You must have heard about the new craze surrounding air fryers in recent times? We are all bombarded with advertisements and articles about these miraculous healthy cookers, but the question is – do you really know what an air fryer is, and how it works?
What is an air fryer
The first air fryer was patented by Philips Electronics in 2010. The innovative kitchen appliance claims to provide the same quality dishes as deep fryers but with only tiny amounts of oil used for the process. The cooking is done by rapid hot air circulating in the unit, which enables the food in the food basket to be cooked quickly, without pre-heating and evenly.
Best of all, frying, roasting, baking, grilling and steaming and heating can be done with most good quality air fryers. This means that this kitchen appliance is a multifunctional one which minimizes the use and thus consumption of oil.
The lower calorie intake and the lack of Trans fats in the meals provide multiple benefits including weight loss and lowered risk of developing a number of serious diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes type II and even certain types of cancers.
How does an air fryer work?
Essentially, an air fryer is simply a countertop convection oven which has been amped-up. The fact that it is smaller than a convection oven allows it to cook different types of meals very rapidly.
There is a heating mechanism paired with a fan on the top of the unit. When the air fryer is powered on, the hot air rapidly enters the compact space where the food is placed and the fan ensures that it is circulated quickly and evenly to make the food in the food basket or pan crisp on the outside and nice and juicy in the inside.
The food basket is removable and pretty easy to clean with water and soap or in a dishwasher. This saves you the hassle of having to use a number of different pans, utensils, and appliances to prepare a meal, and then having to wash the grease and food from them.
The air fryer uses about 70-80% less oil than a traditional deep fryer. This minimal amount of oil is sufficient for all of the food in the basket to be covered with a thin layer and then cooked by the hot air which is heated up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most good air fryers have adjustable temperature levels and timers for precise cooking. Some feature pre-set programs for cooking, baking, steaming or roasting various popular types of food such as chicken, fish, shrimps, fries, pastries, and others.
The food is placed in a food basket placed on top of a drip tray. Most air fryers require that the food is shaken while it is cooking for an even coverage with the oil, but some models have an embedded food agitator which shakes and churns the food periodically by itself.
Other features which most top quality air fryers have are auto shut off functions, alarms when the food is ready and other features allowing you to keep what you are doing rather than attending the cooking process all the way.
Why are air fryers so popular?
The growing popularity of air fryers is mainly due to the health benefits associated with the type of cooking requiring very little oil. But other reasons why more people are buying and using these appliances is the fact that they are very fast and multifunctional cookers.
Also, a lot of people prefer using an air fryer for their daily cooking due to the easy maintenance and cleaning of the appliance, which saves a lot of time and hassle.
There is no splattering of oil outside of the unit while the food is cooking, which also is a major convenience and a safety benefit.
The air fryers give off much less heat and nearly no odor during the frying as compared to using traditional deep oil fryers or ovens which is another plus of these innovative multi-cooking appliances.
Types of air fryers
Although Philips claims to make the original air fryer, today there are various different options available on the market. They differ by size of the unit and capacity of the food basket, as well as by the functions they offer. Also, some have digital timers and temperature adjustments, while some of the budget air fryers rely on analogue adjustment of the cooking time and temperature.
What can you cook in an air fryer?
You can cook all kinds of fried foods except for products which are coated with liquid batter. Many air fryers offer options to steam, grill, roast, bake and warm foods apart from frying it, so they are pretty versatile. In fact, many people are choosing to use their air fryer in place of using an array of other kitchen appliances such as ovens, convection ovens, microwaves, BBQs, toasters and others.
One problem with this type of kitchen appliance is that due to its small dimensions and relatively limited capacities, they are not large enough to cook food for a big family.
Of course, there are models which have a capacity of up to 5-6QT, but they are quite large and take up a lot of space in the kitchen or when stored.
So, if your question is whether investing in an air fryer is worth it, there is no one simple answer. The truth is that it is a very easy, quick and clean way to cook just about anything. Plus, the lower calories and Trans fats in the food prepared in air fryers has multiple health effects.
Whether the resulting food is the same as that coming out of a deep fryer is arguable, but still, the food coming out of an air fryer can be quite good and to the taste of many satisfied people who are already using one of these wonder cookers.