Air fryers are all the rage in the health and nutrition industry for claims that they produce crispy foods without all the fat of deep frying. Plus, they are faster than a conventional oven. Is this really true, how does an air fryer work then? We look at how an air fryer works and if it’s a worthy investment for anyone looking to cut down on added fats.
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a countertop appliance that’s designed to cook faster and give food extra crispiness. They are the opposite of deep fryers, which work by dipping food inside hot cooking oil. Air fryers are full of hot air which circulates around the food to produce a crunchy, crispy exterior.
One thing to keep in mind is that an air fryer isn’t actually a fryer. It’s a mini-convection oven that uses a heating mechanism to cook food.
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
An air fryer is designed to circulate hot air around it with a fan, cooking food by convection. It produces results almost similar to deep frying, but with far less oil. Once turned on, the intensely hot air inside the appliance can bake and roast different types of dishes, fast.
In practice, the air fryer achieves a reaction known as the Maillard reaction from hot air rather than hot oil. This reaction is a result of heating amino acids and sugar, which leads to food turning brown and crispy. That’s how steaks get that nice sear, pastries achieve that beautiful golden-brown color, and chips become crisp.
Air fryers are touted as a healthy alternative to deep fryers since food isn’t completely submerged in the oil. Instead, all you need to do is add just a tablespoon of oil to get the same texture and taste of deep-fried foods.
Food in an air fryer sits on a perforated or wire basket to ensure that the hot circulating air reaches all sides of the food. The end result is a thoroughly cooked food, which is crispy on all sides.
While cooking in an air fryer doesn’t give the food the same level of deep browning as in a deep fryer, you get the advantage of cooking food quickly and using much less oil.
Is Cooking with an Air Fryer Healthy?
The biggest appeal of an air fryer is the minimal oil required to cook food. That’s why it’s considered a healthy alternative to deep-fried foods. Plus, the results are not that far from what you get with an air fryer.
What Foods Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
There’s an endless list of foods you can cook in an air fryer. However, certain foods like chips and chicken will turn out better than other types of foods. Here are the top foods to cook in an air fryer:
Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Proteins like chicken, chicken wings, steak, fish, and hard-boiled eggs.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
Baked foods like cookies, cinnamon rolls, and cakes.
Air fryers have earned a reputation for reheating crispy foods and keeping them crispy instead of soggy as a microwave would.
That said, there are a few types of foods you would want to steer clear of cooking in an air fryer. Avoid any food that uses wet batter that you normally deep fry, such as tempura batter since it will make such a bad mess. Likewise, don’t cook anything that uses lots of liquids like rice.
Additionally, shy away from any foods that need to be cooked slowly on low heat, such as fatty cuts of meat. Leafy greens will dry out in an air fryer.
Advantages of Using an Air Fryer
There are several pros of using an air fryer:
Less Fat Content
Since air fryers require significantly less fat than deep fryers, they cut fat content in foods by up to 75 percent. While deep-fried foods actually absorb very little oil, especially when cooked at the proper temperature, an air fryer significantly reduces the amount of oil that gets absorbed.
This can have a major impact on your health since a high intake of vegetable oil has been associated with increased risks of conditions like heart disease and inflammation.
An Air Fryer May Contribute to Weight Loss
Deep-fried foods contain a lot of calories, which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity. For those who want to trim their waistline, switching to an air fryer is a great start. An air fryer uses less oil, which means it cuts calories, helping you manage your weight.
Risks of Eating Air Fried Foods
Just because air frying uses less oil doesn't mean it’s the healthiest option. Studies show that eating air-fried foods has been linked to increased risks of conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. While research is limited, it's advisable to limit your intake of air-fried foods.
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