When I first heard of air fryers, I was immediately excited. Thrilled, even! I am a great fan of kitchen gadgets, and I started asking more from my informant, my other friends, and cruising air fryers online immediately.
Frankly, I felt more than a little out of the loop. I considered myself something of an expert on the latest new culinary devices, and here’s an appliance that ‘fries’ using only hot air the more I learned about, air fryers, the more I liked the concept.
You’ve probably heard of air fryers on tv or elsewhere, but wondering if they are right for you and yours?
Why Buy an Air Fryer?
1. Cooking Fried Foods Without Immersing them in Oil
The first thing we hear about air fryers is that they ‘fry’ without submerging food in oil and that’s exciting all by itself.
Whether you love fried foods, eat fast food too often, or simply hate the mess of frying at home, this function is an easy sell. And what better for the harried millennial that just wants some chicken tenders after work? Air fryers are a great alternative to that fast food stop that seems like the only answer some nights.
We all want to reduce the fat in our diets for health reasons, and air fryers do their frying job with hot air as a substitute for hot oil.
People with high cholesterol, weight issues, and heart conditions can rejoice, as can people that don’t want to develop these problems in the future.
One usually should spray air-fried foods with just a little oil, for crispiness, so the process can’t be called 100% fat-free.
2. Air Frying is Faster, in Most Cases
They beat waiting in line, and Air fryers generally cook foods much faster than ordinary techniques do.
3. Air Fryers are Great for Small, Tight Spaces
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all lived like they do on TV, where everyone seems to have a fairly big house, huge kitchen, or at least a substantial apartment in, say, Manhattan? Well, that isn’t today’s reality for everyone.
We live in dorms, with roommates, in studio apartments and efficiencies, and all sorts of situation that limit cooking space.
Air fryers are really popular in Europe. This chocolate chip cookie recipe is from Portugal: Yum, rainy nights in the dorm.
Anyone who has tried to live with a single kitchen appliance, such as a microwave or toaster oven has been periodically disappointed, if not endangered. Along comes the air fryer, which is all-purpose and takes up very little space.
4. Excellent for Baking and Roasting
Why would someone with an equipped kitchen need an air-fryer, other than for frying?
Well, not everyone has a convection oven, and convection heating is superior to conventional heating for quite a few dishes, from baked goods to roasted chicken.
Air fryers perform a number of cooking tasks. Lately, I have been hearing raves about air fried dumplings! The internet is abuzz with people trying new recipes in air fryers and sharing the results.
Air fryers can ‘fry’, bake, roast, grill, saute, pan fry, and reheat.
It is easier to list what an air fryer cannot do than everything it can do. It cannot braize stew, or make soup.
It can’t make a cold salad, either, but nothing is perfect, and upon contemplation, it could roast potatoes or beets for a salad.
An air fryer can make beef jerky! And check out this youtube video for Air Fried Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon.
6. Ease of Operation for Cooks of All Levels:
Air fryers are a great answer for the non-cooks, those who are too rushed to cook, and people that are just learning to cook, and even experienced cooks who are intimidated by new gadgets.
Despite being weighted down by some complicated sounding terms like ‘conversion’ and ‘Maillard Effect’, air fryers are easy to use. The delicious results might make even non-cooks feel like stretching their wings!
7. Easy Clean Up:
Anyone who has ever deep or pan-fried at home knows about cleanup issues. There is leftover oil, which is hard to dispose of and generally wasteful, and however hard one tries there is some sort of greasy mess.
Experienced cooks perk up when they hear of an appliance that can cook with such little mess.
The air fryer parts are coated with oven safe, non-stick coating, and are dishwasher safe.
What’s not to love?
8. Air Fryers are Safe, Environmentally Friendly, and Use Less Electricity
They are safe, unlike hot plates, which are notorious for causing fires, and they don’t have any of the hazards of deep frying, nor the challenge of disposing of the used oil.
They have on/off switches and timers, so they are more suitable for children than an oven or stove.
Air fryers use considerably less power than an oven, which saves money and reduces carbon emissions.
9. Air fryers are a Healthy Way to Cook.
Cooking at home is economical and healthy, you can choose all organic ingredients if you wish, and it spares the environment of all those take-out packages.
