Air Fryers: the hottest small appliance on the market

Stephanie Smith, Food Safety

Air fryers are currently all the rage, and can be a healthier option for cooking fried food, as little or no oil is used during the cooking process. Air fryers use a heating element and fan to circulate very hot air around the food in the same manner that a convection oven cooks food. Foods come out of the air fryer with a crispy exterior while retaining moisture on the inside.

Air fryers can be used to cook a variety of foods, from french fries to baked goods. Technically, any food that can be cooked in a conventional oven can also be cooked in an air fryer. However, air fryers do have limited capacity, and this should be taken into consideration before purchasing one. Some considerations you may want to make before diving into air frying include:

How much money do you want to spend? Air fryers often range from $99 to $300, not counting add-ons, and additional equipment for baking, which can increase the cost.

How often will you use the appliance, and will you get your money’s worth?

How many people are you cooking for? Because of the limited capacity of the air fryer, it may take much longer to cook enough food for your family than if you used a conventional oven.

Air fryers may have other features and options which you may want to consider. Fryers that offer a wide range of adjustable temperatures can allow for the cooking of a wider variety of foods. Tray sizes can vary widely, and you may wish to consider purchasing a fryer with a larger tray if you will be using it to cook meals for multiple people or using it to cook meat.

The overall size of the fryer should also be considered. Some fryers are large, may take up quite a bit of valuable kitchen space and may not be very portable. Timed cooking settings can be helpful for estimating when the food will be done but may increase the price of the unit. How easy it is to clean the unit should also be taken into consideration. Some units have parts that are dishwasher safe and easy to clean, whereas others may be more difficult to clean and must be hand washed.

If you do take the leap to purchase an air fryer, be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions before use. Additionally, you will want to make sure you follow these tips:

Only use the appropriate accessories for your air fryer. Make sure the accessories fit properly into the air fryer and do not come in contact with the heating element.

Do not use an air fryer to cook foods that are light in weight, or covered in wet batter, as these can end up being dispersed inside the fryer and make a mess.

Never overload the fryer with food as this can create uneven cooking and browning and may result in some foods being undercooked. Cook large quantities of food in smaller batches.

Always preheat your air fryer before adding food to ensure that food will be cooked evenly.

Flip over food half-way through the cooking process to ensure even cooking and browning.

When cooking foods with high fat content, be sure to add water to the drawer below the basket to prevent grease build up and smoke.

When you believe the food has finished cooking, be sure to check the internal temperature of the food with a food thermometer to ensure it has been cooked to a safe temperature. If cooking multiple pieces of food, (e.g. chicken strips) you need to check the internal temperature of food located throughout the basket, such as those in the middle or bottom of the basket, to ensure the food was cooked evenly. As a reminder, poultry needs to be cooked to 165 F, steaks, chops and roasts to 145 F, and casseroles or commercially processed foods to 165 F.

For more information on air fryers, please visit Kansas State University Research and Extension’s resources available at bit.ly/32PKI9k.

Stephanie Smith is an assistant professor and statewide consumer food specialist for Washington State University. She can be reached at food.safety@wsu.edu.

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