Over the past 2 years, air fryers have become all the rage. Who wouldn’t want to be able to cook crispy, juicy food with almost no oil and in way less time compared to using an oven?
It’s no wonder that these kitchen wonders sold in the millions within just 2 years! But does this convenience come at a high cost to our energy bill?
We’ll be giving you the 411 on the hottest-selling kitchen appliance of the pandemic era — the good and the bad side.
Why Are Air Fryers So Popular Lately?
With the modern day hassles, bustling schedules and work activities, we want to make sure we can easily make our favorite meals faster, easier, and most importantly to many, at the least cost to our standards of living.
This is why the air fryers have gotten a lot of attention in the kitchen appliance market industry.
Word has it, according to the market research firm the NPD Group, over 26 million sets have been sold since 2020! (1)
“Sales of air fryers increased by 76% over the last two years compared to the previous 24-month period, with 25.6 million units sold from January 2020 through December 2021”.
Air fryers are commonly sought after for minimalist homes, students who would like to make some yummy chicken or fries while cutting electrical costs, and everyone who is fascinated by the awesome convection technology that leaves the food pretty moist and tender on the inside while browned and crispy on the outside.
The Basics of Air Fryers
Now that you know why air fryers became so popular, let’s get into more detail about their functionality.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers are mini-ovens that simulate deep frying without submerging the food in oil. The sorcery! They operate using convection technology, circulating heat through the food via a gaseous or liquid medium.
Air fryers have an air-tight compact design to avoid heat escape. This way, the air circulates around the food, and is not lost or wasted. Plus, it’s pretty energy efficient. They consist of ceramic plates that have holes in them, baskets that are also perforated, and wire racks which are responsible for distributing heat via radiation. A fan then circulates hot air around the food at temperatures set before starting the cooking process. This method of heat transfer is termed Radiant and UpStream Heating (2).
This cooking method leaves the outsides of a steak crispy on the outside and moist on the inside because it cooks the outside first and locks moisture in the core.
How do you cook using an air fryer?
Like every other electrical device, air fryers requires a learning curve, meaning, you have to use the manual provided. But generally, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
- Place the food in the basket. It’s generally okay to preheat the mini-oven, but you have to read the manufacturer labels to confirm if the model allows for preheating for some time. You can smear a little oil on the food and basket if you like. Very little to no oil is required when using the air fryer.
- Set the temperature and time you need for cooking.
- Let the food cook for the allotted time, flipping or turning halfway through to get even browning.
What Can (or better yet CAN’T) You Cook in an Air Fryer?
We’re pretty sure that you’ve seen almost anything cooked in an air fryer. People nowadays love to test the limits of their appliances/gadgets. But for your safety and for the sake of not ruining your air fryer, let’s focus on what you can’t cook in an air fryer (3).
- Cheese. As you can imagine, cheese melts. So unless you prep them mozzarella sticks style, you can’t cook plain cheese in an air fryer.
- Raw grains. Grains like pasta and rice need water to cook, so the air fryer is not the appliance for this type of food.
- Popcorn. There are two major reasons why you can’t cook popcorn in an air fryer. Firstly, the small kernels can block the heating element and can cause a fire hazard. The other reason is that an air fryer has a temperature limit that is lower than what is required to pop the kernels. Best to stick to the microwave/pot for this one.
- Any food with a wet batter. Wet batter, and any food with sauce shouldn’t be placed in the air fryer because it will be messy and dangerous. High heat with a fan isn’t a good combo for saucy food.
- Toast. Bread slices are relatively light, making it possible that the fan can move them around, causing uneven toasting.
What are some safety tips and cooking hacks when using an air fryer?
Read the manual carefully to understand how to use your air fryer safely so you don’t damage the machine or cause injury to yourself.
Do not crowd the drawer. It might be really tempting to want to stuff the basket due to its limited capacity, but that will only make the food cook slower and may come out undercooked or not to your liking.
It is okay to flip the food or shake the basket to allow for even browning and equal distribution of heat, but do so gently.
When taking out the cooked food, it’s better to use tongs or forks to transfer the food than dumping it directly onto the bowl. You just might hurt yourself with hot oil, or spill oil around.
How do you clean an air fryer?
Always remember to clean the basket and air fryer after cooking. Depending on what you cook and the accessories you use, cleaning can be either easy or difficult. If you use a disposable paper liner with relatively dry ingredients, you can simply use a paper towel to wipe the air fryer down. If it gets too messy because you placed the food directly on the cooking base, they you can hand wash the basket.
What are the Pros and Cons of Air Fryers?
