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Air Fryer Buying Guide

A thorough guide covering how an air fryer works and what to look for when deciding on the best air fryer to buy.

Getting Started - What is an Air Fryer?

Air fryers are one of the hottest new appliances finding their way into homes around the country. Offering a healthy alternative to deep frying, air fryers let you enjoy the satisfying crunch of some of your favorite foods without the fatty oils. Additionally, air fryers offer quick cooking and cleaning times, making them significantly more convenient than standard deep fryers.

How an Air Fryer Works

Like convection ovens, air fryers circulate hot air around your food to produce crispy brown edges, while cooking the food thoroughly through its center. The deliciously browned exterior helps seal in flavor and prevents the interior from drying out. Although most don't require oil, using a small amount can encourage extra browning, bringing your results a step closer to those of a traditional deep fryer with only a fraction of the fatty calories. If you're a fan of fried foods but try to lead a healthy lifestyle, you'll love how an air fryer works wonderfully to recreate your favorite treats without the guilt.

Features

Now that you're comfortable with how an air fryer works, let's consider what distinguishes the best air fryer to buy from the worst. And, because "best" is a relative term, learning about the various differences between fryers is the most surefire way to determine which one best fits your needs.

Size

A quick way to narrow down your options is to figure out how much food you'll want to cook when using your new air fryer. As a general rule of thumb you should plan on one quart of capacity for each person you hope to feed. The majority of models offer capacities ranging from 3 to 8 quarts, producing plenty of food for most family meals. While it's obvious that larger fryers can cook more at once, it's easy to gloss over their ability to cook larger single items. Fryers with capacities in excess of 5 or 6 quarts can accommodate a full chicken or even a turkey, depending on the size of the bird, offering perhaps the simplest way to prepare them. Many large fryers also come with multiple baskets, allowing you to cook multiple foods simultaneously. When deciding which size is right for you, it's also important to remember that overfilling your fryer provides inconsistent results. If your food is bunched too close together, the circulating hot air responsible for air fryers' efficiency is unable to effectively envelop all of the food. So, while there are many reasons to opt for a larger fryer, just be sure you'll have room to store it when not in use. The difference in size between large and small capacity fryers is often only a few inches, just make sure those few inches aren't the difference between fitting in your cabinet or not.

Wattage

Even though the overall cost of operating an air fryer is low, they do require a substantial amount of energy when in use. Short cook times are the key to air fryers' efficiency. Given their high energy requirements, it's important to make sure that the fryer won't overload the circuit with which you plan to power it.
Each outlet in your home is part of a circuit that likely includes several outlets. If you've ever tripped the breaker and noticed multiple electronics lose power at once, it was because they were all part of the same circuit. The circuits in most homes offer either 15 or 20 amps, providing 1800 or 2400 watts, respectively, to standard 120V outlets. Air fryers often require 1400 watts or more to operate. So, if you have any other power-hungry devices, such as a microwave, on the same circuit, operating both at the same time could very likely trip your breaker. Knowing how much power you have to work with makes it much easier to figure out the best air fryer to buy for your home.

Options - Temperature, Presets, and Multi-Cookers

While all air fryers will cook up healthy, delicious treats, a number of them offer convenient features that expand their cooking capabilities. One such feature to pay attention to is the temperature range the fryer can achieve. Fryers requiring lower wattages often top out at 350 °F, while higher wattage models typically reach 400 °F. Recipes often suggest turning up the heat for the final few minutes of frying, as the higher temperatures offer extra crispy results. And, because air fryers can often be used to bake, grill and roast, choosing one capable of high heat can greatly increase the number of dishes you can make with it.
To get even more out of your air fryer, consider a multi-cooker. Combining the functionality of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, air fryer, and more, multi-cookers let you prepare an incredible array of dishes in a single convenient package. Many of these versatile machines will steam veggies, cook rice, or even make yogurt. With all of these options, the best air fryer to buy for your home might very well be a multi-cooker. Check out our Multi-Cooker Buying Guide for more information about these versatile appliances.
Preset cooking programs are another incredibly useful feature offered by some air fryers. Simply load your food into the machine, select the corresponding program and let the fryer take care of the rest. Although most digital and even some analog fryers include a built-in timer to keep track of your food, the preset programs take the guesswork out of cooking, making the process as simple as possible.

In Summary

If you came here wondering "What is an air fryer?" by now you should be able to answer that it's essentially a small convection oven, circulating hot air to cook your food quickly and evenly. Most offer between 3 and 8 quarts of cooking space, room enough for a whole chicken or turkey in the larger models. However, these large models, and even the smaller ones, require a lot of energy for short lengths of time and it's important to make sure you have the power to spare so that you don't blow a fuse or trip your breaker. In addition to their generous capacities, larger models often reach higher temperatures, helping achieve extra crispy results. Lastly, to get the most out of your air fryer, consider a multi-cooker to enjoy the benefits of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and more in a single space-saving design.
If you still have questions about fryers or anything else, please reach out to us so we can help you figure out if or how an air fryer works for you.

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    February 23, 2021
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