With this beginner's guide to air frying you will learn everything you need to know about air fryers, how they work, and why you may/or may not want one in your kitchen.
What is an air fryer? Simply put, it is a kitchen appliance that cooks food using hot air. This means that your food will be cooked evenly and quickly, without the use of any oil or butter.
Air fryers are becoming increasingly popular, as they are a great way to cook healthy, delicious meals without having to worry about added fat or calories.
In this blog post, we will take a look at what air fryers are, what types are available, what kind of food you can cook in them, and what you shouldn't as well as basics tips on owning and cleaning one.
- What is an Air Fryer?
- How Do Air Fryers Work?
- To Preheat or Not to Preheat?
- What Types of Air Fryers Are There?
- What Air Fryer Accessories Do I Need?
- What Can You Cook In An Air Fryer?
- What Cannot Be Cooked in an Air Fryer?
- Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer
- Are Air Fried Foods Better for You?
- Is Air-Fried Food Healthy?
- Can an Air Fryer Replace a Microwave?
- How to Clean and Care for an Air Fryer
- Choosing an Air Fryer
- Easy Air Fryer Recipes To Try Soon!
What is an Air Fryer?
The air fryer is a countertop convection oven that doesn't actually fry the food. (Keep in mind that there's a difference between air frying and baking) and once you know how an air fryer works you'll see why it's named a "fryer."
When air fryer was invented? Back in 2010. The Philips Electronics Company patented the device, which claims to reproduce the effects of deep-frying with little or no oil.
According to market research, air fryers have exploded in popularity over the last few years, with more than 40% of US homes owning one as of July 2020.
From frozen chicken wings and homemade potato dishes to roasted veggies and fresh-baked cookies, many different things may be air-fried.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Inside your air fryer is a basket and an area where the basket is meant to be stored both in and out of use. An air fryer's heating element and fan are located in the top portion of this location.
How an air fryer works without oil- The food is put into the fryer-style basket, and the air fryer is then switched on. Hot air rushes down from the heating element and around the food, similar to how it does when deep frying.
The fan forces the air to circulate around the food through the holes in the basket to cook the food more evenly (similar to a convection oven).
Here's a basic idea of how to use an air fryer:
Place your food in the basket
The basket can hold anywhere from 2 to 10 quarts depending on the size of your air fryer. To assist the food getting crisp, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of oil in most situations.
Set the time and temperature
Cooking times and temperatures for the air fryer typically range from 5 to 25 minutes at 350° to 400°F, depending on the dish you're preparing.
Let the food cook
In certain circumstances, you may need to flip or turn the food halfway through the cooking process to ensure that it crisps uniformly. It's also important to clean your air fryer once you're finished cooking.
To Preheat or Not to Preheat?
Unlike a conventional oven, an air fryer does not require a full half-hour to come to temperature. A few minutes of preheating should be sufficient.
Some air fryer versions have a light that tells you when the device is preheated.
Manufacturers recommend that you preheat your air fryer, but if you like, it's not required.
If you're starting a dish in a cold air fryer, expect a three to four-minute additional cook time. Try both and see what works best for you. It might be dependent on the recipe.
What Types of Air Fryers Are There?
There are two distinct types of air fryers, both of which may be identified by their capacity, the amount of physical room they take up, and how difficult they are to clean.
Pod-shaped air fryers
The first is the smaller pod-shaped air fryer, which most people are familiar with. A pod-shaped air fryer has a capacity of around 2 quarts and tops out at about 7 quarts.
The smaller size of this style of air fryer, as well as its ease of maintenance and cleaning, make it a better choice for those preparing food for a smaller number of people.
Convection oven air fryers
Another type is the bigger convection oven air fryer, which resembles a toaster oven with a door that opens down but has air-frying capabilities.
The convection oven air fryer is generally larger than the pod-shaped models, with many models accommodating up to 10 quarts or more of different foods. You may find a few convection oven air fryers with rotating baskets.
However, they take up more room on your counter and are more difficult to maintain.
What is the largest air fryer?
The biggest air fryers of any type that you can find on the market are about 16 quarts. This is big enough to feed a large family and then some because we often use our 7-quart air fryer for a family of 4 and do just fine.
