Nutrition

You need an air fryer in your life. Here’s why

There's a reason everyone is raving about them.

The air fryer is having a moment. “I just love it,” you will hear your friend say. “It’s so easy after a long day at work.” But, doesn’t it just fry stuff? Oh no, there are many benefits of the air fryer.

“The air fryer is far more than a single-use appliance for making crunchy, crispy chips,” says Women’s Weekly’s food director, Fran Abdallaoui. “It helps to think past the name, which is a bit of a misnomer. The appliance is not a deep fryer at all and actually offers many benefits that an oven does.”

How does an air fryer work?

“This amped-up bench-top convection oven works by pushing hot air around food,” says Fran. “The rapid circulation of air in the confined space helps to make food crisp, just like deep-frying but with much less oil. For example, air-fried hot chips contain 4–6g fat versus 17g for the deep-fried equivalent.” 

What are the different types of air fryers?

There are two main types of air fryers.

Basket air fryers: “These compact versions range in capacity from 3–4 litres to 6–7 litres,” says Fran. “With this style, the base of the handled basket is perforated and slightly elevated from the base of the pan, which collects oil drippings and cooking juices. While they are nifty, they do not allow for large volumes of food and you will not be able to cook an entire family meal in them.”

Over air fryers: “These larger versions of air fryers (11 litres) open like an oven with a door. They offer the convenience of a compact oven with the benefits of an air fryer. These appliances come equipped with two or three wire racks for shelves, which allow for a variety of foods to be cooked at the same time. The clear oven door allows you to see how your recipe is progressing without the need to open it, keeping the temperature stable inside.”

What are the benefits of having an air fryer

There are many benefits of using air fryers, from low-fat cooking to warming leftover food.

Healthier way of cooking – they use minimal oil

“The air fryer is renowned for replicating the crisp texture of deep-fried foods using a fraction of the oil,” says Fran.

“Aim for 1–2 tablespoons. No additional oil is required for naturally fattier foods like sausages or meatballs. For battered, floured and crumbed recipes, spray the basket and the food lightly with cooking spray, as some oil is required to assist with browning and taste.

“Extra virgin olive oil offers the best health benefits; however, its taste may not be to your palate or suit the flavour profile of the recipe. You can also use more neutral types of oil, such as canola, grape-seed or rice bran oil.”

Versatility – they can deep-fry, bake and roast

One of the best benefits of air fryer cooking is its versatility.

“It’s not just a question of popping food into the air fryer instead of into hot oil in a pan,” explains Fran. “The cooking method needs to be adapted to create a comparable result. To convert a deep-fried, baking or roasting recipe to the air fryer, reduce the cooking temperature by 20°C.”

Five of the best foods to cook in an air fryer include: roast veggies, crisp chickpeas, crumbed foods, pizza and calzones, and meatballs and sausages. Five foods to never cook in an air fryer include: battered fish, popcorn, raw grains, soft leafy greens, and delicate cakes. 

Great for heating up leftovers

“Use the air fryer to return pizza, crumbed items and pastry to their former crisp glory,” Fran says. “Five minutes at 180°C is all that’s needed to reheat a slice of pizza. Stale bread can be refreshed in minutes. The air fryer can even replace your toaster for toasting bread!”

Easy to clean

“Unplug the air fryer and wait for it to cool. Don’t use any abrasive cleaners or sponges to clean your air fryer, as you will damage the non-stick coating. Hot soapy water should do the trick. Follow the cleaning instructions as advised by the manufacturer.”

A tip from Fran  to make cleaning easier? Before cooking, line the pan under the basket with baking paper or foil to catch any oil drippings.

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