Is that Air Fryer a Good Idea?

If you’re anything like us, you love hearing about the newest innovations in kitchen technology. First it was the crockpot, which allowed hands-free sauce- and soup-making for families around the country. Then came the at-home bread maker, creating hundreds of thousands of home bakers. Then the magic bullet. Then the spiralizer. Then that little pan you can use to cook a single egg. Then… herb scissors?

Though kitchen technology is always exciting, it seems that the recent generation of inventions is proving to be more ridiculous than the last. Sure, I’d love to create vegetable noodles, but is it really that much extra effort to chop your herbs? Do you really need a bowl to separate your cereal and milk for optimum crunch? Probably not.

However, there have been a few game-changing newcomers that seem to have captured the hearts of American cooks. The Instant Pot, for example, has received praise from the likes of Lorna Sass and the New York Times. The Air Fryer has garnered similar attention, advertising the ability to “fry” a piece of food with just a portion of the necessary oil. This one even made Oprah’s list of her Favorite Thing sin 2016. Honestly, that one seemed too good to be true. Luckily for many of us, the Air Fryer was a relatively inexpensive Christmas gift from many a parent.

So, what’s the deal with the Air Fryer? The device claims to fry foods with 80% less oil, recommending a light coating of cooking spray instead of the standard deep-fry. This is a bold claim, but one that I could easily test—like many Americans, I received this heavy, bulky device as a Christmas gift.

Despite the claim, there is no frying going on inside your Air Fryer. This is a self-contained, countertop convection oven. A fan blows from the top of the device through an electric heating element. The air flow starts at the top, heats up, then blasts onto and around the food through the mesh cooking basket. The shaped drip tray at the bottom helps to recirculate air back to the top.

Is it pretty? No. Is it silent? Absolutely not. Does it work? Kind of…? I tried making french fries, apple chips, and vegetables. The french fries were decidedly soggy, have of the vegetable chips were brown (while the other half was barely cooked), and the vegetables were surprisingly good. As with most new kitchen gadgets, the trick to the Air Fryer is to perfect your heat and timing. With just a few adjustments, my fries were a bit crunchier and the apple chips were a bit more evenly cooked

So, the final verdict: If your local grocery store is having an Air Fryer sale, check it out. If you received one as a gift, take it for a spin before trying to sell it. I’m not enthusiastic about this purchase, but if you can find one for under or around $40, it’s worth your money just to experiment.