Air frying, a trend that took the world towards healthy eating. But are air fryers really healthy than deep fryers? What makes air fryers worth buying? Can this little machine cook your favorite wings in just a tablespoon of oil? Oh yes, there is a list of questions before you buy a new air fryer. And why not have questions as after all you’re not buying a new kitchen appliance just to store it away in the cabinet.
If I were to put one word for air fryers then I would definitely go for ‘versatility. These countertop air fryers are much more versatile than you think. We have always heard of air-fried chicken and air-fried french fries, but a good quality fryer is capable of cooking much more than chicken wings and potato fries. You’ll get to know a lot more in detail as you keep reading below.
How an Air Fryer Works?
The working of an air fryer is very much similar to that of a countertop convection oven. Both of them feature powerful heating elements and a fan that rotates hot air into the cooking chamber. And this hot air is responsible for cooking the food. Know you know the working of an air fryer, in brief, let us dive into some details.
A heating element, generally circular, is present on the top side of the unit. And right the circular heating element is a fan. As soon as you turn on the fryer, set the temperature and timer, the element starts heating up. Simultaneously, the fan starts rotating in a particular direction and helps to spread the hot air straight into the fryer basket.
The cooking basket sits an inch above the bottom for the hot air to circulate properly onto the base as well. The perforated bottom and walls of the air fryer basket ensure hot air passes flawlessly that in turn, cooks food from each side. This continuous passage of hot air for a set amount of time cooks the food tender from inside and crispy from outside. The texture we all love to munch on.
What is the big deal with an Air Fryer?
We are not breaking your heart but you must understand air fryers are not deep fryers. You cannot expect air-fried food to taste exactly the same as that that comes out of a deep fryer.
The two big qualities why we love certain foods like chicken wings, french fries, onion rings, etc are for their taste and texture. The good thing about air frying them is you can enjoy a plateful of these snacks without worrying about extra calories. This is because a digital air fryer will cook the same amount of onion rings using 1 tbsp of oil, whereas a traditional deep fryer uses around 6-7 spoons. So it is normal for air-fried onion rings to taste slightly different than deep-fried ones.
Another important quality is texture and luckily air fryer does not let us down when it comes to food texture. The continuous passing of hot air makes the food crispy from the outside and soft from inside. And this is one of the biggest reasons why people love cooking in an air fryer.
Different Types of Air Fryers
Basket-type air fryers are common in the market. In fact, leading air fryer brands sell basket-type units quickly than other types. But what are these other types of air fryers and how are they different from basket-type fryers?
Countertop Air Fryer
If you look at a broader picture, all the countertop air fryers are similar with some minor differences. These differences are basket size, settings, digital control, and ease of cleaning. The price and size of a unit change according to the features and functions a countertop home air fryer has to offer.
Then there is an air fryer toaster oven that is basically a countertop oven with air fryer settings. As I already said, both the countertop oven and air fryer use hot air to cook food using very little oil. So instead of buying an appliance separately, you can opt for a conventional air fryer oven that is both versatile and spacious.
Flip Top Fryers
Apart from these two, there are flip-top air fryers. They are not so popular among households due to exposed heating elements, humongous size, and limited cooking space. You need to be extra careful while air frying food with flip-top models.
Things to Keep In Mind When You Use an Air Fryer
Following good air frying practices will help you cook food perfectly. Even if you’re using an air fryer for the first time or a regular user, there are certain things to take care of. This will only save your time and improve the air frying experience.
- Shake, shake, shake: Recommended by professional and home chefs, it is always a good idea to shake up ingredients in between the cooking cycle. This flipping of food or simple shaking ensures the food gets cooked evenly from all sides. No matter whether you’re air frying french fries or cooking salmon in your electric air fryer, you must flip the food halfway through the cooking cycle.
- Maintain distance: No no this is not the social distance protocol for fries! :D. However, you mustn’t overcrowd the frying basket as hot air needs some space for proper circulation. Rather than cooking a bag of fries in one go, cook them in batches by laying them properly on the fryer basket such that hot air finds a way through each of them.
- Pchit pchit, Oil spray: Oil spraying the food a little is always a good idea. This is because oil prevents food from over-drying as well as helps in achieving that crispy texture. In case you’re out of a cooking spray then lightly coat fries, chicken wings, and other foods with available cooking oil.
- Pat dry: You want to avoid adding marinated foods into an air fryer basket. The high liquid content of any food causes splattering and raises smoke that, trust me, is not what you want to deal with. While it is okay to marinate the food for a while, always pat them dry before air frying. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the taste in every bite without dealing with smoke or mess.
Should I Preheat or Not Preheat the fryer?
Before I answer this question let me tell you this is the most discussed question on the internet. Do you really need to preheat your air fryer? Let me first tell you what is preheating and its importance.
As the name suggests, preheating is a cycle where you turn on the appliance, set the temperature, and let it run for a few minutes till the cavity reaches the desired temperature. Preheating is done without adding any food into the cooking basket. The sole purpose of preheating is to bring the inside temperature to a point where the food starts cooking. Though it sounds times consuming, but preheating actually saves time as well as cooks food perfectly as it eliminates hot spots.
