Air fryers are quite the rage these days and they are hard to ignore. If the crispy, crunchy results of air-fried cooking haven’t crept into your feeds yet, they will soon. It seems everyone either has one or wants one. But are air fryers truly the future of healthy cooking? If you’re thinking, ‘how do you know the best air fryer?’, or ‘how do I know what air fryer to buy?’ you’ve come to the right place. Also food for thought: What I wish I knew before I get an air fryer? This article will look at the pros and cons of an air fryer, and cover the basics to help you choose the best air fryer.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a fancy marketing term for miniature convection oven, though most air fryers have a design similar to a deep fryer. This gives you an illusion of sorts that whatever you can put in a deep fryer, you can put in an air fryer as well. Brilliant naming scheme if you ask us. But, because convection cooking plays a central role in air fryers, all traditional convention ovens technically have the ability to “air fry”. (There’s think number one we wish we knew before adding another space-hogging appliance to our kitchen: Air Frying can be done in a traditional convection oven!)
But to get real specific, manufacturers consider air fryers as these pod-shaped portable ovens with a handle on the front. Pulling the handle like a drawer opens the bottom base revealing a now-familiar mesh basket. So rather than filling up the base with a lots of oil, you simply lightly douse your food in oil, dump the foods you wish to fry in, and let the small appliance work its convection magic.
How does an air fryer work?
An air fryer generates hot air with its built-in heating coil and uses a fan to circulate the air at high speeds to crisp the food. The hot air circulation creates a “frying” effect as it can make certain foods crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside while requiring only a small amount of oil. To further simplify things, you are essentially baking your food in the air fryer with the goal of achieving a deep-fried food result without all the oil. Is it the same as frying? Not even close… and that might be another thing you’ll want to know before you buy.
Is it worth getting an air fryer?
Don’t be afraid of the marketing hype because good air fryers can be real keepers. Not only are these machines pretty capable and often healthier replacements for deep fryers but a good number of them can cook beyond the call of duty and do things like bake cakes, donuts and cookies, dehydrate vegetables, or even reheat food!
But what if you already have a nice convection oven? Once you peel back the whole marketing layer, buying an air fryer might not sound very worthwhile. However, if you have some extra space on your kitchen counter, adding an air fryer to the mix can open up some interesting possibilities. The obvious advantage is getting those meals out faster by using both the oven, stove and air fryer simultaneously. If you aren’t into multitasking, you can consider assigning exclusive roles to your oven and air fryer. Letting the oven handle roasted meats while assigning potatoes to the air fryer is a good way to keep flavors consistent and to different levels of doneness. Of course, these roles can vary depending on the brands and models of the appliances you own and what range of meals you like to prepare but remember that all kitchen appliances have their strengths and weaknesses. Having both an oven and an air fryer can potentially give you more cooking options.
What are the advantages of an air fryer?
Speaking of strengths, air fryers on their own offer several advantages over both ovens and deep fryers. Since you don’t fill up the base with lots of oil, you not only save some money but you also save your body from the possible unpleasantness of consuming deep-fried food.
But even if healthy eating isn’t on the top of your list, you’ll find the air fryer to be quite the time saver in more ways than one. Even if cooking times between air fryers and deep fryers are difficult to compare, simply preparing the food on the air fryer requires fewer steps and you won’t have to worry about dangerous oil splatters while cooking. Then once you are done using it, you’ll likely spend less time cleaning too and those few minutes of savings really add up if you intend on using the air fryer on a daily basis.
Faster heat, less room-warning
Because of their smaller size, air fryers also heat up faster than an oven, and if you live somewhere it gets really hot in summer, you know what a blessing it can be to be able to keep large appliances from adding to the heat quotient.
What are the disadvantages of an air fryer?
Earlier we noted that because they’re smaller, air fryers can heat up faster, but that small size can also be a disadvantage. It’s not possible to cook your Thanksgiving dinner in an air fryer, and in most cases, making a meal for a family of four will require more than just an air fryer. Plus, many air fryers aren’t good at cooking meat, potatoes and veg all at once, without everything coming out kind of all tasting the same, or not properly cooked.
