Do You Need an Air Fryer? How to Decide if it is Worth The Money to Have One

 

air fryer to buyOne of the hottest kitchen gadgets right now is the air fryer.

Fighting for contention with the Instant Pot, the air fryer is incredibly versatile, and a powerful tool which can help bring new treats into a person’s diet, without the heavy fat and oil traditionally found in fried foods.

But how do you know if an air fryer is the right appliance for you?

When selecting an air fryer, it’s important to consider a few factors before making your final investment. If properly cared for, these machines can last for years.

Take a look at our ultimate air fryer guide, to see if the air fryer deserves a spot on your kitchen counter.

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So, what is an air fryer?

Air fryers are countertop appliances which use convection (hot air, swirling and circulating around your food) to cook, reaching incredibly hot temperatures, and achieving peak crispiness similar to frying your food in oil.

There are many varieties of air fryers with different configurations, ranging in size, internal capacity, programming options, and countless other options which can make an air fryer a versatile and invaluable tool in your kitchen.

Download The Air Fryer Buying Checklist
To help you decide if an air fryer should be your next appliance purchase, and if so, which one. Get The checklist…

But do I need an air fryer? Is this just another fad?

Well, that depends on you, your needs, and the kinds of foods you are looking to prepare! Every person and tastes are unique, but the air fryer comes with an incredible amount of flexibility that can suit any number of lifestyles.

Do you have any particular dietary needs?

One of the great benefits to air frying items is that you can really customize so much of the cooking process, the oils, the temperature, even the variety of foods you make.

The purchase of an air fryer doesn’t necessarily mean that you will suddenly be eating unhealthy foods, it is simply another tool that can expand your kitchen’s functionality.

The flexibility of air fryers are what help them move forward beyond simply a fad. With countless options as to the kinds of food one can cook as well as the method, it doesn’t appear that the popularity of air frying will fade any time soon.

Pros and cons of an air fryer

Pros:

  Energy efficient, especially in comparison to an oven

  Cooks quickly, using hot air circulation

  Convenient, cooking on your countertop, or anywhere with an outlet

  Safe and easy to use, not requiring vats of boiling oil

  Does not heat up the house, as heat is contained in the machine

  Cooks with little to no oil

  Crisps up foods quickly

  Can heat a wide variety of foods with different attachments

Cons:  

  Can be noisy

  Some models are larger than others, which can be difficult to stow, or take up space on a countertop.

  Limited cooking capacity, in comparison to an oven

  Early learning curve when adjusting to cooking with convection

  Some baskets or internal mechanisms can be difficult to clean

What can I cook in an air fryer?

The better answer to this question might be, “what can’t you cook in an air fryer?”

Most items which can be cooked in a conventional way, like meats, vegetables, even desserts are good candidates for an air fryer, depending on the model you have, and desired result.

Air fryers have the ability to use heat to functionally fry foods (obviously), grill, depending on your setup, bake items like muffins and even bread!

The air fryer’s high heat can be used to roast foods and function in place of an oven, in some circumstances. From pizzas to appetizers and roasting vegetables, there are countless ways you can use this handy device; don’t let the “fryer” name make you think that everything you enjoy must be fatty and heavily breaded.

Many have found the air fryer to be especially practical when cooking with fresh produce; it’s an easy way to roast garlic without heating up an entire oven, and there are countless recipes which exist to provide an easy alternative to some old favorites, like healthy fried green tomatoes.

If it can be baked or fried, it can generally be cooked in an air fryer.

Air Fryer vs Deep Fryer

Deep frying foods requires large amounts of bubbling, hot oil. Often this oil has to be at a precise temperature, and depending on the item, can only cook small amounts of food before it needs to be changed.

You’re then left with a large amount of oil to discard or attempt to re-use, and that is it’s own challenge.

Deep fried food is typically battered in some kind of flaky coating and eggs, then dropped into large amounts of oil, much of which is absorbed by the breading or coating, as well as the food.

Deep frying food can be incredibly dangerous, as there are large amounts of incredibly hot oil, which can be challenging to dispose of, and expensive to use.

It is also generally recommended that one does not eat deep fried foods on a regular basis, due to the high fat content. The air fryer allows you to cook food in a similar way, without the oil, the time, the energy, and the maintenance.

