An opened air fryer showing crispy chicken drumsticks

What Is An Air Fryer And How Does It Work?

Air frying certainly sounds like a miracle. The name itself implies that you get to fry foods without using fat. It is normal to feel skeptical since this seems impossible but the truth is there is a very simple explanation: air frying is not actually frying. It is just promoted under this name.

An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that utilizes hot air to “fry” foods. The smaller design of an air fryer compared to an oven allows better circulation of hot air around the foods. This allows you to get crispy, delicious foods without all the oil you would use if you were deep frying.

In order to fry something, you have to submerge it in oil. There is no way to move around it.

Even so, air fryers offer you the crunch and crisp fried foods that people love.

How is that possible?

This is exactly what we will cover in the following paragraphs.

Table Of Contents

What Does An Air Fryer Do?

The air fryer is similar to a convection oven but it is much more compact and you can use it on your kitchen countertop.

This is an electric appliance that includes a heating element.

Through the use of a fan, super-heated air is blown around the cooking chamber.

This system is similar to the convection oven but the big difference is that air is moved around quickly and in a circular pattern. Due to this, it reaches all food surfaces and manages to create the crisp crust.

Simply put, air fryers circulate very hot air around the foods that are covered with only a little bit of oil. In fact, some recipes require zero use of oil.

Essentially, you only need to use around 20% of the fat you use with regular deep frying.

The basket inside the air fryer helps cook food faster.

There is not much space between the fryer’s chamber wall and the basket. This makes air move faster and the basket helps intensify the temperature of the heated air.

Using an air fryer is convenient and much safer than dealing with a lot of hot oil that can easily burn you or that can catch fire.

You also do not have to remove a lot of used cooking grease after you cook.

Can I Buy Any Air Fryer?

No. There are many differences between air fryers and you need to look for a really good one.

This is why reading air fryer reviews and top 10 air fryer lists is important.

Some of the appliances are simply a lot better than others when it comes to cooking evenly. All will crisp and brown food at the bottom and the top. However, not all of them do it evenly.

The best air fryers work better and guarantee that food placed in the middle of the basket is also fried.

Usually, the big difference is the design but many other things can influence how well the appliance cooks.

Like with many other kitchen appliances, the best air fryers tend to be more expensive.

What Is Inside An Air Fryer?

The air fryer has a very simple layout that is very easy to understand. Inside any appliance you will find the following:

  • A cooking chamber
  • The heating element
  • A fan – responsible for blowing air inside the cooking chamber
  • A basket – to hold the food
The heating element inside of an air fryer
Samay9211 / CC BY-SA (

Most air fryers include timer and temperature adjustments. This is helpful because it allows for a more precise cooking experience.

In order to achieve even cooking, the content of the basket has to be shaken.

In the high-end models, there is an extra food agitator that keeps shaking food as cooking happens.

Even so, for the best foods, you need to manually perform this task at specific intervals.

As we already mentioned, air fryers work similarly to convection ovens.

While convection ovens have a heating element that blows hot air inside the cooking chamber, air fryers swirl air in a circular motion. By doing so, they reach all the surfaces of the food, allowing for even cooking.

The way the air moves also enables you to cook crispier foods than with convection ovens.

Air Frying Benefits

There are many benefits that are offered by air fryers such as air fryers being healthy compared to deep fryers. Some other benefits include:

  • Very low-fat meals
  • Cooking uses hot-air circulation so oil use is highly limited
  • Very easy to clean
  • Healthier foods
  • Cooking multiple dishes at the same time if you have a food separator
  • Convenient to use
  • Fast cooking performance
  • No greasy stains
  • Delicious, crispy foods that taste just like oiled fried foods
  • Cost effective because they are versatile and you can use them for many types of food

Keep in mind that many of the top-of-the-line air fryers include a recipe book.

This includes numerous recipes you can try. It is a certainty that many will surprise you as they are tasty and healthy at the same time.

You can make anything you want with an air fryer including French fries, chicken tenders, and even muffins.

How To Cook With An Air Fryer

Air fryers allow you to cook much healthier versions of very popular foods, ranging from egg rolls and chicken nuggets to French fries and potato chips.

The ingredients can be fresh but you can also cook from frozen.

Air fryers utilize hot air to cook your food so there is no need for oil submersion.

Cooking is really simple because you put the food in and you hit some buttons to start.

Alternatively, you also choose some extra features that the machine has.

However, there are some things that you can do in order to make the most of the appliance.

How To Use An Air Fryer

Even though it’s as simple as selecting the temperature, whether on a manual dial or digitally with buttons, and then selecting the time you want to cook for, then pressing go, there are some extra steps you can take to get the perfect crispy foods you want.

