Whether you own one, a friend owns one, your parents bought you one for Christmas or it’s on your wish list, air fryers have exploded in popularity. The ease of being able to cook nearly anything in a relatively short amount of time, the small amount of space it occupies and it being relatively affordable have added to its popularity. But perhaps the biggest reason people have been rushing to order an air fryer is the proclaimed and perceived health-benefits, compared to traditional ways of frying food.
An air fryer is a “compact, countertop appliance that uses convection heating to circulate air around your food,” resulting in a crispy, fried texture.
“I think the main draw of an air fryer is the ability to get tasty, crispy food without adding as many additional calories from fat as you would deep frying,” says Sara Jank, MS, RDN, CDN, and Clinical Nutritionist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Another draw is that it can be quicker to cook foods in an air fryer than taking the time to heat up a conventional oven.”
The ease of use and the speed at which an entire meal can be cooked is arguably everything anyone could want in a kitchen appliance, right? Perfectly crisp vegetables, meat, potatoes (the most popular air fryer occupant), even some baked goods can be thrown in the convenient front basket and come out a delicious meal in half the time it would normally take. The only sacrifices you’re making is precious counter space, and the ability to cook for a crowd; because of the limited size, you’ll likely have to cook in batches if you’re preparing foods to entertain or meal prep for the week.
The real health benefits lie in the fact that little to no oil is being used to fry your food – if you’re someone who enjoys the texture and taste of deep-fried food, this is a huge bonus! However, compared to grilling or cooking vegetables or meat in an oven, the health benefits are generally the same.
“Beyond using an air fryer to make ‘healthier’ alternatives, try it out for the added convenience, taste and texture to foods that are part of an overall healthy eating pattern,” says Jenk. She shares that a personal air-fryer-favorite of hers is salmon, noting the appliance “makes the outside of the salmon crispier without overcooking the inside.” Another bonus is the lack of actual heat coming off the fryer – on hot summer days, the last thing you’re looking to do it turn on your oven and warm up your house even more!
Besides meats, the air fryer is perfect for roasting and cooking so much more: vegetables, pumpkin seeds, fruits (I’ve tried apple chips with a sprinkle of cinnamon), ravioli, most frozen foods, even eggs can be put in the basket for the perfect hard-boiled egg. If you’ve been on the fence about investing in an air-fryer, consider what you normally cook in a day/for the week, and this may make things simpler for you!