You’ve heard of deep-frying, and if you know anything about it, you know that it is not a healthy cooking method. Food is submerged in a vat of hot oil and cooked into a fatty, albeit often delicious, monstrosity. It’s the stuff of state-fair dreams, but it isn’t good for you. Too much consumption of deep-fried foods can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Air frying is not only healthier, but it’s also delicious, easy, and safe. Let’s learn why.
What is an air fryer?
Air fryers are a relatively new innovation. The first air fryers appeared in Europe and Australia in 2010 before making their way to the United States and Japan. The Netherlands and UK like to use their air fryers to make chips (what Americans call fries), while Japan make fried prawns. In India, samosas are the air-fried food of choice, and in the US, chicken wings are the most popular air-fried item.
An air fryer is a kitchen device that cooks food using extremely hot air instead of hot oil. The air circulates around the fryer, cooking the food via a high-speed mechanical fan. This allows the food to develop a nice, crispy outside similar to what happens during deep-frying.
As you can see from the picture, an air fryer is relatively simple. It has a button or knob that allows you to adjust the temperature and time. When you open up the fryer, you will see a cooking basket resting on a drip tray. There’s usually a divider, so you can cook two different types of food at once if you like. The food cooks in the basket, and any excess drippage goes into the tray. If necessary, you can use foil or oven paper in the fryer, provided there’s enough room for steam to move around the fryer freely.
The health benefits of air-frying
So, what makes air frying healthy? The main reason is that thanks to the hot air, you don’t need as much oil as you do with a deep fryer. In fact, you can reduce the amount of oil by 80%, depending on the brand. Using less oil means your food has significantly less fat, which is what makes deep-fried foods so unhealthy and bad for your heart.
With an air fryer, you can use any type of oil – olive, coconut, peanut, canola, etc – which gives you the power to choose the healthiest oil. Staying away from oils with saturated fat in favor of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats is a good way to make food healthier. Canola, walnut, and sunflower oil are polyunsaturated, while olive and peanut oil are monounsaturated. Both have been shown to improve blood cholesterol and reduce a person’s risk for heart disease.
Another cool feature of air fryers is that the appliance actually releases oil from the food, so the fat content is lower once the food is cooked. While deep fryers add fat, air fryers are reducing fat. This means that food that already has fat (like meat and pre-cooked, frozen items) doesn’t need any additional oil. The hot air circulation is all that’s necessary!
Other benefits of having an air fryer
In addition to health, there are other reasons to get an air fryer. For one, it cooks food really quickly. You can make frozen French fries in 12 minutes, and no food item takes much longer than 20 minutes at the max. That includes fried chicken, homemade potato chips, tempura, and more. If you’re a busy person and don’t have time to cook as much as you would like, an air fryer is a valuable tool that lets you cut down on time spent in the kitchen, and increase the amount of time spent eating good food with your family.
The other benefit of owning an air fryer is that they are very safe. In order to get that crispy exterior that fried chicken and other foods require, you would ordinarily have to get oil very hot, and that can be very dangerous. With an air fryer, there’s so much less oil, and it’s all contained within the fryer, so there’s no splattering. Most brands also have an auto shutdown feature, so the fryer never continues cooking past the timer and doesn’t overheat or burn the food.
What brands are the best?
There are lots of air fryer brands out there today that meet different customer needs. The two most popular this past year were Tefal Actifry and Phillips. Tefal has several air fryers available, some which are very large, and also very expensive. The larger sizes are good for families and parties, because a lot of air fryers are pretty small, but a bigger size does mean you’ll need sufficient counter or cupboard space.
Phillips also has several air fryer options and accessories. This brand is expensive, but does offer versatile features like the ability to roast, bake, and grill in the cooker in addition to air frying. The bigger the cooker, the higher the price.
For a more affordable option, GoWISE USA has air fryers with cooking presets, and a new model that holds up to 11 pounds of food. They also try to be as eco-friendly as possible.
When you’re shopping for an air fryer, keep in mind size and basket capacity, speed, safety features, price, and versatility. You want to get the most for your money, so think about what your must have’s are and what you’re willing to pay for it.
Air fryer recipes
What can you make in an air fryer? Essentially, if you can deep-fry it, you can air-fry it. That means chicken tenders, French fries, jalapeno poppers, zucchini chips, empanadas, and more. Here are three recipes to get you started:
Time: About 15 minutes
Coconut shrimp is an amazing party appetizer. The sweetness of the shrimp and coconut are a perfect, tropical-inspired match. Tart lime zest and spicy cayenne are added, so the sweetness isn’t too strong. The only oil you need is an even spray from a can all over the breaded shrimp.
1 pound peeled and cleaned shrimp
2 egg whites
½ cup flour
½ cup fine breadcrumbs
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
Zest from one lime
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Put flour, egg whites, and breadcrumbs/coconut/zest/cayenne in three separate dishes.
- Season the flour with salt and black pepper.
- Whisk eggs.
- Turn your air fryer to 400-degrees.
- Dip shrimp first in flour, then eggs, then crumbs/coconut.
- Put the dredged shrimp on a plate and spray all over with veggie oil.
- Put in the air fryer. You’ll be doing two batches.
- Cook each batch for 5 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it’s firm.
- When the second batch is cooked, turn the temperature down to 340-degrees.
- Put first batch into the basket and fry for another 2 minutes to get really crispy.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce!
Nutritional info (¼ recipe):
Total calories: 206
Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (2 hours marinate time, 5 minutes prep time, 20 minutes cook time)
Fried chicken is comfort food heaven. Crispy skin, juicy meat, any spices that you like…it’s hard to beat. That real crispy taste is hard to get from an oven, so that’s why an air fryer is a great option. This recipe is for a basic buttermilk chicken, so when you coat in flour, feel free to add any ground spices to the flour that you would like, such as paprika and cumin. ½ teaspoon per spice should be enough.
2 pounds chicken parts (whatever cut is on sale is fine)
2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 large beaten egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
- Put chicken parts in a bag with buttermilk and marinate for at least 2 hours and no longer than 24.
- Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bag.
- Beat the egg in a bowl.
- Take out your chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
- Dip in egg. Hang the chicken parts over the bowl, so excess egg drips off.
- Shake chicken in the bag, so it becomes coated.
- Spray evenly with some baking spray to get a crispy skin.
- Cook in your air fryer for 20 minutes at 390-degrees.
Nutritional info (¼ recipe):
Total calories: 468
Time: About 10 minutes (3 minutes prep time, 7 minutes cook time)
Not all fries are made from potatoes, or even from vegetables. By cutting apples into wedges, coating them in a sweet breading made from graham cracker crumbs and sugar, and then air-frying them, you get delicious apple fries that make for a relatively healthy dessert. You can up the sweetness factor by serving with a good caramel or chocolate sauce.
3 peeled, cored, and cut Pink Lady/Honey-crisp apples
3 beaten eggs
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
- Cut the apples so you have 24 total wedges.
- Toss in flour.
- Beat eggs in one bowl, and put the sugar and cracker crumbs in another.
- Dip apple wedges in egg, and then graham cracker/sugar mixture.
- Coat on both sides.
- Turn your air fryer on to 380-degrees, and spray the bottom with cooking oil.
- Put enough apples in the basket for one layer, and spray once with oil.
- Fry for 5 minutes before turning over and frying again for 2 minutes.
- Repeat until all batches are done.
- Serve with caramel dipping sauce or other favorite sweet sauce.
Nutritional info (¼ recipe):
Total calories: 356