Do You Need An Air Fryer? (My Thoughts On This Small Kitchen Appliance)

The simple answer is "no".  Who needs another small appliance cluttering up their kitchen?  But, as I've found out, there are some reasons you may want to consider purchasing one.

I had zero intention of purchasing an air fryer.  It was only after a series of events a few years ago with friends that we became convinced.  First, one of our friends made air fryer chicken wings when we were visiting. We were amazed at how crispy and juicy they were.  I've never achieved that crispy of a wing in the oven.  Then, about a week later we were at another friends house who decided he had to make homemade french fries in the air fryer for us to try. They were absolutely delicious. 

A week later we were with some other friends who spontaneously began a conversation about their love of their air fryers. We were finally convinced. Although it has taken a lot of trial and error, I can honestly say that we use our air fryer just about every day.  And often it's used multiple times a day.

First things first.  A bit about air fryers.

What Is An Air Fryer?
It's a small, countertop convection oven that circulates hot air around food to cook it.

Does An Air Fryer Actually Fry?
No.  And the food you cook in it, for the most part, doesn't taste fried.  It does however crisp foods as it draws the moisture out of them.  At least initially the air fryers were advertised as a healthier alternative to deep frying.  I don't cook or eat deep fried foods so I can't speak to whether or not the air fryer is a good alternative or not, but it does a very nice job with some baked versions such as fresh cut fries, baked "fried" chicken, egg rolls, etc.  And just to be clear about the air-fried french fries, they taste like baked fries not as crunchy as deep-fried fries.

Are You Limited In The Amount You Can Cook At One Time?
Yes.  I have the 6 quart (affiliate link) Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer and I feel it's perfect for just the two of us.  It's super easy to clean, very easy to use, and doesn't take up too much space.  If we had 4 or more people in our household, it would probably not be a good fit.  I know they make a larger version and there are other larger air fryers available on the market, so it's something to look into if you need a larger size.

Isn't An Air Fryer Noisy?
Yes.  Before I purchased my air fryer I'd read reviews that ranged from them sounding like a freight train to being no more loud than a microwave.  (mine is slightly louder then a microwave)  It's an important factor to consider if you decide to research one.

Reasons Why You Might Consider Purchasing An Air Fryer
The main reason I say you don't need an air fryer is because everything you can do in the air fryer you can also do in a convection oven or a convection toaster oven.  I have a convection oven, however, I find that at the very least, not having to turn on my oven in summer or when I want to make something small is a very nice option.  Here are a few more reasons you may want to consider purchasing an air fryer.

1. Reheating 
    The reheating of pizza is absolute perfection.  It crisps up the crust while heating it all of the way through.  It also reheats and re-crisps things that were once crispy until they were refrigerated like leftover roasted veggies, fish and chips, and fried chicken.  I find it does a much better job than my oven (or microwave) does for this.
     If anyone in your family enjoys frozen (already cooked) hashbrown patties, chicken nuggets, onion rings, french fries, or tator tots, it reheats these really well too.  They get perfectly crisp every time!
     We pretty much use it to reheat everything because it does such a nice job.

2.  Less Oil
     I find that I can use very little to no oil to get the same (or better) results than if I cook it in my oven.  Fresh cut french fries, roasted veggies, sweet potato fries, carrot fries, roasted veggies, just to name a few.  I use 1 teaspoon of oil or aquafaba (chickpea liquid) and that works very well.  Roasting them in my oven instead takes a tablespoon or more which seems insignificant but can be hundreds more calories if using oil.  **You don't have to use oil at all with some foods, however, oil (or aquafaba) will improve the texture including crispiness and caramelization.**

3. Amazing Chicken Wings
     If you have chicken wing aficionados in your household (my husband is such in our household) then this could be an important point.  It really does make the most perfectly crispy chicken wings.  

