Air fryers are considered the next big thing in kitchen appliances. They promise guiltless indulging of fried food through healthy oil-less cooking.
With all the hype around Air fryer, every one wants to know if it is worth it. So, through this guide, we will help you understand about all major aspects of air fryer, how it is a healthy alternative and an over view of the major brands of air fryers available.
What is an Air fryer?
Air fryer is one of the latest kitchen appliances launched in the market that promises and delivers a healthy alternative to deep-frying. The device circulates super heated air and cooks the food. The crispy layer typical of frying is produced by reaction of oil with the food triggered by the hot air. Philips has patented this technology by the name- Rapid Air Technology. Most other companies too use the same technology with a slight difference in order to avoid patent violation law suit.
Companies selling air fryers claim that using air fryers, food can be cooked with just one Tbsp. of oil (80% less oil compared to traditional cooking methods)
How to Choose A Suitable Air Fryer?
Take care of the following aspects while buying an air fryer in order to have a trouble-free cooking experience.
An air fryer might look spacious from outside. But that is not quite how it is inside. A typical air fryer with capacity of 2.2 litres has a basket of size 19cm x 19 cm with 8 cm depth. This is usually enough only for a family of 2-3 members. Hence, it is always advisable to buy a larger capacity ( 3 litre) air fryer.
Ensure that you buy an air fryer with safety features like sturdy durable handle, lock system for the basket, insulation in exterior handle, non-slip base, auto-shut off etc.
- Temperature Setting
Right temperature could often be the cause of having a soggy chips instead of crispy and crunch ones. So, the higher the range of temperature adjustment, the better the device.
How does an Air fryer Work?
The air fryer has a heating element just above the cooking chamber and it radiates heat directly to the food from a close range. The mechanical fan above the heater pulls the air upwards through the heating chamber creating a strong vertical hot airflow. Through the sides of the chamber, the air is transported downwards and starfish like guide at the bottom helps the air move upward. Thus, the hot air is repeatedly circulated throughout the cooking chamber in order to evenly cook the food.
The internal pressure is kept under control through an exhaust system that releases a small amount of air into the open air throughout the process. The steam and smoke pass through a filter, thus minimal smell is emitted in the process.
What all can you cook with an air fryer?
An air fryer is pretty versatile in its application. You can make French fries, make samosas, and fry different varieties of food in addition to baking cakes, cup cakes and muffins.
Pro Tips To Make The Best Out Of Your Air Fryer
- Always shake the basket once or twice while cooking the food in order to get the food evenly cooked.
- Do not overcrowd the basket with food as it will affect the air circulation resulting in food not getting cooked properly.
- Apply oil to the basket before cooking so that food does not get stuck to it. This makes it easier to clean the basket also.
- Pat dry any excess marination or liquid coating on food to avoid spattering and excess smoke.
- If you are coating the food with breadcrumbs, apply oil to it and ensure that it is well applied on the food. If it crumbles off the food, the breadcrumbs could fly around and get stuck in the exhaust system.
General Complaints And Possible Solutions
The usual complaints about air fryers in general are given below. Some of the solutions suggested to overcome the problems are also listed along.
- Unable to cook beyond fries
A general complaint usually seen on shopping site reviews are that the device cannot be used for cooking anything beyond fries. But that is not true. For the initial uses, you will have to keep a close watch on the food inside the air fryer and apply enough oil on the food to get the desired browning.
However, keep in mind that you cannot cook anything in liquid consistency in the air fryer. So, you might want to make solid batter for the food you cook in air fryer.
You can also check the recipe book that comes along with most air fryers for ideas and inspiration.
- Uneven cooking
In order to ensure even cooking of food, shake the basket frequently. Air fryers are not as hands-off as the companies claim.
Also, do not stuff the basket with too much food. The hot air has to pass and circulate through the food. So, try to cook at a time food of quantity 20-30% less than the mentioned capacity so that it is evenly cooked.
- Food loses moisture
Food usually gets dehydrated when you apply too less oil on the food or when you cook it for too long. Fish and meat has natural fat and hence the only reason why it loses moisture is because of over cooking. For fries, you will have to apply enough oil to ensure that they come out crispy on the outside and soft and tender inside. (Please note that applying too much oil will make the food lose its crispness too.)
Till you get a hang of it, keep a constant watch on the food you put in the air fryer to prevent burning and over cooking.
