We love fryers. From relatively compact models that will mostly fuel our craving for fries quickly, to singing and dancing multi-function fryers that can take on roast chicken, candy and more. Not only do we love its ability to provide crispy fried foods in a healthier way, but this way of cooking is also energy efficient. So if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about or if a fryer deserves a space on your counter, here are the answers to your most frequently asked fryer questions.
1. Do I need a fryer?
No, but there are plenty of good reasons why you might love having one. Air fryers offer a much healthier alternative to frying and cook much faster than convection ovens or fans. They heat up faster, and many models are small enough to sit on your countertop without getting in your way. If you like crispy fries but want them to be as healthy as possible, a deep fryer could be your new best friend.
2. Are deep fryers expensive?
Nothing special. Some of the best cheap air fryers are well under $100/£100, and even the smarter, bigger models aren’t terribly expensive. If you don’t mind sacrificing a little performance, you can pick up a multi-purpose oven that can bake, broil, toast, bake, fry and reheat for between $200 and $300 (£200 to £300 in the UK) . Air fryer deals can often be found during big sales events like Black Friday. And if you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of affordable options – why not consider certified refurbished stock on eBay, for example?
3. Do fryers use oil?
Yes, but only in small amounts: usually half a tablespoon. When we make French fries, we just give them a quick spritz with a sprayer of oil, enough to help with the crisping process, but not so much that they’re soggy. Being able to get that fresh crunch without using gallons of oil is one of the biggest benefits of air frying: you get all the flavor without all the fat.
4. Can you put aluminum foil in a deep fryer?
You can, but it’s not necessarily a good idea. The main difference between an air fryer and a convection oven is the airflow: by circulating hot air very quickly around the food in the basket, a deep fryer produces faster and crispier results than a regular oven. If you block that air out — for example, by wrapping your food in aluminum foil — you’ll lose this benefit.
That said, sometimes a little foil can come in handy – or better yet, why not consider perforated parchment paper? The leaf can react poorly to acidic foods such as citrus fruits and tomato-containing marinades. However, placing the food on a piece of foil or parchment in the basket can prevent it from sticking to the metal. However, do not place until the oven has been preheated; it will explode inside your fryer if you do that, and if it lands on the heating element it could be a disaster.
We decided to compare the different methods to see which was the best. These four salmon fillets were placed skin-side down in four different ways: completely wrapped in foil; sitting in a little basket we made out of aluminum foil; sitting on parchment paper; and sitting straight in the basket (oiled).
And here are the results after 7 minutes of cooking at 400ºF.
Cooked salmon fully covered in foil was watery and a little slimy, with the skin stuck to the foil. The fillet sitting on top of the foil was firmer and drier, and it stuck to the foil a little. The salmon on the parchment was tight, dry and clean from the paper, while the fillet in the metal basket cooked well, but when we tried to pull it out, the skin stayed in place.
5. What can I cook in the fryer?
Air fryers are best suited for dry foods that you would fry in oil: think french fries or sweet potatoes, breaded fish, cajun fried chicken, and so on. It’s good for reheating dry foods like pizza or chicken if you have leftovers from last night’s food, and it’s also good for cooking frozen vegetables and frozen snacks.
6. What foods cannot be air fried?
Air fryers are pretty useless with moist covered foods such as vegetable tempura or breaded fish (dough drips or puffs), and not good with cheese, which melts and falls into the basket. They can cook steaks and burgers, but you don’t get the deep-fried char that gives it so much flavor. Leafy greens like spinach also don’t cook well in air fryers, and few air fryers get hot enough to make popcorn pop.
As with frying, it’s important that you don’t overcrowd the basket.
The other important thing to note is that unless you buy a multi-purpose oven or a double basket fryer, you are limited to cooking the contents of a single basket, which is usually quite small. You’re not going to have a whole turkey, tons of vegetables, and two dozen pigs in blankets over Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.
7. Do fryers consume a lot of energy?
That depends on the model. Smaller fryers can use around 700W, but some of the larger fryers run up to 2000W.
8. Are air fryers cheaper than convection ovens or ranges?
Yup. Electric ovens typically draw between 2,000 W and 5,000 W, and the biggest burner on an electric stove or stove can be 2,000 W to 2,500 W. An air fryer cooks in less time, as well as preheat time, so even the most powerful fryer will use less energy overall. And if you have a small kitchen like ours, a deep fryer won’t make your kitchen uncomfortably hot like conventional ovens often do.
9. Are air fryers cheaper than microwave ovens?
Not. Microwave ovens use less energy – even the most powerful microwaves tend to hit 1,000W compared to up to 2,000W for the largest family-sized fryers – and use that energy for a much shorter period of time. But they cook differently, so, for example, you wouldn’t microwave french fries; and you wouldn’t fry a lasagna ready meal.