You’ve heard plenty of hype about air fryers and how amazing these new kitchen appliances are to own. But you instinctively know that there are advantages and disadvantages – pluses and minuses – in every “new” product that comes along. Well, now is the time to uncover the truth, to reveal the genuine air fryer pros and cons. That’s the best way to decide if an air fryer would be a useful acquisition for your home.
A Short History
Air fryers are a relatively new kitchen appliance – having only been on the scene for a little more than a decade as of this writing. You may have stumbled across an endorsement from one celebrity or another, whether it’s a TV personality, professional chef – or both. Or maybe it’s a friend or neighbor who has an air fryer and boasts about the food they’re able to cook now with their new device.
What’s The Big Deal?
What makes an air fryer appealing to the majority of buyers is that it provides a much healthier way to cook their favorites in a way that tastes delicious. There are plenty of ways to cook. But if you enjoy foods like fries, chicken wings and nuggets or crispy cauliflower bites and tofu – than an air fryer could be one of the most used appliances in your home.
What you get with an air fryer is a fried-like taste – without the excessive calories that go hand in hand with deep fried foods. You get a crispy, textured coating on the outside and juicy and tender, perfectly-cooked food on the inside. And you can achieve this incredible taste with very little oil. Some people use no oil at all and yes – it is possible to do. So if you’re watching your weight but love to enjoy your food – an air fryer could be your greatest ally.
Deep-Fried “Purists” Counter Claim
If you routinely eat deep-fried foods and you’re looking for the same taste and texture from an air fryer – you might be disappointed. To be fair, food cooked in an air fryer is not exactly the same as when it’s cooked in a deep fryer. A deep fryer means the food sits in a vessel that’s filled with oil or some other fat. That means the food absorbs considerable oil as it is cooking while crisping the outside providing a taste that virtually everyone loves.
A Healthier Option
Although deep fried food tastes great, it certainly isn’t very good for you. In fact deep frying can make just about any food taste much better. Air fried food on the other hand uses but a fraction of the oil or no oil at all. Air fryers use heated air that is circulated rapidly by a high powered fan inside a small cooking chamber. It produces a somewhat similar texture on the outside (minus the grease) with a soft tenderness on the inside.
But since air frying accomplishes this with way less fat – it’s a much healthier choice for you and your family. If you’re looking to watch your weight or manage your calorie consumption, an air fryer makes a lot of sense.
There’s really no comparison between a deep fryer and air fryer on this important point. What an air fryer enables you to do is enjoy all of your favorite foods cooked in a healthier, lower fat (or even no fat) way. So you can eat what you love – without feeling guilty about it or worrying about packing on those excess pounds.
Multipurpose Kitchen Tools
Air fryers are ideal for cooking frozen foods in less time than a conventional oven. They’re also terrific for cooking a variety of foods and producing superb texture and flavor. Air fryers deploy heated air driven by a high powered fan to produce a delicious crispy crunchy taste without much oil at all.
Number One Complaint About Air Fryers
Undoubtedly, the biggest single downside of air fryers is that they are somewhat limited in their capacity. Most models are ideal for one to two people. Even the larger models are likely best for 3 to 5 people. For those with larger families – you’re probably going to need multiple air fryers. Conversely, you can cook your food in batches. But that approach more or less negates another terrific advantage of the air fryer and that is how fast they are compared to a conventional oven.
Mini Convection Oven – Only Better
An air fryer is essentially a miniature convection oven. They use air to cook the food. This air is continually circulated over, above and around the food in the basket to cook it perfectly the same way a convection oven works.
Air fryers are much more compact appliances designed to sit on the counter when using. But regular convection ovens are large appliances like a full size electric range. Since convection ovens have a greater capacity and can therefore cook more in each cycle. But because the oven itself is larger – it’s less efficient – and therefore takes longer to cook food. An air fryer is much smaller with a more compact cooking chamber. The result is food cooks in less time and tends to get crispier than it does in a standard convection oven.
Air Fryer Pros and Cons
As we look into more air fryer pros and cons, keep in mind that a feature that seems to be an advantage to some people, could prove to be a disadvantage to others.
Instead of listing all the pros and cons in separate lists, we’ll start by taking a look at each point individually from both a pro and con point of view. Then we’ll list any remaining pros and cons separately to round out the information you need to know.
1. AIR FRYER PRICING
Pro: Air fryers are affordable appliances.
You can find decent quality air fryers at a price most would agree is reasonable. Typically, air fryers range in price anywhere from $50 up to $250. Considering all an air fryer can do, we think it’s fair to say that this to be an affordable kitchen investment. For your first air fryer, you might want to start with a smaller model. That way you won’t spend much and can experiment with many different foods to see what you like best in an air fryer.
Con: Air fryers can get a bit pricey.
On the other hand, some argue that compared to other countertop appliances (like toasters, coffee makers, popcorn poppers, etc.) an air fryer can seem like a considerable investment – particularly those air fryers at the higher end of the scale. If you’re new to air frying and you want to see what they’re all about, $250 can be a big chunk of change to spend on something you’re not sure about.
2. AIR FRYER SIZING
Pro: Air fryers are small and compact units that save space.
