Wellness & Education

Cooking with an air fryer

Every year or so a new fad hits the small appliance market. The air fryer is a recent must-have. Before buying one, however, ask yourself, “Is it a fad or a healthy-cooking appliance deserving of valuable real estate on your crowded kitchen counter?”

When answering this question, there are a few things to consider.

First, what is an air fryer? Briefly, an air fryer is a countertop version of a convection oven.

Since it is smaller, allowing the air to circulate faster and get hotter, an air fryer cooks more quickly than a large, floor model, convection oven. (A convection oven, of course, cooks food more quickly than a conventional oven.) If you can’t afford a floor model convection oven, you might want an air fryer for this reason alone.

As for health benefits, if deep fried foods are already part of your diet, air fried foods would probably be a big improvement over what you’re eating now. While not all air fryer recipes call for oil, even when they do, you will be eating much less of it. The flavor won’t be the exact same, of course. Each type of oil has its own distinct flavor. Adding less oil to a food is going to give less of the flavor of the oil itself. One way to combat this is to use oils that are intrinsically more flavorful, such as avocado, pumpkin seed or walnut oil, when using an air fryer.

If you never fry, and already use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, roasting or baking, air frying could actually increase the amount of oil you consume. If this is the case, you might be better off sticking with your current appliances and cooking methods. If you’re unsure, compare the ingredients in some air fryer recipes with the recipes you’re currently using.

Finally, an air fryer might contribute to a more balanced diet if you’re a vegetable-phobe who suddenly converts to the flavor and texture of air fried vegetables. Vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet and if you’re not eating them, eventually your health is going to suffer. Packing in vitamins and fiber pills just isn’t the same as eating whole foods. Before buying an air fryer as a gateway to more vegetables, however, find a way to try out a few samples to see if you like the air fryer effect.

As with any food appliance fad, some people are going to find that an air fryer fills a need they didn’t even know they had. For them the air fryer may be the next microwave oven (this is why so many Nutribullet type blenders are still in use). However, other people are going to find that, once again, a fad is just a fad. When it comes to air fryers, no one size answer fits all.