From chicken to potatoes and everything else in between, there’s nothing more luscious than the feel of slight grease on one’s lips, palate, and tongue. But, eating too much fried foods can also have its health consequences like obesity and heart disease. If you cannot say no to fried foods but are also aware of the effects of eating too much fat, there might be a solution to that. The best air fryers can give you all the delicious crunchy goodness of fried foods and none of the guilt feelings of eating oily and greasy delicacies. But, how does this kitchen appliance work and can it live up to the hyper? Let’s find out.
The Anatomy of an Air Fryer
An air fryer is a lot similar to a rice cooker or a modern pressure with a cooking chamber and several other elements. The cooking chamber is where you put food and is very similar to the cooking chamber of a rice cooker. Underneath the cooking chamber is a heating element that heats up the bottom surface of the cooking chamber.
The cooking or frying chamber accommodates a cooking basket where you can place the food you want to air fry. There are some models of air fryer that have food agitators that will churn the food so that they fry in an even manner. Underneath the cooking basket is a drip tray which catches fat and oil from the food.
Near the top of the air fryer is a fan mechanism that helps circulate heat throughout the cooking chamber. There is also an opening at the top of the air fryer which allows air to enter. At the back of the air fryer is an exhaust mechanism that allows for the release of unnecessary hot air. This exhaust is also responsible for eliminating any sudden increases in internal pressure.
There are also a few electronic components. These keep track of the internal temperature of the cooking chamber while also ensuring the correct length of time of cooking. Depending on the air fryer model, you can get a unit that has pre-set cooking programs and keep-warm features.
How an Air Fryer Works
Like any other cooking appliance, an air fryer relies on heat to cook food. Powering on the appliance triggers the heating element to increase in temperature. This heats up the cooking chamber up to 392 degrees Fahrenheit; although there are models that can have greater temperatures.
This heat is what cooks the food that is present in the cooking basket inside the frying chamber. Some of the heat escapes towards the top of the air fryer. A mechanical fan redirects and recirculates the hot air so that the entire frying chamber becomes a massive space of hot air.
But it’s not all hot air that circulates throughout the cooking chamber. The hot air contains fine mists of oil from the drip pan and the additional oil. You see, an air fryer still uses oil to fry your food. The only difference is that you will only need as little as a tablespoon of oil to get the same effect of deep-frying foods. It is this small amount of oil together with the oil drippings that circulate in the chamber. It’s like creating a very humid environment whereby the hot air contains oil, not moisture.
As this fat-filled hot air circulates throughout the frying chamber, it creates the Maillard effect. This is a chemical reaction that takes place when reducing sugars interact with amino acids. This is what gives food its characteristic brown color and distinct flavor. It is what gives your steaks, breads, biscuits, cookies, and toasted marshmallows their unique flavor and appearance.
Let us get this straight. An air fryer still requires oil to cook your food. The good news is that you don’t need to submerge your food in oil to get that Maillard effect you need. The mechanical fan in the air fryer is what “coats” your food with a very thin layer of oil. This is enough to cause the chemical reaction that gives fried food their characteristic color and taste.
If you think about it, an air fryer works like a convection oven which also has a fan to circulate hot air. The only difference is that an air fryer is smaller. An air fryer also gives off less heat than a convection cooker.
Benefits of Using an Air Fryer
There are a number of benefits to using an air fryer. Here are the most common ones.
- Cuts the Fat Content in Food
Some manufacturers of air fryers say their products can reduce the fat content of foods by as much as 30%. There are also those that say their best air fryers can reduce food fat content by 75% relative to deep-fried foods. The secret is in the amount of oil that an air fryer needs to cook food. In a conventional deep fryer, you will need about 3 cups of oil. For the same amount of food, you will only need to use a tablespoon of oil in an air fryer.
It is true that deep-frying foods doesn’t mean the food is going to absorb all of the oil. But, using only a tablespoon instead of 3 cups of oil can sure mean a lot. At the very least, you will be cutting down on the fat that may go into your food.
- Helps in Weight Loss
This is a natural effect of cutting down overall fat content in food. You should know that a gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. Doing a little math, a tablespoon of oil on an air-fryer is equivalent to 135 calories. Compare this to the 3 cups of oil in deep-frying and you’ll get 6,345 calories.
You may say you’re not going to ingest all of the 6,345 calories in deep-fried foods. But, you will also not ingest the entire 135 calories in an air-fried food. In terms of weight loss, this can have substantial implications.
Air fryers offer a healthier alternative to deep-frying. They use very little oil to give you that same delicious taste and crunchiness of deep-fried foods.