Frying is a very traditional technique associated with popular cuisine, very present in the Mediterranean diet, although today it is somewhat abandoned due to its bad reputation. Although it is true that, poorly executed, it is not exactly the healthiest cooking method, it is difficult to resist the golden and crispy fried. A healthier and more comfortable alternative are air fryers, without oil.
These appliances promise results that are practically identical to traditional frying, but with the minimum fat and without all the hassles that it entails. With the rise of healthy and light and simple cooking, the current catalog of these fryers has multiplied with models for all tastes. In this guide we analyze what exactly they are, how they work and how to choose the one that best suits our needs.
What is an air fryer
This appliance, known internationally as air fryer, it’s a very recent invention that the German company Philips presented for the first time to the public at the technology fair Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) in Berlin, in 2010. The contraption made use of technology Rapid Air, patented in 2006 by Turbochef Technologies in the United States, originally for professional use.
Previously there were some other gadgets that they claimed to fry without fat -for example, with water-, especially in the US market, very focused on the world of telemarkets. The results left much to be desired, but the business possibilities were clear; there was a juicy potential market.
If we get meticulous, the name is nonsense, because to fry a food you have to submerge it in plenty of boiling oil or fat. But the objective of these machines is precisely to obtain the same results as in frying, reducing fat as much as possible necessary. For the consumer to understand that it is an alternative to the long-life fryer, it had to be presented as a by-product of it.
The operating system is actually very simple: it works almost like a tabletop oven. These “fryers” subject food to a very hot air circulating constant, thanks to an electric heat source and the action of a fan. The original Airfryer model heats food from above, with a ventilation system that acts from the top.
Indeed, they are devices that act like an electric convection oven, using high temperatures and concentrating that constant hot air around the food, enhancing its effects. In theory they cook much faster than an oven and reach the entire surface of the food more evenly. It is something like a very powerful oven grill combined with a fan efficient.
But no matter how hot the air is, it takes more to achieve that powerful and delicious Maillard reaction that real fried foods show off. To caramelize, brown and create a crunchy and tasty exterior, you have to resort yes or yes to a small amount of fat. That is why these appliances usually indicate the minimum recommended measure of oil to cook each food. The “without oil”, therefore, is relative.
Types of air fryers
Currently there are several differentiated models of air fryers on the market, which are fundamentally distinguished by design, size and multifunctionality.
Drawer or front bowl fryer with basket
It is the most widespread model, popularized by the first Philips Airfryer. With a flat-topped ovoid shape, these fryers have a removable tray in the front where a bucket or basket is deposited, also removable. They are usually completely opaque and have the control panel also on the front, being able to incorporate a digital screen.
The food is put in the basket, which in turn is placed in the drawer. This is inserted into the device, leaving completely hidden from view, and it only remains to program it depending on what is being cooked. When starting, without preheating, the upper electrical resistance reaches high temperatures and the fan creates a constant air circulation circuit, cooking the food.
Although its advertising appeal is still very focused on “healthy frying”, in reality with these devices baked can also be simulated, gratins or even cook sweet pastries and desserts.
Scoop Top Fryer
It is the alternative developed by Tefal, with its range Actifry. Flatter, the bucket in this case is accessed from the top, and also incorporates a automatic rotary shovel. The operation is the same, by circulation of hot air, but the most homogeneous results are provided since the machine removes the food by itself.
In addition, Tefal models have the upper cover totally or partially transparente, to better monitor the cooking process without having to open the appliance. The paddle can be inconvenient for especially delicate foods; some models do not allow to remove it but others include an additional basket for croquettes type preparations.
Multifunction deep fryer-oven
More recently they have appeared on the market more ambitious designs that clearly bet on multifunction, possibly focused on homes without a convection oven. With an appearance that is clearly reminiscent of a small tabletop oven, they are more square appliances, with a front opening with a transparent lid, and an interior divided into several levels where trays or racks are placed.
Very popular is the Lidl model, sold out very quickly in our country after being sold in its online store. They are household appliances that can add up to 10 functions, although all are based on the same technology of applying hot air in circulation. The idea is power replicate basic cooking techniques, from frying to grilling, grilling or dehydrating food. Some even have accessories for kabobs or cooking a whole chicken.
Are they worth it?
The first question we should ask ourselves before investing in any appliance or appliance is if it is really going to be useful to us. Am I going to use it? I need it? Kitchens are increasingly limited in space and you have to know how to choose well the dishes that are going to take place in it.
If we already have an oven that works well and we are not used to frying too much, it may not be the best investment of our life. On the contrary, if we do not have an oven, we have little time to cook or we would like to consume healthier fried foods and without the hassle of frying, it can be a good bet.
These devices, especially the multifunctional ones, can save us other gadgets such as the iron, the dehydrator or the microwave. In addition, since they almost always work with automatic programs -and include cookbooks, on paper or in virtual format-, they can be a saved for newbies or people who have no time to waste in the kitchen.
The busy families These fryers are often put to good use with children, since it is a very simple resource to prepare large quantities of “fried” potatoes, chicken wings, san jacobos, dumplings or croquettes, without the smells or risks of frying.
Of course, it must be borne in mind that a minimum of oil is always needed to achieve acceptable results, and that the fried ones that come out best are, precisely, the deep-frozen ones that are already pre-fried. And they are not exactly healthy foods, no matter how much we save the homemade frying.
A totally homemade Roman hake is healthier, fried at the right temperature with good clean extra virgin olive oil, than some pre-cooked fish sticks prepared in these devices. Remember that fried foods, by themselves, are not as unhealthy as we used to believe, if they are done well.
What to consider before buying an air fryer
Once we are clear about the purchase decision, we can shuffle the options based on various aspects, according to our needs.
- Budget. As always, there is a wide range of prices that we will have to play with depending on the budget we have. The most renowned brands are logically more expensive, although the models that add more functions also go up in price.
- Size and capacity. We will have to look closely at the measurements so that it fits in our kitchen and is not condemned to oblivion in a closet. It is also important to take into account the interior cooking capacity, depending on the volume of food that we need to handle. A family with children will need at least 4 liters, while a couple or someone single will have more than enough with 2 liters.
- Design. Personal taste comes into play here, depending on whether one design or another is more attractive or comfortable. It is interesting to assess the control system, if it includes a digital screen or if it allows you to see the interior while cooking. The automatic stirring paddle can make cooking easier, but it can also be a hassle when preparing more delicate foods. Fully opaque fryers require you to be more aware, to remove the bucket and manually stir the food.
- Comfort of use and cleaning. In line with the previous point, a drawer front design or one with a top opening may be more comfortable for us. The important thing is that it is easy to operate, that the control panel is friendly and simple, and that cleaning is easy and fast. We may also be interested in checking if you have dishwasher safe parts.
- Materials. Poor quality plastic provides little security and tends to break down more easily. It is preferable to bet on stainless steel and reinforced non-stick materials in the inner tank, as well as the grates and possible accessories.
- Power and efficiency. The higher the power, the more speed and effectiveness of cooking, although the expense also rises. Energy efficiency is another aspect to value, because if a fryer is powerful it will need less time to cook.
- Multifunctionality. Are we interested in functions beyond healthy frying? The more extras a device incorporates, the more the price rises, so it makes no sense to make the investment if we are not going to use them. If we already cook the chicken in the oven, we make stews in a crock-pot and we have a …