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From French Fries to chicken strips, fish to cheese sticks, almost any food can be deep-fried. Although a popular way to cook favorite foods worldwide, health professionals have consistently pointed out the harmful effects of deep-frying. These effects include higher risks of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. In the past decade, air fryers have emerged as a healthier alternative to deep-frying.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a type of convection oven that mimics deep frying without the need for immersing the food in oil. By circulating hot air, the air fryer creates the browning reaction that brings about the crisp layer on food.
How popular are air fryers?
Consumers across the world are increasingly becoming health conscious, and consequently, there is a growing demand for healthier food options and cooking appliances. Appliances that can cook food without using oil or using less oil are in the spotlight. Advancement in technology has further helped manufacturers design innovative solutions such as air fryers. According to a report, the air fryer market is slated to grow at 6.8 percent between 2019 and 2027. Another study from ResearchAndMarkets.com indicates that the U.S. is the biggest contributor to the air fryer market in North America.
How do air fryers work?
Although they are called ‘fryers,’ air fryers do not ‘fry’ foods like pan-frying or deep-frying. It uses the same principles as a hot air convection oven. Unlike convection ovens, air fryers do not need any preheating.
The air fryer’s top section holds a fan and heating mechanism. The bottom section has a fryer-style basket where food is placed. When the appliance is turned on, hot air rushes out and goes around the food in a circular manner. This rapid circulation of hot air serves to make food crisp without the oil.
The heating element within the cooking chamber of the air fryer radiates heat while the fan circulates the hot air.
An exhaust located at the back releases excessive hot air while the air inlet situated on the top of the air fryer helps control the temperature within. Depending on the air fryer model, the temperatures inside can go up to 445 °F.
How much oil is used in the air fryer?
Cooking oil is minimally used in the air fryer as large amounts of oil can end up burning due to the high temperatures.
What are the benefits of cooking food in the air fryer?
• Faster cooking time
There is a 20 percent reduction in cooking time when an air fryer is used compared to traditional ovens. This can vary, however, depending on the type of food being cooked and the model of the air fryer.
• Less fat and calories
The most important benefit is that the amount of oil used is drastically reduced in the air fryer. According to an estimate, deep-fried foods absorb anywhere from 8 to 25 percent of their weight.
Traditional fryers introduce temperatures in the range of 284 to 329 °F to make foods crisp. The air fryer heats food up to 392 to 400°F to brown foods such as fish, potato chips, steak, or French fries while using 70 to 80 percent less oil.
For instance, the fat content in 100 grams of fried chicken breast is 13.2 grams, while oven roasting or air frying the chicken breast results in just 0.39 grams of fat. Considering that each gram of fat provides nine calories, consumers who wish to manage their weight can benefit from reduced fat.
As air fryers use only a fraction of the amount of oil used in deep fryers, consumers can enjoy their favorite foods without worrying about the fat and calories.
• Precise cooking
Most air fryers feature timer and temperature adjustments, which enable more precise cooking. Even oil coverage and cooking can be ensured by shaking the cooking basket that is located on top of the drip tray.
In some high-end air fryer models, there is a food agitator that shakes the food continuously during the cooking to achieve the same result. As compared to conventional ovens, air fryers give off less heat.
As per researchers, air fryers make use of heated air with fine oil droplets that help remove moisture from foods. The outcome is foods that are similar to fried foods in texture and taste with significantly lower fat levels.
• No toxins
Apart from fat and calories, deep fat frying typically heats the oil to high temperatures of over 356-degree F. Along with air and moisture, the high temperature triggers chemical reactions that give rise to harmful free radicals and products of polymerization and oxidation. Other unintentional toxins such as acrylamide are also created in deep frying. Studies show acrylamide raises the risk of some types of cancer.
What foods can you cook in the air fryer?
Air fryers are not only fast but also make it easy for you to cook a wide range of foods. They can be used to heat frozen foods and cook fresh foods such as pork chops, salmon, chicken, steak, and veggies. Most meats that are juicy do not need additional oil, and seasoning them with favorite herbs, spices, and salt is all that is required. Lean meat cuts may require a coating of oil to crisp up in the air fryer.
It is possible to get the best results with vegetables by tossing them in oil before they are air fried. Sprinkling them with salt can ensure the vegetables turn out crisp and flavorful. Broccoli florets, baby potatoes, green beans, beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts are some of the vegetables that come out well when air fried.
Some air fryers also feature additional accessories that enable consumers to cook specific foods, such as skewer racks, pizza pans, cake barrels, and grilling trays.
Air fryers are the perfect way to enjoy favorite foods such as French fries and steaks minus the calories, fats, and harmful chemicals. With wide-ranging sizes, models, and price ranges available, it is easy to find the right air fryer that suits your lifestyle, budget, and cooking needs.