How Do Air Fryers Work?

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Counter space is a hot commodity in almost every kitchen. Even when you have a lot of it, it’s all to easy to fill it with clutter. An air fryer, however, is one kitchen gadget we think you’ll want to make room for.

Air fryers resemble traditional oven ranges in their ability to bake and roast food, but with a distinct twist: their heating elements sit atop the appliance, complemented by a large, powerful fan. This setup yields fast, crispy results, all while requiring less oil than conventional deep fryers. Thanks to their concentrated heat source and strategically positioned fan, air fryers swiftly heat up and ensure even cooking, making them a favorite for efficiency and flavor.

Another great aspect of air frying is the easy cleanup. Most air fryer baskets and racks are dishwasher safe and for those that aren't, we suggest a good dish brush, like this one from Casabella. It’ll get into all those nooks and crannies that promote air circulation without driving you nuts.

What's the difference between an air fryer and deep fryer?

Air fryers bake food at a high temperature with a high-powered fan, while deep fryers cook food in a vat of oil that has been heated up to a specific temperature. Both cook food quickly, but an air fryer requires practically zero preheat time while a deep fryer can take upwards of 10 minutes.

Air fryers also require little to no oil and deep fryers require a lot that absorb into the food. Food comes out crispy and juicy in both appliances, but don't taste the same, usually because deep fried foods are coated in batter that cook differently in an air fryer versus a deep fryer. Battered foods needs to be sprayed with oil before cooking in an air fryer to help them color and get crispy, while the hot oil soaks into the batter in a deep fryer. Flour-based batters and wet batters don't cook well in an air fryer, but they come out very well in a deep fryer.

air fryer cooking cheat sheet
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Is air fried food healthy?

The taste and texture of air fried food is comparable to the results of a deep fryer: Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. However, you only need to use a tiny amount of oil, if any at all (depending on what you're cooking).

So yes, compared to deep-frying, air frying is "definitely a healthier alternative if you commit to using just 1-2 tablespoons of a plant-based oil with seasoning, and you stick to air-frying veggies more than anything else," says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.. "Any appliance that helps you and your family up your veggie game is key to weight management, reduced risk of chronic disease, and improved long-term health as we age."

What can you cook in an air fryer?

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Air fryers are fast, and once you understand how they work, they can be used to heat frozen foods or cook all sorts of fresh foods like chicken, steak, pork chops, salmon and veggies. Most meats require no added oil because they’re already so juicy: just season them with salt and your favorite herbs and spices. Make sure you stick to dry seasonings — less moisture leads to crispier results. If you want to baste meats with barbecue sauce or honey, wait until the last couple minutes of cooking.

Lean cuts of meat, or foods with little or no fat, require oil to brown and crisp up. Brush boneless chicken breasts and pork chops with a bit of oil before seasoning. Vegetable oil or canola oil is usually recommended due to its higher smoke point, meaning it can stand up to the high heat in an air fryer.

Vegetables also need to be tossed in oil before air frying. We recommend sprinkling them with salt before air frying, but use a little less than you’re used to: The crispy, air fried bits pack a lot of flavor. We love air frying broccoli florets, Brussels sprouts and baby potato halves. They come out so crispy! Butternut squash, sweet potatoes and beets all seem to get sweeter, and green beans and peppers take no time at all.

ari fry anything
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Are air fryers worth it?

First off, consider whether you’re in the market for another appliance. Many toaster ovens have air frying capabilities now, like the Cuisinart TOA-65 and the Breville Smart Oven Air, as do some pressure cookers, like the Ninja Foodi.

If you do decide to spring for an air fryer, consider that stand-alone air fryers range in price from $40 for compact models to $400 for large, air fryer-toaster oven combos. When shopping for an air fryer, consider how many people you’re cooking for: The smallest air fryers (1.2 liters) are good for 1-2 people, while the medium sizes (3-4 liters) are good for 2-3 people, and the largest (6 liters or more) are good for 4-6. We prefer air fryers with baskets instead of shelves because they cook more evenly.

Air Fryer Max XL

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Vortex Plus ClearCook

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Compact Air Fryer

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Convection Toaster Oven Airfryer

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