Hot air does not function identically to hot oil, but a similar crispiness can be achieved, which is often what many are looking for when deep frying. Most air fryers have dishwasher safe internal components, and there are countless accessories and tips which can help make cleanup a breeze.

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What types of air fryers exist?

Most air fryers generally have the same components: a display panel or buttons for cooking and temperature control, and an internal drawer, tray, or shelves which support your food allowing for optimal air flow and heat.

There are different types of containers and baskets, and you should consider which is right for you, according to your needs. This could range from desired meals, like cooking large pieces of meat, as well as the number of people in your family.

Look for an appropriate size, and shop through the different features from there.

Baseline models offer simple controls, and there are even air fryers which are app enabled!

Download The Air Fryer Buying Checklist
To help you decide if an air fryer should be your next appliance purchase, and if so, which one. Get The checklist…

How to find the right air fryer for you

With so many brands out there, it can be hard to choose. There are some important factors to consider, as you are discovering which model will suit you and your family in the long run.

Ask yourself:

  Why you want an air fryer, and if you own other appliances that are similar.

  How you will use it in your current, day to day life.

  How often will you use an air fryer; will this be a product for daily use, or every once in a while?

  How many people will you be cooking for. Are you preparing meals or snacks for yourself or for others, as well?

  What is your biggest priority? Size, space, function or price? Some combination of the four?

  What else is important to you? Perhaps the warranty or brand reputation, maybe your focus is on a quiet machine, or one that fits your kitchen aesthetic.

What size air fryer should I buy?

Different air fryers have varying capacities, and it’s wise to consider the number of people you will be cooking for, and the kinds of food you already make, as well as anticipate making.

If you’re looking to prepare a bunch of appetizers and smaller finger foods, perhaps a model with shelves would be better than one which has a drawer and smaller capacity.

As a general rule of thumb:

2 qt = 1-2 people
3-4 qt = 2-4 people
5-8+ qt = larger groups

It cannot be stated enough that your own needs will vary. Think about the foods you are already making, and see if there is an option to cook that item in an air fryer; if so, you might be a smaller family looking to purchase a larger unit, for ease of use, and the ability to cook according to your needs.

What are some of the key differences I should know about?

Like some of the other popular food gadgets you’ve been hearing about, the differences will vary by model, but it is most important that you select a model according to your needs.

There are some with a programmable touch screen, and others are a bit more simple, designed to work with a few buttons and switches.

If you are unsure about what you should buy, consider a simple, smaller model like this one, before purchasing a larger unit.

Metal baskets with holes or perforations along the bottom can prevent your food from sticking, and can be easier to clean.

Some models offer a mesh bottomed basket, which can be a bit more challenging to use.

Some air fryers also have a fill line for best functionality; that fill line might be less than the advertised capacity, and it’s wise to do know what will work best.

This model by Cosori is a top rated product on Amazon, with nearly 3,000 reviews at 4.5 stars. It features a digital touchscreen, and a large, detachable square basket. It has a 5.8 qt capacity, which can be perfect for medium sized families, or those who plan on cooking a decent amount.

Is an Air Fryer Easy to use?

There can be a bit of a learning curve, but in general, yes. Most models preheat quickly, and can cook countless items.

  1. Place your food inside the air fryer when it is ready, and cook for the directed amount of time.
  2. If necessary, agitate or shake the food to ensure that air is circulating properly, and test for doneness, as with any other cooking method.
  3. Many prefer to use a spray bottle to spritz oil in.
  4. When your food is finished, turn the air fryer off, and clean your basket or rack when fully cooled.
  5. Follow each model and each recipe’s directions, and reach out to others online for tips and tricks to help each individual recipe shine.

Is food cooked in an air fryer healthy?

Cooking in an air fryer is not more inherently healthy than utilizing other cooking methods; it is all about what is inside.

If one were to do a direct comparison between an item that is deep fried and one that is air fried, there will generally be less fat in the dish cooked using the air fryer.

Convection heat technology helps crisp foods in ways that other methods cannot always achieve, using less oil and fat for flavor. In that sense, an air fryer can be used to cook food thoroughly with less fat and added ingredients.

To many, that could be considered “healthier.”

That being said, one could make decadent desserts, or any number of stuffed and cheese-smothered items in an air fryer that could rival a stand at a state fair.

