Every time a new kitchen appliance enters the market, home chefs get excited to try it. While they may seem non-essential to some people, these appliances can significantly help and improve the cooking experience.
One of these appliances is the air fryer, which has been causing a lot of buzz in the culinary market. Being a Philips patent, the air fryer is hailed as an incredible item, considering the company’s top-notch reputation.
But what is an air fryer? How does it work? Is it worth your money? How to use and clean it? Let’s discuss all these things in detail.
Table of Contents
- What is an Air Fryer?
- What is the Best Air Fryer?
- What Is The Difference Between an Air Fryer and a Convection Oven?
- What’s the Difference Between an Air Fryer and Deep Fryer?
- How Does an Air Fryer Work?
- Is Air Fried Food Healthy?
- What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
- How to Use an Air Fryer?
- How to Clean an Air Fryer?
- Final Words
What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance, like an oven, that you can use to bake, roast, and warm food. However, the difference between the two is the heating elements and lack of oil.
While an oven uses a considerable amount of oil to cook food, an air fryer uses notably lesser oil for frying. Plus, an air fryer’s heating elements are present at the top of the unit, while those of a traditional oven are placed on the side or the back.
As evident from the name, the fryer uses air for conducting heat. The heating element has a large fan that transfers heat to the food, making it crispy instantly.
One of the reasons for air fryers becoming so popular is that they fry food quickly. Owing to the fan’s suitable placement, the food is also cooked evenly.
More importantly, air fryers are much easier to clean than conventional deep fryers or ovens. Most units are dishwasher-safe, saving you the hassle of manual cleaning.
What is the Best Air Fryer?
Like every other kitchen appliance, air fryers have also advanced a lot over time. Today, you can find high-end air fryers with multiple cooking abilities or cheaper models that merely fry.
To find the best air fryer for your needs, you must consider your requirements.
For instance, if you want to cater to a large family, the Cosori Air Fryer is the best bet. With ten customizable presets and an easy-to-use LED panel, the air fryer makes cooking a breeze.
Moreover, it comes with 100 personalized recipes, so you don’t have to waste time finding one online.
However, not everyone has a large family. If you’re living with your spouse or have a three to four-people family, consider getting the Ninja Air Fryer.
Despite being small, the fryer packs a high heat of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, it cooks your food with 75% lesser fat while being dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
Being the founder of the air fryer, Philips definitely takes the win when it comes to high-end air fryers. The Philips Premium Digital Airfryer can cook for up to four people, making fries ready in just a few minutes.
Besides, it can fry, bake, roast, reheat, toast, and grill. Once you’re done savoring the food, you can put the air fryer in the dishwasher for quick cleaning.
Best Multifunctional Air Fryers
While most people are content with the basic air fryers, others need appliances that can do multiple jobs. Luckily, air fryers live up to the expectations, as some newer models come with up to ten functionalities.
For example, the Breville Smart Convection Oven is the best convection oven cum air fryer option out there. It has 13 cooking functions, from roasting and broiling to baking. Powered by 1800 Watts, it can cook in minutes for a family of four.
To give you a slight idea, you can toast nine slices of bread or roast a 14-pound turkey in this oven with ultimate ease. Now, that’s what we call a stunner.
Meanwhile, people who want the best air fryer toaster combo should opt for Cuisinart Convection Air Fryer Toaster Oven. With 1800 Watts of power, the air fryer has seven cooking functions, including toasting and broiling.
You can adjust the thermostat for up to 60 minutes while cooking a 12-inch pizza or three pounds of chicken.
Finally, if you want an air fryer that can pressure cook, you should purchase the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker Air Fryer.
Along with frying, it can pressure cook, bake, steam, slow cook, and broil food. The 5-quart cooking basket allows you to prepare food for larger groups. Additionally, the stainless steel finish ensures durability.
What Is The Difference Between an Air Fryer and a Convection Oven?
