While you may have never heard of an air fryer, this cool gadget is popular among some savvy home cooks. To offer some clarification, we’re here to discuss what exactly an air fryer is, how it works, what to use it for, pros and cons, plus some products that deserve a second look. Prepare for our ultimate air fryer guide, an appliance in the running to be your next kitchen mainstay.
All About Air Fryers
What Exactly Is An Air Fryer?
Despite their name, air fryers aren’t fryers at all; they are simply small countertop convection ovens. Convection style ovens cook food evenly and quickly as they include a ventilation system that blows hot air around whatever you’re cooking. Air fryers have the addition of a frying-style basket to hold your food.
These little machines are known for the crisp and crunch that comes with deep fried foods without all the mess and inconvenient oil to dispose of. They debuted around 2010 and have been steadily gaining in popularity ever since.
What You Can Make With An Air Fryer
As previously stated, air fryers were meant to make items usually reserved for deep frying. Some popular items that are optimal for cooking in an air fryer are:
- crispy chicken
- french fries
- sweet potato fries
- egg rolls
- spring rolls
- onion rings
It’s also important to mention some things that should not be placed in this appliance like anything with liquid batter; also, anything too large for the fryer is obviously not a great choice either, so pay attention to the size of your contraption.
Pros And Cons Of An Air Fryer
Now that we have a better understanding of what an air fryer is, how it works, and what to make with it, let’s dive a little deeper. Here are some positive and negative attributes for you to consider before purchasing an air fryer whether for yourself or for this gifting season.
Let’s start with the pros, or the list of reasons to consider this appliance. First, it provides a nice crunch that is healthier for foods that are typically laden with oil from a deep fryer. It’s also easier to use since there’s no worry of hot oil burning anyone and having to dispose of that substance responsibly.
These mini convection ovens are also heating a smaller space so they can be more energy efficient than heating your much larger traditional oven; food cooks faster with this method too, which cuts down on time and energy utilized.
Finally, they could be a helpful gift for your home chef buddy who has everything else as they are still on the upswing and not typically in every kitchen.
Next, we will share some cons related to air fryers. It’s important to acknowledge that these machines take up lots of valuable counter space and storage space; therefore they would not be best for anyone living in a small apartment without adequate storage. Plus, they are really only useful for certain food items, most of which are processed, so they aren’t really all that healthy overall.
Another issue is that cleaning them can be tough since some air fryers don’t contain a dishwasher safe basket; clearing gunk out of all those tiny holes can be quite the chore. Also, some of the air fryers have small capacity so it can take awhile to cook food in batches. These appliances are known for being noisy which can be a nuisance when entertaining. They can be expensive, usually ranging from $100-$300 in cost which is an investment for something you may not use often enough to warrant that expenditure.
Products To Consider
Armed with our new knowledge of air fryers, let’s discuss some specific models you may want to consider purchasing. Remember to critically evaluate based on your own situation or your gifting needs before buying.
Philips TurboStar HD9641/96
Philips is the company that pioneered the air fryer concept about ten years ago, so they are a must on our list. This model, the HD9641/96, retails for about $300 on the company’s website and slightly lower at other online retailers like Amazon. It is the most expensive of the appliances we will discuss, but it also has a one year warranty and 100% of reviewers would recommend it with a 4.6 out of 5 star rating online.
Additionally, this model has four convenient presets for the foods you’re likely to cook most often: frozen fries, meat, fish, and chicken drumsticks. It also has a keep warm setting perfect for hosting as well as removable parts that are dishwasher safe. Finally, it is rated as easy to use by Consumer Reports and has a capacity of about 3 quarts.
NuWave 6-Quart 37001
Our next product to review is the NuWave brand version of the air fryer, the 6 quart model 37001. This appliance has double the capacity of the Philips plus a break on price at just $130 cost. It also has a one year warranty but unfortunately is quite noisy and could be compared to a normal microwave sound. The NuWave is available online at its own site, plus Amazon, JC Penney, and Walmart both in store occasionally and always online. On the plus side, it’s really easy to clean, plus is rated as Excellent by Consumer Reports for its ease of use with presets. However, be aware that there have been some customer reviews that stated the nonstick coating at the bottom of this air fryer is prone to flaking off.
Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538
This model from Bella is the cheapest we will examine at just $40, and it generously includes a full two year warranty which is a great deal. This would be a good starter air fryer due to its low cost and small capacity of about 2.5 quarts. Consumer Reports states that it’s easy to use and the controls are easy to read which makes it an option for even unexperienced home cooks. However, on the negative side, this air fryer contains a noisy fan as well as a loud timer ticking sound which detracts from its usefulness. The Bella 14538 does not contain any easy presets either. It can be found on Amazon.com.
Our next selection pulls double duty as both a toaster oven and an air fryer. Still priced below $200, this could be a helpful addition to someone’s kitchen. The Cuisinart TOA-60 is the largest of the air fryers we discuss, but that is logical since it contains more than one appliance; it’s still helpful to keep the large size in mind though. This model is available at Walmart, Amazon, the Cuisinart website, and other major retailers both on and offline. Keep in mind that these ovens do tend to get very hot on top and along the sides so nothing can be stored there which could present another challenge. It is still a contender though, with a rating of 4.2 stars out of a possible 5 from Amazon.
Our final product to examine is the T-fal ActiFry available from Amazon, Walmart, Target, and the company website. While from a lesser-known brand, this kitchen gadget packs a punch with a built-in paddle that automatically rotates your food while it’s cooking; this means you can literally set it and forget it until you hear the built-in timer sound. That unique feature certainly maximizes the convenience factor, though the smaller capacity of less than 2 quarts could make this model less useful. Another factor to consider is that there is no ability to adjust the temperature since it heats to a constant 338 degrees; this means that you’ll have to figure out how long to cook food rather than how long plus at what temperature.
So overall, we’ve explored the trendy air fryer phenomenon, what these machines are, how they operate, what kinds of food they can best prepare, negative and positive traits, and specific product run downs. We hope this all-encompassing guide helps you to decide if an air fryer is meant for your own kitchen or as a gift for your favorite home chef.