It’s all in how you use it.

Does food cooked in an air fryer taste like the real thing?

It can!

You might not get the exact same, fat-drenched flavor that comes with traditional fried chicken, but you can come pretty close, with a lot less fat and excess oil!

Flavoring your food is just as important in an air fryer as it is with any other cooking method.

What accessories do I need with my air fryer?

Your air fryer might come with a selection of accessories, but there are still a few items to collect to ensure that your air fryer experience is top notch.

Some of the most recommended accessories are:

A spritzing bottle, used for adding oil to your food in an even coating. Some users have reported a preference for spritzing their own oil during the cooking process, as opposed to an aerosol spray which can contain additives.

Parchment paper and aluminum foil can both be used in air fryers to act as a liner or barrier to prevent your food from sticking to the internal trays or racks. Be sure to leave room around your food for air to circulate, otherwise you won’t reach your desired results.

There are precut, parchment paper liners available online, which can be incredibly useful and make cleanup a breeze.

Some models only offer a selection of accessories, but many have found additional racks to be a useful purchase, especially as you expand your air fryer recipe book. These racks can allow the device to function more like a convection oven, and cook items like fish, or meat.

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These racks can also provide a flat surface where you can rest baking trays and pans.

When searching for other accessories, let oven safety be your guide. If an item can be baked, then it can go in your air fryer, space and size permitting. This includes silicone items, as well as stoneware and metal.

Be mindful of any utensils you might use on the air fryer components, sticking with heat-safe and scratch resistant tools. These tongs are a must-have.

An air fryer grill pan, such as this model, can greatly increase your air fryer’s functionality, especially when cooking burgers or steaks.

A Pie Weight Chain, like this; perfect to keep your smaller items from flying around while you cook.

An air fryer cookbook, like this one, which features over 100 recipes, and nearly 1,000 glowing reviews. This cookbook has 250+ recipes for vegans, and this one has Keto and low-carb recipes!

An air fryer cooking times chart, with cooking directions by food easily displayed. This is a favorite.

Your air fryer’s accessory kit can be an invaluable addition to your kitchen, including different cooking tools, and pans that will fit perfectly inside. Be sure to measure your internal capacity and know the model information of your specific air fryer, if shopping through different brands.

Is an air fryer a convection oven?

An air fryer is a type of convection oven, using the same technology that more traditional convection models have incorporated for years. The great benefit to an air fryer is the product design which helps emulate a crispy, fried texture, as opposed to something more akin to an oven.

Air circulation is vital to this process, ensuring consistent, direct heat surrounding whatever you are trying to cook.

Some newer convection oven models boast the ability to air fry, though these appliances are generally fairly large and not typically designed for countertop usability.

In general, air fryers can cook food like a convection oven, while convection ovens do not always have the ability to get foods as crispy as an air fryer can.

I already have a toaster oven. Do I need an air fryer, too?

Toaster ovens work similarly to traditional ovens, providing a constant heat source to cook your food. Air fryers utilize convection cooking technology to cook your food at a high heat, circulating hot air to give you extra crispy results.

If you are looking to replace deep frying, or even simply looking for fast and healthy ways to cook your food, an air fryer might be a good option for you.

What about cleanup? How messy are air fryers?

One of the great benefits of air fryers is the ability to cook food to a crisp without excessive oil and fat. Some of the ways to make cleanup a breeze is to utilize liners or other materials to assist in cleanup, and prevent food from sticking to the machine.

Some prefer to utilize aluminum foil to line baskets or containers, while others have found great use in these parchment paper liners which have pre-cut holes, allowing for the circulation of hot air, reaching all sides of your food.

This is perhaps the most important tip when it comes to utilizing your air fryer to the best of its ability: there must be room for hot air to circulate and cook your food properly!

The internal components typically consist of an internal rack made of metal, similar to what you might find in a toaster oven. Many of the popular, pod-shaped models come with baskets, shaped similarly to a deep fryer machine.

Some of these baskets are made with metal, and others made of a thinner, wire mesh. General opinion has the metal basket preferred, as it is easier to clean, and many parchment paper cutouts fit well.

Even though they are called “air” fryers, some fat is still used, generally on the food. Many prefer cooking sprays or spritzes of oil, which help foods roast or cook to a crisp when the device is turned on.

