Do you know what air fryers are? Have you been wondering what all the hype is about? Are you looking for better options for your cooking? Then this is for you.
An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that heats food by circulating heated air around it: think convection oven, but smaller. It is said to be a healthier option than deep frying, and a cheaper alternative to convection ovens and multi-purpose ovens. Here, we objectively answer your questions about air fryers, how they work, what they do, and if they are worth the money.
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
Air fryers heat food by convection - air is heated to 320-400 degrees Fahrenheit and passed around your food at high speed to heat it and give it a crispy exterior. It browns food by a process known as the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugars.
With air fryers, your food is not submerged in oil. All you need is to coat whatever it is you're trying to heat with a thin layer of oil, place it in the air fryer's basket, set the timer and temperature regulator, and you're good to go.
How Does Air Frying Compare to The More Traditional Options?
Now, on to the big question: you probably want to know what makes an air fryer better than the other alternatives, and if it's worth the money to get one. We'll compare the air fryer to the most common alternatives.
Air Frying vs Deep Frying
The most talked-about benefits of air fryers are the health benefits, so we'll start from there. Much has been said about the health implications of consuming fried food, and how all the cholesterol and calories from the cooking oil are bad for you. So it follows that cutting down how much dunking food in oil you do is a good health decision. With the air fryer's convection approach to cooking, food fat content is cut by as much as 75% without significantly changing the color and moisture content of food. Air frying also cuts the calorie content of food and reduces Acrylamide, a possible human carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, by as much as 90%.
You should note that food cooked by convection isn't quite as crispy as deep-fried food. Also, they don't taste exactly the same. Some of the flavor you get with deep fried food is from the oil that seeps into whatever it is you made; that doesn't apply with an air fryer.
Air Fryers vs Convection Ovens/Multi-Purpose Ovens
The most obvious advantage that the air fryer has compared to the other two is the amount of kitchen real estate it occupies. An air fryer is significantly smaller than the other options, so it takes up much less space. Besides that, the basket employed in the air fryer makes for more even heat circulation, resulting in more evenly cooked food. Air fryers also cook food faster than convection ovens and multi-purpose ovens; because of their smaller size, they can move hot air more rapidly.
The smaller size of the air fryer can also be a disadvantage, however. This effectively means you can make less food in one go, making them less suitable for making large volumes. Also, although air fryers typically cost less, the greater functionality of the alternatives can make them more attractive in the long run.
Air Fryers vs Conventional Ovens
Conventional ovens utilize stationary heat sources that radiate heat, usually at the bottom of the appliance. Some of the higher-end ones feature dual heat sources: one at the bottom, and another at the top. They usually have hot and cold spots, which can potentially make for more unevenly cooked food. Regular ovens also cook slower than air fryers, and usually require time to pre-heat, unlike air fryers. Also, air fryers do a better job at keeping moisture out than regular ovens, so your food will come out crisper.
That said, the size disadvantage of air fryers also applies here. Conventional ovens offer much more space to cook various types of food, while an air fryer is limited by the size of its basket. In all fairness, they're designed with completely different needs in mind.