It’s the overall size of an air fryer that makes it easy to access and use on any counter or table top. And since air fryers are so compact, they won’t take up a ton of counter space while in use and won’t overcrowd the pantry either when you finished cooking. These units are not any larger than most coffee makers or four-slice toasters and occupy about the same space on a countertop. Air fryers are practical tools not just for the home but for any office kitchenette, lunchroom, dorm room, or when travelling in an RV or trailer.
Con: Too small to serve a large family.
Since many of the air fryers on the market are super-compact appliances, they are best suited for one to two people. Larger models are best for 3 to 5 at most. If you’re cooking for more, you’ll either have to engage in batch cooking – taking considerable time to do so because you might need to prepare several batches – or you’ll need more than one air fryer. Acquiring two air fryers rather than one doubles your cost as well as the amount of space you’ll need on your countertop and in the pantry. They just don’t make them large enough to cook for big families or get-togethers. So if you’re cooking for a group, an air fryer might not be the most practical choice.
3. AIR FRYER EASE OF USE
Pro: Cooking a variety of dishes in an air fryer is easy.
You just set it and forget it. There’s one button or knob to set the time and one to set the temperature. What could be easier? And you can cook perfectly a bunch of different foods including a variety of meats, potatoes, and healthy vegetables – including broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower too.
Con: If you don’t check on your food, it can overcook.
Sure. But the same can be said about cooking with any appliance. You can follow recipes but it’s always a good idea to check on your food and flip it once during the cycle. That’s the best way to monitor your meals and get the delicious results you’re after.
4. COOKING BATTERED FOODS IN AIR FRYER
Pro: You can cook breaded and battered foods when you use a parchment paper liner.
If you haven’t tried your favorite chicken wings in an air fryer – you’re in for a treat. Or if you prefer, you can make delicious vegan wings by using the same spices on cauliflower in your air fryer. And barbequed tofu cooked this way can’t be beat.
Con: When cooking foods with a wet batter or sauce, your air fryer can get quite messy.
When you get bits of food cooked on the basket or tray, it can take considerable effort to get your air fryer clean again. Of course the simple solution is to use an aluminum foil or parchment paper liner (preferred) in the bottom of the basket. This can significantly reduce the mess and even eliminate it altogether.
5. TASTE OF ‘FRIED’ FOODS
Pro: Air fryers offer a healthier way to cook delicious food by using way less oil.
An air fryer gives you a beautiful degree of crispiness on the outside, with a perfectly cooked tender and delicious inside too. And it does so using little to no fat. Using zero oil is the healthiest way to go but may not always be practical.
We’ve had the best results overall by using a little bit of oil in our air fryer. Compared to a deep fryer – the difference is like night and day from a health point of view. There’s no two ways about it – deep fried food isn’t good for the body. Foods cooked in a deep fryer absorb plenty of the oil they are cooked in. So you end up consuming more fat. Since all oil is at least 120 calories per tablespoon, this can result in considerable additional calories and added weight.
In an air fryer, a little oil goes a long way thanks to the rapidly moving heated air. Any excessive oil (especially that found in prepackaged foods) tends to drain away from the food – which is a huge advantage over deep frying.
Con: Air fried food is not the same as deep-fried.
Almost everyone enjoys the taste of their favorite foods cooked in a deep fryer. But air fried food is different. In fact, food cooked in an air fryer is not really fried at all. It’s more like baked food that is cooked in a miniature convection oven. An air fryer utilizes one or more heating elements to produce serious heat. This heat is re-circulated throughout the cooking chamber by one or more high-powered fans. Food cooks quickly and this dry, heated air and produces a delicious crisp, nicely-browned coating.
6. SPEED OF COOKING IN AIR FRYER
Pro: Air fryers cook your food quickly.
There’s no doubt that air fryers are efficient cooking appliances. They can add a beautiful crispy texture and taste to your food in less time. You can preheat an air fryer in just a few minutes. Add your food to the basket and set the timer. That’s all there is to it. Invariably, you’ll find that your food cooks faster than in a conventional oven because it’s much smaller inside and the heat is better contained. So you don’t lose that heat to the outside air – it gets recycled – over and around the food in the basket.
Con: Air fryers take longer than deep fryers.
Cooking food in an air fryer takes longer than it does in a deep fryer. Once the vat of oil is hot – it takes mere minutes to cook foods in a deep fryer. An air fryer can take twice a long since it cooks with air and not oil.
7. CLEANING AIR FRYER
Pro: Air fryers are easy to clean when you take certain precautions.
We found the best results by adding a little bit of oil (up to one tablespoon) applied directly to the food. This helps eliminate any sticking to the basket. It’s also very helpful to use parchment paper as a liner in the bottom of the basket. This serves a similar purpose and prevents food particles from spilling onto and sticking to the vessel.
You can usually wash out the basket easily in hot water with a little dishwashing soap and a soft bristled brush. For stubborn, stuck on spills, some soaking may be required. Either way cleaning is a fairly easy process.
Con: Things could get messy.
