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What Is an Air Fryer and How Does It Work?

You’ve probably seen an air fryer — either on social media or at your friend’s house… the friend who won’t stop talking about how much easier it makes things. But what, exactly, is an air fryer? And what does it do that your other kitchen gadgets and cooking tools can’t? The answer, it turns out, is a lot. Below is the 411 on the now ubiquitous air fryer, from how it works and what it enables, to why you might want (and need) one. 

What is an air fryer?

Air fryers are a type of countertop convection oven. They create the same textures and tastes as deep fryers, but without the amount of oil a deep fryer requires. As for baking, an air fryer is not a 1:1 exchange for a conventional oven. It is, however, better for your health than deep frying and traditional frying, and it provides a great deal more versatility. 

How does an air fryer work?

Air fryers are easy to use and have everything you need to create delicious meals quickly. Parts include a nonstick basket, a fan, and a heating element. They often have a grill top, as well. Your food, which is placed in the basket, is heated with hot air and tossed by the fan until it’s cooked and crispy. (You can pre-heat the air fryer or simply place food in the basket to heat with the machine itself.) It crisps up veggies and snacks and melts cheese to perfection. You can even use an air fryer to reheat foods like pizzas, French fries, and sandwiches; they don’t get soggy and mushy like they do in the microwave. Whether you adjust your air fryer settings manually or you use the presets, it’s easy to get the tastes and textures you like best without much expertise.

What are the benefits of an air fryer?

There are many benefits to cooking with an air fryer. Below are just a few reasons to consider adding this kitchen appliance to your countertop tools. 

It can replace old appliances.

Air fryers do the work of several gadgets, which means you can get rid of countertop appliances that only do one job but take up a lot of space — think toaster ovens and rice cookers. Unlike single-use tools, an air fryer is a multi-functional machine designed to save time and streamline the cooking process.

It’s healthier than frying.

One of the benefits of air frying your favorite veggies, apps, and entrees is that you get all the textures and flavors of deep frying without all the health concerns. While you should add a touch of oil to your air fryer basket while cooking, using an air fryer requires far less oil than deep frying. You’ll be able to reduce your oil intake and eat your favorite dishes with a much healthier twist. 

It’s fast.

Air fryers are ideal for busy weeknight meals and pre-work breakfasts. That’s because they cook things fast. Crispy, crunchy air-fried foods can be made in minutes, shaving precious time off your plan-shop-prep-cook time. There are a wide range of temperature options, as well — from low to medium to high heat — that can be set to suit your needs. 

It’s hands-off.

Not only does an air fryer have a quick cooking time, but it requires zero attention while cooking. Simply set it, and forget it. The only obligation is tossing the basket’s contents a time or two; no stirring, draining, or reducing to worry about. 

It reheats.

The best air fryers don’t just cook food. They also reheat your favorite foods. This is especially great for carb-rich foods, like pizza, which typically get soggy when reheated in the microwave. Air fryers, on the other hand, make leftovers taste just as good the second time around as they did the first. When you have an air fryer in your kitchen, you’ll actually look forward to eating the same meal the next day. 

You can cook foods straight from the freezer.

Another air fryer benefit is the fact that they cook frozen foods so well. Mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets, and vegetables taste like they’re fresh when cooked in an air fryer. So, too, do frozen desserts, breads, and sandwiches. While you’ll want to avoid heating meat from frozen in the air fryer (unless directed by the manual), there are plenty of ways you can use your air fryer to make delicious meals from frozen foods. 

You can meal prep.

Before cooking comes shopping. And before shopping comes meal prep, an activity that is arguably the most tedious and time-consuming of the meal-making process. Adding an air fryer to your kitchen, however, changes that. Because it can air fry chicken breasts, toast things like chickpeas and Brussels sprouts, and warm breakfast sandwiches straight from the freezer, you can whip up complete meals with just a few fundamental ingredients in the fridge. 

It’s easy to clean.

In addition to saving prep time, air fryers save the hassle of cleanup time. In addition to the fact that you’ll only be using one appliance to cook (instead of multiple pots and pans), air fryer parts are dishwasher-safe. Just pop the air fryer basket and grill right into the dishwasher. Also, oils and marinades stay safely inside the machine during the cooking process, which means no splatter and spills. 

You can cook anything.

The best part of an air fryer, though, is the quality and variety of the food it makes. The possibilities for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are almost endless. Consider chicken wings for your next party, a perfectly toasted eggplant parm covered in golden brown breadcrumbs for dinner, or a dessert like cinnamon rolls or donut holes filled with apples and spices. Air fryers can do it all. Better still, they’re great for cooking batches of veggies, from sweet potatoes to zucchini, and fried chicken cutlets that can be stored and served as needed. Finally, thanks to the air fryer’s increasing popularity, your favorite recipes have almost certainly been converted to favorite air fryer recipes by an ambitious air fryer owner. 

Add an air fryer to your kitchen today.

Air fryers use simple heating and air flow functions to give your food a texture and taste similar to that of deep-fried food in just a few minutes — but without all the oil and calories. This, combined with how quickly they cook up veggies, means that air fryers can be helpful for losing weight, eating healthy, and prepping delicious meals for the week. 

In short, adding an air fryer to your kitchen will make space on your countertop and save time on busy weeknights. With so many ways to use your air fryer, the only question is ‘which air fryer recipe will you try out first?’

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