How Does An Air Fryer Work?

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It’s amazing how well air fryers deliver on their promise to create food with a crunchy texture that mimics deep frying. In fact, some of them work so well that it seems almost too good to be true?

In this post, we’ll take a look at exactly how an air fryer works so effectively.

What is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer does not actually fry anything. Instead, it blasts the food inside with extremely hot air so it can cook the food quickly and give the outer layer a crispy, crunchy texture that mimics deep fried food.

An air fryer has a heating element, usually located in its removable lid. The food being “fried” is generally placed into a fryer basket that slides into the base. The bottom of the basket usually has a perforated or mesh texture that allows as much of the food’s surface area as possible to be reached by the surrounding air. The exterior of the fryer has knobs and (usually) a touch screen that the cook uses to control the exact temperature and cooking time.

Different Types of Air Fryers

There are two main types of air fryer: basket air fryers and convection air fryers.

Basket Air Fryers

Basket air fryers are the easier, more convenient choice. Basket fryers are usually cylindrical appliances that have a compartment which slides out of the bottom half.

You can simply load food into the basket (anything from frozen fries to seasoned chicken wings to fresh vegetables), slide the basket back in, and start cooking on your desired settings. During cooking, you can shake the basket to make sure all sides of the food get exposed to heat.

Convection Air Fryers

Convection air fryers are not as streamlined, but they have bigger cooking spaces and allow for more control. A convection fryer looks more like a microwave oven with a large flat tray that slides inside.

The flat tray can cook larger foods and makes it easier to manipulate the foods with tongs during cooking, but it’s not as quick and easy as a basket fryer.

So, How Does an Air Fryer Work?

Whichever type of air fryer you’re using, it will more than likely use the same basic system to cook and crisp the food at a rate much faster than any oven. The process looks something like:

  1. Add Food

    Open the fryer and put the food in the cooking area, whether that means dumping it in the basket or laying it on the tray.

  2. Turn Air Fryer On

    When the heating element is turned on, it uses electricity to heat up much more quickly than a normal oven. The hot air is blown down onto the food by a fan located in the fryer.

  3. Food Cooks

    By surrounding the food with extremely hot air, the air fryer mimics the process of dousing the food in hot oil. The air is then circulated quickly around the basket so it “fries” every surface of the food equally. This is where the perforated mesh on the bottom of the frying compartment comes into play: the hot air needs to be able to reach the bottom of the food, too.

  4. Remove Food!

    When the cooking time is up, remove the basket or tray and enjoy your faux-fried food!

Air Fryer Tips

Let’s go over some tips, tricks, and interesting tidbits that may make your air fryer experience more fun.

What are the pros and cons of air fryers?

They’re fast! Even more so than a convection oven. The “health benefits” can be deceiving. Many foods that go into an air fryer are just unhealthy no matter how they are cooked. Might we recommend air fried vegetables?
Cooking food in an air fryer is much healthier than deep frying it. Air fryer recipes aren’t great. Since air fryers are a relative newcomer to the kitchen appliance scene, most recipes haven’t been perfected yet.
It doesn’t create a mess. You won’t risk spilling oil or burning yourself like with an oven or deep fryer.
They are compact and can replace much bigger kitchen appliances. The multi-function ones are especially useful in this regard.
Do air fryers have health benefits?

If you use them to cook healthy foods, then yes! They use 0-10% as much oil as deep fryers and still deliver the satisfying crunch of fried foods. Like we mentioned, you can’t make additive-filled “instant” foods like tater tots or jalapeno poppers, even in your air fryer, and expect them to become health food. But stick to simple, natural ingredients and you’ll feel like you found a loophole in the balance between nutrition and great taste!

What can I make in an air fryer?

Some popular ideas:

Potato wedges/fries
Bits of chicken breast/wings/drumettes
Chopped vegetables
Crispy seeds and nuts
Homemade chips
Eggs in the shell

What are the best air fryers?

We always recommend the large air fryers, and we have an entire post about my picks for the best ones. You can check it out here!

Fry Your Heart Out

Our air fryers are the newest additions to our kitchen in terms of major cooking appliances, but we have to say we’ve become a total convert since I started using them. They cut down on cooking time for so many recipes, and they’re probably the best way we’ve found to prepare healthy food that has the same forbidden goodness of greasy delicacies we all know and love.

Lots of people out there feel the same: online communities of “air fryer club members” have been sprouting up all around the world over the past few years. We’re certainly glad to be in the club, and we would highly encourage you to at least try it out too!

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