Almost everyone loves fish and fries. That crispy, crumbly coating that hides the tender, delicious, and flavorful meat of fish inside, then dipped in your favorite tartar sauce followed by a gulp of refreshingly cold golden brew are enough to make you salivate for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, if you happen to have problems with your heart or are on a quest to lose weight, having your fish deep fried might not be ideal. Sure, you can grill it, steam it, or even poach it. But the flavor of ‘fried’ is simply different. Now you can enjoy your fried fish without the guilt of having to consume hefty levels of fat with every bite. The answer? Air frying.
What’s the Deal about Air Frying?
Air frying is one of the latest innovations in the science of cooking healthier foods, although as we will explain later on, the principle behind it is nothing new. This method of cooking requires the use of an air fryer, a kitchen appliance that looks more like cross between a deep fryer and a rice cooker.
The appeal of air frying rests in the use of little to no oil, depending on the food that you intend to ‘air fry’. In most literatures, air frying reduces the amount of oil needed to cook foods by as much as 80 percent. Now understand this. It did not say completely oil-free. Why? Well, majority of the foods that we fry like fish, poultry, and meats all contain fat in them so it would really be nonsense to say that you have a completely fat-free food. However, if you’re talking about most veggies and fruits, then you can be guaranteed zero fat.
At any rate, because of the reduced fat needed to ‘fry’ your fish and other foods like fries, steak, eggs, and even poultry, air frying offers a much healthier way to enjoy ‘fried’ foods without feeling guilty about the large amounts of calories and fats that would otherwise be included in every bite had the food been fried the old-fashioned deep-frying method.
Air frying provides a healthier option for those who are on a quest to reduce calorie consumption while still enjoying the same crunchy experience of biting onto fried foods. It’s also a fad among people who may have cardiovascular problems or issues with lipid metabolism where fat intake is typically limited.
How Does it Work?
We mentioned above that the principle behind air frying is not really new. The reason for this is that, if you have a convection oven and you understand how such kitchen appliance works, then you are essentially looking at a scaled-down version of a full-sized convection oven.
Air fryers work by circulating hot air, typically in the range of about 392oF or 200oC, around the food you’re trying to ‘fry’. This is made possible by a mechanical fan that swirls the hot air at high speeds, passing through every square inch of your food, and creating a variety of chemical reactions that resemble the Maillard effect. This is what gives the food that brownish, crispy outer layer while keeping the interior tender.
To optimize the browning and crisping effects of the air fryer, a little oil is often brushed on the surface of the food. This helps initiate the Maillard reaction a lot faster and with amazing results that you’d think the food itself was deep fried.
Food is typically placed on a cooking basket. A drip tray is located underneath the cooking basket to catch oil and other juices that may come out from the cooking process. Some models of air fryer come with fully automated mechanisms that automatically shake the cooking basket to allow for more even ‘frying’. In other models you’d have to do this manually. There are also models that come with timer knobs and adjustable thermostats allowing for even more precise cooking.
You don’t actually need an expensive air fryer if you already have an oven in your kitchen. Simply purchase an air crisper tray, put your food on it, pop it in the oven, and you will be enjoying your own version of air fried fish, chips, or what-have-you.
Does it Taste as Good as Deep Fried Foods?
The question people have about air frying is, “Does it taste as good as deep-fried food?” Here’s the thing. Oil is added in our foods to enhance the flavors. Without it, then there really is no binding agent that marries all these complex flavors together. The food will still be flavorful, but something will be missing.
Gordon Ramsay once said in an interview that no other cooking method can ever replicate the unique flavors brought by deep-fried foods. However, he did point out that air frying is a really healthier way to enjoy fried foods, except that they will never taste as good as having your fish deep-fried.
That being said, if your goal is to eat healthy, then air frying is for you. But if you’re after the flavor, then deep-frying is still the way to go.
A Special Fat-free Fried Fish Recipe
So, how do you air fry your fish? Well, instead of coming up with a very detailed presentation on the science of air frying, we’ve decided to share with you a very simple air fried fish recipe.
Here are the ingredients:
- 4 fillets of your favorite fish; we recommend flounder, although grouper, halibut, sea bass, or even cod should do well
- 1 whole egg, beaten
- Breadcrumbs, just enough to coat your fish fillets
- A teaspoon of cooking oil
- Lemon slices for garnishing
Here’s the procedure:
- Preheat your air fryer to about 356°
- Mix the oil and bread crumbs in a bowl. Make sure to stir well to create a crumbly texture.
- Dip your fish fillets in the beaten egg then onto the bread crumbs. Make sure to coat each fillet thoroughly.
- Place the fillets inside the cooking basket of the air fryer and ‘air fry’ for about 12 minutes or until the fillets are flaky.
- Serve with your lemon slices
Air frying your fish is quite easy. It gives you that same crunchy taste of deep-fried fish, although we really cannot guarantee similarity in flavor. Nevertheless, if you want to go healthy while still enjoying deep-fried foods, then air frying is the way to go. To begin cooking with this healthy method, you may wish to check this guide to the best air fryers at the moment.