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Air Fryer Buying Guide

A thorough guide covering how air fryers work and what to look for when deciding on the best air fryer to buy.
Air Fryer Buying Guide
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Air Fryer Buying Guide
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Are Healthy Air Fryers Worth The Hype?

Following in the footsteps of other extremely popular appliances like the Instant Pot and other multi-cookers, the air fryer is sweeping the world of countertop kitchen appliances. Toasters and coffee makers are being relegated to drawers and cabinets to make room for these quick and easy meal makers. And most of these cookers are earning that prized spot beside the microwave. These healthy alternatives to deep-frying let everyone enjoy that unbeatable crunch you could previously find only in a deep fryer.

How Does An Air Fryer Work?

Potato wedges go in, you press a button, and fries come out, right? Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Convection frying may be the most accurate way to describe the process. Instead of soaking foods in incredibly hot (and fatty) oil, your healthy fryer uses the same convection technology utilized in many popular ovens.
When you turn it on, a fan circulates high heat around your food, pushing out excess moisture and leaving you with meals that are both cooked all the way through and completely crisped.
But what if you already have a convection oven? To find out whether you would still benefit from keeping one of these in your kitchen, check out our article on Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven: What's the Difference?

How Healthy Are Air Fryers?

So how healthy are these fryers? The answer to that depends on what you put inside. While many recipes don't require you to use any oil at all while cooking, others suggest you add a bit to encourage proper browning and crisping. For most people, a teaspoon of sesame oil won't significantly impact their health, especially considering that the alternative is deep frying.
In truth, these cookers are as healthy as you make them. A basket of extra-salty and saucy wings are going to be tough on your health no matter what, while crispy shrimp and veggies will be a healthier choice. Make sure you've got everything you need to live a healthier lifestyle, from a fridge full of produce to a high-capacity air fryer.

What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?

We've established that these kitchen appliances will cook up anything you put inside—so what should you cook in there? An air fryer is great at cooking anything you want crisp, like chicken, fish, beef, veggies, fish, and even pastries. For something easy, start with frozen food like chicken tenders or frozen french fries. These brown quickly for a satisfying bite you won't be able to find in a microwave or oven.
For a healthier spin on the classic crispy side, try making your own out of other vegetables—think sweet potatoes, zucchini, or other squash. Go easy on the salt and oil here for a truly healthy snack that doesn't compromise on flavor.

What Can't You Cook in an Air Fryer?

While these cookers are multi-talented, they can’t cook everything. Here are a few things that should you should try and make elsewhere:
  • Anything with a wet batter (unless it's pre-cooked batter, like on a frozen chicken tender). Instead, coat your food in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs to give it that crunchy bite.
  • Bacon. While you can cook and crisp slabs of bacon here, the fan will end up spraying fat all throughout your machine. Instead, fry turkey bacon.
  • Raw rice. Instead, use cooked rice for a crispy meal or side with no need to pull out a sautee pan or wok.
  • Kale, lettuce, arugula and other leafy greens. These feather-light veggies have no weight to them and can actually end up spinning around inside your device thanks to that high-powered fan. Opt for weightier veggies instead.
  • Cake doughnuts are too dense to fry. Instead, try a biscuit-based doughnut (like in our recipe below).
  • Bread. Your crumbs will be blown around by the fan. Use a classic toaster oven for better results.

Best Air Fryer Recipes To Try

When you're ready to get creative, expand your horizons a bit with exciting recipes that will make you the star of the next potluck. Instead of your mother's egg salad recipe or a bowl of less-than-healthy loaded chili, make your heart-healthy dish the star of the show. Think crispy veggies, flavorful proteins, and even fluffy desserts. Your guests will never see these crunchy bites coming.
Try some of our favorite recipes below:

How To Clean An Air Fryer

Whether you're "grilling" up some wings for the big game or making a full steak-and-potatoes dinner, you're sure to make an amazing, crispy, flaky, crunchy meal out of whatever recipe you cook in your air fryer. That being said, your job isn't done once dinner is finished. It's important to clean your cooker often to keep it running smoothly. Instead of wondering how to clean it, spring into action with our tips:

Every Time You Use It:

Make sure to take some steps to clean your device every time you use it—just like you would with any cookware. It's a good idea to ensure that your unit is unplugged while cleaning. Wash parts like the frying basket, pan, and tray with regular dish soap and warm water. If you're hoping these parts can take a trip through the dishwasher instead, check your owner's manual.
To clean the inside of your appliance, apply dish soap to a wet cloth and clean the area to remove any excess oil. Make sure all parts are dry before storage and reassembly. Remember to never submerge your cooker, either—it will damage the electrical components inside.