Oil is not always required, but like any other cuisine, greatly beneficial to the final texture and flavor of the dish.

In regards to overall cleanup, it’s recommended to periodically clear out any crumbs, ensure that the fryer basket is clean, and to gently wipe down the machine with a clean damp cloth, to clean away any residue which may have accumulated over time.

I have a small family, or am mostly eating alone. Is an air fryer right for me?

The air fryer is generally known to be an excellent tool for smaller amounts of food, such as for a couple, or one person who may cook mostly for themselves.

The purchase of a smaller air fryer like this model would be a great capacity to begin with. At 3.7 qts, it is small enough to fit on a countertop, while large enough to make food for a couple, or when friends come over for dinner.

I have a large family- will the air fryer make enough food for us?

Well, it depends on your definition of a large family. Among the largest air fryers available online is this model, which as a 12.7 qt capacity, and can cook a full chicken rotisserie style.

Once your chicken has completed cooking, allow the meat to rest and add a tray of veggies to your air fryer, cooking them in minutes and leaving you with a nice dinner in half the time it might take you otherwise.

This could easily feed a family, but as with everything, your own preferences, tastes, and items cooked will vary.

My family has some dietary restrictions. Is the air fryer a worthy investment?

Absolutely! There are so many benefits to the air fryer for those with a variety of dietary needs.

Vegetarians, vegans, and those on Keto, Paleo and low carb diets can benefit greatly from a versatile tool which brings high heat cooking to their countertop.

Crisp or roast vegetables, cook meats or crisp up meat alternatives. The high, circulating heat can be beneficial when cooking delicate items like cauliflower crust pizzas.

The flexibility of the air fryer can make this not only a worthy investment, but an invaluable one.

I’m mostly looking to make snacks or french fries in my air fryer. Should I stick with an oven?

Snacks and smaller items are actually one of the areas where air fryers can truly shine!

Ovens are good at roasting foods and heating them thoroughly, but they can take time to pre-heat, can warm up the kitchen and home, and do not generally circulate heat in the an effective way.

Ovens generally cook with a radiant heat source, meaning that the food is heated through, but the heat source comes from a set direction, instead of using hot air.

Air fryers can be more energy efficient that heating up an oven to cook a small amount of food, and you can achieve particularly desirable results with small batches at a time, due to maximum circulation.

Is the air fryer an every day appliance?

It truly can be!

Your air fryer is versatile enough to replace an oven in many cases, and certain accessories can help your air fryer replace a toaster, toaster oven, and even a microwave. It’s all in your desired usage, and how you typically cook your food.

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A great way to begin is to look up recipes that utilize an air fryer, to see if this appliance is a good fit for your kitchen.

Can I use my air fryer to reheat leftover food?

Many have found success using the shelf-type air fryer models to reheat leftovers, and to restore a crispiness to foods which have gone soggy or soft. This is obviously not a perfect fix, (it’s not a time machine!) but the air fryer’s convection heating technology can go a long way towards crisping things up when the time comes.

Instead of heating your food up in the microwave, the air fryer can deliver a similar effect to popping food in the oven, in a fraction of the time.

If your model is the pod style, a rack might be a useful addition to reheat food, especially breaded items like sandwiches or pizza.

Do air fryers have a strong smell?

The devices themselves do not give off a strong odor; in the same way that cooking food using any other method is fragrant, so is cooking your meals or snacks in an air fryer. Be aware of the oils you are using and their smoke point, as most air fryers can reach over 400 degrees.

The fryers themselves can potentially smell like food which has been cooked, but cleaning all components and wiping down the inside can help alleviate any unwanted or lingering odors.

Are air fryers safe?

Air fryers use the same technology as convection ovens, which are a favorite to many. They are no less safe than other cooking methods, and even have the added benefit of avoiding large amounts of hot oil to achieve a crispy texture.

Many have found air fryers to be more safe, as they are countertop appliances with internal cooking mechanisms, as opposed to large open containers. Those in small spaces like apartments and RVs might even prefer to use an air fryer, over other cooking methods like an oven, which can bring a lot of high heat into a tiny space.

I’m a first time user. Any air fryer tips?

Everyone’s experiences will vary, but the internet is a wealth of tips for how to best utilize your air fryer.

