The air fryer has been the hottest kitchen appliance around for the past few years. Everyone is using them, and they are flying off the shelves every holiday for gift giving.
But whether you already own one or not, you might wonder, “Is this a fad or something I really need? And should I give it some of my precious kitchen counter space?”
Spoiler alert: Air frying isn’t a fad and it is a fantastic cooking appliance, especially for busy families or anyone looking for hassle-free cooking. Keep reading and learn how an air fryer works and why it should be part of most kitchens.
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a mini convection oven. With heated circulation technology, it uses a powerful fan to move hot air around the food.
Heated Circulation Technology
Simply put, it’s a way of cooking food using hot air. A heating element heats the air inside the appliance and circulates the convection heat around the food, cooking it from all angles. This ensures the food is cooked evenly and thoroughly, producing perfectly crispy results every time. Even something as soggy and mushy as tofu can be air fried to crispy perfection.
One advantage air fryers have over a full-size convection oven is their smaller size. This means the air circulates close to the food, cooking it more quickly. Because of this, cooking is much faster than in a conventional oven.
Digital Temperature Control
The air fryer has a digital display that sets the desired cooking temperature. So it will automatically adjust the heat to maintain the set temperature throughout the cooking process.
This is especially handy if you’re cooking something that requires precise temperature control, like delicate pastries or tender meats such as an air fryer filet mignon. It takes the guesswork out of cooking and ensures your food is always perfectly cooked.
Benefits of an Air Fryer
Using an air fryer has many benefits, including low oil consumption, easy and convenient meal prep, and quick and easy cleanup.
Low Oil Consumption
One of the main reasons people love using an air fryer is because it allows for healthy frying. Traditional frying methods require a lot of oil, which can add unnecessary calories and fat to your food. On the other hand, an air fryer uses minimal oil if any at all, making it a healthier option.
This is especially great if you’re trying to watch your intake of unhealthy fats or follow a specific diet. You can still enjoy delicious food with a crispy texture, making following a healthy meal plan much more manageable.
Something like buffalo chicken tenders which would traditionally be deep fried can turn out just as crispy and crave-worthy using the air fryer.
From oil sprays to muffin cups and from pizza pans to racks, we've got them all, and they make fantastic Christmas presents, too!
Convenient and Easy Meal Prep
In addition, the air fryer is a hassle-free cooking solution. It’s quick and convenient, so it is an excellent choice for busy people or families looking for an easy meal prep option.
You won’t need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. With an air fryer, you can have a delicious, home-cooked meal on the table in no time. Toss your ingredients in the basket, set the timer, and let it work magic.
Whole chickens or Cornish hens made in the air fryer for example take a fraction of the time they would in the oven.
Some foods, including many healthy vegetables, simply taste better when they are air fried. As Brooke from Minimalist Mama explains, “Broccoli in the air fryer is a complete game changer — the air fryer crisps the broccoli in just the most delicious way, so you can avoid that soggy, mushy texture that some people just can’t get over.”
This isn’t just possible with fresh broccoli either. Air fryer frozen broccoli crisps up surprisingly well too.
It’s also excellent for heating up leftovers so they taste almost as good as when they were first made. This way leftovers stored in your refrigerator will get eaten, not thrown away.
Quick and Easy Cleanup
Cleanup is also simple with this countertop appliance. Most models feature a nonstick cooking surface to allow for easy removal of food and quick cleaning.
Wipe down the inside of the air fryer with a damp cloth, and you’re good to go. Many brands are also dishwasher safe.
Many people wonder if they can use aluminum foil in the air fryer for easy cleanup and while there are some safety considerations to be aware of, that’s also a possibility to cut down on cleaning time.
Air Frying vs. Deep Frying
The air fryer offers health benefits compared to traditional frying methods. As mentioned earlier, conventional frying methods, like using a deep fryer, require large amounts of oil. Sure, deep-fried foods taste great, but deep-frying adds calories and fat to your food.
An air fryer, on the other hand, uses minimal oil. And switching to air-fried foods cooked with less oil can help you reduce your risk of health problems due to high fat intake.
But make no mistake, you can make plenty of unhealthy things in an air fryer. You still have to make good choices; this appliance alone won’t make you healthier.
Types of Food to Cook
Another huge benefit of air fryers is their versatility. You can cook a variety of food, including chicken, frozen food, healthy vegetables like asparagus, chicken wings, and even pancakes and cookies. The possibilities are endless.
Tips for Using an Air Fryer
If you are new to air frying, getting used to cooking with one might take some time. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t overcrowd the food — An air fryer works by circulating air, so you have to leave room for the air to move. Resist the temptation to pack as much food as possible into the basket and leave some space around each piece of food. This is especially important with recipes like these air fryer okra and air fryer baby potatoes to ensure crispy golden edges.
- Use some oil — While the air fryer uses less fat, most food tastes better with a little bit of oil. An oil spray bottle is a great way to add flavor without ending up with greasy food.
- Watch the cooking time — The air fryer cooks more quickly than a traditional oven, so you can overcook your food if you aren’t paying attention. Be very mindful of this with meat, especially recipes like air fryer lamb chops which would be very unfortunate to overcook.
- Start simple — Begin with basic recipes with just a few ingredients. Save the more complicated recipes like Southern fried chicken or egg rolls until you have some experience. Here are a few of my favorite beginner meals.
So, whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner in the kitchen, consider investing in this appliance. With its ability to produce delicious, crispy food with minimal oil and easy cleanup, it’s no wonder that air fryers have become a staple in so many modern kitchens. Check out this guide for useful oven to air fryer conversion tips before getting started and once you’re using and loving your appliance, make sure to check out our guide on all the essential air fryer accessories for success.
This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.
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Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.