Small, sleek and easy to use, the countertop air fryer is at home in domestic kitchens as it is within professional kitchens. But how does the air fryer work? Is it really possible to fry food without oil? Can food be fried in a healthy way? And, what are the best air fryer recipes? Find out all the answers to these and more below.
How does the air fryer work?
You don't necessarily need to know how an air fryer works to be able to put a piece of crispy fried fish on the table, but if you're curious about understanding how you can make frying less calorific and without (or almost without) oil, it's useful to understand a little about how the air fryer operates.
Inside an air fryer, there's a basket, in which the food is placed. When the fryer is running, a vortex of hot air circulates around the basket, allowing the ingredients to become crunchy and take on the classic (and much loved) fried flavour.
So what's different about an air fryer to an oven or a microwave? An air fryer heats faster than a traditional oven and drier than the microwave. Therefore, fried food, even without oil, becomes very crunchy and tasty in a few minutes.
Lesley Stockton and Michael Sullivan walk us through how air fryers work and why they're becoming increasingly popular in the clip below:
Can you fry without oil with the air fryer?
The answer is yes. It all depends on the model of air fryer you buy, but it is generally possible to fry without oil or using very little. The result is a crisp and undoubtedly lighter fry.
Is air frying good for you?
Here comes the big question: is the air fryer really healthier or not? The great problem of fried food for which dieticians, nutritionists and cardiologists have fought at the forefront is linked to the temperature and type of oil used for frying.
A fat of animal origin, or a vegetable oil with a low smoke point, can pose a greater danger to our health, especially when frequency and quantity know no limits. Fried food is not bad per se, as long as it's eaten every now and then and always prepared with an adequate oil whose smoke point is never exceeded.
Discover 15 oils and their smoke points
So frying with an air fryer with little, or better, without oil, is not harmful. It works exactly like an oven but cooking times are drastically reduced. Think of it as a mini convection oven.
Best air fryers
There has been an explosion in the number of air fryers available on the market in recent years. You can take your pick based on budget, task or size, depending on your needs.
Take a closer look at some of the best air fryer in action in 2021 in the clip below:
Ninja air fryer
The Ninja branded air fryer makes an appearance on several online best air fryer lists, like the Strategist, being lauded for its versatility and general all-round utility. Food and Wine list the Ninja air fryer model Ninja Foodi 6.5-quart Pressure Cooker with TenderCrisp as the most versatile, where in other reviews it's called "a true multi-tasker, use this cooker to pressure cook a whole chicken, then use the air fryer function to brown and crisp the skin."
Recipes with the air fryer
There are many recipes that can be prepared with the air fryer, which adds extra crispiness to fish, meat and vegetables. However, it's impossible to make a complete recipe with sauces and dips (needless to explain why), but you can add these to the dish at the end.
The air fryer lends itself to building fun and interesting textures in a dish by combining the same ingredient but in different forms, such as a purée and (not) fried chips.
The video below highlights nine sweet and savoury air fryer recipes to get you started on your exploratory cooking, including fryer eggplant parmesan, air fryer chicken nuggets, air fryer pizza dogs, air fryer avocado fries, air fried butter cake, air fryer apple pies and air fryer Oreos.