Air fryers aren’t terribly new to the cooking gadget scene. Launched in 2010, they’ve been slowly gaining popularity. But recently, they seem to be on the wish lists of foodies everywhere. So what’s the big deal?
What’s an air fryer?
Patented by Philips Electronics Company, this handy appliance claims to mimic the results of deep frying with nothing more than hot air and a tiny amount of oil.
Our Pick for the Best Air Fryer: Philips Avance Turbo-Star Air Fryer, $237
How does it work?
The air fryer is essentially an amped-up countertop convection oven. Its compact space facilitates even faster cooking. The top of the unit holds a heating mechanism and a fan. Hot air rushes down and around food placed in a fryer-style basket. This rapid circulation makes the food crisp, much like deep frying. Cleanup is super easy too, and most units have a dishwasher safe basket. (Psst: Are you using your dishwasher correctly?)
What can you make in it?
Air fryers do a fantastic job cooking up anything that’s meant to taste deep-fried when it comes from a conventional oven. So think frozen fries, breaded chicken or fish, and frozen onion rings. It also does a great job with items you’d make from scratch like these Crispy Chicken Fingers or Oven Fries.
What can’t you make?
You can’t make anything with a liquid batter like this Crispy Beer Battered Fish (unless you freeze it first). You also can’t make anything in large quantities, so if you’re feeding a family, be prepared to cook in batches.
Other things to consider…
- Cost. On the pricey side of home appliances, air fryers run between $100 and $300 depending on size and features.
- Space. Bigger than a toaster, the air fryer is not a small appliance. You’ll need to give up valuable storage (or counter) space to house one.
- Skills. Air fryers are essentially plug ‘n play. Place your food in the basket, set the time and the temperature and bam! You’re cooking.
- Taste and texture. While an air fryer will give you results much closer to deep frying than your oven will, at the end of the day, it’s still not the same.
- Healthier? The argument can be made that it produces healthier food by using less oil. Frozen french fries prepared in the air fryer contain between 4 and 6 grams of fat versus their deep-fried counterpart at a whopping 17 grams per serving.
At the end of the day this is a pretty slick gadget. When you’re cooking up things like french fries or chicken nuggets, you can’t beat it. The results are much better than oven frying, and your kitchen stays cool. While it does an admirable job cooking other meats and vegetables, it really shines at mock deep frying. So if you don’t normally eat deep-fried foods, it’s probably not worth the investment.