An air fryer is a fantastic type of cooking appliance capable of cooking a wide range of food. It is, therefore, no surprise that the popularity of these versatile appliances is growing.
Air fryers are convenient, easy to use and even offer some health benefits! In contrast to conventional deep-frying, they consume less oil. As a result, there is less fat and calories, which are great for healthy living. What’s more, they are great for making quick snacks and light bites from frozen food!
But how do these appliances work? How is the food cooked? We explore these and more in the below article!
How Does an Air Fryer Work – The Basic Cooking Process
Once you understand how an air fryer works, you will see that they are relatively simple. You will also see their potential health benefits compared to deep frying.
Convection Cooking From Circulated Air
An air fryer cooks food based on convection cooking. Within the air fryer, there is an element that provides heat, and there is a fan. The fan circulates air around the cooking compartment. At the same time, the element heats the air to temperatures above 320 degrees Fahrenheit. This incredibly hot air is pushed around and through the food and effectively cooks it.
Due to the cooking process, less oil is needed than in deep-frying. Some manufacturers claim that an air fryer uses up to 75% less oil than traditional deep fryers.
How to Use an Air Fryer
One of the great benefits of air fryers is that they are simple to use. Once you have prepared the food, the appliance can be set up, and the cooking process starts in a few minutes. Before air frying, we first advise reading the instructions. This makes sure that you understand how the control panel works and how you set the cooking time. The instruction manual may also provide timings for different food types.
Step 1: Put Your Ingredients Into the Basket
For cooking, first, place your food in the basket. Ideally, you should make sure that the food is spread evenly in the basket. This makes sure that the hot air will reach and cook everything. Next, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of oil. The amount of oil may differ depending on what you cook in an air fryer.
Step 2: Use the Control Panel
With the food and oil in the basket, you can now use the control panel. How this works depends on the convection oven manufacturer. Some simple convection ovens only have a timer dial that allows you to set the desired cooking time. Other air fryers may have advanced controls that allow you to choose specific settings for different kinds of food.
Step 3: Let It Cook
With the convection oven set, you can sit back and let it cook! Depending on the food, it may be beneficial to turn the food halfway during the cooking. This is so that fried food and air fryer French fries get a crispy coating on all sides.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Once you are done, you can now enjoy your food! An important note to remember when using an air fryer is to make sure you clean it regularly. With proper maintenance, your air fryer will continue to work great and will surely last for a long time.
The Design and Components of Air Fryers
To improve your air fryer knowledge, we can also look at air fryers’ basic design and components. Phillips was one of the first companies to patent the air fryer design.
However, since then, many other companies have produced their versions. The main design of air fryers is similar across manufacturers, and each one contains common components detailed below.
The main unit is the housing of the air fryer. It is the body and where everything is contained. In terms of size, air fryers are usually countertop models that sit on your kitchen work surface. The main unit is typically larger than a toaster and taller but narrower than a microwave.
The top section of the main unit usually contains the heating elements and fan. On the exterior of the top section, you can also find the control panel. The complexity of control panels varies depending on the model. Some, for example, allow you to choose specific cooking settings, whereas others may only allow you to set the cooking time and temperature.
The bottom section of the main unit contains the removable cooking tray and basket. This section is often dishwasher safe, and it is where the food is placed to be cooked. The basket is made of metal which will conduct heat and aid the cooking process.
Heating Element Fan
The most important part of an air fryer is the heating element and fan. The fan is what circulates the air around the oven cooking basket. Whilst the fan circulates the air, the heating element makes sure that the air is hot – this circulation of hot air is how an air fryer works. The heating element heats the air to temperatures above 320 degrees Fahrenheit. You can usually change the cooking temperature of the fryer, however, to cook different recipes.
Lastly, the bottom section of the air fryer contains the cooking basket. This typically has two parts – the removable cooking drawer and a metal basket.
The removable drawer often has an attachable handle so you can remove it without risking burns. Inside this, the metal basket can be placed. Some air fryers have baskets that have multiple layers to improve the cooking capacity.
What Can an Air Fryer Cook?
As you can see, air frying is a simple process. These devices have an effective cooking mechanism, and they have the benefit of requiring very little oil. But what can you cook in the best air fryer? They are surprisingly versatile appliances that have a quick cooking time and can cook different kinds of food. We have listed some of the main categories below.
Meat, Poultry and Seafood
An air fryer is a versatile device for meat, poultry, and seafood. In particular, it is excellent for cooking chicken. You can air fry chicken in various ways, including chicken wings, whole chicken, and chicken nuggets. The air-fried chicken will have nice crispy skin or a crispy coating whilst still being relatively healthy.
An air fryer is also fantastic for cooking different types of fish. You can cook fish fillets like cod, haddock, and sole. You can also cook frozen items like fish fingers and fishcakes.
Perhaps you love vegetables but want to try them differently? Using an air fryer, you can cook roast vegetables. It is not suitable for simply boiling and traditionally cooking vegetables. However, it makes for amazing roast vegetables like parsnips, cauliflower, Brussels, and carrots.
One of the main things people cook in air fryers is, of course, french fries. French fries and normal chips are amazing when cooked in an air fryer. You can also achieve a brilliant crispy coating, and they are healthier than chips made in a deep fryer.
Air fryers can also be used to cook some basic baked goods and desserts. For example, you can cook small items like cookies, apple fritters, and brownies. It is again important to reiterate that you cannot cook anything with liquid batter in an air fryer.
Pros and Cons of Using an Air Fryer
Now that you understand how air fryers work and what you can cook with them, we can look at their pros and cons. Air fryers are fantastic kitchen appliances for sure, but they do have a few drawbacks that you should also consider.
- Can cook frozen foods quickly and effectively
- Slightly healthier than traditional deep frying
- Keeps your kitchen cooler when cooking
- Relatively easy to use
For quick meals and snacks, most air fryers offer quick and easy cooking times. They specialize in cooking frozen food, and if you want minimal preparation, they are great devices to have.
Also, the smaller amount of oil means that they offer a healthier option compared to traditional deep-fried foods. We are not saying that air-fried food will drastically improve your diet and cut calories, but the reduced oil need is certainly a benefit.
When cooking, the heating mechanism also kicks out far less heat than a conventional oven or a traditional deep fryer. This means that your kitchen will be much cooler and pleasant to work in when cooking.
Finally, air fryers are simple to use and require minimal setup. It is a case of adding the food into the air fryer baskets, adding a small amount of oil, and starting the cooking process! There is also a huge variety of easy air fryer recipes available to make tasty and healthy meals.
- Not the largest cooking capacity
- Can take up valuable kitchen worksurface space
Whilst air frying has a host of benefits. There are a few minor drawbacks to consider also. Firstly, these devices do not generally have a large basket capacity. The baskets are relatively small, even on larger models. This means that they are not particularly quick when cooking for larger families or parties. You may have to cook in batches or serve people at different times, which isn’t ideal.
Also, despite the smaller cooking capacity, these devices take up a decent amount of kitchen space. They are typically larger than a double toaster which is something to consider. Do you have enough space to facilitate an air fryer?
Enjoy Great Food Using Your Air Fryer
So, how does an air fryer work? These kitchen appliances use a simple method of blowing hot air around the cooking basket, creating a convection cooking process. They can heat a variety of food, including french fries, tater tots, chicken nuggets, vegetables, and a whole lot more!
Air fryers are really easy to use, convenient, and offer some health benefits. Whether you have a large or small household, an air fryer will surely come in handy.
What do you cook in your air fryer? Do you prefer it over your other appliances? Let us know in the comments!