We undertake this new year resolution with a lot of exuberance and vigour. However, as the days pass by, our enthusiasm towards maintaining the regimen starts to fade, thanks to our overly busy work schedules, family responsibilities, unfavourable weather, etc. While it may not be possible to follow a daily exercise plan due to the above mentioned reasons, what we can absolutely do to keep ourselves healthy and in good shape is consume food that is free of any unnecessary fattening calories.
While we all do want to consume nutritious food, not many of us would want to give up on our taste preferences, as in most cases, taste is the major trade-off between ‘eating healthy’ and ‘eating tasty’.
This is when an Air Fryer comes to the rescue. An Air Fryer is an essential appliance of a modern kitchen which lets one satisfy one’s taste buds and at the same time not make one guilty of consuming one’s favourite fried food items that are delicious to the core.
Now, if you are a frequent visitor to the posts on this blog, you might be probably aware that we take each topic from the grass root level and we will do the same with this post as well. We will begin with the basics first, understand how an air fryer works. Then, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using an air fryer. Following which we will proceed to discuss what factors one should keep in mind while purchasing an air fryer. After that we will proceed onto discussing the essential features one should look for when buying an air fryer. Following which, we will learn how some brands try to cut costs and manufacture below par products that delay the cooking process and have a very short shelf life. Then, we will move onto deciding which are the best air fryers available in the market that are not only efficient in their working but also offer the most value for the money.
You might be glad to know that my father works at a company that manufactures home and kitchen appliances like food processors, cooktops, air fryers, kitchen chimneys etc. So, at home, we frequently have a conversation about these appliances, what goes into making them, how some brands try to cut manufacturing costs to increase their profit margin etc.
Today, I will try my best to pass on the knowledge that I have acquired from my father over the years, to you so as to help you make a good buying decision.
So without further a do, let’s begin…
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that lets one cook deep fried food items including french fries, nuggets, onion rings, bread cutlets etc., while requiring 75–85% less oil when compared to conventional frying method (food items submerged in oil placed in a frying pan).
This appliance works by circulating hot air, generally up to 200-300 degree Celsius around the food items by using a mechanical fan that rotates at high speeds, thus cooking the food. Air fryer achieves this feat by a process called Maillard reaction. Named after French chemist, Louis-Camillle Maillard, Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars of the food items that gives distinctive flavour and aroma to the food items.
To ensure precise cooking, every air fryer has two control knobs (display screen in some models). One for temperature adjustment and the other for timer adjustment. Food items are placed in a cooking basket which sits right atop a drip tray. To ensure that the entire food is covered in a film of oil, it is recommended that the basket and its contents should be periodically shaken.
(Image of an Air Fryer)
Now, having learnt how an air fryer works, let us proceed to discuss the Pros and Cons of using an air fryer.
- Healthy and nutritious food. As discussed above, frying food items in the air fryer consumes 75–85% lesser oil than the conventional frying method. This helps in lowering the cholesterol level in the body along with reducing calories consumed by a person over the day, which in turn assists weight loss and promotes overall good health.
- Reduced cook time. A conventional frying technique requires the oil to heat up to a certain temperature before food items can be put into it for frying. However, air fryers do not need any such pre-heating as food is cooked by circulation of hot air and not by oil. As a result of which, the time consumed by air fryers to ready the food items is typically half of the time consumed in conventional frying.
- Multi-purpose. An air fryer can be used not only for frying, but also for roasting, baking, re-heating and grilling. Therefore, one does not need to purchase separate appliances to perform the other functions, an air fryer can do that all.
Now, let us proceed to discuss the Cons of air fryers.
- Slightly less crispy food. Oil gives crunch to the food. Therefore, the food items fried via conventional method tend to be crispy. However, in case of air fryers, since oil consumption is significantly lesser, the food items fried in it also tend to be less crunchy.
- Mild variation in taste. Since majority of people would be accustomed to the taste of the food which is fried in oil, switching to an air fryer for frying purposes might result in a slightly different taste. But, the difference is not much pronounced and one gets habitual to the new taste in no time.
(Image of potato chips getting fried inside an Air Fryer)
So, having analysed the advantages and disadvantages of an air fryer, let us proceed to discuss the factors one should keep in mind while purchasing an air fryer:-
- Capacity. As a rule of thumb, when considering an air fryer for a family consisting two to four members, a 2 to 2.6 L capacity air fryer would be adequate to cater to the family’s dietary requirements. For more than four family members, a 3 to 4 L capacity air fryer would be required.
- Wattage. The higher the wattage rating of an air fryer, higher will be the temperatures the circulating air can achieve in a relatively shorter period of time. The benefit of higher wattage is immediately felt when one intends to fry/grill the frozen food items.
- Multi-item cooking. To cater to the busy lifestyles of consumers, some air fryers come with a separator layer which lets one place different food items at two levels inside the basket and have them fried simultaneously, thus saving a substantial amount of time.
Now, having learnt what factors one should keep in mind while buying an air fryer, let us proceed to discuss the ways in which some manufacturers (names not taken) try to cut manufacturing costs to maximize their own profits and in turn deliver a sub-standard product to the customers which have a very short shelf life and may often delay the cooking process.
COST CUTTING TECHNIQUES
- Low grade heating element. The hot air that circulates around the food item kept inside the air fryer is produced by a heating element. Heating element, thus, is a very crucial component of the air fryer and accounts to over 40 per cent of the entire cost of the air fryer. Therefore, it is the favourite area where some manufacturers cut costs. A sub-standard heating element does not adequately heat the circulating air to the manufacturer’s advertised temperatures, as a result of which, food item remains under-cooked even after the cooking process is complete.
- Flimsy non-stick coating. Non-stick coatings are achieved by a synthetic resin called Teflon (Poly-tetra-fluoro-ethylene). This resin is resistant to corrosion, chemicals etc. and is thus used to coat the surface of the basket of the air fryer. However, non-stick coatings add to the cost of the air fryer and so in order to keep the initial cost of the product low, so as to lure the customers, some manufacturers tend to coat the basket of the air fryer with poor quality Teflon, which peels off only after a few months of use, thereby, causing the food items to stick to the walls of the basket during the cooking process in absence of oil.
Now, having discussed how some air fryer manufacturers cut costs, let us proceed to zero down on some of the best built air fryers available in the market that are not only efficient in frying/cooking but are also made of food-safe materials and thus offer the most value for the money spent.