Just because an air fryer uses convection heating for cooking, some people might think it’s the same as a convection oven. However, that’s not the case. Both appliances have some significant differences.
Air Fryer vs Convection Oven
Here are a few regards in which convection ovens differ from air fryers.
Air fryers are compact, thus, fit easily on a countertop. In contrast, convection ovens are full-sized appliances that take up a lot of space.
Since an air fryer is smaller, the food is closer to the heating element. As a result, the food cooks faster.
On the other hand, the food in convection ovens takes longer to cook, considering it’s distant from the heating element.
In a convection oven, the heating element is placed at the top and the bottom. Thus, the food gets heat from both sides, allowing concentrated cooking.
The heating element of an air fryer is placed on the top of the unit. Therefore, the food gets unidirectional heat.
Both appliances have a fan since it facilitates a convection heating current. The fan is present on the top of the air fryer. In a convection oven, it’s placed at the back, side or the centre of the oven.
As for size, air fryers have larger and more powerful fans than convection ovens.
From this information, it’s evident that air fryers aren’t the same as convection ovens despite using similar heating mechanisms. So, which is better: air fryer or convection oven?
Air fryers are suitable for cooking food quickly without using excessive oil. However, they cannot cook for a large family at once because of the smaller size.
On the contrary, ovens have a larger size so they can cook for more people, although at a slower speed. Depending on your preference and needs, one of the two will be better for you.
What’s the Difference Between an Air Fryer and Deep Fryer?
Like convection ovens, air fryers also differ from deep fryers in multiple regards.
Air fryers use less oil than deep fryers, thus, lowering the cost of cooking. Sure, you can reuse the oil in deep fryers, but most health experts are against this practice.
Since air fryers use less oil, they’re generally considered healthier than deep fryers. Most air fryers reduce fat usage by up to 80%, making the resulting food much healthier.
On the contrary, the food cooked in a deep fryer is more tender and moist, but also unhealthy.
Air fryers are suitable for cooking smaller batches or reheating food since they’re compact. However, you can cook large batches of food in deep fryers, as they have bigger baskets.
In terms of safety, air fryers are safer than deep fryers because there’s no oil splashing or splattering onto the person standing next to the appliance. When using a deep fryer, you have to maintain your distance to ensure that the oil does not burn you.
Meanwhile, there’s no such concern while using an air fryer.
When it comes to the versatility of use, air fryers take the lead. Modern models allow you to cook, broil, bake, toast, and do much more than a deep fryer does.
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
Think of an air fryer like a countertop oven. Since it’s compact, it can fit easily on a limited counter space and allows faster cooking.
On top of the unit is a heating element, equipped with a fan. When you turn on the power source, the energy passes through the heating element and travels to the fan from where it spreads further.
The fan transfers hot air to the food in the basket. Due to this rapid circulation of hot air, the food becomes crisp and well-cooked in no time.
Almost all air fryers come with a temperature adjustment knob that you can use to control the heat inside the cooking chamber. Additionally, there’s also a timer that facilitates precise cooking.
In a deep fryer, the food sits in a basket surrounded by oil. While cooking, you have to shake the basket to ensure even heating on all sides. In low-end air fryers, you have to do this manually.
In contrast, high-end air fryers have an in-built system that automatically shakes the food in the basket.
Is Air Fried Food Healthy?
Yes, air frying food is much healthier than deep-frying it because of lesser oil use. Cooking methods that involve a lot of oil are linked to diabetes, heart disease, and other health concerns.
Since air fryers use 75% to 80% less oil than conventional cooking methods, the food cooked in them is much healthier.
When you deep fry food, the higher amount of fatty oils leads to the production of acrylamide. It’s a chemical compound that has been linked with cancer.
A study shows that air frying reduces acrylamide production by 90%. Thus, it’s much safer for your body and reduces the risk of life-long illnesses.
