Should you buy an air-fryer?
In recent years, air-fryers have taken the world by storm, promising the “fried” food experience without the guilt, grease and calories. First introduced to the market in 2010, these countertop kitchen appliances are essentially small convection ovens, just with a bit more punch. Food is placed in a fryer-like basket and hot air (sometimes with a little oil) is rapidly blown around it. The result? Crispy, crunchy air-fried goodness. But do air-fryers deliver on all they offer, and are they an item we really need to invest in?
Why you should invest in an air-fryer
Air-fryers are quick and easy to use, with dishes from sweet potato fries to whole chicken being perfectly cooked in record time. Sweet potato fries come out soft and fluffy inside, and crunchy on the outside, while whole chicken is juicy and tender, with golden, crisp skin. There’s no denying that air-fryers work, and well at that. Plus, there’s no oily mess to clean up, and none of the risks associated with cooking with hot oil.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Air-fried small batch banana bread
If we compare air-frying to deep-fat frying, air-fryer is certainly a healthier option. It uses little to no oil (1-2 teaspoons gives a slightly crispier result), so produces food with considerably fewer calories. An air-fryer can therefore be a great choice if you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle but struggling to cut out those deep-fried favourites. In addition, it is thought that air-frying may preserve more nutrients in foods, as well as reduce carcinogenic acrylamide, which is created when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures. They are also particularly useful when it comes to reheating food. It’s a much quicker and cheaper option than turning on the oven and, unlike a microwave, which can make things soggy, an air-fryer keeps things crisp.
Why you should think twice before buying an air-fryer
So, what’s the catch? Although air-frying is healthier than deep-fat frying, it is still a form of frying. Techniques such as steaming remain much better choices for healthy everyday cooking. Furthermore, some typically deep-fried foods such as battered foods do not work as well, as the batter can drip through the basket and make a mess.
Capacity is also limited. If you want to cook some sides with your chicken, for example, you’ll have to cook in batches. This means that although an air-fryer might be more practical and cost-effective in some instances, for larger quantities, it isn’t necessarily.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Air-fryer Russians and chips
With prices ranging from just under R1,000 to a whopping R10,000, an air-fryer is not an item that you buy without thinking twice. Ask yourself if it is something you are likely to use regularly enough to warrant taking up valuable countertop space. Or is it going to end up gathering dust in the top cupboard, along with the biltong maker and yoghurt machine? If you eat deep-fried food on a regular basis, an air-fryer probably is worth investing in. It is a useful piece of kitchen equipment that can help you improve your diet. Similarly, if you often cook small dishes, for just one or two people, or like to reheat leftovers or experiment in the kitchen, it is a good choice. But, for the average family, it most likely isn’t worth the money or the space in the kitchen.
MUST-TRY RECIPE: Air-fryer shepherd’s pie with chips