If you only need an air fryer for 2 people, a standard 2 to 4 quart is plenty big for multiple meal portions. Even using a 2-quart air fryer for one person is sufficient most of the time.
What Air Fryer Accessories Do I Need?
Do I need accessories?
Most air fryers will come with a basic plate within the cooking basket so you can get on with making basic recipes straight away.
However, there are lots of options when it comes to accessories and these can be useful as you start to make a larger variety of dishes with your air fryer.
What Can You Cook In An Air Fryer?
Deep-fried food is wonderful in an air fryer. It can provide the crunch without requiring much oil.
Can an air fryer cook frozen food? Yes, frozen mozzarella sticks, fries, waffles, chicken, and more can all be cooked in the air fryer.
Air fryers are fantastic for frying great chicken wings.
Roasted vegetables will be crisp, browned, and fully cooked in the middle, but you'll use just as much oil as if you were to oven-cook them.
Anything that can cook well from high heat, such as small potatoes cut in half and tossed in oil or a flavoring, chickpeas that cook to create a snack with lovely crunch, steaks, chops, and other items, is ideal for an air fryer.
You can also bake bread, cookies, and s'mores in an air fryer.
What Cannot Be Cooked in an Air Fryer?
If the food is not pre-fried and frozen, you should avoid putting the wet batter in the air fryer. Aside from the apparent mess it will make, the wet batter will not set as it does when immersed in oil, resulting in a soggy shell.
The workaround for this is to coat your food item with flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs to give your dish a bit of crispiness without the soggy batter.
Extreme amounts of air cause leave to cook unevenly. It's easy to burn dishes that don't advise you to do so.
When selecting vegetables to cook in the air fryer, keep in mind that they should have some weight to them, such as broccoli or zucchini.
If you're making kale chips, make sure they've been oil coated to keep them in place.
Finally, frozen veggies are the best option for air fryers since they contain more moisture after being frozen.
The question is whether or not a whole roast will fit in an air fryer basket, but even if it does, it's sometimes best to just use the oven.
The meat may not be cooked evenly because the section closest to the heat source will burn before the part furthest away is safe to eat.
Overcrowding is the problem here. Because hot air requires space to flow freely, cooking the roast in smaller pieces is the most effective method.
If you're preparing a chicken, make sure the breast is face down and skin side up because air fryers heat from the top.
Who wouldn't want to whip up a batch of crispy cheese in minutes? Because the air fryer isn't truly frying the food, placing cheese inside will just cause it to melt and leave a mess that you don't want to deal with.
If you don't go hunting for frozen mozzarella sticks in the freezer aisle, there will be no fried cheese coming out of your air fryer.
If you're wondering, "can an air fryer cook rice?" the answer is both a yes and a no. Grains, such as rice and pasta, can crisp up nicely in an air fryer, but they must first be cooked on the stovetop.
Air fryers are designed to dry-cook food, so attempting to cook anything that must be immersed in water to cook properly will not work.
Even with an insert that enables you to add water into the air fryer, the fan may not become hot enough to boil the water and fully cook your grains.
Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer
What's the difference between an air fryer and a deep fryer?
Air fryers and deep fryers are similar appliances, but they work differently. Air fryers use a powerful fan to bake food at a higher temperature than other types of ovens, whereas deep fryers require a specific degree of heat before the oil in the pan can be used. Both cook food fast, but an air fryer needs little or no preheating time.
Air fryers cook using much less oil, and deep frying uses a lot more. Food cooked in an air fryer tastes excellent, although it isn't crispy and juicy as food prepared in a deep fryer due to the batter that is applied to the former.
To help battered foods color and crisp up in an air fryer, they should be coated with oil before cooking. The hot oil penetrates the batter in a deep fryer while the hot oil soaks into the batter in an air fryer.
Batters made of flour and liquids do not cook well in an air fryer, but they are perfect for a deep fat fryer.
Are Air Fried Foods Better for You?
As with everything in life there are some advantages and disadvantages. Here are some air fryer pros and cons.
Air frying is typically more healthy than deep fat frying. It saves 70% to 80% of calories while having a significantly lower fat content.