– Consider spritzing oil from a spray bottle, not an aerosol can.

Many have found that canned aerosol cooking sprays contain additives, and are more beneficial when it comes to functioning as a nonstick aid, as opposed to an ingredient or cooking tool. Most have a small spray bottle that they keep near their air fryer and apply when necessary.

– Preheat!

As with traditional ovens, your air fryer benefits from being preheated, in order to achieve your desired temperature. Taking the extra few minutes to get this right can ensure that your food cooks as expected.

– Don’t overcrowd your food.

It is better to cook in small batches, than to attempt to make everything crispy at once. Convection cooking requires air circulation to work properly, so make sure that your items have room to be heated on all sides.

– Consider a rack!

Cooking your food over a rack as opposed to a basket can make a huge difference, especially when frying larger items. Some models come with this accessory included, while others do not. If you were to make the investment and purchase one accessory, this would be our pick.

How do I season food for an air fryer?

There are no limits to how food can be seasoned when cooked using an air fryer…

… In fact, the sky is the limit!

Given that items do not need to be submerged in boiling hot oil in order to achieve crispiness, one could even incorporate more delicate seasonings and flavors that would otherwise be masked.

Herbs, spices, and marinades can all work together to season your food, and parchment paper liners can assist with cleanup, too!

What about the Ninja Foodi? Can it really replace an air fryer and an Instant Pot?

The Ninja Foodi is an all in one tool, at a high price. Combining the pressure cooking power of an instant pot, with the convection cooking technology of an air fryer, the Ninja definitely has some bells and whistles that make it desirable.

This might not be the tool for everyone, however. If you already own an electric pressure cooker, the Ninja could be overkill, depending on what your needs may be.

If you’re looking for an air fryer alone, it’s worth spending the time to invest in a model that can function as you expect and need it to, without trying to complete 15 other tasks along the way.

Best selling air fryers, and our recommendations!

1. GoWISE USA 1700-Watt 5.8-QT 8-in-1 Digital Air Fryer

This model is great for 1-4 people, due to it’s compact size and variety of colors. The perforated metal basket makes for an easy cleanup, and there are a wide variety of available accessories.

 

 

 

 

 


2. Philips TurboStar Technology Airfryer, Digital Interface, 1.8lb/2.75qt- HD9641/96

philips turbostar air fryerThis sleek appliance from Phillips is perfect for couples or individuals, and has a clear, easy to read, digital display.

 

 

 

 

 


3. Ninja Air Fryer, 1550-Watt Programmable Base for Air Frying, Roasting, Reheating & Dehydrating with 4-Quart Ceramic Coated Basket

ninja air fryerThis model from Ninja is a favorite, and has an easy to clean ceramic basket. Perfect for small families, it can fit two pounds of French fries!

 

 

 

 


4. BELLA 14538 2.6 Quart Air Convection Fryer

bella convection air fryerThe Bella is perfect for someone cooking alone, or a couple. It’s streamlined and simple, with basic, on and off functionality, including a temperature dial and a timer. At under $50 dollars, this is a great introductory model for anyone looking to try out an air fryer before making a bigger investment.

 

 

 


5. COSORI Air Fryer, Max XL 5.8-Quart, 1700-Watt Electric Hot Air Fryer Oven Oilless Cooker With Deluxe Temperature Knob Control, Nonstick Basket, 2-Year Warranty,Recipe Cookbook

COSORI Air Fryer,Max XL 5.8 QuartThe Cosori is a perfect model for larger families, given it’s 5.8 qt capacity and capabilities, like settings for baking and cooking different types of foods.

 

 

 

 

 


Okay, what’s next?

Hopefully you’ve been able to learn a bit about how air fryers work, and how they might fit into your lifestyle. From crisping up fries to roasting vegetables, the air fryer is a countertop tool that bring delicious food to you, without deep frying or sacrificing flavor.

As with any purchase, take into consideration a number of factors, from your family size to diet, and explore from there.

We hope this guide has given you a little more direction, and made that decision a little easier.

If you are looking to purchase an air fryer, what are you looking to cook with it? If you’re not fully sold, what are the remaining questions you might have? Let us know in the comments!

Download The Air Fryer Buying Checklist
To help you decide if an air fryer should be your next appliance purchase, and if so, which one. Get The checklist…

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