Now coming back to the question, should you preheat the air fryer or not? Yes, it is a good idea to preheat the air fryer for a few minutes before adding food to the tray. This will cut cooking time and give a crispy exterior to the foods that you’ll love to munch later on. Also, you’ll not have to wait for hours for an air fryer to preheat. Thanks to its small cavity and powerful heating elements that reach desired preheat temperature within a few minutes.
Avoid these Mistakes While Using an Air Fryer
No one is a perfectionist and it is okay to make minor mistakes as long as the mistake is limited to adding less salt or pepper to the food. Apart from that, it is good to keep certain things in mind for the best air frying experience at home. Avoid below mentioned common air fryer mistakes and you’ll see everything that comes out of the basket is simply delicious.
- Limit Oil: Too much oil is a big no for air fryers. Not only does it kill the purpose of healthy eating but also causes a hot mess inside the cooking chamber. And that’s the reason why using a cooking spray is recommended especially when you’re using an electric air fryer. This will help to lightly coat the food for mess-free cooking.
- Stop Overcrowding: This is one common mistake people, especially beginners do. They empty the entire bag of fries or place chicken wings one over the other. And such overcrowding does not allow hot air to circulate through all sides of the food evenly. As a result, the food turns out to be crispy on one side while it’s undercooked on the other. Prefer cooking in batches as this will ensure proper hit air circulation and ultimately, the food will cook faster.
- Low-smoke point oil: Olive oil is considered one of the best oil for cooking but this is not the case when it comes to air frying. This is because olive oil has a low smoke point and starts smoking as the temperature goes a little high. So you must avoid using low smoke point oils like olive, walnut, flaxseed, pumpkin oil, etc while air frying. Instead, opt for healthy high smoke point cooking oils like safflower, rice bran, soybean, peanut oil, etc.
- Shake/Flip food: Take a break in between the cooking cycle to shake the ingredients or flip chicken wings. This step is recommended by cooks for even air frying of your favorite wings. Not only wings but shaking/flipping food halfway through the cycle is also good for other foods like french fries, onion rings, shrimps, etc.
- Keep an eye on the time: I would personally recommend you to set a timer on your smartphone or use an egg timer. This is because a majority of units with old-style dials are inaccurate. And you do not want to overcook the contents inside the basket as it will dry them up to a point where you’ll feel like chewing onto some aged chicken. Go for new, digital air fryers with better timer settings with an auto shut-off feature that will avoid such problems.
What size Air Fryer Do I Need?
The size of an air fryer is important and it is recommended to pick one size large than required. A below small table will help you select the appliance size better:
- 2.2-qt to 3.0-qt: Small air fryers are ideal to cook for 1-2 persons. They are best for compact, affordable, and best for personal use.
- 3.0-qt to 5.0-qt: These mid-size air fryers are popular among buyers. They offer enough space to cook for 2-3 persons easily. Or you can cook a bowl of filling fries in one go rather than cooking them in baches.
- 5.2-qt to 5.8-qt: Ideal family-size air fryers. A unit with such basket capacity can cook a filling meal for 4 in one go.
- 6.0-qt to 14-qt: These large to xl air fryers are perfect to cook for up to 6-12 persons. They are an excellent choice for cooking bulk, especially those that involve feeding a small crowd. Also, a large air fryer can fit a whole chicken.
Things That You Can Make with an Air Fryer
I used the word ‘versatility’ to describe an air fryer in the very beginning. So it is obvious that the appliance is not limited to cooking chicken wings and french fries. The below points will make it clear what other things you can do using an air fryer.
- Roast veggies: Air fryers can also be used as small roasters as they use hot air to cook food. Here, instead of cooking, set the right temperature and you can roast vegetables. Cauliflower florets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, etc are best roasted in the basket.
- Ravioli: Love crispy ravioli, then try making it with an air fryer. Thanks to the continuous circulation of hot air that crisps the outer layer of ravioli.
- Cookies: Sounds strange but you can use your countertop air fryer to make delicious baked goods. These include chocolate chip cookies, lava cakes, oatmeal cookies, simple sugar biscuits, etc.
- Instant Chips: Make crunchy homemade potato chips in minutes with an air fryer. All you need to do is thinly slice a potato and lay the chips onto the basket for air frying. Season the thin slices with some salt, pepper, and chili powder for taste.
- Hard-boiled Eggs: Eggs in an air fryer! sounds strange but you can boil eggs in this appliance. Check for a good detailed recipe that informs about the exact time and temperature settings for perfect boiled eggs.
You love air frying here are some suggestions:
- 7 Best Air Fryer For French Fries
- Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings (Guide)
- 5 Best Air Fryer for a small Family of Four(4)
Switch to healthy eating or binge eating with a good air fryer. These countertop units are highly versatile and capable of cooking your favorite deep-fried dishes using a little amount of oil. French fries, chicken wings, pizza, and cookies are just a few things to name a good quality air fryer can cook. I am sure this detailed blog post has updated your knowledge about the appliance and will help to select the best air fryer for your home.