Air Fryer: A Healthier Alternative to Oil-Filled Frying

Philips Air Fryer filled with vegetables
Photo by James Stefiuk

No one likes soggy food. The air fryer is a relatively new countertop appliance designed to give foods a desirable crunchy exterior, without the added hassle or large amounts of fat that deep-frying requires.

First released in 2010, the air fryer got its start in Europe and Australia before emerging in Japanese and North American markets.

Available at home and kitchen stores, air fryers range in cost, from $40 to $100 for lower-end and compact models to $250 to $400 for larger and multifunctional models. While this investment may not appeal to some, avid home cooks and those who desire crispy food will enjoy the benefits.

Depending on its capacity, an air fryer can be used to prepare traditionally deep-fried favorites such as french fries and chicken wings, as well as entire turkeys, full fried-fish dinners, roasted vegetables and even baked goods.

There are many makes and models of air fryers, but most use the same technology and method of cooking. Air fryers don’t technically fry anything; they use a process similar to a convection oven, which involves circulating hot air around the food.

This system combines a heating element within the machine and an exhaust fan to keep the surface of food dry during cooking. The result is a crisp exterior and moist interior that often is associated with deep-frying.

To use an air fryer, place food in the wire or mesh basket inside its pullout drawer. Ensure foods are prepared properly and safely by using only pans and cooking vessels designed for air fryer machines.

To prevent sticking and enhance cooking results, first spray or lightly toss food with a small amount of oil. While the basket design allows for a high capacity, packing it with food can increase cooking time and result in a less crispy end product. For best results, space out the food and avoid overfilling the cooking basket.

Preheat the air fryer for three to five minutes before cooking. Since cooking time and temperatures are different for conventional ovens and fryers, use recipes created specifically for air fryer machines.

If you do want to try a traditional recipe, make a few adjustments for air fryer cooking. A good rule of thumb is to decrease the temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit when adapting a recipe from deep-frying or roasting. Use a food thermometer to check food for doneness earlier than the recipe recommends. Since air fryers tend to cook at a faster rate than traditional oven baking, check five to 10 minutes before the suggested time to prevent overcooking.

After use, clean the interior vessel and mesh basket with hot, soapy water and a hard-bristled brush or sponge. Clean the outside of the machine with a moist towel and the cooled heating element with a hard-bristled brush to remove any food particles. Dry the machine with a paper towel or a clean, dry kitchen towel.

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Emily Cooper
Emily Cooper, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in central New Jersey. Read her blog, Sinful Nutrition, and connect with her on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

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