If you’re considering whether to buy one of the best air fryers for your home, you’ll need to know the pros and cons of cooking with an air fryer before you do.
Air fryers have taken off in recent years, popular for their convenience in rustling up crispy, delicious foods in no time. And much like one of the best Instant Pots, these mini convection ovens have become one of the must-have kitchen appliances.
Not only can air fryers cook crunchy foods rapidly using little or no oil, but they are also known to be slightly cheaper to run than a standard oven, saving you money on bills. It’s no surprise that many stores saw a shortage of air fryers as the cost of living crisis affected many households.
After owning my air fryer for two years, I’ve certainly put mine to good use, impressed by its crispier and tasty results — but are air fryers a good match for you? To help you decide, here are 5 pros and cons of cooking with an air fryer.
Pros of cooking with an air fryer
1. They heat up quickly and cook foods fast — Air fryers preheats and cooks food in a fraction of the time, compared to a standard oven or even in one of the best toaster ovens.
Typically, most air fryers can preheat to 400°F in five minutes or less, while gas ovens can take up to 13 minutes, and electric ovens between 17 and 19 minutes to hit the same temperature. This makes it convenient for rustling up quick snacks, or cooking a family feast in no time at all. Of course, preheating times depend on the type of air fryer you own, but they will still heat a lot faster than most ovens.
2. They crisp foods evenly — Since air fryers are mini convection ovens, this circulates hot air to cook foods on all sides. Providing you turn your food over halfway, this results in the perfect crisp and flavor to rival deep-fried recipes. And if you prefer the ideal crunch for your favorites, this makes air fryers perfect for French fries, fish sticks, onion rings, and other popular fried foods. Air fryers are also ideal for reheating fried leftovers, to give it their crunchy texture again.
What’s more, air fryers are versatile, and can cook many different foods including meats, seafood, and vegetables. Some models give you the option to fit accessories like cake pans, racks, pizza pans, and silicone mats to make various recipes. For more inspiration, here are 7 foods you didn’t know you could cook in an air fryer. But bear in mind, there are also some things you should never put in an air fryer for quality control!
3. Cooking requires less oil — Unlike the quantities of oil used for deep or shallow frying, air fryers need little to no oil, making them a lower fat method for cooking foods. In fact, while many deep-fried recipes need up to 3 cups (750 mL) of oil, air-fried foods would only need about 1 tablespoon (15 mL) in comparison. And while there is much debate about whether air fryers are actually healthy, these appliances are certainly a ‘healthier’ alternative to deep frying.
What’s more, this will save you money on grocery bills, especially if you’re looking for new ways on how to cook using less oil.
4. They are safer to use — Typically, air fryers are much safer to use in comparison to handling a vat of oil or a pan. Not only are they designed to cope with high temperatures, but you won’t have the risk of hot oil splashes. This is especially the case if you have young children or pets in the home.
In addition, they are more user-friendly, and you can carry the basket safely from one spot to another, without the risk of accidental oil spillages. One thing to bear in mind however, is that air fryers can get very hot, so always allow foods to cool down for a while before taking out and serving.
5. Less mess to clean up — Compared to traditional frying, air fryers are a breeze to clean after use. After all, who wants to dispose of cooking oil each time? Depending on the model, all removal parts are dishwasher-safe, although you can easily hand-wash the basket in hot, soapy water. For the outside of the air fryer, simply use a damp cloth to wipe away traces of dirt.
What's more, if you want to minimize grease residue, line your fryer basket with a specific liner much like this Air Fryer Disposable Paper Liner ($8, Amazon), before cooking. Then you simply dispose of it after use, without the fuss of cleaning the base each time. Win-win!
In any case, always check the manual that came with your air fryer before learning how to clean an air fryer and get rid of baked-on grease.
Cons of cooking with an air fryer
1. Not all foods can be cooked in an air fryer — Although air fryers are incredibly versatile, there are some things that simply won’t work in an air fryer. Not only will it affect the overall quality, texture and flavor, but can also be a potential hazard. Certain veggie recipes such as roasted broccoli contain less moisture, so will dry out very quickly, while leafy green vegetables can burn easily. Instead, stick to certain root vegetables such as potatoes or sweet potatoes for a nice crispy texture.
If you want to avoid a disaster at mealtimes, read the 9 things you should never put in an air fryer for peace of mind. And while you're at it, make sure you're not making any of these air fryer mistakes as well.
2. They can overcook foods — Since air fryers heat up very quickly, and retain their hot temperature longer, this often speeds up the cooking process. This can result in overcooked, or worse, inedible foods — even at the recommended cooking time on packaging. If you want to avoid dried-out foods, take note of timings, and try not to leave high-heat foods inside the fryer for too long.
Similarly, if you forget to preheat most air fryers, this might result in undercooked foods. Which means you’ll have to experiment with the settings and timings to achieve your preferred crisp. In any case, each air fryer model/brand varies, so be sure to read the manual, and stick to what air fryer recipes they have suggested.
3. Not ideal for larger households — Typically, air fryers have smaller capacity than a standard oven, so not ideal for cooking regular meals for families. While you can buy XL air fryers, or ones with two baskets to cook separate dishes at once, these are only sufficient for up to four people. If you want to cook hearty meals for a big family however, it makes more sense cooking in an oven. In addition, it’s far more energy-efficient to cook large quantities in a standard oven at just one time than using an air fryer multiple times.
4. You can overfill an air fryer — One of the most common mistakes is to overfill an air fryer. Since air fryers come with a deep basket, it's tempting to fill it to the brim, and assume this will save you time. However, overfilling can block the hot air from circulating around the food properly. This will result in foods being either undercooked or lack that perfect, even crisp. Instead, place your food in a single layer across the basket with space between each item for the air to flow around it.
5. They can take up extra space — Most standard air fryers are bulky appliances, which need space on a kitchen countertop. In addition, air fryers also need sufficient room to vent properly during the cooking process. So if you have a compact kitchen, cluttered cupboards, or limited storage, you’ll have to consider where to place this. If you do have a small household however, or only need it for small treats, you can always opt for a compact, 2-quart capacity air fryer such as this Instant Vortex 4-in-1, 2-QT Mini Air Fryer ($49, Amazon), which is neat and ideal for limited space.
Bottom line: Should you buy an air fryer?
Ultimately, buying an air fryer will all depend on your specific needs. How often will you be using it? Do you have a large household? And how much space do you have? While my small air fryer is a great space-saving appliance that I often use for quick snacks, others would find the compact size limiting. Also, if you want to cook up large quantities, and have plenty of counter space, it's more practical to invest in a bigger model to save on time and energy. Whatever size or model you decide on, nothing beats the sheer convenience, ease of use, and crispy results that an air fryer has to offer.
If you're new to the world of air frying, you’ll need to know how to use an air fryer for best results. For more air fryer tips, tricks and how tos, check out 11 Air fryer mistakes you’re probably making, as well as 9 things you should never put in an air fryer, how to use an air fryer. More importantly, read about how to stop your air fryer from overheating since it could be a potential fire hazard.