Consider avoiding air fryers that are too rounded as they tend to have smaller capacities and may cook less evenly, not to mention they can be difficult to store. If you spot an air fryer with a large capacity and costs less than similarly-priced air fryers, check the pictures and product description and see if the air fryer comes with a mesh basket or perforated base. Without this basket, the food will just sit on the base making it impossible for hot air to cook the bottom of your food.
Best foods to cook in an air fryer
Any recipe that calls for deep fryer action is something you can let your air fryer try out. However, you need to keep your expectations in check especially if you frequently enjoy indulging on foods cooked by a deep fryer. Some foods cooked by an air fryer may turn out well, while others might end up dry. Experimentation is key because the end results don’t just depend on the air fryer but also the settings as well.
For starters, pick an air fryer that already comes with a recipe book and stick to those recipes first. The steps in those recipes are likely easier to follow since it will mention settings related to your air fryer model. The cooking times are likely more accurate too.
If the air fryer doesn’t come with a recipe book or you are ready to explore a bit more, start out with breaded foods like chicken fillets or nuggets. If you are working with frozen chicken, I recommend you thaw it first before you add the breading. Potatoes are very versatile too as you can cook them in a variety of ways. Craving for French fries? Your frozen fries or freshly cut ones should work just fine. You may also slice them thin for air frying potato chips or just slice them to pieces and add your seasonings so you can roast the potatoes instead.
Eggs are another fun ingredient to work with because your end result depends on your cooking time! Again, you have to do a bit of trial and error and take notes so you can figure out how long you need to cook your eggs in order to make soft boiled eggs, hard boiled eggs and so on. Having a bowl of ice cold water on hand is a great way to stop the eggs from cooking any further and make it easy to crack the shells too!
Don’t forget that you can bake in an air fryer as well. Feel free to go to the desserts section of your favorite cookbook and try out a cake or a batch of cookies or brownies!
I’ll close this section off with a hidden trick you can try doing with your air fryer. Try putting your leftovers in the fridge into your air fryer and cook for a few minutes. You’ll likely be surprised how much better the food tastes compared to reheating it with a microwave.
Are air fryers healthy?
When you think about this in pure mathematical terms, yes air fryers are indeed healthier because you are using less oil than a deep fryer. Less oil means fewer calories, less fat, and reduced chances of any harmful chemicals like acrylamide penetrating your foods as a result of frying the oil. So the next time you bite a piece of your air fried chicken and think about how much crispier those other fried foods tasted in restaurants, know that you are at least eating a bit healthier.
Choosing the Best Air Fryer – our Top 8 picks!
Searching for an air fryer on Amazon will return dozens upon dozens of results even if you add a bit of criteria here and there. To make it easier for you to choose, we rounded up 8 of the most popular air fryers. All the air fryers in this list have a power rating of at least 1,300 watts with a basket capacity of at least 4 quarts which is enough to fit a 3-pound whole chicken or about 2 pounds of French fries.
These air fryers also have over 10,000 reviews with an average rating of at least 4.3 stars at the time of writing. Yes, reviews never tell the full story of any product but the number is significant because you want to pick an air fryer that is very popular. The most popular air fryers are often the ones that have a large fanbase and such a visible fanbase often leads to the creation of online communities in Facebook, Reddit, and other popular platforms. Communities are a great source for recipes and crowdsourcing for support. Let’s move on to the list!
We tried it: Philips Premium XXL Air Fryer
We reviewed a Philips Air Fryer early on when this technology was still emerging. Check out that write up for a good sense of hat you can do with an air fryer and what the experience is really like. While Philips isn’t a massive seller of air fryers, its models are durable and well made, feeling more professional-grade than average.