     Here's how I make them:  I marinate chicken wings all day (refrigerated) in either an italian dressing marinade or, if I'm making teriyaki wings, I'll marinate them in an asian marinade.  At dinner time I drain off the marinade (and discard), throw the wings in the air fryer tray (single layer if you can) and turn it on to 400 degrees for 22 minutes.  I flip them when they are just over halfway cooked (my air fryer beeps to alert me) and then toss them in either buffalo wing sauce or teriyaki sauce when they are finished.  If you like the taste of grilled wings, reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes and put them on a hot grill for about 5 minutes per side before tossing them in sauce (watch them carefully on the grill so they don't burn).  My husband LOVES them and they are just so simple and almost completely hands off.

4. Cooking Small Amounts
     Because it's just the two of us, and as mentioned above, I hate turning on the oven for one chicken breast, pork chop, etc., I began experimenting with doing more regular cooking in my air fryer.  My air fryer has a roast, bake, and broil feature in addition to air fry so it's incredibly handy to use it like a regular oven at times.  I can honestly report that it works very well.  
     I've made small naan bread pizzas, my easy Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe, my easy Chicken Parm recipe, pork tenderloin, baked marinated chicken breast, baked "fried" chicken, roasted veggies (cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots, etc.), roasted garlic, roasted mushrooms, crispy tofu, crispy chickpeas, taquitos, smashed baby potatoes, crispy potato wedges, stuffed peppers, etc.  The main thing to consider with cooking meat from raw is to try and make sure it's a consistent size.  For chicken breasts sometimes I will cut them down a bit to ensure they cook evenly.
    We've found that it cooks from frozen on a few items too.  I keep my homemade veggie burgers in the freezer and they are perfect cooked from frozen.  My husband likes the brand Bubba Burgers, the frozen burger patties, and it cooks these from frozen perfectly too (it takes about 12 minutes for 2 patties). 

5. Easy To Find Recipes
     My air fryer came with a very basic guideline on cooking just a few foods which initially made me a bit nervous about attempting to use it fairly regularly.  One quick google search, however, proved that there are thousands and thousands of people finding new ways to use it.  Although all of the models cook differently, you start to figure out how you will need to adjust each recipe.  For example, mine seems to cook quicker then the recipes note for other machines so I adjust the cooking time down to start with.

6. Quick Preheat, Easy To Clean, Easy To Use
     With the (affiliate link) model I have you can add your food while it preheats, which takes seconds.  I don't know if this is the case with all models, but I find that a nice feature.  I can throw food in, turn it on, and forget it until I hear the beeping letting me know I need to turn the food (or shake it with fries).
     My air fryer has one cooking tray with a grate that are both really easy to clean.
     You can adjust the cooking time and/or temperature on my model while it's cooking.  I like this feature because if I can tell it's going to need more time I don't have to wait for it to turn off.  My model also allows me to open it up at any time and it doesn't affect the cooking at all.

So once again, an air fryer is certainly not a necessity in your kitchen.  And honestly, unless you plan to figure out how to incorporate it into your regular cooking it doesn't make sense to purchase.  Because air fryers definitely take some trial and error to get the hang of everyday cooking with them, and many don't have the time or patience for that, you can likely find one at a thrift store, garage sale, or facebook marketplace that is in like new condition for a lot less then paying retail.  What I did was researched them ahead of time and made a list of the ones I would want and the ones I definitely would not want, and then waited until one on my "want" list came available.

Also, as we use ours in new ways  I keep an ongoing list to note what temp and amount of time we've cooked things at so the next time we want to reheat or cook the same thing, we know exactly how to do so.

Do you have an air fryer that you use?  Or have you been on the fence about them?     

1 comment

  1. I am still on the fence, that's for sure...I appreciate your post giving an honest perspective. I have a little deep fryer, but never use it...such as waste of oil and I'm sure more calories I don't need! But then heating up the entire oven for a couple of eggrolls or handful of of steakfries for hubby isn't very efficient. Hmmm...will keep pondering!


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