooking time, and let the machine do the work for you.
They don’t require much cleanup or maintenance, either.
What Types of Food Can be made in an Air Fryer?
Whether you are choosing an air fryer as an alternative for a deep fryer or you are brand new to the frying game, you will likely be surprised at just how versatile these machines are.
They can cook a LOT of different types of foods without needing a number of different cooking methods to do it.
All of the traditional fried foods can be cooked in air fryer, including but not limited to the following:
- French fries
- Sweet potato fries
- Onion rings
- Chicken wings
- Chicken nuggets
- Chicken tenders
- Mozzarella sticks
Some foods you never thought to put in an air fryer can also turn out to be really delicious:
- Chicken breast without breading
- Squash, Brussels sprouts, and other veggies
- Jalapeno poppers
- Fried chicken
- Fresh baked cookies and other treats
- And more
It is a truly handy gadget to have around whether you have a large family, are cooking for one, or anything in between.
Benefits of Air Frying
There are a number of benefits that an air fryer will bring into your household, especially when you compare them to traditional deep frying or cooking in a standard oven. Let’s get into it.
- Healthier Food. Cooking in an air fryer instead of a deep fryer has more health benefits than you may think. The most obvious is the reduction in fat thanks to the difference in oil volumes. Less fat keeps your heart healthy and lets you enjoy the foods you love without the strain on your body. Cooking with an air fryer can also reduce the calories you’re consuming by 70-80% since your food does not get submerged and saturated with fatty oil. This can help with maintaining a healthy weight or even helping you to lose weight without forcing you to give up all of the fried foods that you love.
- No Preheat Required. One of the best things about most air fryers is that they don’t require a preheat time. You still CAN preheat the air fryer if you want to, but they reach their set temperature really quickly. This means you can start to cook food right away without any downtime. Efficiency is everything for busy families or individuals with a full schedule.
- Faster Cook Times. When you are cooking foods like pizza or other frozen items in an air fryer, they almost never need the same amount of time that is standard for regular ovens. The smaller space cooks more efficiently to get your dinner made on time, every time.
- Less Oil=Less Cost. Since you only need a few tablespoons of oil at most for air frying, rather than the litres demanded by a deep fryer, you are saving a lot of money on oil. Plus, the best air fryers on the market are half the price of the best deep fryers, so you’ll be saving money with the initial purchase as well.
- Limited Maintenance. Air fryers will still need to be cleaned on a regular basis, but they don’t require near the amount of manual labour that a deep fryer will require. Air fryer baskets need to be cleaned after every use, but they are designed to wash easily. Some models will even be dishwasher safe if you prefer a hands-free cleaning method.
Disadvantages of Air Frying
As many benefits as there are to air frying, there are downsides associated with these appliances as well.
- Taste Is Not As Good. In a deep fryer, food cooks submerged in oil heated to very high temperatures. As a result, it absorbs a lot of that oil and tastes really good. There’s a reason everyone loves deep fried food so much, and why it is so hard to resist even when you know it isn’t that good for you. Air fryers don’t cook with that much oil, so the taste in some foods will definitely be of lower quality.
- Greater Risk of Burning or Drying Out Food. The high heat that foods are exposed to in an air fryer in combination with the small capacity means you are more likely to dry out your foods or even burn them. Home cooks getting started with an air fryer for the first time should follow air fryer recipes closely to achieve better results, at least until you learn the machine. There are a number of air fryer cookbooks as well that can help you mitigate these risks.
- Cannot Be Used With Wet Batter. One of the biggest downsides of owning an air fryer instead of a deep fryer is their incompatibility with wet batter. If you want to make corn dogs, certain types of doughnuts, or other foods requiring wet batter, you won’t have much luck with an air fryer. The fan will encourage all of your batter to drip off pretty quickly, leaving you with a big mess to clean up and no food to show for it.
- Small Capacity Necessitates Batch Cooking. Of course, the small, countertop size of an air fryer means you can’t cook large portions at once. When you are making dishes for your family or a large gathering at your home, you will need to cook in batches when using an air fryer. Of course, this won’t be convenient for every occasion, so it is something to keep in mind when looking at air fryers.
What Are the Requirements for the Best Air Fryers?
All of the best air fryers on the market will have a few things in common. First of all, they will be versatile.
This means flexible cook times and temperatures, and the ability to operate in a couple different modes.
They are also easy to clean. Almost all of them will have dishwasher-safe components to eliminate the need for hand-washing.
The best air fryers also have a larger capacity to accommodate larger batch sizes.
Two of the top air fryers on the market are the Instant Pot Vortex and the Philips Premium Air Fryer, but there are many others on the market that combine all of the features you should be looking for.
Tips for Perfect Air-Fried Food
- Don’t overcrowd the basket.
- Flip your food part way through cooking.
- Use toothpicks to hold foods the right way.
- Spray in some extra oil during cooking.
- Check for doneness frequently to prevent over-cooking.
- Shake the basket occasionally to prevent foods from getting stuck. This will encourage crispiness too.
- Follow recipes closely until you learn your machine well enough to make your own decisions.