Vegan, low-fat onion rings? here’s a recipe you’ll love.
For something light, try this air fried salmon recipe and air fryers ‘fry’ with no risk of soggy, oil-saturated fries, fast foods cooked in dirty, BHT rich fryer oil. (unfortunately, this happens all too frequently, and carbonized oil may be a carcinogen.)
How to Buy Your First AirFryer
You’re ready to take charge of your cooking, and you’ve decided that an air fryer looks like the right kitchen appliance for the job. Maybe someone was kind enough to make you a mini pizza in one of these small yet versatile convection ovens, and the tasty results got you hooked. Or you might want one because it saves space, uses energy efficiently, and needs very little oil to make fried foods.
What to Look for in an Air Fryer
Many reasons could have inspired you to make the decision to become an air fryer owner, but picking one out has proven a little tricky. Dozens of models are on the market at many price points. Most appear to have touchscreen controls and removable baskets and trays for easy serving and cleaning. These standard features are great but don’t really make any model stand out.
You’ll have to consider your lifestyle and goals before you can find the perfect one for you. Do you expect to cook solo meals and snacks, meals for two, or family dinners? Models range from 3.4 to 16 quarts in size, and you might not want a big one for just yourself. But then again, if you’re prepping meals ahead of time, a large one could be very useful to a single person.
Think about safety. Make sure to choose one with an automatic safety shut off in case you forget to turn off the cooker. It’s a good feature for busy people who get interrupted a lot.
If you plan on using the appliance for as many types of food as possible, look for one with many settings. Some even allow you to program specific settings, which would be handy once you’ve worked out the best time and temperature for crunchy chicken tenders.
Beware of Generic Brands
Popularity breeds imitation, and you’ll see some models with tempting prices. In the end, these generic brands might not offer much value for your dollar. Before buying an appliance without a brand name, check the product’s warranty and the retailer’s return policy. If you run into problems associated with cheap manufacturing, like baskets with finishes that chip off, you’ll want the ability to get a replacement or a refund.
That said, retailers that want their names associated with quality might sell generic products that perform well. Their liability for low-quality products might not be worth trying to sell any products that disappoint customers.
Amazon and some other online retailers, however, might not be as reluctant to deal in generic air fryers of unknown quality. Watch out for third-party sellers with no-name products on online platforms.
Recommended Popular Brands
Multiple manufacturers have put in the effort to produce air fryers that have been well received by the public.
Philips stands out because it was one of the first companies to market air fryers in 2012. The company has patented its designs, and its baskets are made of stainless steel. You’ll also have access to replacement parts if you choose an appliance from Phillips. Be prepared to pay a premium for this brand, but many users have been cooking with these air fryers for five or more years.
GoWise has a headquarters in the USA with contact information readily available. The company also sells parts and accessories that could help you get long-term use out of its products.
Power XL air fryers as seen on TV give you robust capabilities. This company sells smaller air fryers and larger mini ovens with three cooking trays.
These brands will likely give you the value that you’re hoping for. They have been selling to consumers for years, and they invest time and energy into improving their products based on user feedback. That effort translates into better designs compared to factories that just want to pump out knockoffs.
You’ll encounter some variations among air fryers on the market. Here’s a quick overview of the available styles and how they might serve your purposes.
The basket design has proven to be the most popular among consumers. The removable basket sits in the cooking chamber. You can check on food by sliding out the cooking chamber and looking into the basket. Baskets detach easily on most models, so you can serve your food and put the basket in the sink or dishwasher for cleaning.
A paddle style air fryer has a rotating arm within the cooking chamber that gently moves food while the machine circulates the heated air. You might like or dislike this feature. On the good side, the paddle prevents food from sticking and the movement helps to cook the food evenly. On the bad side, the motion might mash some foods, so instead of fries, you get potato mush.
You’ll also find that paddle air fryers lack controls for temperature adjustments. They use one temperature on everything. If you’re hoping to find precise settings for preparing a variety of favorite foods, this is not the machine for you. However, if you just want to achieve some easy push-button cooking, you might like it.
