Air fryers are a much healthier way to cook various foods than deep fat fryers. If you want to reduce the amount of oil you use for frying, an air fryer could be the solution. As the name suggests, air fryers use hot air combined with a little or no oil to produce delicious chips and other “fried” items with far fewer calories.
How Do They Work?
Air fryers really consist of small air powered convection ovens. In a traditional fryer, your food would be submerged in hot oil, but in an air fryer it is the circulation of superheated air that cooks the food. Because little or no oil is required, this is a much healthier option that is ideal for anyone concerned about their weight. Different air fryers offer different functions such as grilling, baking and steaming as well as frying, but they all work through the circulation of hot air.
Different Types of Air Fryer
There are two main types of air fryer although they work in a similar way; those with a pull out tray and those with a bowl. If you choose an air fryer with a pull out tray, you cannot usually check to see how the food is cooking without pulling the tray out but the ones with a bowl often feature a window through which you can check progress without
disturbing the food.
What size to choose
This really depends on how many people you usually cook for. There are various different sizes of air fryer available, from those designed for a single person up to those designed to cater for a large family, although the majority of models can cook a minimum of four portions.
Space is another important consideration because they can take up quite a lot of space in your kitchen. However, it is important to choose an appliance that is large enough because overloading can result in uneven cooking or longer than expected cooking times.
Features to Look Out For
Depending on your individual needs you may want to consider a model with additional features such as a stirring paddle, rotating basket, digital timer, temperature controls or extra cooking racks.
A stirring paddle moves the food around automatically while it is cooking. This helps to ensure that food is evenly cooked and eliminates the need for stirring it manually, although some models have more efficient stirring paddles than others.
Rotating baskets that tilt have a similar effect to stirring paddles, moving the food around during the cooking process.
Some cooks find that a digital timer is useful so that they can see at a glance how much cooking time is left, but models with manual timers are also available.
Temperature controls allow you to set the temperature at which the food is to cook and therefore give you more control. The range is usually between 80°C and 200°C. However, air fryers without temperature controls often work equally well so the choice is yours.
Extra Cooking Racks
Models with extra cooking racks give you the option to cook different types of food at the same time. For example, you could cook scampi and chips without mixing them up together. You could also prepare different foods for different family members at the same time. Some extra cooking racks are in the form of a small basket that will fit inside the main bowl and others consist of an extra level of cooking.
The newest innovation is the “smart” air fryer which can be controlled from your tablet or phone. The app allows you to select a recipe and then instructs the air fryer to cook for a certain time at a defined temperature. You can monitor progress on your device and it will inform you when cooking is completed.
Advantages of air fryers
The major advantage that air fryers have over traditional fryers is the healthier cooking method. Your food will contain less fat because it is not submerged in the oil and because less oil is used, it will also contain fewer additives.
Another important advantage is the fact that your home will not be permeated by the odours of greasy food. It can be very hard to freshen up surfaces and textiles after traditional deep fat fryers have been used, so this is a major consideration for many people.
An air fryer is far more versatile than a traditional deep fat fryer. In addition to cooking chips, fish, sausages and similar items, an air fryer can cook curries, casseroles and desserts.
Air fryers are much easier to keep clean than deep fat fryers. They are less messy to begin with and many have the advantage of detachable components that are easy to wipe clean or wash in the dishwasher.
You will find an air fryer to be more economical too. Dishes are cooked more quickly than in a traditional oven and air fryers use less energy because they heat up more quickly and are so much smaller.
How Much Should I Expect to Pay
The price of air fryers varies considerably depending on size and the features they have. They generally start from about £60 and go up to nearly £200. It can often be a false economy to buy a very cheap, small capacity air fryer but it is really down to individual preference and which features are important to you.
Once you have experienced the benefits of cooking with an air fryer you will not want to return to deep fat frying again. The health benefits, convenience and overall taste of food cooked in this way cannot be beaten.