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Air Fryers Come Into Their Own

September 21, 2023

First, it was pressure cookers. Now, air fryers are the new trending small kitchen appliance, with nearly $1 billion in U.S. sales in 2022.

According to CNBC, food giants Nestle’, Tyson, and Gorton’s Seafood are cashing in on the air fryer trend by marketing many of their frozen foods as suitable for cooking in an air fryer.

Adam Graves, president of Nestle U.S.’s pizza and snacking division, estimates nearly 60% of U.S. households own an air fryer.

The NPD Group market research firm calculates sales of air fryers are up 51% since 2019. The love is strong for these appliances.

What’s an Air Fryer?

What are these gadgets that look like a bucket or a small toaster oven? Essentially, they’re portable convection ovens. A fan inside the fryer moves hot air around the food, cooking it faster than a conventional oven.

France-based Groupe SEB introduced the first air fryer in 2005; in 2010, Philips introduced its version. The appliance has become more popular in U.S. home kitchens as the technology has improved.

Philips estimates using an air fryer reduces up to 80% of the fat in foods since no oil is used to prepare the food. Americans have a renewed interest in healthier eating, helping the appliance gain popularity over the past few years.

With restaurants closed during the pandemic, Americans were cooking at home, and air fryer sales surged. Jake Holbrook, Gorton’s vice president of marketing, told CNBC that air frying is the second most popular way to heat frozen, prepared food.

Air Fryer Types

Air fryers come in two styles: the smaller basket or “bucket” style or oven air fryers. The basket styles come in several sizes, from small fryers holding 1 to 2 quarts to the extra-large, which hold 6 quarts or more. The basket style is often more popular in smaller kitchens with less counter space. The smaller footprint makes it easy to store.

But not everyone is convinced.

Cara Campbell, owner of the food blog The Gourmet Bon Vivant, says, “I’ve wanted to try an air fryer for a while now; the reviews I’ve seen online and from my friends and family are fantastic. I’ve been holding back though, because it’s yet another small appliance that I have to find room for in my kitchen. I just haven’t been able to pull the trigger yet for that reason. Just thinking about where it will go is making my brain tired.”

Basket air fryers may have analog or digital controls. The analog controls have time and temperature dials, so users can set the fryer to the desired temperature and time it. These fryers are usually cheaper than their digital counterparts.

Digital air fryers have electronic controls that set the time and temperature, and often feature preset functions for various tasks like bake, air fry, roast, etc., which sometimes increases the price.

The basket air fryer takes its name from the basket holding the fried food. These usually pull out from the unit like a drawer and can be removed during cooking to shake or turn the food being prepared.

A new feature for basket air fryers is the dual basket. As you might expect, these machines feature two baskets, and each can be controlled separately for function, temperature, and time. This allows you to cook two items simultaneously at different temperatures. The dual air fryers are larger than their “bucket” cousins but do offer versatility.

The second air fryer is the oven type. Many of these are toaster or convection ovens, in fact. They have an air fryer function, accompanied by bake, broil, toast, and keep warm options. Many cooks choose an oven air fryer because they have limited counter space and have no room for a toaster oven and an air fryer.

Oven air fryers do cost more than their basket brothers. They often start at $100 or so, while a basket air fryer may cost as little as $30.

Oven air fryers also come with either analog or digital controls, which does affect the price.

Cooking With an Air Fryer

Most air fryers come with recipe books to get people started using their new appliance. However, there are numerous websites, print cookbooks, and videos about using an air fryer for everything from French fries to baking a cake — even for hard-boiled eggs. The possibilities seem endless.

As with using most appliances, there is a learning curve and some trial and error involved. For instance, using a recipe developed for one air fryer brand might not work as well in another brand. Differences in fan speed or temperature may affect the cooking process.

Testers at the Serious Eats food website found that, for oven-style air fryers, whether the convection fan was on the top or the side made a difference in how the food cooked. Top-mounted fans tended to overcook the food if not monitored carefully.

First-time air fryer users should be careful not to crowd the food. Since the fryer has to circulate the air over and around the food, overcrowding the fryer may cause uneven cooking. Another tip — remember to shake or turn the food halfway through the proscribed time to ensure even cooking.

While people cook many different things in air fryers, fish and seafood are perennial favorites. These foods work well for shorter cooking times and don’t need to be deep fried to be crispy and appetizing.

Most people who own air fryers are fans. Karen Kelly from food blog Seasonal Cravings says, “We love our air fryer and use it almost daily. We have the Instant Vortex Plus digital single basket air fryer, and it’s easy to use and clean. One of my favorite simple meals is cooking salmon filets from frozen. I just add some seasoning and cook for about 16 minutes. Dinner done!”

CNBC reports the air fryer is now the second most popular kitchen appliance. Time will tell if it stays on top or if another ‘hot’ cooking trend will replace it in time.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Amy Pollick | Wealth of Geeks undefined


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