Oil frying is one of the most common ways to cook potatoes. Because oil heats slowly, it creates less smoke, so there's less air pollution and your kitchen will be clearer.
Another benefit of this cooking technique is that it may help decrease some of the adverse effects associated with oil frying. The chemical acrylamide is produced when food such as potatoes are cooked. Using an air fryer can reduce this by as much as 90%
Disadvantages of an air fryer
Air frying, for example, has drawbacks. In one research, the amount of a chemical called "cholesterol oxidation products" (COPs) was increased in fish air fried. COPs are produced when cholesterol in foods such as steak or fish breaks down during cooking. These chemicals have been linked to heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and other diseases.
However, there is a simple tip to reduce the number of COPs created when frying fish - add some fresh parsley or chives. The herbs act as antioxidants and reduce the COPs so you can happily air fry your favorite fish.
Is Air-Fried Food Healthy?
Air-fried food has the same flavor and texture as deep-fried cuisine: crispy on the outside, juicy in the middle. If you use any oil at all, you only need a tiny amount of it (depends on what you're preparing).
So yes, air frying foods is definitely a healthier option than using a deep fat fryer. Of course, what is healthy or not depends on what you are cooking!
Can an Air Fryer Replace a Microwave?
While an air fryer may seem like a good alternative to a microwave oven, it does not duplicate the convenience, speed, or technique of cooking as a microwave. An air fryer can replace a conventional or convection oven, but not a microwave.
How to Clean and Care for an Air Fryer
It is wise to clean your air fryer after each use - your manufacturer will give you specific instructions when you buy your product. The first step is always to leave it to cool.
The basket and handle, for example, can be cleaned in soapy water and some may be dishwasher suitable. For the inner components, a mild, damp cloth is sufficient.
If there's any spattered food on the element, look at it carefully. A toothbrush dedicated to cleaning confined spaces in kitchen equipment may come in useful.
Oil might accumulate in your air fryer if you don't clean it regularly, becoming sticky and difficult to remove (or worse, go rancid). Remember that each manufacturer has its own distinct guidelines; check with your owner's handbook for the proper cleaning procedures depending on the type of air fryer.
Choosing an Air Fryer
Air fryer- is it worth it?
There are solid reasons why so many people have bought an air fryer over the last few years. Offering a way to quickly and easily cook foods with less oil than a deep fryer, they quickly become a must-have appliance in the kitchen!
What air fryer is the best?
According to the Food Network channel, these are the top 3 Air Fryers to buy:
- Instant™ Vortex™ 6-quart Air Fryer
- Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 6QT Large Air Fryer Oven Combo
- Ninja AF101 Air Fryer
I personally own a 7 quart PowerXL Air Fryer Vortex that I got on sale during black Friday from Kohls. It's been fabulous, quiet and so easy to clean. It's also pretty budget-friendly year-round compared to some other brands.
What to Look for When Buying an Air Fryer
When buying an air fryer there are some things that should keep in consideration. For example, you will need to ask yourself:
1.) What types of foods do you plan on cooking? Will it be mostly meats and dinner recipes, roasted veggies, frozen foods or appetizers/snacks.
2.) How much space can you afford to give it? Air fryers can be large, bulky, tall, or wide. Do you have a place to store it? If so, where will it be and how can it fit conveniently into your living space.
3.) How much can you afford to spend? This is one of those products where value and cost really go hand in hand. That phrase "you get what you pay for" can truly apply here. The nicer models are often significantly easier to clean while some cheaper models may have paint flake off of the basket after continued use.
4.) How many people do you plan on feeding from your air fryer? If you are just looking to feed 1-2 people a 2 quart should be fine but a 4 quart can give you many more options for recipes. Remember that you can always cook smaller portions in a larger air fryer but can't cook a larger portion in a smaller one.
5.) How do you plan to use your air fryer? Different air fryers have different functions including baking, toasting, and more. Think about what foods you'll be cooking, how you will want to be cooking them.
After you've asked yourself these questions, try making a list of what you're looking for in an air fryer and then work your way through the internet scouting out the perfect model fit for your needs.
With any luck you'll have the perfect air fryer in your home in no time flat, and when you do, check out some of our favorite air fryer recipes to get you comfortable with your new machine.