There’s been a bit of an explosion lately in the choice of the best deep fryers on the market. That’s not really surprising, since fried food delights like French fries, spring rolls and chicken wings are delicious, especially with the added bonus of their crispy (and tantalizing) flavor.
While we typically fry foods in a special fryer or pan with very hot oil, air fryers allow you to cook and enjoy fried foods, but with less or no oil in the cooking equation. Air fryers generally employ convection-style heat using a combination of elements and fan to effectively blow hot air over the chosen dish. Some even move the food as it cooks.
As a result, the best air fryers work quickly and efficiently, deliver brilliantly crisp food and eliminate the need to spill gallons of hot oil. They are fast, easy to use and fairly clean. If you and your family find the lure of fried food irresistible, then a deep fryer will allow you to enjoy a rather healthier variation on the theme. Here’s our guide on what to look for….
HOW MANY TYPES OF AIR FRYERS ARE THERE?
Air fryers work on a simple principle. There’s usually the main unit, which comes with a removable tray or basket, although there are also models that feature a container inside which you place the ingredients for cooking. Depending on the model, its feature set and price, cooking is controlled by preset or manual settings via buttons.
Temperature and time are the primary settings for most fryers, although many models offer a variety of built-in settings that can be selected if you want the convenience of one-touch cooking. However, one of the key things about air frying food lies in your powers of observation. While the setup and the device itself will do the hard work, keeping an eye on how the food looks could make the difference between delicious fries and disaster.
That’s because air fryers are very efficient. If you don’t check your dishes or if you don’t stop to move a little here and there, it could result in burnt food (or a hand or finger). The advantage of this efficiency is that it may be easier to use a fryer than to turn on the oven. Buying a fryer with adequate capacity will easily do the same job as a conventional oven. What’s more, it will do the job much faster.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO SPEND ON AN AIR FRYER?
There are many models of air fryers on the market, and many offer the same or similar functionality. However, prices vary greatly. You can get an entry-level budget model with few features or functions for less than $2,000 MXN.
In many cases, creating delicious, crispy fries can be just as good as a model that costs five times as much. Part of that will depend on the design, but – again – you have to think about the visual aspect of air cooking. Keep an eye on those fries and they should turn out great, as long as you know when to press the button to stop the process. Not sure? Choose a model with preset options.
While many inexpensive fryers will suffice, it’s really worth considering a more expensive model if you’re looking to cook other things in such an appliance. Deep fryers have become very popular with people who love fried food, but many models are also great for handling other mealtime tasks. In fact, many of the best air fryers can also grill, bake, toast, keep food warm, as well as reheat dishes.
The more sophisticated models will allow you to choose a function from the preset menu options or create your own manual settings. Everyone likes their food done differently, so if you’re picky about how certain dishes are cooked, then pay a little extra and get the added flexibility of a wider variety of features and functions. Of course, if you’re frying fries once a week, an economy model will certainly suffice.
WHAT FEATURES ARE ESSENTIAL IN AN AIR FRYER?
Being able to fry food quickly and easily, without oil, is naturally key when buying an air fryer. However, you’ll want to consider the capacity of it, and that’s not always related to cost either. If you’re looking for a fryer to cook for your whole family, you’ll probably need more volume, so the bigger the pan – or fryer – the better.
A larger capacity means you can cook everything at once, although larger portions need to be stirred or shaken to ensure even cooking…. Especially when it comes to French fries (yes, we love them). If you’re eating alone or as a couple, then a smaller machine with less capacity is absolutely fine. Smaller portions also mean things cook faster and more efficiently, although you’ll still need to apply visual checks as we said.
In addition to capacity, look for control options and preset programs. As we mentioned, many fryer models allow you to fry, broil, grill, roast and bake, with the added capability of being able to choose the settings manually. The other feature to consider is the built-in timer, which allows you to set the exact period of time during which food is cooked. Getting the temperature and time right will allow you to cook food just the way you like it.
WHAT EXTRA FEATURES SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN AN AIR FRYER?
While different models of air fryers are essentially variations on a theme, some models have additional features that give an added advantage. Tefal’s Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 is a classic example of this, as it not only has the benefit of a two-in-one design, with a bottom pan and top tray, but also features a paddle on the bottom. This automatically moves the food ingredients around, ensuring that your food cooks more consistently and is less likely to burn.
At the very least, you’ll find that your fryer comes with a pan or basket, often with a metal or nonstick grill on the bottom. The food stays on top and the oil drips into the pan for disposal. Ultimately, this is why air-fried foods are generally healthier and less greasy. It is also the reason why the food looks so good during the cooking process. It will definitely mean that you will also reduce your oil usage (Yei!).
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO WORK WITH AN AIR FRYER?
Any decent air fryer will come with two main features. It will have a timer, either as a dial or as part of a touch screen or buttons. Secondly, there will be a control to adjust the temperature during cooking. The third part of this process is using your own eyes to monitor the cooking progress.
If you are thinking of buying a more expensive model, look for it to have programmable modes, which cover common cooking tasks such as frying, baking and reheating with one-touch simplicity. You should also keep an eye out for the accompanying apps, which can often help you with recipe ideas and, in some cases, offer step-by-step guidance on what ingredients to put in the fryer and when.
ARE AIR FRYERS EASY TO CLEAN?
If you’ve been used to a deep fryer, having an air fryer in your life will be a revelation. Of course, there’s still cleaning to do, but there’s a lot less oil in evidence. If you’ve cooked something like a rotisserie chicken, you can expect a reasonable amount of oil to accumulate in the pan or basket. However, this can be easily drained and the skillet along with other components, such as the grill pan, can generally be placed in the dishwasher (to avoid the fatigue of scrubbing them).
The fryer units themselves can be cleaned, although you should avoid excess water due to their connection to the mains. There may be LCD screens and buttons that also need to be carefully cleaned. However, compared to many kitchen appliances, the deep fryer has to be considered one of the easiest appliances to clean. Most designs are fairly easy to put away when you’re not using them as well, just be sure to let it cool down properly after use, as these things get hot.