Have you heard the buzz about air frying, and wonder if these appliances are worth the expense? Everywhere you turn you see information about the health benefits, their efficiency and ease of use. But is this appliance right for your family?
It can be hard to sort through the excitement on the internet to find out the real benefits and downsides to having an air fryer! I am going to walk you through the Top 5 Pros and Cons to Air Frying.
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What is Air Frying?
First, a quick explanation of what air frying is and isn’t. They don’t actually fry food at all. They are more like a self-contained convection oven than a deep fat fryer. Most units have one or more heating elements, along with a fan or two to circulate the hot air. These appliances quickly heat and circulate the hot air around and through the food in the tray.
This cooking method takes advantage of the heat and the drying effect of the air to cook foods quickly, leaving them crisp and browned on the outside but still moist inside. While the results can be similar to using a deep fryer, they are not identical.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of An Air Fryer?
While the enthusiasm about these products may be a bit overblown, there are some solid benefits to using an air fryer, as well as some major downsides.
Pros of an Air Fryer
1. Healthier Meals
You do not need to use much (or any) oil in these appliances to get your food crispy and browned! Most users just spritz a little oil on the item and then proceed to the cooking cycle. The hot air takes advantage of the little bit of oil, and any excess oil just drains away from the food. This makes these devices ideal for making fresh and frozen fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and nuggets.
Unlike a traditional oven, air frying items are cooked faster and the excess oil doesn’t soak into your food. So the claims that they use less oil and make healthier meals are true!
2. Quicker, More Efficient Cooking
Air fryers take just minutes to preheat, and most of the heat stays inside the appliance. Foods cook faster than in an oven or on a stove top because this heat is not lost to the surrounding air. Even frozen foods are quickly cooked because the effect of the heat is intensified by the circulating air.
These units are also more energy efficient than an oven. Using a fryer will not heat up your house in the summer, and the cost of the electricity used is just pennies. Since the cooking cycle is also shorter, you can see that using a fryer makes most cooking faster and more efficient than traditional appliances!
You can use them to air fry, stir fry, reheat, bake, broil, roast, grill, steam and even rotisserie in some models. Besides the fries and nuggets, you can make hot dogs and sausages, steak, chicken breasts or thighs, grilled sandwiches, stir-fried meats and veggies, roasted or steamed veggies, all kinds of fish and shrimp dishes, even cakes and desserts. If your unit is large enough, you can even bake a whole chicken or small turkey, or do a beef or pork roast. They really are more than just a fryer!
Most units are about the size of a coffee maker. Some models are small and super-compact, making them perfect for small kitchens, kitchenettes, dorm rooms or RVs. An air fryer can replace an oven in a situation that lacks one, and can be more useful than a toaster oven or steamer. If you use it frequently you will likely be happy to give it a home on your kitchen counter!
5. Easy to Use
Most fryers are designed to be really easy to use. Just set the cooking temperature and time, put your food in the basket and walk away. Of course, you will get better results if you shake your food once or twice during the cooking cycle, especially for things like fries, chips, wings and nuggets. This ensures even browning and perfect results. Many air fryer enthusiasts have even taught their children to use them for making after school snacks or quick lunches!
Cons of an Air Fryer
1. Quality Issues
Air fryers are mostly made from plastic and inexpensive metal parts. They may or may not bear up after months or years of use. The heating elements, controls and fans tend to go out eventually, and once they do your unit is useless.
The metal cooking baskets and pans do not tend to last very long and often need to be replaced. Print on the dials or control panels can wear off. Even expensive units can have these issues, and some brands seem to have a lot of reported problems. These are not sturdy, long-lasting kitchen appliances overall.
You can avoid some of these problems by buying a fryer from a well established company. Phillips is the top manufacturer of air fryers, and is known for their high quality, long warranties and great customer service. There are other reliable brands like Cozyna and Secura that make less expensive but quality units. Every brand has its issues, so you should consider purchasing an extended warranty for extra protection.
2. Takes Up Space
Ok, I had “Space Saver” listed as a pro…how can it be a con as well? Easy! They do take up space, either on your counter or stored away in a cabinet. If you use it frequently this might not be a problem…but if you only drag it out to make the occasional batch of wings then the loss of space might not make it worth it to you. It really depends on how and if you use it. Some units are actually fairly heavy as well, and might not be very easy to move around. They have the potential to be just another appliance you use a few times and then sell at a yard sale.
3. Not Ideal for Large Families
You will see some fryers advertised for “large families” but what does that actually mean? Most air fryers are best suited to making food for 1-4 people (depending on the capacity). There are very few that can handle making food for more than 4, and they often still require cooking in batches. For large families, a true convection air frying oven would probably be a better choice.
A medium sized fryer with a capacity of 3.5 quarts can usually handle a main dish for two, or a main and side dish for one. A large unit with a capacity of 5.8 quarts can handle a main dish like a whole chicken…which theoretically means enough to serve 4 people, as long as you cook the rest of the food in another appliance. So these are really ideal for smaller families or single users, or for a dorm or office snack maker.
4. Learning Curve
They ARE easy to use, but there is still a learning curve. Each unit has its own peculiarities that you will have to figure out. They come with cooking guides and recipes, but those are more recommendations rather than firm instructions. It may take a few trials before you get the results that you want. Luckily the internet is filled with users who have shared their experiences, so finding tips is pretty easy.
For all their versatility, air fryers have limitations as well. You are limited by the size and shape of the basket. Your frozen taquitos may not fit into some models, and you might be limited to a 6-inch pie pan in another. Food sometimes gets stuck to the cooking pans, meaning a more difficult clean-up for you.
Even with accessories like elevated cooking racks and kabob skewers, you will still have to cook in batches or use another appliance if you are making food for multiple people. You also have to wait for the unit to cool off before cleaning and storing it away. For some people, these limitations might be too much to make an air fryer worth it.
Air Fryers Are Not For Everyone
They are ideal for single users and small families. Busy single parents, college students, seniors and people living in small spaces may really benefit from having an air fryer. If you decide that the pros of having one outweighs the cons, then be sure to pick the right unit for your needs. Get one with the capacity and design that most suits your planned use, and chances are you will love your purchase!