I must admit that I only discovered air fryers recently! I have never considered cooking larger meals in anything other than my convection oven. It does take forever to heat up and is a pain to clean when it becomes really greasy and sticky. But, that is the way I have always done it.
So, reading about Air Fryers, I decided to investigate a bit more and was over the moon to discover that I can do many dishes in an air fryer that I can do in a traditional oven – think chicken wings, fries, steak, chops, potatoes, meatballs, donuts, and more.
Air Fryers come in different types. The main ones being
Basket Style Air Fryers
These devices have a drawer with (or sometimes without) a removable basket. Hot air comes down from the top and is blown over the food by a powerful fan. These air fryers heat up very fast, in some cases as fast as 2 to 3 minutes.
Some smaller models of basket-style air fryers do not have all the fancy features of more expensive models. You may only get air fry, reheat, and dehydrate functions. These are a good choice for cooks wanting to try out an air fryer for the first time. Fancier models can do anything that your oven can do including broil, roast, bake, sous vide, and steam. These obviously cost more.
Oven Style Air Fryers
An oven air fryer is more oven-like than a basket air fryer. It often has a glass front that you can see through and racks inside to hold the food. They take longer to heat up and are larger, using up more counter space. These models are more expensive and give the choice of roasting, frying, broiling, toasting, and grilling.
3 great reasons to buy an air fryer
- You cook with far less oil – We all know that frying in oil is delicious, but it is not healthy. Deep fried foods are probably the most unhealthy, as everything gets coated with a layer of fat. Pan frying and roasting in loads of oil are just as bad. This is where an air fryer really makes a difference to the health of your family. You will get the same crispy fried textures, using 70% to 80% less oil. The secret comes in the design of the appliance. It uses hot air and a fan to cook the food fast, achieving the same results as conventional cooking.
- Air fryers are so easy to clean – They are compact, smaller than a regular oven, and essentially contain one compartment that can be wiped out in minutes. No more spraying with oven cleaner and waiting for an hour before starting a huge cleaning exercise. I find that ovens are the most difficult appliances to clean. What with the racks, the front glass panel, grill, top, sides, and base, it takes forever to get rid of all the grease. Many air fryers have non-stick baskets that can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. Some manufacturers even claim that you can put the baskets, or pots, into the dishwasher. Personally, I prefer not to dish-wash pots with non-stick surfaces as they do tend to erode over time.
- They heat up in minutes – No more waiting for your conventional oven to heat up for hours. Air fryers heat up in minutes and use far less energy, saving you on your energy costs. An average air fryer will heat up in 2 to 3 minutes to temperatures ranging from 100°F to over 400°F depending on what you are planning on cooking. This is quite amazing if you are used to planning your cooking sessions knowing that you have to wait 45 minutes for your oven to reach the temp you want. Now you can spontaneously decide to make a roast and start in under 5 minutes!
What can you cook in an air fryer?
Air fryers will replace many of your oven and stovetop features. Here are some of the functions that these innovative appliances offer. You will need to check the specs of the device you are planning on buying. Smaller devices offer fewer of these functions, while more expensive devices can offer up to 10 or more cooking functions.
Air Fry – This is the new way to cook. The technology uses hot air that is circulated in the basket via a fan to cook your food quickly and evenly. The process uses up to 70% less oil than conventional cooking. Air frying is a healthier option and your food is still crisp and delicious.
Pressure Cook – Classic old-style pressure cooking but without the fear of the pot exploding on the stove! Modern-day technology offers air fryers that pressure cook at the touch of a button, using high-pressure steam and water to slow-cook food. Make the perfect stew from cheaper cuts of meat that may otherwise be tough. Pressure cooking is also ideal to make soups, lentils, squash, mashed potatoes, and beans.
Steam – Great for people who want to avoid fats altogether. Steamed veggies made in an air fryer are far tastier than those steamed in a pot. They retain all the goodness and flavor that would normally be poured out with the water. Try steaming fish, dumplings, or chicken for a light and healthy meal.
