Are Air Fryers Worth It? Experts Weigh In
Even though air fryers aren’t exactly new – they’ve actually been around for more than a decade – it wasn’t until recently that they’ve exploded in popularity. Sales of air fryers jumped 76% between 2020 and 2022 compared to the two years before that.
All that popularity can be hard to resist. But, given that an air fryer has a large footprint and average price tag of $150, you may be wondering whether it’s really worth it. Here’s everything you need to know about this trendy countertop appliance.
How exactly do air fryers work?
Similar to a convection oven, an air fryer has a large fan that circulates hot air evenly inside to create that coveted crispy texture. With a little bit of oil and the air fryer’s high temperature, a chemical reaction (known as the Maillard Reaction) takes place, causing the food to develop that signature brown crust.
Air fryers work beautifully with breaded items, frozen foods, baked goods, and vegetables, notes Laurie Fleming, author of The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook For Beginners. “The general rule of thumb is, anything that you can make in an oven or grill, you can cook in the air fryer,” she says. “I’ve made everything from a perfect salmon dish to air-fried cannolis.”
Benefits of an air fryer
There are a few major advantages air fryers offer. The first is that they can produce fried-like food with minimal oil. When you compare air fryers to different methods of cooking, they can be a healthier option, says registered dietitian Leah Reitmayer. “Air fryers use hot air to cook food instead of oil, which can significantly reduce the amount of additional saturated fat in your meals,” she explains.
The second benefit is that air fryers can cook more quickly than a conventional or convection oven. This is because the cooking chamber is very small compared to an oven, and the internal fan blows intense heat into the food. Plus, air fryers are particularly great at reheating leftovers; unlike the microwave, which can leave foods soggy, an air fryer can restore a crisp texture after refrigeration.
Also, an air fryer is much more energy efficient than a standard oven, which can translate to lower monthly bills.
Drawbacks to an air fryer
Though air fryers offer a ton of benefits, they do come with some considerations. One is space. Though you can think of them as “mini ovens,” they aren’t small — most are the size of rice cookers or microwaves. So if space is at a premium in your kitchen, an air fryer is only worth it if it will get a lot of use.
For all the space they take up, air fryers are not the best for large-scale cooking. If you have a big family or like to cook for a crowd, you’ll be better off using the convection setting in your oven, if it has one. Air fryers don’t technically crisp foods better than a convection oven, they’re just nice to have for when you want to make a smaller quantity of food and are short on time, says Tess Challis, author of The Essential Vegan Air Fryer Cookbook.
So: Are air fryers worth it?
Ultimately, the answer to the question of whether it’s worth getting an air fryer is: It depends.
Air fryers are absolutely worth it if you have the space, the time saving is important to you, and you can accommodate the smaller capacity. But if you already have a convection oven, space is at a premium, and/or you’d rather not invest in another appliance, you can let go of the air fryer FOMO. Another solution is one of the air fryer-toaster oven combos, which allow you to get the air fryer functionality and other features, like toasting and baking smaller items.