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What Is an Air Fryer? Get the Fry Without the Fat

The air fryer has been the hottest kitchen appliance around for the past few years. Everyone is using them, and they are flying off the shelves every holiday for gift giving.

But whether you already own one or not, you might wonder, “Is this a fad or something I really need? And should I give it some of my precious kitchen counter space?”

Spoiler alert: Air frying isn’t a fad and it is a fantastic cooking appliance, especially for busy families or anyone looking for hassle-free cooking. Keep reading and learn how an air fryer works and why it should be part of most kitchens.

What Is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer is a mini convection oven. With heated circulation technology, it uses a powerful fan to move hot air around the food.

Heated Circulation Technology

Simply put, it’s a way of cooking food using hot air. A heating element heats the air inside the appliance and circulates the convection heat around the food, cooking it from all angles. This ensures the food is cooked evenly and thoroughly, producing perfectly crispy results every time.

Small Size

One advantage air fryers have over a full-size convection oven is their smaller size. This means the air circulates close to the food, cooking it more quickly. Because of this, cooking is much faster than in a conventional oven.

My counter top oven-style air fryer has a slightly larger footprint than these portable models. For me, it’s 250% worth the space. But, if you don’t have the counter area to accommodate an oven-style appliance, air fryers come in a wide range of smaller sizes,like the ones above.

Digital Temperature Control

The air fryer has a digital display that sets the desired cooking temperature. So it will automatically adjust the heat to maintain the set temperature throughout the cooking process.

This is especially handy if you’re cooking something that requires precise temperature control, like delicate pastries or tender meats. It takes the guesswork out of cooking and ensures your food is always perfectly cooked.

Benefits of an Air Fryer

Using an air fryer has many benefits, including low oil consumption, easy and convenient meal prep, and quick and easy cleanup.

Air Fryer Chicken Cutlets on a white plate with roasted cauliflower and bell pepper salad
Air Fryer Chicken Cutlets. Photo credit: Glenda Embree Blog.

Low Oil Consumption

One of the main reasons people love using an air fryer is because it allows for healthy frying. Traditional frying methods require a lot of oil, which can add unnecessary calories and fat to your food. On the other hand, an air fryer uses minimal oil, making it a healthier option. These quick and easy Air Fryer Chicken Cutlets are a perfect example.

This is especially great if you’re trying to watch your intake of unhealthy fats or follow a specific diet. You can still enjoy delicious food with a crispy texture, making following a healthy meal plan much more manageable.

Convenient and Easy Meal Prep

In addition, the air fryer is a hassle-free cooking solution. It’s quick and convenient, so it is an excellent choice for busy people or families looking for an easy meal prep option.

You won’t need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals. With an air fryer, you can have a delicious, home-cooked meal on the table in no time. Toss your ingredients in the basket, set the timer, and let it work magic.

My air fryer oven [affiliate link] has a large enough capacity to make an entire family meal at one time. It bakes, proofs bread dough, and air fries to perfection with little to no oil. My air fryer oven also roasts, broils, toasts, dehydrates, bakes cookies, slow cooks, keeps food warm for serving and works as a pizza oven. I use it every single day.

Two roasted Cornish hens in an air fryer with roasted vegetables on the rack underneath them
Air Frying Cornish Hens and Roasted Vegetables. Photo credit: Glenda Embree Blog.

This picture is a great example of why I prefer the oven-style air fryers. Two Cornish hens (with room for three or four) and a tray of roasting vegetables cooking underneath them at the same time. Get my Air Fryer Cornish Hen recipe.

Better Taste

Some foods, including many healthy vegetables, simply taste better when they are air fried. As Brooke from Minimalist Mama explains, “Broccoli in the air fryer is a complete game changer — the air fryer crisps the broccoli in just the most delicious way, so you can avoid that soggy, mushy texture that some people just can’t get over.”

We have found the same to be true of air fryer Asparagus and air fryer Green Beans.

Air fryers are also excellent for heating up leftovers so they taste almost as good as when they were first made. So leftovers stored in your refrigerator will get eaten, not thrown away.

Green Beans and Potaotes in a white serving bowl on table with stack of plates and a blue print cloth napkin
Green Beans and Potatoes with Bacon made in an air fryer. Photo credit: Glenda Embree Blog.

Quick and Easy Cleanup

Cleanup is also simple with this countertop appliance. Most models feature a nonstick cooking surface to allow for easy removal of food and quick cleaning.

Wipe down the inside of the air fryer with a damp cloth, and you’re good to go. Many brands are also dishwasher safe.

Air Frying vs. Deep Frying

The air fryer offers health benefits compared to traditional frying methods. As mentioned earlier, conventional frying methods, like using a deep fryer, require large amounts of oil. Sure, deep-fried foods taste great, but deep-frying adds calories and fat to your food.

An air fryer, on the other hand, uses minimal oil. And switching to air-fried foods cooked with less oil can help you reduce your risk of health problems due to high fat intake.

But make no mistake, you can make plenty of unhealthy things in an air fryer. You still have to make good choices; this appliance alone won’t make you healthier.

two plates of chicken cordon bleu with salad sitting on a table with salt and pepper shakers and a blue print cloth napkin
Air Fryer Chicken Cordon Bleu. Photo credit: Glenda Embree Blog.

Types of Food to Cook

Another huge benefit of air fryers is their versatility. You can cook a variety of food, including chicken recipes, frozen food, healthy vegetables like asparagus, chicken wings, and even cookies. The possibilities are endless.

Tips for Using an Air Fryer

If you are new to air frying, getting used to cooking with one might take some time. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t overcrowd the food — An air fryer works by circulating air, so you have to leave room for the air to move. Resist the temptation to pack as much food as possible into the basket and leave some space around each piece of food.
  • Use some oil — While the air fryer uses less fat, most food tastes better with a little bit of oil. An oil spray bottle is a great way to add flavor without ending up with greasy food.
  • Watch the cooking time — The air fryer cooks more quickly than a traditional oven, so you can overcook your food if you aren’t paying attention.
  • Start simple — Begin with basic recipes with just a few ingredients. Save the more complicated recipes like Southern fried chicken or egg rolls until you have some experience. Here are a few of my favorite beginner meals.
a tuna melt openface sandwich cut in half on a cutting board
Tuna Melt Open Face Sandwich. Photo credit: Glenda Embree Blog.

Wrapping Up

So, whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner in the kitchen, consider investing in this appliance. With its ability to produce delicious, crispy food with minimal oil and easy cleanup, it’s no wonder that air fryers have become a staple in so many modern kitchens.

Anne Jolly is the creator of the food blog Upstate Ramblings. She loves to cook with gadgets like an air fryer, sous vide or pressure cooker. In her free time she enjoys hiking, reading, knitting and spending time with her three kids.

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

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