When you hear the word “fried” in connection with your food, you don’t typically associate it with healthy choices. As we know, eating a diet high in saturated fats and oils can put a strain on our hearts and waistlines.
Then we were introduced to air fryers, a new player in the kitchen giving us a reason to rebrand the word into something new and positive for our health.
Air fryers are one of the newest kitchen appliances to grace the market, garnering the attention of health-conscious cooks and those looking to enjoy lighter, yet equally delicious, versions of their favorite fried foods (Think: crispy fries or fried chicken). These countertop wonders fry foods using a minimal amount of oil, producing crave-worthy foods with a delectable crispy texture.
But are air fryers too good to be true? Are they worth the hype or are they just a bunch of hot air? Here’s how air fryers work, and some pros and cons of this new frying trend.
How do air fryers work?
“Despite its moniker, air fryers don’t actually fry food,” said Katy Argo, a registered dietitian with Banner Health. “Instead it works much the same way a convection oven would.”
Food is placed in a perforated basket inside of the machine that cooks the food by blowing hot, temperature-controlled air around it, which helps to evenly distribute heat. This leads to a perfect cook every time – in a fraction of the time it takes to bake or deep-fry foods.
The benefits of air-frying
Air-frying offers a healthier alternative to deep frying or baking foods, although there is still limited research on them at this time. Even so, air fryers have become a popular kitchen appliance boasting many appealing benefits to the modern cook.
Conserve energy: Unlike conventional ovens that have to be preheated or deep fryers that need to heat lots of oil, air fryers can go from room temperature to hundreds of degrees in the matter of a minute, and it can cook foods in half the time.
“Quicker cooking times mean foods absorb less oil or fat overall, which means you ingest less fat without compromising on taste, texture or food quality,” Argo said.
Eat healthier: Air-fried foods are often lower in calories because less fat or oil is needed for cooking, making it a top contender in the kitchen for those looking to make health moves.
Cook just about anything: Air fryers can cook everything from fresh and frozen foods to meat, seafood and produce, making them a versatile tool in any chef’s kitchen.
It’s important to note that while air-frying is healthier than the traditional deep frying of foods, it’s not without some downsides as well.
Burnt to a crisp: Because food cooks quickly, you’ll want to keep an eye on it to avoid burning. Cooked even a few minutes too long can leave you with charred food, a known contributor to cancer.
“A good rule of thumb is to cook foods at lower temperatures to reduce the risk of burning,” Argo said. “You should also consider choosing oils with smoke points that are appropriate for the cooking temperature needed for your recipe, such as avocado or safflower oils, which generally have higher smoke points.”
[Check out: What You Need to Know About Cooking with Oils]
Takes up space: Although smaller than standard convection ovens, air fryers still take up precious real estate on your counter. And you might have to purchase a larger air fryer if you plan to feed more than two people.
Somewhat limited in the foods you can cook: Although you can cook just about anything, flour-based and wet batters aren’t recommended. These are still best cooked in a deep fryer.
Fried food is still fried food: There are many creative ways to use your air fryer, just remember all things in moderation.
“While air fryers can offer a healthier cooking modality, you should still focus on cooking and incorporating healthy foods like lean meats, fruits and vegetables into your diet, and choose healthier cooking fats like avocado, safflower or olive oil when needed,” Argo added.
Additional tips when using your air fryer
For the best flavor: Clean the air fryer well before and after use to preserve the life of your appliance.
For perfect golden color and crispy texture: Battered foods will still require a spritz of oil prior to cooking.
For quick reheating without damaging food texture: Pop foods into the air fryer for a few minutes.
For perfectly cooked vegetables: Lightly toss in oil before cooking.
“Learning to cook with air fryers can be a fun and healthy way to spend more time with family and feel confident your making moves to keep you and your loved ones around way longer than the tasty dish you’re serving up,” Argo said.
Got healthy air-frying tips? Share in the comments below!
For other healthy recipes and tips, check out:
- Decoding the Diet: Answers to Your Questions on Popular Diets
- Your Tasty Comfort Foods Get Healthier with 9 Smart Strategies
- 5 Tips to Break Out of a Pandemic Rut