By Nate Widom
This article has been reviewed by Jeannie Versagli, RD, LDN. Jeannie is a Registered Dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a national professional organization, and is licensed in nutrition with the State of Delaware.
The trend of air frying foods is all over the place! From blogs to TikTok videos, this modest appliance packs a punch in the cooking world as it claims to fry foods with a much lower number of calories and fat than deep fried foods.
Philips unveiled the air frier at the 2010 Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) in Berlin, one of the oldest industrial exhibitions in Germany. Since then, millions of the convection ovens have been sold. In 2020, market insight group NPD found that almost 40% of American homes have an air fryer!
So, what’s the deal with air fryers?
Air fryers work by circulating hot air around the desired food, creating a crispy and crunchy texture using minimal oil. In comparison, deep-fried food is prepared while totally submerged in oil.
Many brands claim different results, but Philips, who introduced the air fryer, claims their products can fry food with little or no oil, resulting in 90% less fat. In addition, they state their air fryer products also can grill, roast, bake, reheat, dehydrate, and toast.
Air fryers take slightly longer to cook food than deep fryers, so adding a couple of minutes to the cooking time when air-frying food is recommended. Although, when air fryers are compared to ovens, air fryers generally take half as much time to cook.
Does air-fried food taste like deep-fried food?
As it turns out, air frying does scientifically deliver many of the properties and delicious goodness that comes from our deep-fried favorites.
A 2015 University of Murcia study examined the differences between deep-fried and air-fried French fries. The fries from the air fryer had similar moisture content and coloration to their deep-friend counterparts while containing much less fat. However, the fries had differing textures.
Ultimately, an answer to this question is subjective. While it has been found that air frying produces many of the same characteristics as deep frying, it is truly up to your taste and texture preferences to determine whether they are comparable.
Do air fryers actually reduce fat significantly compared to deep fryers?
They sure do! A 2017 University of Porto study compared the nutrition between deep-fried and air-fried potatoes cooked using different vegetable oils.
The researchers found that, on average, the air-fried potatoes presented 70% less fat. Also, they concluded there are additional economic and ecological benefits due to the decreased use of oil.
Do air-fryers help those who are looking to diet?
The true answer to this question depends on what you compare air-fried foods to. Due to the similar results of the two cooking methods, air-fried foods are mostly compared to deep-fried foods. In this comparison, the health benefits are clear. As previously stated, air-fried foods have much less fat. In fact, Dietitian Ariana Cucuzza told Cleveland Clinic that using air fryers can lead to most people reducing their calorie intake by 70 to 80 percent!
However, when comparing those results to roasted or grilled foods, air-fried options are not the smartest choice. Baking, grilling, and roasting foods are typically better for your health.
Rachael Hartley, registered dietitian and author of Gentle Nutrition, told Insider, “I tell my clients that air fryers aren’t necessarily healthier, it’s just an easy and low mess way to cook dishes that have the satisfying crispness of fried foods. Instead of thinking of them as a dieting tool, think of them as a tool for cooking simple and satisfying meals without a lot of fuss.”
Also, simply replacing deep-fried foods with air-fried foods would not guarantee a healthy diet. Balanced diets incorporating fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins are beneficial to health!
Though, if you enjoy the texture that air-fried foods offer and eat them in moderation, eating air-fried foods instead of deep-fried foods may improve your health.
Types of Air Fryers
According to CNET, cylindrical solo styles of air fryers are the most basic and can be purchased for as little as $30. With this design, the machine is generally small and contains a cylindrical base where food gets cooked in a basket.
However, if you prefer something with more features, many appliances combine air-frying capabilities with other cooking features. Obviously, these appliances are significantly more expensive. Since these appliances are also bigger, air frying foods also take longer than their more basic counterparts.
For example, air-frying toaster ovens look like typical toasters and have air frying capabilities and other cooking functions. Air fryers can also be combined with multicookers. For instance, you can now purchase a $90 Instant Pot Air Fryer lid which can clamp on top of an Instant Pot and air fry food underneath.
According to CNET, air-frying toaster ovens begin at $150, and multicookers generally cost between $175 and $250.