Broil – Broiling uses top heat and high temperatures to crisp or brown the top of your dish. This function is ideal for melting cheese or browning a casserole. Anything you want to cook that needs direct, top-down heat can be broiled in an air fryer.
Roast – Just like a great roast from an oven, but much faster and with less oil. But, it tastes as good if not better! Smaller air fryers are not ideal for roasting. The basket is too small and you will find that the heat is not evenly distributed. Some parts may cook faster than others, burning them before the rest of the roast is done. If you absolutely have to do a whole chicken in a small air fryer, cut it up into smaller pieces and turn them once or twice during the cooking time. Larger air fryers can be used to roast a full chicken, a leg of lamb, a pork roast, you name it and you can do it, faster and healthier.
Dehydrate – A great way to make healthy snacks and treats. You can dehydrate fruits like strawberries, apples, bananas, and apricots to make a tasty Trail mix for school or office lunch. Make crisps for the kids and flavor them with less salt than you get in the ready-made packets. They are still delicious and far more healthy. Does the family love meat jerky? Save loads of money and make your own. Dehydrating can be used to make meat jerky from chicken, beef, and venison.
Keep Warm – Perfect when you get an urgent phone call or have to attend to baby just as your food is ready and about to be served. This function will keep your meal warm without drying it out. It will still be moist and tasty.
Sous Vide – A must-try for any aspiring cook. This process involves vacuum sealing the food in a plastic bag and cooking it slowly by immersing it in warm water at a constant temperature. Not a technique that I use every day, but now and then I love to try my hand at sous vide salmon, served with coconut rice. Again, not all air fryers offer this function, so check the product specs carefully before buying a device and getting disappointed.
Reheat – My grandkids hate it when I reheat pizza or leftovers. They just don’t want to eat them. Reheating in an air fryer is a totally different story. The food stays fresh and crispy. It will never get soggy, greasy, hard, or dry. The air fryer technology is different from your oven or microwave and you will certainly taste the difference.
Bake – Baking is fun in an air fryer and may take a while to wrap your head around! Opening the basket to find a well-risen, delicious cake is fun and will impress your guests. There is no limit to what you can bake in an air fryer with a Bake program. Try chocolate cake, jelly donuts for the kids, cinnamon buns, scones, and bread.
Things to Know
Can you air fry frozen foods?
Yes, you can cook from frozen. There is no need to defrost the food first. Most reputable air fryers come with comprehensive instructions. Follow your Manufacturers Guide to cook frozen popcorn chicken, frozen veggies, French fries, snacks, nuggets, egg rolls, and more.
Can I put glass bowls into the air fryer?
Oven-safe dishes made of borosilicate or tempered glass can be used in an air fryer. You will find, however, that the device comes with a basket, pots, or crisping racks that can be used for almost anything you need to cook, you will seldom have to use additional bowls inside your air fryer.
Can I use aluminum foil inside an air fryer?
Yes, you can, provided that you only put it in the basket. Follow the instructions in the Manufacturers Guide. Remember that some acidic foods like citrus, tomatoes and peppers can react with aluminum foil. This would apply to normal cooking as well.
Don’t preheat your air fryer with foil lining in the basket. The device works by blowing hot air around at high speeds. The foil can become dislodged, blow loose, touch the heating element and cause damage or even a fire. Make sure that your foil is placed under the food and that it is secure.
I can’t see anything! Can I pull out the basket?
Ninja AF101 Air Fryer – great for beginners
Unlike your conventional oven or stovetop, you can’t see what is going on inside an air-fryer (unless you have the oven-style model with a glass front). This can be a bit disconcerting for beginners until you get to totally trust the process. So, yes, you can pull out the basket to take a peek. The device will automatically switch off and then turn on again when you push the basket back in. Ensure that it is pushed completely back in, or else your machine won’t start up again. Most cooking in an air fryer requires you to be hands-on to turn or shake the food at least once during the cooking process. So you will soon become very familiar with pulling out the basket.
