How do air fryers work? Here's why you should add one to your wish list now

Not just for making low-fat fries, air fryers can crisp meat and vegetable to perfection and cut cooking times in half, but how do air fryers actually work? Let's find out...

How do air fryers work
(Image credit: Ika Rahma / Alamy Stock Photo)

Air fryers have become one the most wanted items on everyone's Black Friday and Christmas wish lists, and it is easy to see why. The breakout kitchen essential of 2022, this hassle-free gadget is not only easy to use but is also a healthier option than deep and shallow fry cooking, making it a superb choice for anyone wanting guilt-free food this holiday season and beyond. But how do air fryers work, you might ask? 

Even if you own the best air fryer, or know all the important things to know about air fryers, air fryer mistakes are inevitable. Here we explain why air fryers have become a kitchen staple, and why you need to add one to your kitchen repertoire. 

How do air fryers work?

Air fryers work by circulating hot air around a basket or drawer evenly from every angle, replicating the results of a deep-fat fryer but without all the oil. That means any fat you add to the air fryer will circulate around your fries, chicken, or fish as it cooks, making it crisp and crunchy.

Because a fan keeps the hot air moving, air fryers also cook much more quickly than a regular convection oven, so they’re great for speeding up meals and cooking frozen food. Unlike the original air fryers, the top-of-the-range air fryers now preheat in no time and even remind you to turn your food midway. 

Air fryer vs convection oven – which is better?

If you are debating whether an air fryer vs convection is better, you must first understand what both these kitchen appliances are used for. 

Because of their built-in fans, air fryers often use the same technology that you'll find in convection ovens. This fan keeps hot air circulating inside the appliance, which leads to quicker cooking times and more evenly crisped surfaces on your roasted vegetables or even a simple oven pizza. 

Best of all, air fryers often come with dedicated settings to cook a wide variety of meals, including dehydrating slices of fruit (ideal for homemade garnishes) or crisping the top of a mouthwatering mac and cheese. For many people, an air fryer can be used to replace the best toaster oven thanks to their in-built frying baskets.

How an air fryer works without oil?

It is true, an air fryer can work without oil. This is done through hot air convection which speeds cooking time without the need for oil. However, I found that most recipes call for a teaspoon or half a teaspoon of oil for the best results. If you want to ensure that you get an even coating on some foods, use an oil spray instead. You'll be amazed at the results. 

If you are wondering if air fryers are healthy, remember, air fryers are only as healthy as the food you cook in them, but you can be confident that they’re healthier than deep-fat fryers. If you want to cut back on the oil and fat in your food, air fryers are great for crisping it while not submerging it in fat.

Can an air fryer replace an oven? 

If you are wondering if an air fryer can replace an over, the short answer is yes, but do be mindful that air fryers don't have the same capacity or functionality as ovens, so they may not be ideal for large families. Having said that, some air fryers have extra functions that add to the machine’s versatility. These can be anything from rotisserie roasting to baking and dehydrating, and can expand your cooking repertoire to include delicious paste bakes, exquisite desserts and even whole roast turkeys – perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. Most models tend to come with a host of recipes too, to help you use them for more than cooking fries.

Will an air fryer toast bread?

Knowing what to cook in an air fryer has its benefits – whether you're looking for a fast (but delicious) dish after work or experimenting with low-fat cooking at home. 

As it turns out, an air fryer is one of the easiest ways to toast bread. If you want perfectly crisp toast that is still soft and tender in the middle, then you may want to consider adding an air fryer to your kitchen arsenal. 

Not only will an air fryer cook toast in less than three minutes, but this practical appliance is also easier to clean than a toaster, or even a toaster oven. 

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.