The point of an air fryer is pretty simple, it’s like a mini convection oven but better. It promises to replicate the taste and texture of your favorite deep-fried foods without the fat and calories.
This countertop kitchen appliance sounds promising, with its promise of crispy, close-to-fried perfection. Some are small, occupying roughly the same amount of counter space as toaster ovens.
But how does an air fryer work, and what foods can it cook? Do you need oil? And does it live up to the hype? And what is the point of buying an air fryer?
Continue reading to see if an air fryer is right for your kitchen and if it’s worth it.
What Is An Air Fryer?
The air fryer is essentially a more powerful countertop convection oven that does not fry food. The Philips Electronics Company-patented small appliance claims to imitate the results of deep-frying using only hot air and little or no oil.
According to this market research firm, this device has grown in popularity in recent years, with nearly 40% of U.S. homes owning one by July 2020. Everything from refrigerated chicken wings and homemade french fries to toasted vegetables and fresh-baked cookies can be air-fried.
How Does The Air Fryer Work?
An air fryer converts tiny amounts of moisture into mist by using a heating element and a fan that circulates hot air above and around your food. The food is placed in an air fryer basket before being placed inside the appliance.
The extra-hot cooking chamber allows dry heat to penetrate the food from the outside in, producing the familiar crispy texture associated with a deep fryer bath.
In some ways, the name is deceptive. Air fryers do not fry food. Instead, they use convection heating, which involves circulating hot air around the food.
This method produces a crispy, crunchy coating without the need for deep frying. It’s similar to using the fan-assisted setting on your regular oven but in a smaller package.
Look at air-fried foods for evidence of the Maillard reaction in action. That is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars to make brown food and give it a distinct flavor.
In other words, an air fryer will provide the taste and texture of fried or roasted food without requiring you to submerge your meal in oil.
What Can You Cook In Air Fryer?
While many of the best air-fryer recipes are for deep-fried foods, this appliance can also be employed to roast vegetables, cook meat, and bake cookies.
- Frozen foods
- Homemade finger food
- Chicken, fish, and meat
- Roasted vegetables
Does Air Fried Food Taste Good?
It all comes down to how much you enjoy the flavor of fat. Many people enjoy fat because it has a distinct flavor profile that adds substance to a dish. The problem is that air frying lacks the fatty flavor palette that regular deep-fried food has.
If you like the fatty, almost melty flavor of the oil, you might not think air-fried food tastes as good as deep-fried food. If fatty foods repulse you, on the other hand, you’ll probably be an air fryer fan.
Is Air Frying Really Frying?
If you want to get technical, air frying is not a type of frying.
Frying is defined as the use of oil to transfer heat into food, whereas air frying does not use oil in its cooking process. Air frying is essentially the same as baking in a convection oven.
The truth is that this type of baking is simply a little crispier than your average oven, which is why it’s marketed as “frying.” It’s a clever marketing strategy.
What Can You Cook In An Air Fryer?
An air fryer is ideal to cook food that you would otherwise deep fry because it provides the crunch without using much oil. Air fryers are also great for making fried chicken, particularly fantastic wings.
Roasted vegetables will be crispy, browned, and perfectly cooked in the center, but they will require the same amount of oil as oven-roasted vegetables.
Anything that can benefit from high heat is ideal for an air fryer: cut-in-half potatoes tossed in olive oil, chickpeas that become a super-crunchy snack, steaks, chops, and more. Bread and cookies can also be baked in the air fryer.
Air frying is also an option for fresh fish, such as salmon. Bacon can do the same. Most meat dishes can be prepared in an air fryer, but the cooking time and temperature must be monitored.
It can also be used in more creative ways, such as making homemade crisps, toasted seeds, and nuts.
You can cook some baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and desserts if you get a compatible pan. They will be done much faster and with much less power than the oven.
What Can You Not Cook In Air Fryer?
You won’t be able to fry items in a wet batter, but you can fry items coated with the breadcrumb mix. Cheesy items should also be avoided. In your air fryer, the batter and cheese will simply melt into a gloopy mess beneath the tray.
