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Readers, bow down to the air fryer. In recent years, air fryers have become a must-have kitchen appliance. The gadget enables you to prepare your favorite foods with minimal effort, and time, and without excess oil. Furthermore, an air fryer is a valuable investment because it’s versatile and can cook just about anything. Ultimately, you can replace several different kitchen appliances with just one air fryer. But just exactly how do air fryers work?
Let’s talk about the science behind it. Here’s how this mysterious, magical piece of technology accomplishes so much cooking in so little time.
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How Does an Air Fryer Work?
Air fryers work by using convection heat to cook food so that it becomes perfectly cooked and crispy on the outside but moist and tender on the inside. This is possible because inside the device there’s a fan that keeps the heat constantly moving.
Cooking with an air fryer takes less time and makes less mess compared to traditional cooking methods. Plus, you’re using less oil.
A significant feature of air fryers are the perforated baskets, wire racks, and/or ceramic plates with holes. These enable the hot air to circulate around food at extremely high temperatures of about 320 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Food gets cooked outside first and moisture is sealed inside.
To allow for proper air circulation and cooking, be sure there’s sufficient space between food items. You’ll find that food becomes soggy or unevenly cooked if you cram too much into the basket or onto the racks. Be mindful, too, of the size and shape of the cooking area when choosing an air fryer that best fits your needs. Some are more compact, while others look like toaster ovens and need more countertop space.
Simply put, this is how air fryers work:
- Depending on your model, place your food in the basket or on the racks.
- Set the time and temperature or select from any of the pre-configured settings.
- Let the food cook. For some, there may be a need to flip or turn food halfway through the cooking time. Some models also come with baskets that automatically spin while cooking so that your food is fried evenly. I slice up potatoes and cook them in the spinning basket, and they come out with a delightful little crunch!
Related: We’ve got the deets on how to use an air fryer and avoid food disasters.
The Benefits of Air Fryers
Air fryers aren’t just another cooking appliance to add to your kitchen. It’s actually useful and value-packed, offering a ton of benefits even for the non-chefs among us. (Hi. It’s me.)
Here are some advantages of having an air fryer on hand.
1. They Cook Your Food Quickly and Thoroughly
Once you figure out how air fryers work, you’ll learn one of the many desirable benefits of using convection-style heating. One benefit is that the fryer basket allows fat to drip out of the food, making it crispier. (Remember to wash the drip tray regularly. It gets nasty.)
Similarly, air fryers cook your food much faster than most traditional cooking methods. With the intense heat generated inside the fryer, super hot air is constantly circulating, which makes the cooking process speedy. For instance, roasting potatoes in the oven can take more than 45 minutes. Put them in the air fryer and you’ll cut the cooking time in half, if not more. Music to this potato-loving gal’s ears!
In addition, many air fryers have little to no preheating time required. Depending on what you’re cooking, time reductions can be 30 – 50% when compared with a regular oven.
2. They’re a Cost-Efficient Investment
Given how useful and versatile air fryers are, they’re pleasantly affordable — retailing for about $50 – $150, depending on the model. Plus, they technically serve a number of functions. An air fryer can fry, bake, toast, and roast. Four kitchen gadgets in one? Yes, please! Your wallet is going to thank you. I don’t even own a toaster. Rebellious, I know. I don’t follow trends. I set them.
As with any product, be sure to consider the quality of the air fryer before making a purchase. Here are some popular, well-reviewed air fryers:
- Gourmia 5-Quart Digital Air Fryer
- Dash Tasti-Crisp Electric Air Fryer
- Cosori Pro XL Air Fryer
- Ninja DZ201 Foodi 8-Quart DualZone 2-Basket Air Fryer
Air fryers can also be an energy-saving alternative to using an oven for every meal. Because the gadget is significantly smaller and cooks much faster than traditional ovens, you can save on energy and electricity costs when using one.
3. The Best Value Air Fryers
While grabbing the cheapest option of air fryers may work for smaller budgets, you may also want an air fryer that has raving reviews to back up the quality. We gathered a list of the best selling air fryers from Amazon with tons of reviews to back up the quality of these purchases. If you seek reliability and ease of use then this list is just for you!
Here are the best selling air fryers on Amazon:
4. Air Fryers Are Versatile
Any food traditionally cooked in a deep fryer or oven can be prepared by an air fryer as well. In fact, with an air fryer, you can try any recipe you want — from baked goods and frozen foods to vegetables, desserts, and meat. Yes, meat! I’ll never forget the first time my husband put a piece of salmon in the air fryer. I was all, “I don’t know.” And he was all, “Stop.” The joke was on me. It was heavenly.
Additionally, you can reheat food in the air fryer with ease. Not only is it quick and easy, but it also keeps the food from being burned or overcooked. Instead, it keeps the food crispy and fresh tasting, just as if it were newly cooked.
5. They’re Time-Saving and Easy to Use
Let’s face it: adulting is hard. You’re busy. Some days, there simply isn’t enough time to cook — even if we really want to. That’s where air fryers come in.
Air fryers are fast and easy to use. This means that cooking at home can be uncomplicated and less tedious. All you have to do is season a piece of meat, put it in your air fryer’s tray or basket, and you’re ready to rock and roll. (To be extra cautious, I still recommend you use a thermometer to ensure your meat is fully cooked and safe to consume.)
Depending on your air fryer, there may even be pre-configured settings, and you just have to select which type of cooking method you want. Plus, they’re pretty straightforward and require little monitoring. Simply set the temperature and time, place the food inside, and allow the fryer to do its job.
Bonus: there’s minimal clean-up, especially if you use paper liners that you can toss in the trash or silicone mats that can go in the dishwasher.
6. They Cook Your Food in a Healthier Manner
One of the biggest benefits of having an air fryer is the prospect of healthier cooking. It uses very little oil (if any) in the cooking process, providing a healthier alternative to deep-fried food. Think about it: if you order French fries at a restaurant, how do they turn out so crispy? They’re cooked in a literal vat of oil. Air fryers accomplish the same crispiness without the oil. Pretty impressive, right?
Thus, air-fried foods reduce your typical intake of unhealthy oils. Similarly, air fryers reduce the risk of toxic acrylamide formation that can be involved with high-heat cooking. In effect, it limits the risk of many adverse health conditions associated with excessive fried foods.
In fact, some resources say that since air fryers use convection heat, they help to preserve certain nutrients during the cooking process. These nutrients include vitamin C and numerous protective plant compounds called polyphenols.
Important note: we’re not telling you not to eat regular French fries. You do you. We love a good fry. Our point is that if you’re trying to make healthier swaps, an air fryer can be your best friend.
A quick Amazon search will reveal endless kitchen gadgets, many of which you’d likely never use. The almighty air fryer is not on this list. If you like cooking but hate the time commitment and cleanup, this is one appliance you won’t regret.