There is nothing like the satisfying crunch of fried foods. But there is also nothing like the oil-spattered mess and waistline-expanding bad health effects of fried foods either.
Is there a healthier, less messy, yet still tasty middle ground? For fans and makers of air fryers, the answer is a big yes. Read on to learn more about air frying, including tips and benefits.
What is an air fryer and how does it work?
At its most basic, an air fryer is a self-contained, countertop convection oven. Air fryers are like roasting, shallow-frying, and oven-frying, all in one. They can cook an array of food, from chicken nuggets to pastries, potatoes, vegetables, and even fish.
Like an oven, you can set a cooking temperature. However, instead of relying on radiant heat (like a grill) or hot oil (like a fryer), an air fryer cooks by heating air with a heating element, then circulating that hot air with a fan. Constant motion within a compact space keeps the cooking temperature consistent. Foods cook evenly while browning and developing a crispy, crunchy exterior. Overall, air fryers cook food with less fat than traditionally fried foods yet produce similar texture and flavor. Deep frying can require quarts of oil, but air fryer recipes often call for just a couple of teaspoons.
Oil-fried vs. air-fried: Is there a difference?
There’s been a lot of hype about air fryers. Opinions are mixed, and an air fryer isn’t for every kitchen or home cook. Air fryers take up a lot of counter space and they can be expensive. However, air fryers can also be a healthy—and fun—way to cook.
Using an air fryer instead of deep frying means the final product is lower in fat. There’s also some indication that cooking with an air fryer can mean lower amounts of high-heat cooking compounds that may be linked to cancer, such as acrylamide (often found in French fries and potato chips).
Air fryers are enclosed, self-contained units, so there’s no hot oil spattering all over your kitchen. Many air fryers are made to be easily wiped down, and removable food baskets are often dishwasher-safe.
The key question, though, is: Does air-fried food taste exactly like deep-fried food? The short answer is no.
Since there’s less fat, the air-fried food won’t have the same richness or crunch you can expect from deep-frying. Air-fried foods can be more akin to roasted, grilled, or “oven-fried” foods. The taste and texture won’t be a perfect stand-in for a deep fryer, because that fried flavor relies on the additional fat used in deep frying. That said, the health and convenience of air frying may more than compensate.
Buying an air fryer? Here are five factors to keep in mind
- Make sure you have counter space (and/or room in your pantry or appliance garage for storage).
- If noise level matters to you, try to find one that’s quieter since some air fryer models have louder fans than others.
- Cooking basket sizes vary. Make sure you get the right size for your cooking needs.
- Typically you can skip any specialized pots, pans, racks, or other add-ons and stick to the included air-fryer basket.
- Are the controls easy to use? Look for big buttons, bright displays, and well-organized options and functions.
A new tool for the healthier cook
Air fryers can cook a range of foods, cut down on unhealthy fats, and make it easier to eat better. Some food tools come and go, but the air fryer may well be here to stay.