Healthy or Not: How Does an Air Fryer Work?

Healthy or Not: How Does an Air Fryer Work?

It’s been said that those who didn’t come out of the 2020/21 “situation” without a puppy, a bad haircut, or an air fryer didn’t make the best use of their time in lockdown. 

So now your pup’s all grown up, your hair has grown out, but ... how does an air fryer work? 

These clever little kitchen appliances have taken the market by storm, and now it seems everyone is getting one. Is it time to join the queue? Is it a healthy way of cooking? What can you cook in an air fryer? Can't we just use convection ovens?

These may be questions you are asking yourself over a glass of wine (or cup of coffee if you prefer), scrolling through all the Facebook posts about how great your friend's air fryers are and what they claim to have made in them. 

Let’s dig deeper into the truth about air fryers, and then you can decide if you need to rush out and buy one!

What Is an Air Fryer?

Imagine a convection oven and a deep fryer had a baby. Voila - the air fryer! 

Air fryers, such as this powerful Defy air fryer are marketed as healthier alternatives to deep frying food. They mimic the way fried food looks, feels, and tastes - without the unhealthy side effect of dousing your food in cooking oil. It's certainly a cooking method that is growing in popularity!

Airfryer DAF7003B

How Do Air Fryers Work?

In the simplest terms, it makes use of a fan and heating element in the top part of the air fryer. This circulates the hot air and tiny oil droplets around your food which cooks it and makes it deliciously crisp.

On this topic, Medical News Today tells us, “The result is a product that has similar characteristics to fried foods, though with significantly lower levels of fat.

“Like many other cooking methods, air-frying triggers a chemical reaction - the Maillard effect - that improves the colour and flavour of air-fried food.”

How to use an air fryer is super simple - three steps simple actually:

  1. Preheat the air fryer (if your model requires it - not all do)
  2. Place your food in the basket or cooking chamber and add a small amount of oil or cooking spray if desired
  3. Set the timer and temperature and let your food cook

You may need to shake up your food or turn it halfway through the cooking process, but that’s it. 

Important to remember - clean the air fryer regularly otherwise it will start to develop a sour smell and taste, like old oil. Most air fryers are dishwasher safe but check your user manual before you pop yours in the dishwasher, just in case.

What Are the Pros and Cons of an Air Fryer?

Sound too good to be true? 

Well, pros and cons are par for the course with any invention. So, what are the pros and cons of this delightful appliance?

The Pros

Compared to the deep fat fryer, air fryers are refreshingly easy to clean. They are very simple to use and make cooking quick and easy. Plus, your kitchen stays cool minus nuclear temperatures emanating from the kitchen and heating up your entire home. 

They also come with the speed and convenience of a microwave oven. (Just don’t try and air fry your coffee as that won’t end well.) Reduced cooking time is always going to be a major plus in today's busy world.

The Cons 

Depending on the model you buy, they can take up a valuable counter space which may be an issue if your kitchen is more compact. 

You will need to cook in batches if you are feeding a big group, so planning and a degree of logistics are required.

They can also dry out or burn your food if you get the settings wrong (or don’t read the manual) so you will need to experiment. But this is not a con, merely a learning curve and holds true for any and all cooking appliances. 

It remains for you to decide if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

If you regularly cook for an army then maybe an air fryer is not for you. But don’t miss the point of an air fryer; it’s both a convenience and a small kitchen appliance and mass catering is not in its repertoire.

Is Air Fryer Food Healthy?

Any product that comes onto the market claiming health benefits will go under the spotlight. It is to be expected. Especially something that claims you can enjoy fried food without the guilt - let’s be honest, you’re also a bit sceptical, right? That’s why you’re reading this article!

Here are a few of the benefits and side-effects you can expect if you are using an air fryer. 

healthy fried foods

Health Benefits

The air fryer was designed to replace deep frying, not traditional cooking methods such as roasting, steaming, or grilling. There is nothing to guarantee that your air-fried chicken and chips are healthier than if you're cooking food by grilling or roasting the ingredients, simply because these aren’t the comparisons you’re looking for.

There are several benefits of air fried foods: 

  • Weight loss promotion through eating less deep fried food
  • Safer than deep-frying - no giant container of hot oil in your kitchen!
  • Reduce the formation of toxic acrylamide that develops through cooking foods in a traditional deep fryer
  • Reduces health risks associated with high-fat diets as so little oil is used

Make sure that you follow the user instructions of your machine to avoid any unnecessary risks.

Side Effects

Any appliance has its downside and air fryers are no different. 

  • It does not guarantee a healthy diet overall. Simply replacing deep-fried food with air fried food is healthier, yes. But not as healthy as eliminating fried food altogether.
  • There is the possibility of other harmful compounds which science is still exploring. It’s important to note, though, that this isn’t due to the function of the air fryer, rather these factors circle around any meat cooked over high heat. So, grilling, braaing, and frying also come under inspection here.  

As it stands today, air fryers are a more convenient and healthier alternative to deep-fried foods. If you still have questions about the health factors of air frying food, we encourage you to do your due diligence and get the facts for yourself.

While the benefits do seem to outweigh the negatives, remember that a healthy balanced diet should be all food in moderation - air or deep-fried included. (So maybe put that deep fried twinkie away for another day (even if you did make it in your air fryer!)

What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?

Since we now know there are some health benefits to air fryer cooking you may be feeling excited to start your frying journey. But what can you cook in your air fryer? Much more than you are expecting!

All the common things you have heard - chicken nuggets, french fries, fish cakes, chicken wings, and basically all delicious crispy food - work very well in the air fryer. There are also some delicious biscuit recipes that you can use to surprise your guests, and they only take a few minutes to make, which is a bonus. 

Just make sure you go with tried and tested air fryer recipes!

Fresh veggies on the other hand are not a fan of the air fryer. Anything with loose seasoning, fresh, wet batter or cheese is also not the best choice. These are all better cooked a more traditional way such as oven grilled, but feel free to experiment; you may surprise yourself (and us!)

How Much Food Fits in an Air Fryer?

This depends entirely on the air fryer you have. Even the largest model can only fit in enough to feed a few people, so if you are hosting a dinner party, it may be best to show off your cooking skills another way. 

Most air fryers offer a capacity of between 500g and 800g. 800g works out to about four servings of chips on average, so they are a great option if you have a family of four or five. If you need more than that regularly, look onto an extra-large air fryer basket size or an air fryer oven.

Should You Buy an Air Fryer?

How does an air fryer work with your cooking style? Do you have the counter space? Do you want to deep fry less food?

If you are all about quick and easy meals and love the crispy goodness of fried food (in moderation of course) without firing up your convection oven daily, then an air fryer should go on your wish list for sure.

If you need more comparisons or would like some more information on air fryers, then contacting the team at Defy is a great place to start. 

They can offer advice and professional opinions and guide you in your hunt for the best air fryer for you.