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Air fryers have been growing in popularity with demand increasing by a staggering 3000% in recent months.
Air fryers have been found to be significantly more cost-effective in terms of energy use than a standard oven. Research conducted by Utilita found that air fryers run at an average cost of £55.71 a year, while an electric cooker runs at £335.57 a year. It is therefore understandable that consumers are attracted to this potential saving on a yearly basis, along with some of the other benefits that cooking using an air fryer can provide. Air fryers can offer healthy alternatives for fried foods by cutting up to 80% of calories and using significantly less fat from oil. Eating fried foods on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some types of cancer. If you are someone who frequently eats fried food and you are trying to cut down and make healthy changes, an air fryer could be a healthy option for you.
It is important to note that although an air fryer can cook many different types of food, it cannot cook everything. There are also certain safety aspects of using an air fryer which are important to understand before using one.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks food by circulating hot air around the appliance. It rapidly circulates hot air, which creates a crispy and evenly cooked exterior and requires little to no oil. Air fryers usually consist of a cooking chamber, a heating element and a fan. The heating element generates the heat and the fan circulates the hot air around the cooking chamber. The food is usually placed in a basket or tray which enables the hot air to reach all sides of the food, cooking it thoroughly and evenly.
An air fryer is very similar to an oven in that it can bake or roast food. Air fryers are considered to be a healthier alternative to deep frying your food, as well as being a faster and more convenient way to achieve the same results, while also using less energy. It can give a similar texture and flavour to deep-fried food while being a healthier option.
Air fryers are generally straightforward to use, with adjustable temperature and timer settings which ensure precise cooking. Some models also come with cooking programmes which you can set for specific types of food. They are also usually compact in size, which makes them suitable for small kitchens or kitchens which have a limited countertop area.
What can be cooked in an air fryer?
Some people may think that you can only cook dishes which you would usually deep fry; however, there are a wide variety of foods that can be cooked using an air fryer. Air fryers can also be used to reheat food rather than using a microwave. One advantage to this is that it will keep the food crispy rather than making it soggy in texture.
Examples of food which can be cooked in an air fryer include:
- Sausages – you can cook sausages in an air fryer. You should cook them for 10-15 minutes at 180°C, turning them several times during cooking.
- Bacon – for thick-cut British bacon, you should cook it at 200°C for 8 minutes.
- Steak – the temperature and cooking time will depend on whether you prefer your steak to be rare, medium or well done.
- Chicken wings – you can achieve crispy skin without having to deep fry them. You can season the chicken wings to your liking before cooking.
- Chicken goujons – breaded or marinated chicken goujons can be cooked in the air fryer for a healthier alternative to deep frying and to still achieve a crispy finish.
- Fish – you can cook various types of fish in an air fryer.
- Chips – you can use air fryers to make crispy and golden-brown fries. Cut the potatoes into thin strips, add some oil and seasoning, and air fry until they are crispy.
- Rice – you can use an air fryer for cooked and uncooked rice. If you are cooking uncooked rice, it is recommended to place it inside a tin with boiling water and put a lid on top. It will need to be cooked at 180-200°C for approximately 25 minutes. If you place cooked rice in the air fryer, this can give you a crispy rice texture.
- Vegetables – air fryers can quickly roast various vegetables, including Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potato and many more.
- Mini pizza or flatbreads – an air fryer can also be used to make small pizzas or flatbreads. Top the dough with a tomato sauce base, cheese and the toppings of your choice, then air fry until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted.
- Popcorn – you should preheat the air fryer and use oil when making popcorn in the air fryer as this will ensure that the kernels get hot enough to pop evenly. It would be best to use a single layer of kernels and not stack them. Some of the pieces may become stuck to the inside of the air fryer and therefore it is important to clean the inside thoroughly after use.
- Bread – you can bake bread using an air fryer. The bread dough should be placed in a cake tin before being placed in the air fryer. The temperature and baking time also depends on the size of the cake pan and the brand of the air fryer.
- Cakes – cakes can be baked using an air fryer. You should ensure that your cake batter is in a cake pan and that it is lined with greaseproof paper. The temperature and baking time depends on the size of the cake pan and the brand of the air fryer. You should always be careful when using an air fryer to cook batter.
For specific air fryer recipes and ideas see the BBC good food guide for air fryers.
What can’t be cooked in an air fryer?
It is important to be aware that not all foods can be cooked in an air fryer either because it is unsafe to cook certain foods, or simply because it can affect the taste of the food.
Some foods that cannot be cooked using an air fryer include:
- Popcorn bags – this is because they are designed to be used in a microwave and they will burn in an air fryer.
- Eggs – although it is safe to cook eggs in an air fryer, the taste and texture may not be desirable. For example, boiled eggs may become chewy and rubbery when cooked in an air fryer.