The Occasional Deep Clean:

Even with a punctual cleaning schedule, grease and other residues can build up inside your cooker. Instead of letting buildup continue, wipe down exterior surfaces with a damp cloth as often as necessary, and take a look at the heating coil every once in a while. Residue and oil spatter can accumulate here, and the coil should be wiped down when the machine is unplugged, cool, and off.

Other Things To Consider

When choosing an air fryer, don't be fooled: they're not all the same. Features like size, wattage, preset buttons, and multi-cooking functions might make one cooker perfect for you—or the wrong choice altogether.
Cooking Capacity
In terms of size, you'll want about one quart of capacity for every person you want to feed as a general rule. If you're feeding a hungry family of four, then a four-quart size should be your minimum. Most models range from 3 to 8 quarts of cooking capacity, meaning that it shouldn't be too hard to find one to fit your needs. Keep in mind that your machine won't just be cooking small appetizers like zucchini fries (hopefully). A larger model over 5 or 6 quarts can cook complete meals: think whole chickens or even a small turkey.
Hoping to cook different foods at once? Look for a device with multiple baskets: that way, you can cook different dishes at the same time for an appetizer extravaganza. Do keep in mind that you should never overfill an air fryer—doing so can affect cook times, lead to undercooked food altogether, or even damage your machine. To avoid these issues, make sure you space out your food correctly (like you would on a baking sheet) to ensure that heat can circulate and combat inconsistencies.
Wattage
Just like microwaves, wattage matters when it comes to healthy frying. Most do require a significant amount of energy, since they promise short cook times and crunchy edges. Instead of buying the wrong machine, arm yourself with knowledge before falling in love with a cooker that could overload your circuit.
The basics: circuits in the average home offer either 15 or 20 amps, providing either 1800 or 2400 watts to standard 120V outlets respectively. Nearly all of these fryers require at least 1400 watts to function, too. That means it's a good idea not to plug them into the same circuit as your microwave—or at the very least, don't operate them at the same time. Otherwise, you'll end up tripping your breaker. If you know how much power you have available on your circuit, picking out the best device for you should be easy.
Temperature
While all air fryers will give you crisp food you can't wait to eat, there are key differences between one model and the next—and one of the most important features is its temperature range. Lower wattage models can climb to around 350°F, while higher ones can make it all the way up to 400°F. As a rule of thumb, the higher the temperature, the crispier your food. Plus, you can use your cooker to bake, grill, and roast in a higher-heat model.
Multi-Cookers
For an even more versatile appliance, look for a multi-cooker with air frying abilities. Fusing the capabilities of an air fryer, pressure cooker, slow cooker and more, the multi-cooker combines the functionality of nearly every trendy countertop appliance into one space-saving package. Many devices can cook rice, steam veggies, broil meats, dehydrate foods, and more.
Preset Functions
Preset programs come built-in to some cookers, allowing users to just add their food, press one button, and walk away. Nearly all fryers (analog and digital) include a sort of timer, but the preset functions take all the guesswork out of food prepping and cooking. Look for functions that would match your needs, too—if you're a vegan who never plans on cooking fish, beef, or chicken, maybe the device with functions dedicated just to those proteins isn't for you.

Are Air Fryers Worth It?

These cookers are the trendiest tool on the kitchen countertop, but not everything that's trendy is worth the change in your pocket. Before you reach out for one of these quick cookers, weigh all your options, and consider the demographic that these are designed for.
The air fryer is for anyone hoping for a health-conscious way to enjoy their favorite foods, and they're designed for folks who want to cook meals fast. If you're someone who falls into either of those categories, then one of these appliances is certainly worth it. Healthy snackers and folks who work all day will appreciate just how fast these cookers can turn out healthy and tasty foods. And with little maintenance, incredible versatility, and delicious recipes, these healthy fryers far outpace the classic deep fryer. Make this exciting cooker your new countertop go-to; instead of reaching for the microwave and a pre-made meal, get healthy with the fast-cooking air fryer. Check out devices from top brands like Ninja, Cuisinart, and DeLonghi.
If you still have questions about fryers or anything else, please call one of our small appliance experts at 800-860-3577 so we can help you pick out the right air fryer for you.

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