Are air fryers worth it?

They’re known for cooking quickly, with minimal oil – so it’s no wonder air fryers have become the hottest kitchen appliance. But does that make air-fried food healthier?

The 2017-18 National Health Survey shows two-thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese.

No wonder air fryers have become the must-have appliance – but do they live up to the hype?

What is an air fryer?

It’s essentially a mini fan-forced oven, but more efficient: hot air rapidly circulates in a relatively small cooking space, evenly wrapping around food resting in a metal basket.

Air fryers are best known for using minimal oil to produce crispy, golden-brown results similar to frying, but like fan-forced ovens they also roast, grill, bake and reheat – and usually faster.

Is air-fried food healthy?

Dietitian Themis Chryssidis confirms that an air fryer “requires less cooking oils, so less fat, to get a very similar outcome to a deep fryer.”

The health benefits of consuming less fat is not limited to controlling weight. “Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Australians,” says Themis, spokesperson for Dietitians Australia.

“The best way to manage that is by managing people’s fat intake, as well as general lifestyle.”

Just because foods like chicken nuggets are cooked in an air fryer doesn’t make them healthy though.

“We still need to ensure that we have a varied diet, that we’re eating a range of seasonal fruits and vegetables … and a range of flavour profiles and textures,” says Themis.

What can be cooked in an air fryer?

Air Fryer Express author George Georgievski says that “people judge an air fryer on potato chips”, but it’s capable of much more.

His wide repertoire includes tacos, bread, pizza, churros, pastries and pavlova.

George particularly enjoys re-interpreting his mother’s time-consuming traditional Macedonian recipes, such as a spicy bean and sausage dish.

“I’ve just simplified it, and the air fryer makes everything quicker, so now those dishes are achievable… after work,” he says.

Themis also recommends thinking beyond potatoes: “There are many other vegetables you can do in your air fryer that give you a nutrient-dense product with lots of fibre, without using a lot of oil.”

He also suggests air-frying proteins, from fish to falafels.

Air fryers aren’t suitable for liquids such as soups and stews or freshly battered food, and can’t handle big volumes.

Most only cook half to one kilogram of chips, for example.

Is an air fryer worth it?

That limited cooking capacity means large households should think twice before spending $59 to $599 on an air fryer, while those short on kitchen space should consider how often they will use one.

It can replace multiple appliances including ovens, however, so is a potential solution for tiny kitchens. They radiate minimal heat so are handy during summer too.

George believes air fryers are so versatile and quick “it’s something you want to make space for”.

He says some people wonder if their popularity is “like a cult, but I think it’s convenience”.

George’s top air-fryer cooking tips

  • Don’t overfill the basket. Know your appliance’s capacity for optimal cooking.
  • Minimal pre-heating is required so prepare ingredients before turning it on.
  • Olive oil spray is your best friend because it coats food evenly.
  • Use oven mitts. Air fryers’ internal parts get hot quickly.
  • Be adventurous and creative.

Air Fryer Express CoverWritten by Patricia Maunder. Air Fryer Express, by George Georgievski, published by Pan Macmillan. RRP $26.99