We tried it: Ninja Speedi multi-cooker
While not exactly an air fryer, Ninja Speedi does essentially the same thing. The claim to fame of the Ninja Speedi fryer is that it can take the place of a lot of your kitchen appliances, and that it cooks an entire meal at once, even if different cooking methods are needed. Dubbed a ’12-in-one’ appliance, it will: Ninja Speedi claims to do many things, though not all of them as well as you might want. If you’re after quick and easy, this is an excellent unit for you. The meals we cooked with the Speedi turned out decently, and it did save a lot of time and fuss.
The most beautiful air fryer in the world: Drew air fryer
If you haven’t yet taken the air fryer plunge because you think most air fryers are ugly… you’re right. But this one fro Drew Barrymore’s kitchen appliance line is the most design-focused air fryer we’ve ever seen and it’s definitely pretty enough to sit out on the counter for guests to coo over. Shop it here, since it’s not available everywhere.
Stylish and Modern: COSORI Pro LE Air Fryer
Meet the youngest air fryer in the list – the COSORI Pro LE Air Fryer! Released back in mid-2021, this air fryer comes in a few colors and has a nice modern look. It can reach temperatures of up to 450°F opening up extra cooking possibilities. In fact, the VeSync app offers more than 100 recipes to try out just in case the included recipe book wasn’t enough for you.
Large and Full of Presets: CHEFMAN Multifunctional Digital Air Fryer+
If you want to prepare for a big family, the CHEFMAN Multifunctional Digital Air Fryer+ is one of the top picks to consider. The design closely resembles a convection oven with three air flow racks and it makes for a terrific appliance for dehydrating a variety of foods all at once. The 17 presets available across 4 cooking modes gives you a lot of room for experimenting!
Popular Sweet Spot: Ninja AF101 Air Fryer
The Ninja AF101 Air Fryer is the most popular sub $130 air fryer in the list and for good reason! This air fryer has been around since mid-2018 yet people still choose this one out of the other compact air fryers. The nonstick basket is really easy to clean and it does a terrific job in making foods crispy.
Household Name: Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven 6-in-1, 6QT
Being the only air fryer in this list with over 50,000 reviews, the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven is proof that buyers care about the brand. The Instant Pot pressure cooker was a huge hit so it shouldn’t be a surprise for people to pick an air fryer made by the same company. It’s the perfect pick for a growing family as it has a large 6-quart capacity and a dedicated app filled with tons of recipes.
Speedy and Simple: Nuwave Brio
With 100 pre-programed menu presets cooking couldn’t be easier. Want hotter temperature or need to cook it longer? Adjust on-the-fly. Brio’s intuitive digital controls are easy to operate, and the response is immediate while its display is easy-to-read in any light or no light. Plus it’s got speedy operation whether you are broiling, roasting, baking, or dehydrating.
Budget Beast: GoWISE USA 1700-Watt 5.8-QT 8-in-1 Digital Air Fryer
The price of the GoWISE USA 1700-watt 5.8-qt can go so low that you can buy two of them for less than the price of an Instant Vortex Plus! Considering the large capacity and amount of air frying modes, that’s pretty impressive! The egg-shaped design and dated interface might not be for everyone but it performs just about as well as some of the more expensive models.
Family of Minis: Elite Gourmet EAF4617
Elite Gourmet isn’t a particularly popular brand but it serves as a fierce budget competitor of the GoWISE USA air fryer. The 4-quart model boasts a pretty generic design, but the Elite Gourmet brand deserves to be in the list as it is one of the few companies that make 1.1-quart and 2.1-quart air fryers! Obviously, you won’t be able to fry up a feast but for traveling situations, these are decent!
Master Multitasker: Ninja DZ201 Foodi 8 Quart 6-in-1 DualZone 2-Basket Air Fryer
Ever feel the need of having more than one air fryer? Consider the Ninja DZ201 dual basket air fryer! Each basket has a 4-quart capacity and the heating zones are completely separate, allowing you to cook two different types of food simultaneously! Yes, it does cost twice as much as some of the top picks here but having two air frying baskets in a single huge housing is really cool and makes for really efficient cooking!
Got a question, suggestion or a favourite air fryer that we didn’t include? Post your comments below!
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