Halogen / Infrared
This air fryer type includes a halogen bulb that delivers heat to the food. Consumers have not really flocked to this type, and manufacturers are pulling back on making them.
Among remaining models, you’ll find that they are large, up to 16 quarts, and able to cook family meals. If you’re concerned about the Teflon chemical coatings on the baskets of other cookers, then the glass bowl of this type is a great alternative. Size represents their major disadvantage if you have limited storage space.
New Oven Style
With this type, you might not ever use your regular oven again. You’ll also gain food dehydration and rotisserie features. With three cooking racks inside the mini oven, you can cook multiple foods at once for a whole meal.
Because it’s able to serve you in so many capacities, it expands upon the capabilities of smaller air fryers. It’s potentially the right choice for you if you cook meals regularly, want to preserve some foods with dehydration, or want to use less energy than a full-size appliance.
Zeroing in on the size that works for your situation will make your air fryer choice easier. If you’re cooking for one or two people, then an air fryer with a 3-quart capacity will get the job done.
If you’re raising a family or you like to entertain friends, then you’ll want to go for bigger models of at least 5 quarts. Size influences cost as well. When you need a large one, get the largest one that you can afford.
Your counter space or storage area factors into your size selection as well. If you think that you’ll use your air fryer regularly, you might want to keep it out on the counter all of the time. That means you’ll need a permanent spot for it. If you plan to put it away after every use, you’ll want to make room in a cupboard or closet for it.
Digital or Manual Controls
Whether an air fryer has touchscreen controls or manual buttons and knobs does not ultimately matter for performance. You might want to consider that a digital interface will be easier to wipe clean. Food bits stuck on analog controls might be harder to clean off.
Your takeaway here is to pick the one that you personally like. You don’t have to pay a higher price for more advanced controls unless you want to.
Greater wattage equals faster cooking times. If you have a lot of demands on your time and want quick home-cooked meals, then choose an air fryer with a higher wattage. Any model that you look at should clearly state its electricity usage. Most air fryers use between 1400 and 1600 watts of electricity. Philips has a higher power one which goes up to as high as 2100 watts depending on the model.
You can purchase many fun gadgets for your air fryer. One of the most popular is a rotisserie/kebab rack, which is usually double racked on the bottom to maximize space. Amazon has a large selection, and you can find sets on Ebay and other sites as well.
There is also a large, upright rotisserie attachment that fits larger air fryers, which is suitable for a whole chicken.
You can buy a special grill ‘pan’, which is perforated on both sides for air flow and stimulates grilling meats outdoors, or a sheet pan if you like to bake.
There are also sets of space maximizing accessories, which are very popular. Most of these accessories fit most models of air fryer, but you want to check compatibility. Extra baskets are available as well. Many accessories are intended to maximize space, and some are specialty items geared to the type foods you like to cook the most. Square and loaf shaped pans are handy for avid bakers.
If you happen to own a rack or oven dish that fits into your air fryer, you can probably use it, but avoid cast iron, aluminum, and coated items not intended for air frying.
In most cases, you’ll want to stick with the top air fryer brands unless you spot a generic one from a reputable dealer. Online reviews will often clue you in about any problems to watch out for on a particular product.
You’ll find the biggest selection among basket type air fryers, but you should carefully consider their sizes before making a choice. Many basket styles are small and may not make enough food for your purposes. It’s not uncommon for someone to regret buying a small one, so try to set a budget that allows you to get a cooker with a larger capacity. The mini oven style, if you have room for it, could offer the greatest utility.
The paddle and halogen bulb styles have their charms as well. You don’t have to go with the most popular type if an alternative design has the features that will make your life easier.
Don’t forget that higher wattage means faster cooking times. After a long, hard day at work, you probably want a hot meal as soon as possible.
The airflow technology that gives air fryers their versatility and speed has the potential to improve your diet. If you’re tired of resorting to packaged dinners or fast food, then jump on the air fryer bandwagon. Armed with the knowledge of what you need and what each type can do, you’re ready to pick one out and start cooking.
Experimenting is Fun.
Air fryers bring out the inner cook in us. Playing with an air fryer and reading all the recipes out there is like opening a treasure chest of new ideas. The possibilities are endless.