In recent years, the air fryer has taken the culinary world by storm, promising healthier and crispy results without the need for excessive oil. With its growing popularity, it's natural to wonder: Is an air fryer worth it?
What is it?
An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that cooks your food rapidly using circulating hot air. It's like a small convection oven that sits on your kitchen counter.
How do air fryers work?
Air Fryers use the same principles that convection ovens do. They rely on hot, circulating air to cook food. As a result, foods are crispy on the outside while being tender and moist on the inside. Additionally, air fryers cook foods more quickly than conventional ovens, resulting in shorter cook times.
What can you cook in an air fryer?
Since air fryers rely on circulating hot air rather than hot oil, they use considerably less fat than a traditional fryer. In addition to preparing air-fried versions of traditionally fried foods, such as french fries, you can also cook a wide variety of other foods as well.
- Try meat and fish. You can roast and bake them in the air fryer. Steaks are popular, as is salmon.
- Vegetables are a great option. They benefit from rapid circulating heat and roast more quickly in an air fryer than in the oven - but you can only roast a few portions.
- Pizzas, bagels, and other baked goods are as good in an air fryer as in a toaster oven.
- Potatoes and other starchy vegetables do well in an air fryer. It's especially worth it for French fries. Remember, they'll taste closer to oven-baked fries than real, deep-fat fried fries.
- Breaded (but not battered) foods such as breaded chicken tenders or onion rings.
Air Fryers have a cult following with whole websites and cookbooks dedicated to their use. They're immensely popular, and air fryer devotees seem to love them.
- They're perfect for preparing meals for one or two. Since most air fryers have little capacity, they're optimal for small servings.
- They use less fat than traditional frying techniques, which means saving on expensive oils and a lot less mess.
- You can cook a lot of different foods in an air fryer. Sure, you can air fry french fries and onion rings, but they're also suitable for roasting vegetables, baking salmon, or even baking cookies.
- They're easy to use. Most models come with simple controls and pre-set cooking functions for different types of food.
- Clean-up is simple. Air fryers typically have removable parts that you can easily pop into the dishwasher.
- You'll save on energy use. Air fryers are more energy-efficient than traditional ovens. They use a smaller amount of electricity and generate less heat, which can help save on energy costs.
- Food is done quickly. Air fryers are designed to cook food quickly and efficiently. They preheat rapidly and cook food in less time compared to conventional ovens or stovetops.
While air fryers are a few drawbacks to their use, too. So, when you're asking yourself whether air fryers are worth it, you might want to keep these drawbacks in mind.
- There's nothing you can do in an air fryer that you can't do in a hot oven, especially a convection oven. They're very similar to cooking in toaster ovens, which you may already have.
- They're too small when you're cooking for a family. Most air fryers have very little capacity. That makes cooking for more than two people a challenge. You may even need to cook in batches, which is time-consuming.
- You need to watch out for uneven cooking. Despite their ability to circulate hot air, air fryers may not always cook food evenly. Some areas of the food may be overcooked, while others remain undercooked. You'll likely need to shake or flip the food to ensure more even results.
- They can be noisy. Depending on the model, air fryers can generate noise during operation.
- They take up valuable counter space. While they have a relatively small capacity, they can take up a lot of counter space - about as much as a toaster oven.
So, are air fryers worth it?
After owning two air fryers, I can say you don't need one. Not really. There's nothing you can cook in an air fryer that you can't already cook in your oven (or toaster oven if you, like most Americans, already have one).
And that's my biggest concern with air fryers. While they're popular and novel, they don't really solve a problem, innovate home cooking, or do anything special. Further, their small capacity means it's harder to enjoy their benefits when cooking for families or dinner guests.
If you're cooking for one or two and have enough counter space to accommodate an air fryer, it might be worth it. Air fryers are a great choice for people who cook small, single-serving meals and want fast cooking with minimal cleanup.