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Are Air Fryers Worth It?

Are air fryers worth it - featured. Homemade fries in an air fryer basket

Does the “must-have” kitchen gadget really live up to the hype?

Air fryers have taken the US, and the world, by storm, with estimates suggesting that the kitchen appliance can now be found in nearly two-thirds of American homes – but are air fryers worth it?

Fans of the popular kitchen countertop appliance say it has revolutionized cooking, enabling them to produce crisp, evenly browned food effortlessly. They help to reduce the intake of fats and calories, and in super-quick time, leading to significant energy savings. But with kitchen space at a premium, and prices easily running into hundreds of dollars for big-brand models, are air fryers really worth the investment?

If you’re contemplating making a purchase, but are still questioning an air fryer’s versatility – or are tempted by crunchy tater tots in super-quick time, but aren’t sold on the health claims – then read on. We debunk the myths surrounding air fryers, while considering their pros and cons, to help you decide whether it’s the appliance for you.

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer isn’t actually a “fryer” at all; it’s a countertop-sized convection oven that circulates air at high temperatures to cook food quickly, evenly, and crisply. While it’s available in a variety of formats, the majority of models consist of a drawer (or several) into which you place food for cooking, leaving a hot metal element and high-powered fan system to deliver results. Some models can rotate food as it cooks, while others offer additional functionality such as steam, slow cook, dehydrate, and rotisserie features. Air fryers are electrically powered and very portable.

Are air fryers healthy?

In itself, cooking in an air fryer isn’t healthy; but if you’re comparing between cooking the same foods in an air fryer as opposed to a deep fat fryer, then there’s a significant saving in terms of calories and saturated fat content to using the former. It’s estimated that air-fried foods contain 70-80% less fat than the equivalent food deep-fried.

So, while eating fries, fried chicken and other high-fat foods will never be healthy, you can enjoy these foods and more with much less fat and calories if using an air fryer to cook them. If air-fried foods are compared to those cooked in an oven then the difference is less pronounced; air-fried foods are perhaps marginally healthier than those broiled or roasted in an oven because they won’t be sitting in the oil – it’s free to drip away into the tray. The other health benefit of air frying is that the cooking process requires you to add little to no oil to deliver crisp, golden results.

Are air fryers economical?

While there’s obviously an initial outlay when purchasing an air fryer, they can deliver significant savings by reducing your energy bills. Air fryers cut down cooking times by around 25%, and usually don’t require preheating like your conventional oven. They’re also very energy-efficient, so depending on your energy tariff, they can prove an extremely economical method of cooking – particularly if it saves you from turning on the oven to cook food for just one or two people.

What can you cook in an air fryer?

Of course, air fryers are well known for delivering great results when cooking foods such as fries, pastries, nuggets, and chicken portions; but you can cook almost anything in an air fryer. From pasta to cookies and omelettes to vegetables, an air fryer will generally cook up any foods that you would usually fry, roast or bake very successfully.

Note that there is an element of trial and error initially, but once you’re familiar with your particular model’s temperatures and timings, you can expect reliably golden, crisp, evenly cooked food with little to no fuss. You can even cook a whole chicken in an air fryer, if its capacity allows.

Air fryer cons

There are a few negatives to consider before you go ahead and purchase an air fryer:

Cost – Air fryers can be expensive, and you should expect to pay upwards of around $100 for a known brand. Keep an eye on air fryer deals and offers to get the most for your money, and bear in mind that choosing a cheaper model can prove a false economy.

Capacity – Most air fryers are perfect for two people; you may struggle to cook an entire meal for a family in a standard air fryer. Of course, there are larger models available, but these can be expensive to buy and run. In addition, bigger models will have a significant footprint, making them difficult to store or accommodate in a smaller kitchen. Note, too, that any energy- and time-saving benefits from using an air fryer can be lost if you have to turn on your oven to cook other parts of your meal.

Cooking results – While you can cook most things in an air fryer, it doesn’t mean you should. In our experience, foods that are best griddled – burgers and steaks, for example – lack char and flavour when air fried. Cakes and breads are also best cooked in the oven, while homemade fried chicken and other loosely breadcrumbed foods are not suitable for air frying. Lightweight ingredients get blown about by the air fryer fan, and wetter foods such as cheese can produce messy and unsatisfactory results.

Cleaning – You need to clean the inside of an air fryer after each use to ensure it stays hygienic and continues to function well. This can be messy and time-consuming, although using tray liners can help to limit the cleanup time.

Verdict

Overall, it’s fair to say that air fryers do live up to the hype, and many households will find them a useful addition. Their versatility, speed and energy-saving features mean they’re here to stay, and the fact that air fryers can cook up certain items so much better – and more healthily – than using other cooking methods makes for a very convincing argument in our book.

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