Many people love air fryers because they are supposed to be a healthier alternative to traditional cooking methods. But is that true? Here’s what you need to know about them.
What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a cooking appliance that cooks food to crispy golden-brown deliciousness. Unlike it’s name, it doesn’t actually fry food. In fact, it doesn’t use oil at all (although you can toss your food in a light coating of oil if you want). It simply uses hot air. According to WebMD, the food is placed into a slide-out basket and a fan pushes heated air around it. The circulating air cooks the outside of the food first, which gives it that appetizing crispy brown coating. As the food cooks, a container below the basket catches any grease that drops. Air fryers aren’t just used to prepare “fried” foods. You can use them to bake, roast and grill foods as well. Also, each air fryer comes with its own unique instruction manual, so you’ll be able to know all the ways you can use it to prepare your foods.
Air fryers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from two to six liters. Another noteworthy aspect is that cooking with an air fryer takes a bit longer than deep frying. For example, French fries take only six minutes to deep fry whereas they take 12 minutes to cook in an air fryer. Fried chicken takes takes anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes in a deep fryer and 25 minutes in an air fryer.
FUN FACT: It’s obvious that hot air alone won’t give food a fried look and taste so just how exactly do air fryers do it? “Like traditional frying, an air frying induces what is chemically known as the Maillard reaction. This is the interaction between sugars and the amino acids found in proteins, which results in that browned appearance and flavor so many people love,” an article on DrAxe.com says.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
You can use an air fryer to cook any foods you’d normally fry, like chicken and French fries. But, as we mentioned earlier, air fryers are not just limited to fried foods. That being said, here’s a list of some of the many foods that can be cooked in an air fryer (sources: DrAxe.com and WebMD):
-whole chicken, small
-pastries and brownies
-homemade potato chips
-sweet potato fries
-For the healthiest food possible, avoid using highly refined oils like canola oil. Use coconut or avocado oil instead.
–Freeze foods that use liquid batter prior to cooking them in your air fryer.
-Air fryers are not ideal for making large quantities of food.
-Look for air fryer models that use BPA-free plastic.
Now that you know the ins and out of preparing food in an air fryer, the next question is, ‘how do those foods taste?’ According to WedMD, “it’s subjective.”
“When you fry food, the batter absorbs the oil you used to cook it. That gives fried foods their satisfying crunch on the outside while keeping the inside moist. Frying also gives foods a rich, dark color that is pleasing to the eye. You still get a crunch with air frying, but it doesn’t create the exact look or mouth feel as oil frying,” WebMD added.
Something else to keep in mind is cooking technique. Overcrowding the small slide-out basket can cause your food to cook unevenly, resulting in some spots that are crunchy and some that are soggy.
Are Air-Fried Foods Healthy?
The main reason people purchase air fryers is because they are touted as a healthier alternative to traditional cooking methods. But, do air fryers really live up to those claims? Yes and no. Let us explain. According to Women’s Health magazine, air-frying isn’t much healthier than other non-frying cooking methods. “It makes things like chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks a little better for you, but they are still breaded, making them less healthy than eating grilled chicken or good old fashioned cheese,” Natalie Rizzo, RD, told the magazine. Not only that, but because these foods are slightly healthier, you run the risk of overindulging in foods that aren’t that nutritious, like French fries, for example. That being said, Rizzo recommends not going overboard on the air frying and limiting it to once a week.
Here’s something else you may not have known: air-frying produces high temperatures at a very rapid rate, making it very easy to burn your food. And, burned food may be carcinogenic.
And, here’s another thing: in one study, air frying fish raised the amount of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs). COPs form when the cholesterol in meat or fish breaks down during cooking. COPs are linked to coronary heart disease, hardening of the arteries, cancer, and other diseases. Air frying also curbs omega-3 fatty acids in fish, the good fats that help lower blood pressure and raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
Okay, so now that we got through the downside of air fryers, let’s address the upside. Dietitian Ariana Cucuzza, RD, told Cleveland Clinic that most people reduce their calorie intake by 70 to 80 percent, on average, when using air fryers. Not only that, but preparing vegetables in an air fryer is a good way to get finicky kids to eat them.
Air fryers also reduce the formation of harmful compounds that form from deep frying, one of the most well-known harmful chemicals being acrylamide. According to the FDA, acrylamide has caused cancer in animals, and acrylamide accumulates more when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures. As a result, they recommend cooking foods like French fries and toast to a golden brown color rather than a dark brown color, as dark brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide.
Here’s another plus: air fryers can aid in weight loss. To achieve this, DrAxe.com recommends using air fryers to more quickly bake or roast healthy foods. “If you’re trying to lose weight and are challenged by the time aspect of cooking healthy meals for yourself, an air fryer can help you to make recipes like roasted veggies more easily and on a more regular basis,” the website said.
So, as you can see, air fryers can be healthy — they’re just not as healthy as most people make them out to be.
What are your thoughts on air fryers? Drop us a comment below.