Here are the best tips to follow when using an air fryer:

Shake The Food

As foods fry inside the air fryer, you want to open the appliance up from time to time in order to shake everything inside.

This is particularly important for smaller foods, like chips and French fries because they can compress.

Rotating food should be done every 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how fast they cook.

Don’t Overcrowd Food

Foods placed inside the air fryer need enough space for air to effectively circulate. When this happens, the result is much crispier.

It is always better to cook in smaller batches to get better food.

Spray Foods Before Cooking

Use cooking spray to lightly spray the foods inside the air fryer.

Alternatively, you can add a little bit of oil.

This is not always mandatory but it ensures that food will not stick to the cooking basket.

Pat Foods Dry

This should always be done before you cook unless you add marinated ingredients.

If you do this, you avoid excess smoke and splattering.

Also, when you cook with high-fat ingredients, you have to empty the fat that piles up in the bottom area of the machine. Do this periodically.

Experiment With The Air Fryer

Air fryers are not just for frying. You can use them as an alternative to healthier cooking methods as well.

They can be successfully used for grilling, roasting, and even baking.

For instance, you can easily cook salmon inside the air fryer and make it taste as if it was cooked in the oven.

You can use the air fryer to cook many different foods. Anything that you would submerge in oil works.

However, the air fryer can also be utilized to make different non-fried foods, like roasted garlic, bacon, pizza, cakes, toasted nuts, and Brussels sprouts.

You can use the appliance any time you want to cook something healthy.

Since it uses air and you can use little to no oil during the cooking process, the air fryer can turn any dish healthy.

You can even make doughnuts and toasted marshmallows if you want to.

Do Air Fryers Really Work?

Yes, of course they do or they wouldn’t be so popular. Check out these before and after shots of some potato wedges.

Air fryer with potato wedges uncooked in the basket
An air fryer with air fried french fries in the basket

Air fryers not only work, they are actually more convenient and easier to use than many other kitchen appliances.

However, the best thing about them is that they are really versatile. You can cook or bake pretty much anything with an air fryer.

If you want to make delicious fried foods healthier but you don’t like using the oven because the foods never turn out as crispy as they should be, you can count on the air fryer.

French fries, chicken wings, chicken strips, chicken nuggets – they will all have a perfect crispy texture if you make them in the air fryer.

Since air fryers are made out of non-stick materials, they can successfully replace many cooking methods and kitchen appliances.

Pretty much anything you would do on the stove or in the oven can be done in the air fryer as well.

As you can see air fryers live up to their expectations.

However, there are limitations that exist. You should be aware of the following:

  • Possibly longer cooking times – When regular frying takes 10 minutes, the air fryer sometimes needs around 25 minutes for the same results.
  • Crowding – You cannot just crowd food inside the fryer and expect everything to be evenly fried.
  • Capacity – Air fryers are smaller than larger ovens. They are compact so you often need to chop food into smaller pieces. This requires more time.
  • Burnt food – Because the air fryer cooks at temperatures of around 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, you can end up burning the food if you are not attentive.
  • Drying risk – Because you use a lot less oil, food can end up drying faster. Extra caution is thus necessary.
  • Electricity – Air fryers use electricity. If you do not have batteries or electrical power, nothing can be cooked.

Fortunately, all these limitations pale in comparison with the fact that the food you cook is much healthier.

Also, the air fryer can cook some foods faster. The appliance reaches very high temperatures really fast.

For instance, when you use a regular oven, you have to wait up to 15 minutes for preheating. This is not necessary with the air fryer.

Due to this, foods you normally cook fast are actually faster with the air fryer. It is just the dishes that take a long time that take longer when switching to air frying.

Should I Buy An Air Fryer?

The air fryer is really a great appliance to have on your kitchen countertop, especially if you have limited space and you need a versatile appliance that can be used for making many different dishes.

Air fryers are also very helpful for those who want to lose weight since they require less oil or no oil at all for making dishes that typically require oil submersion. And, since not as much of oil is required, cooking is definitely less messy and cleaning is faster and easier.

To sum up, air fryers help you cook healthier food in an easy way, as long as you follow instructions.

The appliance has really clear benefits that make it useful for any household. However, you need to invest in a really good air fryer since not all air fryers are created equal.

You have to invest in a very good model if you want the best possible results.

Luckily, reviews help you do just that. Fortunately for you, we have compiled our own list of the best air fryers currently on the market in 2020.

If you have any questions or just want to say hello, please leave a comment below.

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