If you don’t protect the basket with a liner when using sauces, marinades, or cheese, you could end up with a very messy air fryer. When that’s the case, clean up can be much more involved. But you can eliminate most of those stuck on messes by using parchment paper.
8. AIR FRYER EASE OF USE
Pro: Air fryers are easy to use.
Although it can take a few trial runs to get comfortable with your new air fryer, they aren’t at all difficult to operate. You simply plug it in and turn it on to preheat. Then add your food, set the timer and let it cook. Of course you’ll need to thoroughly clean your device before using it and after each use. But you’ll find that it’s an easy way to whip up a quick meal – whatever you fancy.
Con: There can be a slight learning curve.
It can take some practical experience to get comfortable cooking in this new way. Plenty of information is available online and there are numerous recipes you can follow too. But the fact is your air fryer may be a little bit different from the person providing the recipe. Therefore, you should expect some trial and error learning with a new air fryer until you get the perfect taste you’re looking for.
Pro: Air fryers work well with fresh or frozen foods.
An Air fryer is a versatile, multipurpose cooking appliance like fries (regular or sweet potato fries) from fresh potatoes or prepackaged frozen fries from the grocery store. It’s easy to reheat precooked meals in an air fryer – whether they are straight out of the freezer or refrigerator. They are ideal for cooking chicken wings, nuggets, mozzarella sticks and onion rings – all your favorites. It is also excellent way to make vegetables taste great – something parents should take note of – particularly if they’ve got fussy eaters at home.
Pro: Air fryers are energy-efficient.
Compared to a conventional oven, an air fryer uses far less power. Mind you, it also has a much smaller cooking capacity so you cannot cook the same volume of food that you can in a standard range. Your air fryer plugs into any standard household 120 Volt outlet versus a 240 Volt power supply used by full size ranges. Cooking cycles are shorter – so your food is prepared in less time.
Pro: You can cook in an air fryer multiple ways.
You can use your air fryer to cook in a variety of ways. For example you can air fry, reheat, roast, bake, broil, steam and with some models, cook your food on a rotisserie. You can prepare a variety of meats including chicken, steak, and hotdogs and cook your favorite vegetables. With a large size air fryer, you can even cook a whole chicken or small turkey, pot roast or roast beef.
Pro: Air fryers are super convenient.
You can simply throw in frozen foods like prepackaged onion rings, fries, nuggets, or tater tots. Set the timer and temperature and turn the air fryer on. Once the timer sounds – your food is ready. How convenient is that?
SAFETY VS DEEP FRYERS
Pro: Air fryers are safe to use compared to deep fryers.
Deep fryers can be very dangerous due to the massive amounts of oil required. The temperature of that oil and the fact that it can splatter anywhere makes deep frying a dangerous activity in the home kitchen. Once you’re finished deep-frying, you have all that oil to dispose of and a big mess to clean. Air fryers are compact electrical units that keep the food contained inside. Although they can get a little warm on the outside, chances are there’s no risk of burning your hands as is the case when cooking with a deep fryer.
Con: The nonstick coating on the basket can wear off.
You have to be careful when handling the removable basket that come with your air fryer. It’s also important to avoid using metal utensils. That’s because the nonstick coating is delicate and can be damaged. If it does get damaged to a large extent, you may need to replace the basket or buy a new air fryer altogether.
Con: With so many different air fryers out there – it’s difficult to decide on one.
Whenever a new product takes off in the marketplace you can be sure that manufacturers take note and want to get in on this hot item while they can. For the consumer this has led to a terrific variety of brands and models. But can seem overwhelming if you don’t go into the process with a basic understanding of the pros and cons of air fryers and how they work.
Many models are best suited to singles, couples, or small families. But there are a fair number of larger models too. But there isn’t really an air fryer that will accommodate large families or gatherings. They also work great for college students, seniors, or anyone living in smaller spaces he might not have access to a full size range. That’s not to say they’re not tremendously helpful for other people too, because in our experience they certainly are worth the investment.
The best air fryers for one or two people have been reviewed by us.
Con: Food can burn easily.
Since your food cooks faster in an air fryer – you have to keep an eye on it – particularly when you’re new to air frying. Don’t leave any food cooking for too long without checking it or flipping the pieces over. The difference a few minutes can make can be the difference between cooked perfectly and terribly overdone.
Con: Air fryers can produce dry food.
Once again, it’s important that you monitor cooking times and check your food periodically. If you leave it for an extended period of time, any food could dry out. But the same could happen in any conventional oven too. In a deep fryer, this may not be an issue because the oil keeps your food moist inside.
Undoubtedly you’ve heard plenty of buzz about air fryers before. Now that you’ve learned about the pros and cons, would an air fryer be a good fit in your kitchen?
If you like cooking in a variety of ways, chances are you’ll love the cooking capability an air fryer gives you. It’s another method for cooking a variety of delicious foods and with certain foods – sure to become your go-to favorite. All it takes is a light spritzing of oil to create a beautiful crisp exterior on so many different foods.
Air fryers are more convenient and safer than deep fryers. And the food they produce will be much healthier for you and your family. It’s a great way to make vegetables tastier – and to get kids to try a wider variety of healthy foods. For our top recommended air fryer, see our Cosori Air Fryer review