Food

Why You May or May Not Need an Air Fryer

TIMEDecember 19, 2021

Air fryers are sweeping the nation. But what is an air fryer? How does it work? And, most importantly, do you need one? Here’s the lowdown.

Several years ago, a “miraculous” kitchen appliance appeared on the scene promising us that we could fry with air. A new treat for your health—up to 90 percent less fat! One manufacturer promised, “Healthy food for diet eating!” Imagine that—delicious, healthy fried food without a lot of calories.

An air fryer is a small countertop convection oven designed to simulate deep-frying without submerging the food in oil. A fan circulates hot air at high speed, producing a browned and crispy fare similar to deep-frying but without the oil.

Surprise! If you have a convection oven, you already have an air fryer. Air-frying is essentially convection baking under a trendy new name, with a convection oven being better for doing everything that an air fryer promises. Both offer high temperature and a fan.

The fan helps to circulate and create even heat. And the higher the temperature, the better the crispy, beautifully browned result.

Air Fryer

Air fryers are pod-shaped and pretty small, meant to sit on the countertop. An air fryer consists of a door on the front that, when opened, reveals a basket atop a tray. The food to be air-fried gets placed in the basket. The tray catches residue, drips, crumbs, etc. The open-weave-like basket allows hot air to circulate more efficiently around the food items, which should be spaced out.

An air fryer handles food for two to four servings, generally. That probably means air-frying in batches if you cook for a family. While french fries, chicken nuggets, wings, and other frozen, precooked battered fare are most popular in air fryers, most of these appliances come with instructions for how to air-fry “baked” potatoes, vegetables, and just about anything you can prepare in a regular oven.

An air fryer has a single fan positioned at the top of the appliance. The temperature control on a basic air fryer typically goes to 400 degrees F.

Air fryers can be unreasonably noisy and a bear to clean, depending on the brand. And it’s not a small appliance as far as countertop appliances go. Expect a good one to have a footprint of about a 15-inch square.

Traditional,French,Fries,In,A,White,Bowl
Imagine that—delicious, healthy fried food without a lot of calories. Is it too good to be true? (MariaKovaleva/Shutterstock)

Convection Oven

A convection oven has multiple fans on the top and sides, which makes for much more even cooking. It’s large enough to handle servings from two up to 10, 12 or more. Using a basket-like “pan” in the convection oven gives all of the benefits of an air fryer and more. A convection oven is easy to clean, especially if it is part of your regular self-cleaning oven. And it takes up no room at all if it is part of what you own already.

I hate to break it to you, but neither an air fryer nor convection oven is a deep fryer. If you expect yummy, decadent deep-fried results from either of these appliances, prepare to be disappointed. But if you are not into deep-frying, and anxious to eat more healthfully, and are not even hoping for deep-fried results, you will love the heat-plus-fan results of air-frying.

You can get amazing results with either appliance by adding a small amount of oil—spraying it on or tossing those veggies, meat pieces, etc. in it. And you really can use 80 percent less oil than deep-frying to create amazing results!

Don’t be fooled by “fat removal technology.” That just means fat and oil can drip out onto the drip tray. Nothing magic there.

A Case for the Air Fryer

If you do not have a convection oven already, you typically cook for two to four persons, and you have ample counter space, an air fryer could be an ideal addition to your kitchen. I predict you will be thrilled with this new addition to your cooking space. And chances are great that you will quickly recoup the cost by cooking at home more and eating out less.

A Case for the Convection Oven

If you have this option in your kitchen already, that pretty much speaks for itself. Why would you need an air fryer? A convection oven is going to give better and more consistent results because it is a full-on appliance, not a chubby countertop appliance designed to sit out next to the toaster.

A convection oven has greater fan power, which is the key to this kind of high temperature, powerful air circulation kind of cooking.

You will find more information and resources for products mentioned above at EverydayCheapskate.com/airfryer.

Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com