Air Fryers, like all other kitchen appliances and electrical devices, come with some advantages and some disadvantages. Some advantages include:
- They are more affordable and pretty easy to find, as high and increasing demands have increased supply.
- They are versatile, portable and come in different colors and sizes to fit your kitchen design and cooking needs.
- Air fryers do not consume as much electricity as traditional ovens do. They circulate heat without losing electrical energy to its surroundings, making them more energy efficient.
- For minimalist homes and/or people who just want to cut costs, air fryers are must-haves for easy food preparations.
- Air Fryers are generally safe, easy to use and cooks faster than deep frying or using an oven.
- They do not produce radiation like microwave ovens, albeit radiation from microwave ovens aren’t harmful.
- You can make crispy and crunchy food without using oil, providing a pretty healthy cooking option for folks who would like to shave off some belly fat.
You might think that air fryers seem to be the perfect cooking companion, but they do come with some cons as well:
- They can easily burn or dry out food if you aren’t familiar with how to manage the settings.
- Air fryers have limited capacity, and may not be ideal when making a family dinner, for instance.
- They can be difficult to clean.
- They can be complicated to learn, depending on how high tech the model you choose is.
- Can get pretty loud and noisy. We’re not talking fire alarm level of loud, but some air fryers have sounds whenever you press a button and the fan also whirs while cooking.
Are Air Fryers Energy Efficient?
The best way to see if air fryers are more energy efficient is to compare it with its most common counterpart, the electric oven. But first, let’s take a crash course in computing for energy consumption.
First thing you need to do is look for the wattage of your appliance. Next, divide this number by 1000, giving you a kilowatt rating. Lastly, multiply this number by the number of hours it’s used in a day, giving you the kilowatt hour.
Now, let’s compare. The average electrical oven uses about 3,000 watts of electricity (4) Meanwhile, the average air fryer consumes about 1,500 watts — that’s half the electrical consumption!
But wait, you also have to consider cooking time. Let’s take chicken breasts as an example. 1 large, bone-in chicken breast would take about 30-40 mins to cook in an oven. Meanwhile, in an air fryer, the same chicken would only take 12-15 mins to cook.
Let’s summarize, shall we? Following the earlier calculation for kWh, cooking the chicken breast mentioned earlier would consume 1.5 kWh per day, while cooking with an air fryer would only consume 0.375 kWh. At the current rate of 12 cents per kWh, you can expect to pay 18 cents per day using an oven and about 5 cents per day using an oven. In a year, you could save a minimum of 50 dollars on your electric bill using an air fryer instead of an electric oven.
Are Air Fryers Healthy?
Air fryers, as mentioned earlier, don’t require as much oil as one would need to deep fry in a pan or roast using a standard oven. This means you can drastically cut down on your fat intake through air frying (5).
“By most measures, air frying is healthier than frying in oil. It cuts calories by 70% to 80% and has a lot less fat”
This makes air fryers a pretty rad option for people on a diet. However, keep in mind that airfrying chicken nuggets or any pre-made food high in calories, won’t reduce their calorie count.
Air fryers have been gaining popularity, and for good reason. They are pretty easy to operate, and following simple instructions, you can expect to enjoy crisp, juicy meals without the guilt of using a lot of oil. A high intake of fried foods has been linked to obesity and cardiovascular stroke, so cooking with air fryers is a healthy way to go.
Aside from being a healthy cooking method, air fryers consume a fraction of energy compared to regular ovens. So if you live alone or have a small family, this appliance will shave a considerable amount off your energy bills.
- Over 25 Million Air Fryers Sold the Last Two Years Making It A Must-Have Kitchen Appliance. Retrieved from: https://www.npd.com/news/press-releases/2022/over-25-million-air-fryers-sold-the-last-two-years-making-it-a-must-have-kitchen-appliance/
- What Is Rapid Air Technology? Retrieved from: http://apds.nl/development-en/what-is-rapid-air-technology/
- 8 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Cook in an Air Fryer. Retrieved from: https://www.rd.com/article/things-never-cook-in-air-fryer/
- How Much Energy Does an Electric Oven and Stove Use? Retrieved from: https://www.directenergy.com/learning-center/how-much-energy-does-oven-and-electric-stove-use#:~:text=Most%20electric%20ovens%20draw%20between,per%20hour%20at%20high%20heat.
- Do Air Fryers Have Health Benefits? Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/air-fryers
Tana grew up around island farms and pine forests. Her love for nature lead to her degree in Biology and mission to lessen her environmental impact. Now she grows food in her backyard and shares what she learns from Eco Peanut with others.