Love the taste and crunch of fried food but horrified by the fat content?
We explain why buying an air fryer could be a healthy compromise.
Air fryers have been around for more than a decade, but in the last couple of years they have really taken off. Suddenly, it seems like every kitchen appliance retailer is selling air fryers and cooking magazines and websites are churning out air fryer recipes for home cooks to try in their new machines.
What is an air fryer? What can you cook in an air fryer? And, most importantly, are air fryers a healthier way to fry foods?
We answer these questions and more as we explain all about air fryers and why you (maybe!) should buy one.
What is an Air Fryer?
At their most basic, air fryers are super-powered convention ovens.
Air fryers come in a range of shapes and designs, but the most common are made to sit on your kitchen bench top, either as a basket-style device like the COSORI Air Fryer or as an oven-like model such as the Breville Smart Oven Air Fry Counter Top Oven.
The size of air fryers varies greatly. Some are designed specifically for the solo cook – making them a great option for people who live alone. Others have the capacity to feed large families.
And ‘capacity‘ is the key word. The external dimensions of an air fryer does not always indicate how much cooking space there is inside the appliance. Indeed, you might well be shocked by how small a portion of hot chips you can air fry inside your machine, given how large it is and this is worth remembering.
Smaller, basket air fryers come in at around 1.8L capacity whilst some of the bigger air fryer ovens go to a whopping 25L, which makes them more than big enough to produce an entire meal for a large family – whole chicken and crispy potatoes included.
How Does An Air Fryer Work?
Inside an air fryer there is a heating element which can reach a fierce temperature and a fan.
When you turn the air fryer on, the heating element soars to high temperature really quickly and then the fan circulates the heat around the basket or rack containing the food. It is this very hot air moving around the food that crisps it up whilst simultaneously cooking it.
This combination of intense heat and a fan means that you can achieve a crunchy, golden crumb on a chicken drumstick with very little, or even no, oil.
Are Air Fryers Healthy?
Well, obviously it depends on what you choose to prepare in your machine, but the short answer is Yes – Air fryers are healthy. Or at least healthier than dropping a crumbed chicken drumstick into a vat of hot oil to deep fry it.
Air fryers only require a fraction of the amount of oil that a deep fryer does to give you the same results. In fact, some cooks actually avoid adding oil completely. Personally, I’ve become an advocate of the oil spray bottle which allows me to put a thin layer of oil on my potato fries before they go into the air fryer, adding to the flavour and crunch.
And remember not all fat is bad for us. Some fat is essential.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
A lot more than a few hot chips and a couple of chicken wings!
You may be surprised to know that modern air fryers are multi-function kitchen appliances and that you can roast, bake and grill, as well as fry, in your device.
If you are lucky, your air fryer will come complete with a set of baking accessories including pizza pans, silicone muffin cups and skewer racks to get you started. If not, you can buy air fryer accessories for your make and model online.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many convection oven-type air fryers have a spit and a rotisserie setting, so you can roast a leg of lamb with ease. Some also have a dehydration function so you can dry your own vegetables and fruit.
And then there are appliances like the incredibly popular Instant Pot.
Instant Pot has been a real game-changer in the kitchen. The brand has thousands of devotees in the US and has recently launched on the Australian market. Starting off as a multi-use pressure cooker, the newest version is the Instant Vortex Duo Crisp and Air Fryer which comes with an additional lid which allows you to air fry – as well as being able to pressure cook, slow cook, steam, sous vide, roast, bake, sautes, broil and dehydrate.
Read here for more information on the wonders of sous vide cooking
And now some regular oven manufacturers have got on the air frying bandwagon by including an air fry function on tier domestic appliances.
Suddenly, air fryers are everywhere.
So, Should you Buy an Air Fryer?
If you want to eat fried food cooked with a minimum of fats, air fryers are worth investigating.
Similarly, if you what an appliance that offers a wide range of cooking functions, all in one compact, counter top device, an air fryer could be just what you’re looking for – just make sure you choose the right size for your needs.
Remember though, everything in moderation. Owning an air fryer with its healthier approach to frying does not absolve you from taking control of your diet.
Whether you want to lose weight or cook less processed food or consume smaller portions is down to you, your will power and your commitment to change.
If you’d like to know more about air fryers, check out our specialised site.