Along with harmful chemicals, such as acrylamide, air fried food is also low in calories and fats. Therefore, air frying helps you enjoy the same flavors as conventional cooking without putting you at risk of obesity or obesity-induced diseases.
Here’s an example. A deep-fried chicken has 250 calories. However, an air fried chicken of the same size has 135 calories. Plus, it only has 5 grams of fat while the deep-fried chicken has up to 19 grams.
As you can see, air frying brings a significant reduction in the fat amount. Hence, most air fryers come with the claim of reducing fat use by 80%.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
You can cook everything in an air fryer that you’d usually cook in a convection oven. Some of these things include:
- Chicken recipes
- Cheese sticks
Modern air fryers come with added functionality. Thus, you can use them for baking and toasting food items too. From fixing a batch of brownies to making toast in the morning, you can use an air fryer for almost everything.
When you buy an air fryer, you’ll most probably get a recipe book personalized for that particular model. Then, you can use the settings – for time and temperature – recommended in the recipes to get perfect results.
What are The Best Foods to Cook in an Air Fryer?
According to professional chefs, the best thing to cook in an air fryer is frozen food. When fried in an air fryer, frozen nuggets or other foods, become crispy pretty quickly. The same goes for Brussel sprouts.
Also, you can make cookies in an air fryer quickly because there’s no need for preheating. As soon as you turn on the fryer, it will be ready in a few seconds for baking.
Another great thing to make in an air fryer is a steak, although you’ll need some practice for this one. Even if you don’t have the best gas/ propane grill at home, you can enjoy a juicy steak on game night.
Possibly the best foods to make in an air fryer are bacon and fries. Both can be quite messy when cooked using a conventional method, considering they require oil.
However, when cooked in an air fryer, fries need lesser supervision and create almost no mess. Plus, they’re crispier and less oily than the fries you make in a wok or a deep-fryer.
While you’re at it, here are a few things to not cook in an air fryer:
- Anything with a wet batter
- Fresh greens
- Medium-rare burgers
How to Use an Air Fryer?
Every air fryer comes with an instructions manual that will tell you how to set it up. Once you’ve assembled the fryer, you’re ready to cook.
The food goes inside the fryer basket, which is immersed in oil. Depending on the recipe, you can adjust the time and temperature that will give you the best results. While using an air fryer is no rocket science, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Tips for Air Frying
Here are a few tips to remember when using an air fryer.
Shake It Up
If you do not shake the food inside the basket, it will stick to each other. Plus, it may not be cooked evenly as only one side comes in contact with the oil.
Some modern air fryers come with an alarm system that reminds you to shake the basket every few minutes. If your air fryer does not have this functionality, remember to shake the basket every five to ten minutes.
If the ingredients are wet, such as marinated chicken, pat them dry before putting them in the basket. Otherwise, the oil may splash, causing excessive smoke.
Likewise, when you cook high-fat foods, remove the fat dripping to the bottom of the air fryer periodically.
The space inside an air fryer is often limited, and you may want to cook all your ingredients at once to save time. However, it will result in undercooked food with little to no crispiness.
Instead, give each food item enough space. It’s also important to keep distance between the ingredients to allow air circulation.
Cook in small batches or cut up the larger food items, such as steaks, in smaller parts for better cooking.
Use an oil with a higher smoke point. Such oils can retain high temperatures, a characteristic of air fryers, without burning. Some oils with a high smoke point include:
- Vegetable oil
- Peanut oil
- Canola oil
Do not use olive oil for air frying as it will burn at high temperatures, leaving a nasty aftertaste in your food.
Supervise the Food
Keep in mind that food cooks faster in an air fryer. So, you must supervise it at all times. Don’t leave the ingredients inside the air fryer to catch up on the latest episode of your favourite show. The food will most probably burn while you’re gone.
Stand close to the air fryer to monitor the food. At any point, you can remove the basket to shake the ingredients or take a look at the cooking progress.