- Food is not crispy
Ensure that you have preheated the air fryer for 3 minutes.
Vegetables generally do not become crisp even in a deep fryer. Other than that, if you cook high fat content food, it will not be crispy enough.
Lightly brush meat and fish with oil.
For home-made snacks, add oil to the breadcrumbs for making it crispy.
Also take care to shake the basket frequently while cooking.
- Healthy Cooking
The obvious benefit of air fryer is healthy cooking owing to the fact that you can now consume fried food that has minimal oil content. Instead of dunking the food in oil, all you have to do now is just smear the food with oil so as to have the desirable browning while cooking.
- Easy To Clean
You know how hard it is to clean oil and grease from a pan in which you have fried food. The basket and pan in an air fryer is made out of non-stick material. As minimal oil is used, cleaning is comparatively easy too. However, ensure that you do not scrub the basket and the pan with a non-abrasive brush.
- Set and Leave
Most air fryers come with an in-built timer. So, you can set the timer and take care of the rest of your household chores and the air fryer will do its job in the meanwhile. However, keep a close watch on the air fryer for the first few times till you get a hang of using it.
When you fry food in oil on a stove, you always have the fear that food or oil could spatter and burn your hands. Well, that is the last thing that you have to fear about while using an air fryer because its advanced design and technology makes it absolutely safe for everyone.
Though companies claim that the food cooked with an air fryer tastes as good as deep-frying, a number of consumers say otherwise. As the famous chef Gordon Ramsay says, “Look – nothing is going to replace that deep-fried taste, so no, they don’t, But, the Air fryer uses a tablespoon of oil and the chips come out crisp on the outside and tender on the inside – they’re a healthier version, and they taste great.”
Most models in the market have a capacity of around 800 to 1200 gm. This is well enough for a family with 2-4 members. But if you have a larger family or a number of guests coming, you will have to cook in separate batches.
- Cooking Time
Well, this depends on the model of your air fryer and the food that you are cooking. But usually, it takes 10-15 minutes longer than cooking in a pan on a stovetop.
- Energy consumption
Power consumed by most air fryers are in the range of 1400 Watts. So, running an air fryer for 30 minutes consumes around 0.7kWh (0.7 unit). That is not quite an energy saver.
- Uneven Cooking
Some times in order to have the food evenly cooked, you may have to turn over the food by shaking the basket. Newer models come with an in-built food agitator.
- An air fryer is easy to clean and maintain. Always spray the basket with oil so that food does not get stuck to it and it becomes easier to clean later on.
- After use, you can clear off any food particles left and fill the pan with hot water and soap and leave the basket inside. After around 30 minutes, clean it with a non-abrasive scrub or sponge.
- Take the basket and pan out for cleaning after 30 minutes of using the air fryer for it to cool down.
The Invention And Marketing
Air fryer is widely considered as an invention by Philips. However, it is only partially true. Air fryer is actually an invention of APDS, a small product development firm founded by Fred van der Weij. Unhappy with the results of a fat-free fryer that he bought seeing a TV commercial, he decided to work on creating a better appliance that could fry food with minimal oil.
By 2007, he had designed the air fryer that worked properly. But as he did not have the financial means or business insight to market the product, he tied up with Hans Brocker, who previously worked with Braun. They were initially unsuccessful in securing bank loans or investors to take off the project. Eventually, they developed a prototype with their Chinese partners. After filing for patent, they decided it would be better to sell the idea and approached Braun first. But they were not quite interested.
In the meanwhile, Philips had been trying to develop a healthy fryer since 2005. So, in 2009, Fred and Braun approached Philips with their technology. Subsequent to their meeting, a letter of intent was signed and an investigation phase began. They put the device through rigourous testing for safety, technical specifications, applicability, and quality. The air fryer was finally launched in 2010 at the IFA and gained significant attention. Through licensing agreements, a number of other companies too have started producing and marketing air fryers world-wide.
The inventors are working on the possibilities of using commercial air fryers for professional kitchens. As Philips does not target the professional market, the licensing contract allows inventors to identify other markets, but royalties and profits have to be shared with Philips.
Philips obviously is the major brand that deals in Air fryers. A close second is T-fal who have recently introduced Acti fryer, which has a larger capacity and advanced features. Other brands are Avalon, Glip, Prestige, Havells, Kenstar etc.