I love to cook, and I love kitchen gadgets. But like most New Yorkers, I have limited storage and cabinet space, so I have to choose what kitchen appliances I buy wisely. If you have even a passing interest in cooking, you’ve probably heard of air fryers. They’re something of the gadget du jour right now. But is air frying as great as some people are claiming, and does an air fryer deserve space on your kitchen counter? Let’s take a more in-depth look.
What Is Air Frying?
An air fryer is a small countertop-sized convection oven. A fan circulates hot air at high speed to simulate deep frying foods in oil without having to submerge the food in oil. The process gives you a crisp, brown layer like you’d get with a deep fat fryer or frying on the stove top via the Maillard reaction and leaving the inside moist and juicy.
The Benefits of Air Frying
Air frying can be pretty great for several reasons.
When trying to simulate deep frying, you only need about a tablespoon of oil for air frying compared to a cup or more in a deep fryer. This means calories are greatly reduced. A serving of air fried chicken breast has about 163 calories, while a deep-fried breast has about 250!
You can cook a chicken breast in the air fryer in about 10 minutes compared to a deep-fryer or oven, which takes about 20 minutes.
The smell of food cooking in a deep fryer smells good, but the oil’s lingering smell is not exactly pleasant! You won’t have that used-oil smell in your home when using an air fryer.
Picky Eaters Love It!
Give a kid a stalk of steamed asparagus, and they might turn up their nose. But give them an “asparagus fry” crispy from the air fryer, and they’ll be asking for more!
Compared to deep-frying, air frying produces far fewer harmful compounds called acrylamides that are formed when the amino acids in foods are heated to very high temperatures.
I’ve never deep-fried anything. Not because it isn’t a tasty cooking method but because it’s terrifying! I don’t feel comfortable heating up a big pot of scalding hot oil and standing over it while the food cooks! And how do you get rid of all of that oil once you’re done? You don’t have either of those worries when using an air fryer.
The Dangers of Air Frying
Air fryers do have some downsides.
Yes, I listed the air fryer’s ability to cook things quickly as a benefit but it has a downside too. Because they cook food so quickly, there is little margin for error. If you leave a chicken breast in the oven 5 minutes longer than you supposed too, it won’t burn. It might be a little drier than it would have been had you taken it out on time but it will still be perfectly edible.
If you leave something in an air fryer 5 minutes too long (or even just a minute or two in some cases) the food will likely be scorched. It won’t be edible and could even be dangerous to eat. There is some evidence to show that burnt food is carcinogenic.
If you’re using an air fryer, don’t get distracted and lose track of the time.
Most air fryers can hold between 1 and 3 pounds of food so if you’re cooking a meal for a group, it may not be a practical option. But if you’re making appetizers or something like that for a party where you’re not trying to get everything on the table at once, air fryers are a good option. They cook so quickly that it won’t take long to cook a few batches of something.
Air Fried Does Not Equal Healthy
Just because you air fry something does not automatically make it healthy. Fried ravioli is not a health food no matter how they’re cooked!
Best Foods To Air Fry
You can air fry dozens of different foods but some things don’t come out markedly better than if you’d cooked them on the stove or in the oven. A chicken breast for example. Air fryer, stove, or oven, it tastes about the same. The air fryer will save you about 10 minutes so if you’re in a rush, by all means, fire up the air fryer!
But really, I think the best use is for things that do come out appreciably better when air fried. Sweet potato fries are a good example. They never really get crispy in the oven but will in the air fryer! The same is true for brussel sprouts. Noodles are great in an air fryer because all of the water they release ends up in the basket, away from the noodles so they aren’t waterlogged as they often are when you cook them on the stove. Vegetable chips come out nearly as crispy as store-bought chips, and now that it’s pumpkin carving season, save those seeds! The air fryer is great for making crispy pumpkin seeds.
Should You Get An Air Fryer?
If you eat a lot of fried foods currently and are looking for a healthy alternative, buying an air fryer can be a great investment in your health. And if you have a big kitchen and like to experiment, an air fryer can be a fun toy to have.
What Air Fryer Model Can We Recommend?
We recommend the Philips TurboStar Airfryer, Avance Digital.
This is the best overall air fryer currently on the market. It has a thinner, compact footprint and shorter stature than the other models, but it still has a roomy basket that holds a full pound of food. This machine is easy to clean, its digital controls and dial-operated menu are intuitive to use, and it is also safe: Its drawer-like design allows to remove food without exposing your hands to the heating element. You can find it here on Amazon.