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Cooking innovation or full of hot air? Everything you need to know about air fryers

Chicken wings made in an air fryer.

There’s no denying that air fryers are everywhere right now. However I was starting to believe I was the only person in Scotland who didn’t have one.

Thankfully a quick Tweet confirmed I am not. But what it did confirm was that there are a lot of people out there who swear by their air fryers.

Having not buckled to the trend of having one (yet), I started thinking about if this product really was worth all the hype? Or was it just, shall we say, hot air?

Rising in popularity thanks to some of the best TV chefs in the UK using them on morning cooking shows, to their fame skyrocketing on TikTok with a range of recipes being shared, it seems air fryers are here to stay.

On TikTok alone there are 665.5M views on the #airfryerrecipes and 80.4M views on #airfryerrecipe. There’s also an account called Air Fryer Guy which boasts 1.3 million followers.

@airfryerguy

Counting down the last 10 days of the year with my 10 favourite Tiktoks #airfryerguy #airfryerguysong

♬ original sound – Air Fryer Guy

When I was growing up we had a deep fat fryer, and my first impression of an air fryer is that it is the same thing, minus the gallons of oil that you’d have to heat up to fry foods added to it.

What is an air fryer?

This small countertop convection oven is a modern and slightly different take on a deep fat fryer.

It is designed to deep fry food without it being submerged in oil. By just adding a small amount of oil (a few teaspoons, and in some cases no oil at all), hot air is circulated in the air fryer by a small fan at high speed which results in a crisp layer forming, and the food browning.

This method is deemed healthier than deep frying. One study shows that air frying reduced the acrylamide content in fried potatoes by about 90% compared with conventional deep-oil-frying.

Close up of an air fryer oven on a kitchen countertop.

Some air fryers also have different benefits like stirring paddles which automatically move the food as it cooks, rotating baskets that tilt to ensure an even cook, and temperature controls – you can typically choose anything from 80°C to 200°C and some have digital or manual timers.

The air fryer can be used to bake, grill, roast, broil, and even oven fry.

What can I make in it?

There’s a lot of things you can make in them, but some of the most popular dishes tend to be roast potatoes, chips, chicken wings, bacon, vegetables, fish, meat – the list really is endless.

And with thousands of recipes on numerous websites and social media platforms, there’s always someone trying something new in them.

Even desserts seem to be popular.

What can’t I make in it?

Air fryers are great for making plenty of different meals, but some foods, especially those that need to be submerged in liquid, like rice and pasta, shouldn’t be cooked in the appliance.

These items need to be boiled in water and the fryer doesn’t allow for that.

Cheese is also one product to be cautious with when melting.

And don’t overfill it. The hot air needs room to circulate and cook the food. If it is too full it won’t cook properly.

You also won’t be able to batch cook in it due to its smaller size.

How much are they?

One of the cheapest air fryers I have found is Aldi’s version at £39.99.

However, most of the best ones (as rated on other sites) tend to be £100 plus. A quick Google search found one at £329 from John Lewis, which is at the steeper end of most budgets, but it really depends on what you want to use it for, how frequently you plan on using it, and what size you want as it will take up space on your countertops.

Don’t forget, they also use quite a bit of electricity, too, so it is worth keeping that in mind when you are using them.

According to Tech Radar, air fryers require constant energy use, whereas ovens don’t. Air fryers aren’t more efficient if used over long stretches of time, however, it really depends on how often and how long you are using them.

What’s our verdict?

I asked my colleagues Karla Sinclair and Mariam Okhai, who both have air fryers to give me the 4-1-1 on their experience.

Karla purchased one for her mum’s birthday last July after seeing the appliance go viral on social media.

Karla Sinclair.

She said: “My family and I didn’t quite know what we were in for when our Philips Premium Air Fryer arrived in the post last summer.

“Would it live up to the hype? Would it be used that often? Are there much air fryer recipes on the go?

“The answer to all of the above is yes, absolutely.

“Not only is our air fryer easy to use, but the options of what to cook and bake inside it are endless – particular favourites of mine have to be coconut prawns and chicken fajitas, as well as homemade chips and roast potatoes, of course. We’ve also felt that little bit healthier, too, since it’s helped us cut down on deep-fried food.

“It’s safe to say we were, and continue to be, over the moon with the investment. The air fryer is now a staple item in our kitchen.”

Mariam on the other hand has had one in her family home for three years and just four months ago purchased a new one to replace the older one.

Mariam Okhai.

“I think my investment in the air fryer has been beneficial for both myself and my family,” she said.

“In many ways, it has made cooking at home a lot easier and has allowed us to make smaller quantities of hot food without turning on the oven every time.

“With air fryers nowadays having many options other than just air frying, including roasting, baking, dehydrating etc. it has been a really fun way of testing out new recipes.

“With the reduced cooking time you can have a fully prepared meal in under 20 minutes, and the ease of cleaning the air fryer makes it so convenient to use at lunch times or even after work.

“Overall I would say I am not a massive fan of trending products, but this one was definitely worth investing in.”

Do you love your air fryer? Have you come up with a sensational recipe for it? Let us know and we might even publish it!

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