Learn what an air fryer is, how it works and how it can help you live a healthier life. Then check out our top picks for the best air fryers on the market and our tips on how to make the most of them.
Best Air Fryer Guide For The Best Food
You would think that it being the 21st century we would have figured out how to make delicious food that doesn't increase our risk of cardiovascular disease. We carry relative supercomputers around in our pockets but can't seem to make guilt and premature death-less french fries. We might not be there yet, but with air fryers, we are getting close.
If you haven't heard of air fryers yet, just wait; somebody will talk your ear off about it soon enough. They are simple yet ingenious appliances that "fry" food without the excess oil. And, as you may know, the oil is most often the worst part of any fried food. The food that they make may not be "healthy," but it is exponentially less bad for you than the deep-fried variety.
Let’s take a look at how these devices work, why the food they make is so much better, which air fryers are the best available now and how to get the most out of your best air fryer after you get one. The future is now!
Air Fryers And How They Help Your Waistline
First of all, “air fryer” is something of a misnomer. While it does require oil in most cases, air fryers arguably don’t fry anything. They are basically tiny convection ovens with several key differences that allow it to replicate the frying process.
A traditional deep fryer submerses the food in a bath of oil and heat that oil up to cook the food. Air fryers use convection heating and powerful fans to blow hot air in a consistent pattern across the surface of the food. The food is coated with a thin layer of oil that is heated by the air and not through direct contact with heat.
As such, the food need not be submerged and soaked in oil, just lightly coated with it. Consuming air fried food vs. deep-fried food can mean a difference of up to 80% less oil entering your system. Not only that, but an air fryer is much more safe for you than a deep fryer because there are no hot oils flying around and there is no need to dispose of oil.
You could even argue that an air fryer is better for the environment because not only does it use less electricity, the cooking oil industry (especially canola and palm oil) requires vast tracts of land that are often made by clearing rainforest. Less consumption of cooking oil by humans means better health and less oil demand, which means more land for the endangered species of the world. It’s a win, win!
How Air Fryers Help You Get Healthy
No one is going to argue that fried starches are health foods on par with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. However, not everyone can or wants to eat healthy all the time. Sometimes we just want something fried for comfort and taste. Usually, this means a big blow to our health, but with air fryers, the impact has been reduced like never before.
The main culprit in fried foods negative impact on health is the oil. Cooking oil, regardless of origin, is calorically dense and nutritionally poor. Yes, even coconut and olive oil. Sure some oils are much worse for you than others, but you do not need cooking oil in your diet to be healthy. The less oil in the diet, the lower the risk of heart disease and other obesity-related medical problems. Your body needs fat to operate, but there are much better ways to get it.
When you deep fry something, you are sponging up large amounts of oil and dumping it into your system which is terrible for your body. That’s why baked potatoes, assuming they are not doused in butter and sour cream, are far better for you than french fries despite being little more than potatoes. Getting the oil out makes all the difference.
But why oil in the first place? Cooking oil is, unfortunately, necessary to cook many of our favorite foods. Applying direct heat to many foods burns them and in some cases removes a large portion of their nutrition.
Frying puts an intermediary in the way so that the heat does not come on too intense too fast. This is why some light oil is needed to cook most foods in an air fryer and why it is referred to as a fryer in the first place.
What To Look For When Buying An Air Fryer: A Buyer’s Guide
So you want to get an air fryer to cut down on the amount of oil and fat in your diet. Great, but there are a few things you should consider when choosing one.
The “footprint” of an air fryer is how much space on a countertop it takes up. These things aren’t exactly light, so you don’t want to be pulling them out of storage every time you use it. Even if you do, you need enough space to set it down in range of a plug. Make sure you know how much space you have in your kitchen and how much your prospective fryer takes up.
Depending on how many people you are cooking for, you will have different capacity needs. Each air fryer has a tray that you put food into before closing it up and letting it get to work. The bigger the tray, the more food you can cook at one time.
Capacity is most often measured in quarts, with 2.75 being the lowest (for one or two people) and around 6 quarts being the higher end (for families).