Browning Food in an Air Fryer
If you want brown food, such as fries or chicken, remove extra moisture from the surface and spray some cooking oil. Yes, cooking without oil is healthier, but you won’t get the browning effect without fatty oil.
Alternatively, you can boost browning by adding a few drops of honey to the food item. If you’re making pastry dough, brush the surface with egg wash to get a glossy and even browning.
Cooking Steaks in an Air Fryer
As mentioned earlier, cooking steaks require a bit of effort and practice. Nevertheless, if you follow a chef-curated recipe down to the last word, you’ll get a perfect steak.
Cut the steak into smaller sizes to fit more portions into the air fryer. It also helps prevent overcrowding and allows proper air circulation.
Plus, add a spice rub to the steak to get rich color and flavor.
How To Preheat an Air Fryer?
Generally speaking, you don’t have to preheat your air fryer because the heating element gets hot in a few seconds. However, if you want the food to be crispy, you can preheat the air fryer for a few minutes.
Crank the heat settings on your air fryer to the highest point. For most air fryers, it is up to 400ºF. Let it preheat for seven minutes. Then, bring the temperature down to the optimum point for the recipe you’re cooking.
Preheating, although not necessary, will make the food extra crispy and crunchy.
Mistakes to Avoid
First-timers are bound to make mistakes. However, here are some common errors that you should avoid while using an air fryer.
- Do not put too much oil in the air fryer. It can ruin the food’s flavor and may cause excessive smoking. If necessary, spray the food with vegetable oil instead of immersing it in a pool of fatty oil.
- Do not forget to shake the basket every few minutes.
- Always use tongs to take the food out of the basket after cooking. If you simply yank the basket out, it will cause splashing. The hot oil may burn you or create a mess in your kitchen.
- Even with the timer on, double-check the cooking time on your phone’s timer or the clock. The timer moves differently on each air fryer. Thus, to follow the recipe correctly, use another reliable source of time.
- Do not leave the air fryer unattended. Most foods only require a cook time of 20 to 30 minutes, so you just have to sacrifice a small portion of your time.
How to Clean an Air Fryer?
Air fryers need to be cleaned regularly to prevent oil and grease buildup. After every use, put the tray, basket, and pan in the dishwasher (if your fryer is dishwasher-safe) to clean residual oil.
Alternatively, you can wash the components with soap and water. Before using the air fryer again, dry the parts thoroughly.
If there’s stubborn grease on the basket, soak it in a container full of hot water and dish soap for up to half an hour. Use a scrub brush to remove the loosened grease.
Cleaning the Interior
Even if your air fryer is dishwasher-safe, the metal parts (on the inside) should never be placed in a dishwasher. To clean the interior, use a damp sponge and a few drops of dish soap.
Run this sponge along the inner length of the air fryer and remove any stains or grease marks. Then, dry the area with a clean cloth or paper towels.
Before cleaning, turn off the air fryer and plug it out of the main power supply. If there’s oil inside the fryer, empty it out beforehand.
Removing Foul Odor
Fats, oil, and food particles can mix to give off a bad odor. If your air fryer smells foul, you can use a homemade deodorizer to fix the problem. Here’s what you need:
- Baking soda
- Scrub brush
Make a paste of baking soda and water. Using the scrub brush, apply this paste to the inside of the fryer. Let it sit for some time. Then, use a clean cloth to wipe the paste.
Even the best air fryer will not live up to its expected life span if not cleaned regularly. Thus, clean your air fryer regularly to ensure that it works perfectly for years to come.
With that, we have come to the end of this guide. Hopefully, you’d have learned enough about air fryers to buy one for yourself and start preparing delicious meals.
In this guide, we discussed the usage of air fryers, best air fryers for different preferences, mistakes to avoid, and other things to help make your experience nothing short of amazing.
Now, you’re all set to get your hands on the best air fryer and start experimenting with different recipes.