I started seeing air fryer recipes taking over Pinterest early last year, and TBH, I was skeptical. I mean, a machine that yields fried food…that’s somehow healthier than the the stuff you get at a fast food restaurant? Seems too good to be true.
So I decided to dive a little deeper into the world of air fryers. If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not this trendy appliance is for you, here’s what you need to know.
What is an air fryer, exactly?
Although the air fryer trend is pretty recent, they’ve actually been around since 2010. This small appliance “fries” food using a small amount of oil and hot air. It creates a similar texture to deep fried food, but with far less oil, so you can use it to recreate your fave fried treats—like chicken, fries, or veggies.
How does an air fryer work?
While a deep fryer requires you submerge food in a pool of bubbling hot oil, an air fryer uses a combination of oil and rapidly circulating air. The circulating air technique is called convection, and it’s the same process a convection oven uses to make foods cook more quickly and evenly. By combining this with just a bit of oil, an air fryer can give food a texture that’s cooked on the inside and crisp on the outside, similar to what a deep fryer does.
Should you buy an air fryer?
Considering the air fryer uses significantly less oil than traditional frying, you’re cutting a lot of calories (exactly how many will depend on the recipe you’re using). For that reason, air-frying is a healthier option than regular frying, Natalie Rizzo, RD, told Women’s Health in a previous interview. Plus, it can make veggie-centric dishes taste just as enticing as fries (check out the air-fried broccoli below for proof).
It basically “eliminates the need to deep-fry specific dishes like chicken and fries,” says Jane Pelcher, RDN.
That said, air fried food isn’t healthier than non-fried methods, so it’s important to eat these foods in moderation.
In fact, in my experience, the texture of air-fried foods is actually closer to what you get when you coat food in oil and then roast it—still delicious, with a crispy and browned crust, but not exactly deep-fried.
Are air fryers worth buying?
While you may be able to yield similar cooking results with roasting, that doesn’t mean an air fryer isn’t worth adding to your kitchen collection.
If you’d rather not turn on your oven, or if you don’t feel confident fiddling with sheet pans and racks and convection, an air fryer can be the simpler alternative. “An air fryer is convenient since it is easy to use, uses less energy than an oven, and comes in small and large sizes to accommodate everything from a single-person household to a large family,” says Pelcher.
Plus, it whips up crispy food way faster than your oven or stove can—I’m talking just 12 to 15 minutes per recipe.
Speaking of fried food…check out Chrissy Teigan taste test some crazy chip flavors:
Which air fryer model should you choose?
While there’s a lot of air fryer models on the market, here are two that stand out as top picks:
The Philips Avance Digital Turbostar Airfryer
The Philips Avance Digital Turbostar Airfryer is top-of-the line and holds 2.75 quarts of food.
The Amazon reviews are mostly positive, with one reviewer saying:
“The ability to crisp foods is a key quality of the unit…The chips come out crispy every time, unlike some cases in which frying leaves you with less consistent results and soggy greasy fried potatoes. I have made both and never had a batch that did not come out great.”
Black+Decker Air Fryer
The Black+Decker Air Fryer is a great pick for a less-expensive (and slightly smaller) alternative that still does a solid job.
Most reviews are positive, and the functionally is similar to the Phillips model. One reviewer reports:
“I wish I would have bought it a year ago…All the things I have been making in the oven-fries, fishsticks, onion rings, chimichangas, spring rolls, chicken nuggets, etc., come out tasting so much better in this air fryer.”
What can you make in an air fryer?
If you do decide to invest in this appliance, here are a few air fryer recipes you can make at home.
1. Air Fryer French Fries
Of course, the first thing you’ll likely want to try in the air fryer is a batch of french fries. Here’s a super simple recipe that yields great results, every time.
Per serving: 176 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 31.5 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 6.5 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber, 4 g protein
2. Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
Chicken nuggets might be “kid food,” but they’re pretty satisfying no matter what age you are. If you want a quick, protein-rich dinner in a hurry, these easy nugs are a good bet.
Per serving: 188 calories, 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated), 8 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 427 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 25 g protein
3. Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
Are sweet potato fries better than regular fries? You don’t need to choose! Make both in your air fryer on alternating days, and you’ll be happy forever. (Okay, happiness isn’t that simple, but this is a good first step.)
Per serving: 221 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated), 42 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 302 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 3 g protein
4. Air Fryer Roasted Asian Broccoli
Don’t feel like dirtying a skillet or a sheet pan? Go for this flavor-packed air fryer broccoli instead.
Per serving: 154 calories, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 11 g carbs, 5 g sugar, 318 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 6.5 g protein
5. Air Fryer Crispy Chickpeas
If you need a snack, crispy chickpeas are a great high-fiber, plant-based option.
Per serving: 197 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated). 27 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 424 mg sodium, 7 g fiber, 8 g protein
6. Air Fryer Sweet Potato Cauliflower Patties
Whether or not you’re plant-based, these veggie-packed patties are a great weeknight dinner. They also work as an impressive party app!
Per serving: 85 calories, 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 9 g carbs, 1.5 g sugar, 200 mg sodium, 3.5 g fiber, 2.5 g protein
7. Air Fryer Salmon Cakes
Forget bunless burgers and plain chicken breasts. If you want a low-carb, Whole30-compliant dinner option, these salmon cakes are top-notch.
Per serving: 519 calories, 29 g fat (10.5 g saturated), 26.5 g carbs, 0.5 g sugar, 981 mg sodium, 11 g fiber, 41 g protein