Air Fryers - this marvellous invention was introduced to the world in 2010 to accelerate the cooking process, returning precious time to cooks all over the world.
But are air fryers worth the cost?
Inventors recognized a pretty widespread truth about humans when they created the air fryer: most people don’t love you slaving over a hot stove for hours at the end of the day.
While the point was to cook food faster using rapid hot air technology and with no preheating required, air frying also ends up being a healthier option than deep frying too.
So this read is for anyone who wants to curb their calorie intake and boost cooking convenience while still indulging in their favorite comfort foods. We’re going to guess that’s just about everyone!
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Let’s clear up a common misconception about air fryers: they don’t fry, they merely blow hot air around. That’s why force matters, and it must happen within a very small space. Provided the temperature is at least 350 F, the force of the circulating hot air cooks and browns the food’s surface to mimic a fried effect.
An air fryer is essentially a countertop convection oven but with far more pow than a regular oven. The top part of the air fryer––the inner side of the lid––contains the fan and heating mechanism. The inner compartment contains a mesh basket that holds the food, much like what you’d use when deep frying. You pop the top down and power it up to engage the forced airflow fry-effect. You may choose to add a little bit of oil to crispen up certain foods, though no more than a couple of teaspoons.
Are Air Fryers Healthy?
Air fryers put a new spin on healthy fast food. While poke bowls and quinoa burgers are all the rage, they take time to make and they taste like they’re super nutritious. Sometimes we just want to indulge in flavors that taste a bit naughty.
Now if you’re a true French fry lover, then you know that one reason fries taste so good is not so much their flavor––potatoes are fairly bland, after all. What most of us love is that crispy texture that penetrates through the outer layer deep into the core of each individual fry. That and just the right amount of grease satisfies us on a psychological level (and the taste buds too) that we are, in fact, indulging in proper French fries.
The main selling point with air fryers is that they fry food faster with less fat because there’s little to no oil required. So, they seem to be a healthier option than deep frying or pan frying foods, and they do a pretty good job of mimicking the fried effect, albeit with a slightly altered kind of crisp, namely the non-greasy kind.
The reason fried food is so unhealthy has to do primarily with the use of unstable, hydrogenated oils. Using a “heart-healthy” oil can cut the health risks considerably, but not altogether. Heated oil in any capacity isn’t the most nutritious option. And let’s be clear––frozen, processed, crumb-coated foods aren’t such healthy choices no matter how you cook them!
If you are going to add oil to your air fryer, make sure you follow instructions outlined in specific recipes or according to instructions in the appliance manual. Some of the healthiest oils include extra virgin olive oil and cold-pressed coconut oil.
What about food that’s fried without oil?
There are still some health risks, namely that air frying––frying without oil––uses high temperatures at a rapid rate. This combination risks burning food, and charred food may be cancer-causing. Use your air fryer according to manufacturer’s guidelines to prevent burned food.
The more disturbing news comes from Healthline. A toxic byproduct called acrylamide may result from high-temperature cooking, including roasting, baking, and frying. Starchy foods like potatoes and cookies usually have a higher concentration of acrylamide.
What’s The Best Food To Cook In An Air Fryer?
Starchy stuff––yay! We love our carbs, so things like potatoes and breaded foods are ideal for air frying. But air fryers can handle so much more! If you purchase one, you’ll likely discover that you use it far more than you expected to.
Here are some other air-fryer favorites:
Frozen or homemade finger foods like French fries, fish sticks, chicken wings, chicken nuggets, or mozza sticks.
Meat, chicken & fish
Vegetables, any that you’d roast in a normal oven, such as squash, potato, onion, broccoli, and more. Avoid leafy greens.
Single-serving baked goods like cookies, apple fritters, and frozen brownies.
What Should You Not Cook In An Air Fryer?
No liquid batter permitted! If you’ve ever made the mistake of adding oil or battered food to an air fryer then you know the outcome––it doesn’t work. Liquid batter requires an oil bath to “hold” it to the chicken, fish––whatever the food is. Without the oil, the batter goes everywhere so you won’t achieve the golden, crispy coating you wanted.
So, Are They Worth The Investment?
Demand = supply = competitive costs. Because of their popularity, air fryers have come down in price, and most models retail under $200 new, though some are even less, under $100.
Bear in mind air fryers are great for singles and couples but not so much for big families. Even the largest air fryers have limited capacity, so if you’re cooking for a crowd, you probably want to stick with your big convection oven. They also take up a ton of counter space, so ensure you have a place it can be tucked away when not in use.
With all factors considered, we think an air fryer is a reasonably solid buy for its convenience. Roasting vegetables and cooking our homemade sweet potato fries are two of our primary uses for it. Though with the colder weather coming, we’re digging into some gourmet air fryer recipes, like this Air Fryer Chinese Roast Duck from Yummy It Food.
If you are into making your own home-cut French fries, ensure your knives are sharpened and honed to make slicing safe and simple.
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From our kitchen to yours, enjoy air frying your way to some nutritious and delicious meals this fall!