Air Fryer: What is it and How it Works

Over recent years, and with the rise of the health-conscious and fitness lifestyle, air fryers have taken kitchens all around the world by storm. These trendy appliances promise the flavor and crunch of our favorite comfort foods, minus the calories! What’s not to love? 

So, whether you’re trying to shed some pounds or limit your unhealthy fat intake, air fryers may be a superb alternative that deserves a spot of choice on your kitchen countertop. In this dedicated guide, we explain what air fryers are, how they work, their uses, benefits, and whether it’s actually worth getting one. We hope these cooking companions will have no more secrets for you!

What Are Air Fryers?

Air fryers are basically amped-up, compact versions of convection ovens. Found in nearly 1 in 3 homes across the United States, these machines offer a substitute cooking method to pan-frying, deep-frying, and baking. The method is quite simple: it uses hot air and a touch of oil (or no oil at all) to cook your favorite proteins to perfection but also vegetables, cookies, or frozen food items (more on that below). As more and more people are banning fried foods from their diet to stay healthy, the air fryer is the ideal modern alternative that promises similar results to a traditional hot oil bath without compromising taste and flavor.

How Do They Work?

Technically speaking, air fryers don’t fry! Instead, the appliance consists of a perforated basket where you place the food to allow hot air to be blown around it thanks to a fan, rather than get cooked from oil heat. The force of the air helps cook and brown the food inside the basket, making it crispy and golden. This is the convection method most kitchen ovens use. The hot air circulating around must reach at least 320°F (160°C) for the items to fully cook and reproduce that pan-fry or deep-fry effect we all love so much. For optimal results, follow these easy instructions: After placing the food in the basket, add one tablespoon of oil if needed, set a time and temperature, and let the machine do its job. How convenient!

What Can You Cook in Them?

If you’ve ever considered purchasing an air fryer for yourself or a relative, you’re certainly wondering what types of ingredients you can cook with it. Air fryers work great for all kinds of protein (steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops, fish fillets) and vegetables (sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, etc.). People also love them to prepare frozen foods; you’d be surprised to know that you can also reheat pizza in an air fryer and get awesome results, no matter the type of crust! Some research will get you acquainted with plenty of tutorials on how to cook or reheat your favorite dishes. By contrast, batter-coated foods won’t do and will just create a mess.

The Air Fryer: Healthy Alternative to Traditional Frying?

One of the biggest selling points of air frying machines is that they’re supposedly healthier compared to traditional deep-frying or baking methods. This owes to the fact that you’re preparing the food using little to no oil, therefore limiting calories and fat by a considerable margin. Of course, tossing a bunch of French fries or hash browns in an air fryer and calling them healthy would be absurd; what matters is the amount of oil you incorporate in your preparations that will impact its caloric profile (olive and grape seed oil are perfectly healthy options that you can add while using an air fryer).

Are They Worth It?

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Air fryers do have their pros and cons. They’re obviously better for reheating foods than microwaves, which will turn it soggy. Aside from providing an alternative cooking method, they’re very convenient appliances that use little electricity and no gas, and help your kitchen stay cool and relatively odorless (a major advantage if you don’t have a kitchen filter). 

Air fryers are also pretty affordable, with models starting at a price tag of $80 to $100. On the other hand, these machines have limited capacity (even the largest ones), which makes it challenging to cook for groups. If you live alone or don’t mind cooking in batches, though, the investment can be worthwhile.

All things considered, it’s no wonder why air fryers have become so popular over the last couple of years. While they don’t replace ovens and deep fryers, these machines will prove to be valuable sous-chefs to help you make your favorite meals. We suggest you check out some dedicated air fryers recipes to get a grasp of what you can cook with these revolutionary appliances. Bon appétit!