Air fryers are the latest kitchen fad–it feels like everyone’s getting them and loving the results. Especially over the past year, we’ve seen more and more air fryers in friends’ houses. But why exactly are air fryers so popular?
Air fryers are popular because they are affordable, don’t use as much oil as a traditional fryer, and heat food evenly and quickly. These appliances are much healthier than deep fryers and work more rapidly than a standard convection oven.
In this article, I will look at the reasons behind the new popularity of air fryers. I’ll discuss their pros and cons, why they have become so common, and whether or not the air fryer craze is a fad or here to stay. I’m also going to discuss how healthy air fryers are compared to regular ovens and deep fryers.
Air fryers are so popular now mostly due to the uptick in home cooking last year (caused by the pandemic) and increased awareness on the health benefits of cutting down on oils when frying foods.
These appliances have been around for over a decade now but are having their moment in the sun this year for these reasons. More people are buying them and using them, and those who own air fryers swear by them.
As I mentioned above, the first and probably biggest reason for the popularity is the pandemic. It led to more people cooking from home, and a knock-on effect was a rise in the purchase of more specialized appliances. As people bought more things and created food at home, the air fryer became more popular.
Last year, we missed fried food. However, many didn’t want the mess of oil and extra fat that a deep fryer needs. The oven doesn’t always make things as crispy as a restaurant, and not everyone has a broiler or convection oven feature. Roasting doesn’t add the same kind of crunch as frying does.
The second aspect of the recent popularity of air fryers is the increase in health awareness. Maybe it’s because we were stuck at home for a year, or perhaps it’s the increase of social media exercise coaches and dieticians, but Americans are thinking about what they eat more and trying to eat healthier.
The combination of craving fried food, living at home, and being healthier is the perfect recipe for a new appliance. We needed something to make the quarantine a little more doable. The best appliance to fill that role is the air fryer. It offers a healthier version of fried food at a fraction of the time and cost that a deep fryer would take.
The air fryer filled a need in our culinary lives last year. If you’re looking for a quick way to make crispy vegetables or prepare frozen food, an air fryer is a great choice. It heats up quickly, cooks the food evenly, and adds the same kind of crunch you find from deep-fried food items.
What Does an Air Fryer Do?
Air fryers work much the same way as convection ovens but preheat and cook the food more quickly. It uses heat and air to cook food evenly.
An air fryer has one or more trays to hold the food that’s cooking. It also has a pot for food. However, what makes the air fryer work is the lid. The lid of an air fryer has a powerful fan and a heating element to cook the food, not unlike an oven. Because it’s a smaller zone, it can heat the food more effectively.
They also heat the underside of the food, which is more challenging to do with a standard baking sheet. Ovens generally have a more extensive food capacity than air fryers, but air fryers won’t leak much heat into the kitchen and are much more portable.
When you put all the food you’re air frying on the tray in a single layer, the air beneath and around the pieces will be able to cook it evenly and quickly. The hot air causes the edges of the food to cook faster than the interior, which gives it the crispy, fried taste. An air fryer can do this with minimal oil because it uses a higher temperature.
Are Air Fryers Healthier than Regular Frying?
Air fryers are healthier than regular frying because they don’t use as much oil as a deep fryer does, but they give your food an equally satisfying taste.
Depending on the recipe, you’ll be able to toss your vegetables or meat in a tablespoon or two of oil. A deep fryer is a vat that needs to be full of oil to work. Oils are fat, so the more oil you use while cooking, the more will soak into your foods.
People who consistently have lower fat diets are much less likely to develop heart conditions, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Deep-fried foods are high in trans fats, which are the most dangerous.
An air fryer can bring the number of trans fats in your fried food down a great deal. If you’d need a cup of oil with a deep fryer but only a spoon or two in an air fryer, you could be looking at up to 90% reduction in trans fats. Using air fryers also help you avoid dangerous compounds formed during standard deep frying.
While an air fryer is a much healthier option than a deep fryer, it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for health. Many foods that work well in an air fryer are naturally higher in fat or sodium.
So, although an air fryer is much healthier than frying something in oil on the stove or in a deep fryer, it’s still necessary to keep track of what you’re eating.
Pros and Cons of Air Fryers
With any appliance, there are pros and cons. Some people swear by the air fryer as their number one dinner preparer, and others don’t see the appeal. How good an air fryer is depends directly on the needs of the person using it.
Here are some of the common praises and complaints about air fryers in general:
- Easy to use
- Healthier than deep-frying
- Cooks food evenly
- Provides a great crisp
- Quicker than a conventional oven
- Can make a wide variety of foods
- Great for pre-frozen foods or crisping vegetables
- Easy to clean
- It takes up a lot of counter space
- It doesn’t have a huge serving size (largest feeds 4-6)
- Can be expensive
- Louder than a convection oven
- Can’t fry foods with flour-based or wet batter
Should You Buy an Air Fryer?
As we’ve talked about, air fryers do much the same thing as convection ovens do. However, they’re easier to use and clean, and don’t make the house as hot as a range will. They’re also quicker and were created to give the food a perfectly cooked crunch.
If you have a convection oven and are happy using that to crisp food, you might not need an air fryer. If you have a deep fryer and don’t care about the amount of fat in the oil, you can pass on the air fryer as well. Smaller kitchens with less counter space also wouldn’t benefit from an air fryer either.
You should buy an air fryer if you want an easy way to crisp more vegetables and cook your frozen food without using the oven. Air fryers are also ideal for those wanting to cut back on fat and oil.
People who want to have a convenient way to cook at home, have a little bit of disposable income and a lot of extra counter space usually love air fryers.
Are Air Fryers a Fad?
Air fryers are not a fad right now, as there are many legitimate reasons for their popularity. However, it’s unclear how long the popularity will last.
As everything opens back up, people won’t need to cook at home nearly as much. The air fryer could be relegated to the back of the cupboard. However, the convenience of the appliance might keep it around.
The air fryer frenzy may die out as more people move on to different cooking methods or eating out more. I suspect that air fryers will become more mainstream but lose the faddish appeal they currently enjoy.
Air fryers will continue to be popular as a healthier option than deep fryers, but that doesn’t mean that deep fryers will cease to exist. Anyone who wants an easy way to heat frozen food and crisp their vegetables will keep using their air fryer, but other people might go back to buying french fries and roasting veggies in the regular oven.
Air fryers are one of the most popular appliances this year and last. They give us a healthier and faster way to eat the fried foods we all desire. We don’t know whether they’ll stay on top of the appliance world as everyone starts to leave their home and eat out more, but we do know that air fryers filled a need in our quarantine lives.