Hot air fryers have exploded in popularity in recent years. Some people choose them for the convenience they offer, while others crave the fast-food results without all the calories. Whatever your reason for buying an air fryer, the way you cook should be a key consideration.
Air Fryer Basics
At its core, a kitchen air fryer is nothing more than a countertop convection oven.
Instead of using hot oil, air fryers rely on circulated hot air to cook food. An overhead heating element heats the air, while a small fan forces the hot air around the food basket. It is deep frying without all the oil, calories, and heat.
However, the cooking experience is not 100% oil-free. You will need a small bit of oil to reproduce the results you would get with a traditional deep fryer.
The cooking process involves placing the food in a basket that sits atop a drip tray. While some units will have an agitator feature that moves the food around, most require the user to toss the food at specified intervals to ensure even cooking.
There are other variables related to air fryer cooking. Let’s address those now.
How To Choose The Best Air Fryer For You
The first step in choosing the right air fryer involves taking a good look at your family size. Why? You will need to base your choice on how many people you will be cooking for and who will use the fryer the most. Family size is important too. It will dictate how much food the fryer can handle. If the food basket is too small, then you will have to cook in batches. If your teenaged daughter will be using it, will an ‘auto shut-off’ feature be important? See what I mean.
That said, here is a list of features you will want to consider before buying:
Settings and Controls
Research the time and temperature controls for the brand or model you’re thinking about buying. What is the maximum temperature setting? It will need to reach at least 400F for chicken. Does it have an automatic shutoff if the unit is left unattended? Does it have a reheat button for leftovers?
Capacity & counter space
If you have a large family, then you will need a unit with a big capacity. But keep in mind that a fryer than can handle large amounts of food (dual baskets) will also have a large footprint. Will you have enough countertop space to handle it? It is an important question to answer, especially if you plan to use the fryer in a dorm room or RV.
To ensure that the food in the fryer basket is being touched on all sides by circulated heated air, you will have to flip it during the cooking process. Will the unit allow you to pause the cooking process, or will you have to reset the time and temperature each time?
Think about how you load the food you want to air fry into the basket. You will usually have two options: front drawers or flip-up lids.
Will it be easy to use and maintain?
Most people like to wing it when it comes to using kitchen appliances. If that’s you, or other members of your family, check to see if the fryer is simple to operate. Removing the basket and other accessories should be hassle-free when it comes time to clean up.
Does it come with a recipe guide?
While you’re learning to use your air fryer, a “starter” recipe guide comes in handy. Once you get used to it, you can improvise and search online for more air fryer recipes.
Read product reviews
Reliable testimonials are great research tools. Spend a little time online to research the brand you are interested in purchasing. Be sure to check out the customer service experiences and manufacturer’s warranty details.
Air Fryer Cooking
The types of food you can cook in an air fryer is not limited to french fries and tater tots. Your options include:
- cookies (air fryer recipe-specific)
- potato chips
- egg rolls
- hard boiled eggs
- lamb chops
- vegetables (with a spritz of olive or avocado oil) like green beans, broccoli, and mushrooms
- baked potatoes
- frozen foods (air fryer recipe-specific)
You can also use most air fryers to reheat leftovers. Battered food like onion rings are an option, BUT be sure to freeze them for about 15 minutes to prevent the batter from dripping inside the fryer. Don’t even think about air frying cheese. You’ll regret it.
Air Fryer Pros & Cons
- Great “healthy cooking” option for people who love fried foods
- Minimal oil splatter (if any)
- Helps you maintain a cool kitchen
- Compact internal cooking space = crispy food
- A good option for reheating leftovers
- Can be expensive
- Limited capacity (only overcome by purchasing larger unit or by batch cooking)
- Most are a hassle to clean
After everything I have given you to consider, ask yourself if you really want to invest in an air fryer. If the answer is yes, then go for it with enthusiasm. If you’re still hesitating, and already own a countertop convection oven, then stick with that.