- Pasta – it is not recommended to cook pasta in an air fryer due to the liquids and sauces used during the cooking process, as when the hot air circulates it can cause a splatter which can be dangerous, and it can also be messy.
- Fish in batter or any other food which is in batter – an air fryer should not be used to cook fish with batter around it as the wet batter won’t cook properly as it would do in a deep fat fryer. The batter would be soggy rather than crispy.
- Liquids – an air fryer is not suitable for liquids as the hot air which circulates around can cause the liquid to splatter which can be dangerous and will also be messy.
- Large items of food which do not correctly fit inside the tray – trying to overfill the tray can result in the food not being cooked thoroughly as the hot air will be unable to circulate properly. This can result in undercooked food which can lead to food poisoning.
- Food wrapped in foil – wrapping foods in foil is not recommended when using an air fryer. This is because the foil can block the airflow and prevent the food from cooking properly. This can result in undercooked or unevenly cooked food.
Where can an air fryer safely go in the kitchen?
In order to avoid any health and safety issues, it is important to consider where you can safely use and store your air fryer in the kitchen. Where you store your air fryer will depend upon how big your air fryer is and the storage space you have in your kitchen.
A few general things for you to consider are:
- Put it on a worktop and near a power socket.
- You should plug the air fryer directly into the power socket, avoiding using an extension cable. This is because an extension cable can cause a dip in power which could create a fault in the air fryer.
- Ensure the wire is not over a hot surface like a hob so that the cable does not melt.
- The kitchen surface should be flat, not slanted as the air fryer can vibrate slightly when in use which could cause it to slide, fall over or fall onto the ground.
- Consider keeping it in a well-ventilated area of your kitchen, near an extractor fan and turning the extractor fan on when using the air fryer. If this is not possible, alternatively you could ensure the windows are open when the air fryer is in use.
- Ensure that the ventilation at the back of the air fryer is not near a plug socket.
- Ensure that there is enough space for the air fryer and it is not obstructing other appliances.
- Make sure the surface is clean and dry.
- You should check the manufacturer’s specific instructions for any specific storage recommendations they provide.
Wherever you choose to store your air fryer, you should ensure that it is easily accessible and safe to use in that space when needed.
How to use an air fryer safely
As with any electrical appliance, it is important that you understand the safety aspects and any potential hazards before using the appliance. Electrical items are the number four fire risk in the home. The London Fire Brigade provide a useful guide for fire safety and electrical items.
Some important things to consider when using an air fryer include:
- Read your appliance manual carefully and keep it in a safe place for future reference. The manual will contain instructions and safety advice for your specific air fryer. It will also let you know who to contact if you need support with your appliance.
- Check for any damaged parts. Before each use, you should inspect the air fryer and its components for any signs of damage. This could include frayed cords, cracks or malfunctioning parts. If there are any issues with the appliance, do not use it and contact the manufacturer for support.
- Always make sure any electrical appliances have a British or European safety mark when you buy them.
- Make sure you thoroughly clean your air fryer after each use. Any food left in the tray could burn and be a fire hazard the next time you come to use the air fryer. There is also a risk of food contamination if the appliance is not cleaned properly after each use. You should always wait for the appliance to cool down fully before attempting to clean it in order to avoid getting burnt.
- Ensure your food is cooked at the correct temperature and length of time according to the food type. This will ensure that the food is cooked through which reduces the risk of food poisoning. Cooking instructions will sometimes be stated on the food label.
- When using your air fryer, ensure that it is in a safe location, on a flat, stable, heat-resistant surface. Keep it away from any flammable materials and make sure there is lots of space around it for good airflow.
- You should not leave your air fryer unattended when it is in use. Air fryers cook food quite quickly and therefore can easily burn the food. You should remain close by when cooking so that you can check the food regularly and respond quickly to any issues. You may need to shake or turn the food halfway through the cooking process for even results.
- As with any other electrical appliance, you should unplug your air fryer when it is not in use. This is because not doing so is a fire hazard, even if the appliance is switched off. Allow the air fryer to cool down completely before cleaning or storing it.
- You should use oven gloves when the air fryer is in use and until it has cooled down fully. The appliance will get very hot and the risk of getting burnt is high.
- You should only season your food with salt after it has been removed from the air fryer. This is because salt can break down the lining of the air fryer tray or basket.
- Avoid overfilling the air fryer as overfilling can impede proper air circulation and result in uneven cooking or create other potential hazards. You should always follow the recommended maximum capacity guidelines which will be provided by the manufacturer in your instruction manual.
- You may need to preheat your air fryer before beginning to cook your food. This will also be set out in your instruction manual.
- Do not use the appliance with wet hands or wet cooking utensils. Ensure your hands and any utensils you use are dry when handling the air fryer. Water or moisture can cause electric shocks or can even cause damage to the appliance itself.
If you would like to read further about the dangers in a kitchen, please see our knowledge base.