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What Is an Air Fryer? Pros, Cons, Types, & FAQ

Cooking potatoes on air fryer

An air fryer is just a very small convection oven. It uses a heating element with a fan placed behind it, to bake and roast food quickly.

Air fryers have been around for a while now, and they’re constantly gaining popularity. If you’re considering whether or not to buy one, keep reading. In this article, we’ll look at how air fryers work, what they’re good at, and their disadvantages so you can make an informed decision.

divider 4 How Does an Air Fryer Work?

Despite its name, air fryers don’t actually fry food. Instead, you place food in a basket that slides into the air fryer. A heating element is located above the food, with a fan above that. When switched on, the fan circulates hot air around the food, in much the same way as a convection oven would.

Because air fryers are small, food is cooked quickly. The high heat and close proximity to the fan and the heating element can help to create crispy crusts on different foods. For example, you could make french fries without using oil, or cook crispy chicken wings, and achieve browning without having to deep fry them.

Air fryers are quite small, and can usually only cook enough food for one or perhaps two people. If you’re making a large amount of food, you may need to cook the food in several batches. Furthermore, if you want the air fryer to succeed in creating crispy crusts, you’ll need to take out the basket and shake the food around at regular intervals. This is to let air circulate around the entire surface of the food.

Air Fryer
Image Credit: Casezy Idea, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Air Fryers?

There are hundreds of different air fryer brands and styles, with different features to suit almost anyone’s needs.

All air fryers can be split into four main categories:
  • Paddle-type: These air fryers have a built-in paddle that gently rotates, stirring the food inside so that it gets cooked evenly. This saves time and effort by eliminating the need to take out the food basket and shake it between cooking.
  • Basket-type: Basket-type air fryers have a small basket with holes for airflow, and a handle, making it easy to toss food around as it cooks.
  • Countertop convection ovens: These ovens are miniature convection ovens. As with air fryers, they use heating elements and a strong fan to circulate hot air around the food. They have shelves, like regular rectangular ovens, and usually offer a larger cooking space. They’re ideal if you want to feed more than two people.
  • Rotisserie air fryers: Some air fryers also come with a rotisserie spit—usually the countertop convection oven types. If you’re a fan of spit-roast meats, then you can’t go wrong with this type of air fryer. The confined space means that your meat will require less cooking time, and the constant spinning causes the meat to self-baste—the result is succulent, evenly roasted meat.

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What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?

Air fryers are sometimes called “health fryers.” Any type of food that you would usually shallow or deep fry, you can replicate in an air fryer with little to no oil. But since their rise to popularity, there are thousands of other recipes for air fryer meals all over the internet. From brownies to chicken wings, there’s very little you can’t cook in an air fryer.

1. Poultry, Fish, and Red Meat

You can cook any type of poultry, fish, and red meat in an air fryer—as long as they fit in! If a whole chicken is too big, try cutting it down into quarters. Meatballs, meat loaves, and fish steaks are just a few more examples of what you could cook in an air fryer. Beef or lamb ribs, steaks, and bacon are a few others!

cooking skinless chicken breast with spices in an air fryer
Image Credit: Francisco Zeledon, Shutterstock

2. Frozen Foods

Frozen foods, such as chicken goujons and nuggets, french fries, and potato wedges are just a few examples of the kinds of frozen foods you can cook in an air fryer. They don’t have to be store-bought, either. You can prepare a large batch beforehand, store it in the freezer, and cook it in small batches when ready.

3. Roasted Vegetables

Air fryers are great at cooking roasted vegetables, such as sliced carrots, parsnips, and asparagus. You can cook a variety of vegetables mixed together. For example, chopped red onions, eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, garlic cloves, and rosemary would make a great Mediterranean-inspired roasted vegetable dish.

man using air fryer
Image By: Enjoy The Life, Shutterstock

4. Desserts

There are more than a few recipes out there for air-fried donuts and other apple fritters. But you could even try to make cookies, brownies, churros, and air-fried Oreos.

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Advantages of Air Fryers

Because of their compact nature and smooth modern designs, air fryers fit nicely onto kitchen counters. But if you don’t want to have them out all of the time, you can also pack them away and store them in a cupboard for later use.

Air fryers reduce cooking time dramatically when compared to conventional ovens. This not only means less time in the kitchen for whoever is cooking, it also means that they are far more energy efficient—so they can save money on your electricity bills too.

If you’re looking for a healthier way to cook and enjoy the same kind of food that you’d normally deep fry, then an air fryer may be your best option.

Finally, air fryers are easy to clean up and maintain. And with so many options, models, and brands out there, there’s one to fit almost every budget.

woman using air fryer_
Image By: Ika Rahma H, Shutterstock

Disadvantages of Air Fryers

Although air fryers need less cooking time to prepare your food, they can only cook small amounts at a time—usually enough to feed one or two people. Though newer, larger models claim to cook enough for as many as three. This could be a disadvantage if you’re cooking for a large group, for example, a family. In such a case, you’d need to cook in batches, which could end up taking longer than using a regular oven.

With some air fryers, like the basket type, you’ll need to be on hand to pause the machine and shake the food around in the basket before putting it back in. This means that you can’t just switch it on and walk away, which could be a disadvantage if you need to focus on other tasks.

divider 1 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it worth getting an air fryer?

As with so many products, it really depends on your individual needs. An air fryer will let you cook delicious and healthy meals. They’re convenient, easy to use, and great for cooking a small amount of food very quickly.

What’s the best thing to cook in an air fryer?

Air fryers are ideal for roasting vegetables and cooking tender, juicy meats. That said, you can get creative and try out your own recipes. Others have managed to bake cookies, brownies, and plenty of other dishes.

bbq chicken legs in air fryer
Image By: Bubbers BB, Shutterstock

Is air-fried food healthier?

Air frying food instead of using oil or fat is undoubtedly healthier. By cutting out oil, you’ll reduce your amount of calorie intake by 70% to 80%. Reducing fat and calorie intake cake lead to a healthier heart, healthier digestive system, weight loss, and reduce risks of other diseases.

Can you cook pizza in an air fryer?

Yes, you can cook pizza in an air fryer. Most air fryers cook pizza in 8-10 minutes. Air fryers are also great for reheating cold pizza and leftovers.

divider 4 Conclusion

There are four types of air fryers, but they all work the same way by using heating elements and a fan to create a convection effect. This blasts food surfaces with hot air, which is what creates browning and crispy crusts.

Air fryers offer a healthier way of cooking in comparison to traditional frying in oil or fat. The compact size of air fryers and their ease of use make them a convenient option for most people. These mini convection ovens prepare food quickly, making them more energy efficient than large convection or traditional ovens.

Featured Image Credit: Francisco Zeledon, Shutterstock


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