Must I use less fat or oil?
Absolutely! The purpose of the air fryer is to cook exactly how you would expect but with up to 70% less oil. Don’t grease the base of your pot with loads of cooking oil. If there is already fat on the food, like chicken with skin, or a juicy steak, you probably don’t need to add any oil at all. Veggies that are fat-free will benefit from a light drizzle before cooking. Many air fryer baskets have non-stick bases and these require the minimum amount of fat or grease. Remember – healthy is the way to go.
What about bacon?
Some people suggest NOT cooking bacon in an air fryer. Because it is such a fatty meat, it does tend to create loads of smoke and splatter fat all over the basket. A useful tip is to put about 1 cup of water into the air fryer basket and place the bacon on the crisping tray. The fat will drip into the water and you will have no smoke. Cleaning up will also be easier.
The drawer does get hot
Just like a pan coming straight off the heat, your air fryer drawer does get hot. Don’t put it onto the countertop after removing it from the device. The handle can also get hot if it is not specifically noted as being heat-resistant. Keep a pair of oven gloves handy. The outside of the appliance can also get hot, so keep little hands away from it at all times.
Don’t overcrowd the basket
Once you start air frying, you will have this wild desire to air fry everything. One thing to note – the air fryer may look big, but the basket is usually smaller than you expect. Basket sizes can range from 1.5 qt up to 6 qt, depending on the model. Don’t overpack the basket in an attempt to cook more in one go. The food comes out much better if the air has space to circulate around it during the cooking process. An air fryer with a basket size of up to 3 qt is fine for meals for 1 or 2 people. For larger families, consider getting a larger model with a basket that is 4, 5, or even 6 qt in size.
Are they easy to clean?
The most outstanding thing for me is how easy it is to clean an air fryer compared to, for example, a greasy oven. Most baskets have a non-stick surface that only takes a few minutes to wipe out with a paper towel. After cooking, wipe the basket with a damp cloth and then dry it with a clean cloth. For heavier grease, hand wash with liquid detergent under running water. The ease of handling the small basket is a dream compared to getting down on your knees to reach hard-to-get-to corners in an oven. Some air fryers have parts that are dishwasher safe. The Users Guide will give you all the info you need. Don’t use abrasive pads, bleach, or metal scrapers to clean any non-stick surfaces as this will cause damage.
They are perfect for singles and families
With the huge range of models available, air fryers can suit a single person for a quick healthy meal, or a large family for a sit-down Sunday lunch. They make fabulous gifts for people who love to cook. You will find that your air fryer will be your go-to for anything from breakfast to a Christmas lunch.
Don’t get disappointed if things don’t work out
This method of cooking requires some experimenting. Try out a few different meals to start and observe how they turn out. Don’t invite a dozen friends around for dinner for your first attempt! You may need to get used to using less oil, using different cooking times, and doing more shaking or turning. But, the effort will certainly be worth it. Your food is tastier, healthier, and faster. Your energy bill is lower and you will spend far less time slaving over a hot oven while the rest of the family relaxes. Go join in the fun and still serve up amazing meals.
Air fryers are large devices and require space on your kitchen counter! Make sure that you have enough counter space for it. An air fryer is heavy and is not an appliance that you can easily pack away after use. You would want it to be available at a moment’s notice.
Air fryers are not a cheap appliances. Do your research carefully and check out all the features of the model you want to buy. Make sure that it will suit your needs in terms of size, features, and price.
Which Air Fryer to choose?
Take a look at my reviews. They will help you make a decision on which air fryer is best for you.
My Air Fryer Reviews
Ninja AF101 Air Fryer – great for beginners
Ninja Foodi FD302 11-in-1 Air Fryer – has 11 different cooking programs
With so many factors to consider, it can be daunting to know which air fryer to choose. To help you, I have reviewed a range of basket and oven air fryers.
Read my reviews on my choice of best basket air fryers here
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