There are better ways to cook broccoli and other similar vegetables, which can become dry or soggy. Leafy vegetables are easily blown around and may not cook evenly. Dry food that has been seasoned will lose its seasoning as it cooks.
And forget about getting a rare burger or steak. The inside of the meat will be well done by the time the outside has browned.
However, there are recipes for all kinds of air-fried foods, including some of the above, so the technique is important, and you may have to experiment to see what works for you. But if you think you can make soup in an air fryer then read this before you even try.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Air Fryer?
Here are some of the pros and cons of an air fryer that you should consider before buying it:
|Crispy food with less oil
|Generally have small capacity
|Easy To use
|Cooks food at a high temperature
|Healthier than deep frying
|Battered food cannot be cooked
|Doesn’t Heat the kitchen like the oven
|Less cleanup as compared to traditional frying
Is Cooking With An Air Fryer Healthy?
If you use your air fryer to cook oven-ready, batter-coated, or crumb-coated fish, chicken nuggets, or oven chips, the results will be no different than if you cooked them in the oven.
Most models do not require oil to operate, but using cooking spray or tossing your food with a teaspoon or two of oil before placing it in the basket will improve the texture and flavor of air-fried foods.
While air-fried food can be enjoyed without oil, the beauty of this appliance is that it only requires a small amount.
Deep fryers can use up to 50 times the amount of oil that an air fryer does. Even though your food will only absorb a small portion of the oil, deep frying is still the most calorie-dense method of cooking.
A teaspoon of oil contains only 40 calories. The small amount of oil you use browns and caramelizes everything, resulting in extra crispy and delicious results.
And, when compared to deep-fried foods, the amount of oil used in the air fryer is practically nothing, resulting in fewer calories and saturated fat than traditional fried foods.
You can find a very good example of calorie difference in my discussion about Air Fryer French Fries Calories VS Deep Fried.
How Do You Clean An Air Fryer?
Cleaning an air fryer is pretty easy, it has some decent steps:
- Fill a sink halfway with hot water and dish detergent.
- Remove the air fryer pan insert and basket.
- Soak them in soapy water for at least 10 minutes to remove oil and food scraps.
- After soaking, wash the basket and air fryer pan with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth and air dry.
- Wipe down the inside of the air fryer and the outside of the pan with a damp, non-abrasive cloth.
- If any food gets stuck on the heating element of the air fryer, wipe it down with a soft, dry cloth. Steel-bristled brushes and anything abrasive should be avoided.
- When all parts are completely dry, replace the basket and air fryer pan.
Here is a more clear depiction of how you can clean your air fryer:
Can Air Fryer Help In Cutting Fat Content?
Some brands claim that using an air fryer instead of a deep fryer can help reduce the fat content of foods by up to 75%.
This is because air fryers use far less oil to cook than traditional deep fryers. While many deep-fried recipes call for up to 3 cups of oil, air-fried foods only require about 1 tablespoon.
Deep fryers use up to 50 times the amount of oil as air fryers. Even if the food does not absorb all of the oil, using an air fryer significantly reduces the overall fat content.
Studies comparing the properties of deep-fried and air-fried french fries discovered that air-frying produced a product with significantly less fat and a less crispy texture, but a similar color and moisture content.
Does The Air Fryer Aid In Weight Loss?
Deep-fried foods are not only higher in fat, but also in calories, which may contribute to weight gain.
According to one large study, a higher intake of fried foods was associated with an increased risk of obesity.
If you want to lose weight, swapping deep-fried foods for air-fried foods is an excellent place to start.
Dietary fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram as other macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates, with 9 calories in every gram of fat.
Because air-fried foods contain less fat than deep-fried foods, switching to an air fryer may be a simple way to cut calories and manage your weight.
- Air fryers circulate hot air to make the outside crispier, it doesn’t taste like deep frying though.
- Cleaning an air fryer is pretty easy and there are many delicious recipes that you can go for. However, you should always avoid food that is not suitable for air fryers.
- That being said, if you’re serious about frying, owning an air fryer can be a great way to experiment with new recipes and interesting new ways to prepare delicious meals.