Air fryers vary widely in price. Some go for under 100 dollars whereas some can go for nearly 300 dollars. Usually, this price difference is due to differences in capacity and quality but not always. Shop around and do a lot of comparing.
How We Chose Our Ratings
We have chosen a few of our top picks for best air fryer out there. We took several criteria into account when making our ratings, but not things like capacity as this is more of a preferential statistic. When we looked at air fryers, we asked ourselves a few questions including:
The more “yes” answers we got for an air fryer, the higher rating it got.
Our Top Picks The Best Air Fryers
These are our top picks in order of our preference, but that doesn’t mean the top spot is best for everyone. There are large variations in size, capacity, and functionality so make sure you look carefully at as many options as you can to find the right fit for your home.
The Philips air fryer was one of the first mainstream air fryers, and it is still king of the mountain. It is powerful, elegant and easy to use with simple controls. It is designed to evenly heat the food inside without bulky extra features like a rotating interior. This causes a need to shake some foods occasionally while cooking, but not often.
It is easy to clean with removable dishwasher safe components and has a very low footprint relative to its capacity. Speaking of capacity, the Philips air fryer comes in a variety of models all with different capacities, so you don't have to choose between quality and your needs. The only sticking point we had is the price. Quality and the Philips name don't come cheap.
This fryer is not as sleek or futuristic looking as the Philips, but it makes up for its shortcomings with clever design and functionality. The first thing that you would notice is the clear cooking container. No more guesswork because you can watch the food as it cooks. With its two-tier design, you can also cook two different foods at once with a massive capacity of 16 quarts.
With its size, you can cook large meals for gatherings or families, but it isn’t without its problems. The Big Boss uses infrared, halogen and convection to heat the food which helps cook evenly but not quickly. The clear container and less than perfect lid means heat escapes and may slow cooking time. Still, it is hard to find a better large capacity air fryer.
The GoWISE is the air fryer to get if you like a high degree of control over the food you cook. It has a slew of settings and controls for things like temperature, air flow, food type and more. It’s one of the most versatile fryers we found. To top it off, all the food components are dishwasher safe.
There are few features that help the food cook evenly, so you may need to shake or rearrange the food midway through cooking, but that was standard until recently. The capacity to footprint ratio is not the best, but this is only a concern for smaller kitchens. For the more culinarily minded fryers, this one is a serious contender.
How To Make The Most Of Your Air Fryer
Once you have decided on the best air fryer, it's time to learn some tricks to help make it work better for you.
Invest In More Tools
The most common thing made with an air fryer is french fries. But when you make your own french fries, you'll want to make them from scratch, so you're not throwing away the health benefits of an air fryer on frozen and processed fires.
Get a french fry cutter to cut down on the work, so you are encouraged to make from scratch more often. This applies to other foods, too. An air fryer is an opportunity to eat better, but it can't do it alone.
Be Prepared To Shake
The main “problem” with air fryers is that they sometimes do not cook food evenly because the food is not submerged in oil.
To make sure the food cooks thoroughly, sometimes you have to shake the cooking container to open up the mass of food so the air can get in everywhere. Many air fryers have features to help solve this problem, but every food is different so experiment.
Don’t Overload It
It can be tempting just to load up the container and let the food cook, but an air fryer is an oven after all. To make sure the food cooks correctly you need to space out the food and not over pack the tray. Don't stack things like chicken breasts and make sure smaller things like fries and veggies are well spaced out. It's an air fryer, not a miracle worker.
Adapt And Branch Out
You can make traditional oven recipes in an air fryer for a crispier and faster meal. The convection action of an air fryer is more powerful than a standard oven so you’ll want to lop off 25 degrees on the cooking time and around 20 minutes on the cooking time. All food is different though, so either experiment or find an air fryer conversion recipe online.
When it comes to cooking new food, don't be afraid to go a little wild. Air fryers are much more versatile than deep fryers or ovens alone. Take some time and find an air fryer cookbook or website dedicated to air fryers. Some of the surprising things you can cook in an air fryer include: