The Air Fryer: It’s A Thing

Arvind Pillai, Editor

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The 21st century has introduced many new inventions to the market, whether it’s an umbrella with goggles or a wearable robot that feeds you tomatoes (Tomatan, for those of you who are interested). One such invention that has recently gained huge traction in the media is called an air fryer. First released in 2010, the air fryer is an oven-like contraption that cooks food by circulating air using a mechanism called convection. You might have learned about convection in an elementary school class, but for a ‘sophisticated’ reminder, convection is “the movement caused within a fluid by the tendency of hotter and therefore less dense material to rise, and colder, denser material to sink under the influence of gravity, which consequently results in transfer of heat”, as described by Google Dictionary. Essentially, the air fryer does exactly what its’ name implies: it fries food using air.

At first glance, an air fryer sounds simply like another trendy kitchen tool to buy and forget about in several months. However, there are reasons why the product has been sold for over eight years. The biggest claim to fame is the offer of a healthy alternative to a normal deep fryer or oven through using less fat oil while still achieving the same golden-brown shine and crisp texture. It is claimed that an oven fryer takes less time to fully caramelize food than a normal oven does. Finally, it would be unfair not to mention how simple it is to use and how compact the air fryer is – it is easily smaller than the average coffee machine, and several models of the fryer possess many different modes all at the press of a button.

While there is some merit to this claim, several different media outlets, including the New York Times, have created reviews of the product to see just how tasty the fruits of the fryer really were. Melissa Clark wrote in a recent article for the Times that the fryer, although good at “deep-frying” damp vegetables because of hot air circulation, is not very good at frying larger quantities of food. Another writer, Meghan Splawn at TheKitchn.com, noted that the air fryer is exceptional at frying frozen foods, but is terrible at making french fries. Andrea Nyugen of CookingLight.com seconded that the air fryer transforms french fries into “dry sticks”, but also notes that the fryer makes the food more healthily. The consensus of the three articles? Air fryers do what they are supposed to do well: they create a “hot windstorm” to fry food instead of bathing the food in oil. This works well for some foods, like vegetables, but can have negative effects on food like chicken that require lots of oil to get that zesty, crunchy taste.  

In conclusion, the air fryer is yet another culinary option that has its uses. It is cheaper than a normal oven, compact, and can make healthier food, but often times will worsen the taste of the food. It is your decision to make the tradeoff.