Before going into the technical and structural characteristics of the air fryer. It is necessary to make a small clarification on its operation. In fact, it is a relatively new appliance with an innovative operation.
The air fryer, as the name suggests, cooks the food thanks to a jet of hot air that comes from a fan. Therefore, the operation of this accessory is very simple for the user. Just add the ingredients to the basket and activate the preferred cooking mode.
In some models, there is an electric heater that heats up during cooking. In these products, it will be possible to realize other types of cooking as well as frying (we will see this aspect in greater detail in the paragraph dedicated to functions). The hot air jet can be released in different ways depending on the type of air fryer. In air fryers with vertical convection. The jet is emitted from top to bottom or vice versa. While in those with horizontal convection by two fans side. On the market, it is also possible to find vertical convection models equipped with a particular technology that allows the air to be emitted in a circular way. These products are the most efficient as they reduce cooking times and offer more homogeneous cooking.
Advantage of Using Air Fryer
The big advantage offered by cooking using an air jet is the possibility of using a few or no additional fat. This applies to both frozen and pre-fried ingredients such as potato chips or chicken nuggets, and to other foods already rich in fat like meatballs.
The benefits brought by the air fryer for health are motivating many people to abandon the traditional fryer for this type of technology. Whether the results are more or less satisfying depends on many factors, including the ingredients used. The quality of the machine and your ability to juggle between the stoves at home. However, we take for granted that the recipes must be adjusted according to personal taste.
Gluttons often point out that the taste of fried foods “air” is different from that of fried “in oil”, but as already specified this depends in part on individual preferences. We believe that traditional fried in oil should not be avoided, but that it is right to moderate consumption. The air fryer responds precisely to this need.
1. Capacity and structure
The first factor that we recommend you consider when deciding to buy an air fryer is that concerning the capacity of the machine and its structural aspects. It is important to buy the air fryer most suited to your usual number of diners so that you can prepare the dishes for everyone at once, without having to go through several cooking cycles and leave someone waiting.
However, a high capacity air fryer can also be useful for another reason. The high capacity also allows the simultaneous cooking of two different dishes. Thanks to the use of special grids or separators that allow you to divide the cooking space available. Smaller air fryers often do not offer this possibility, or do not include the appropriate accessory in their equipment.
How many portions can you prepare with the air fryer?
The quantity of ingredients that can be cooked simultaneously depends both on the width of the basket and on the type of ingredient.
On the market, there are both small-sized air fryers, suitable for a young couple or at most a family of three, and larger machines, consequently even more bulky, capable of feeding five to eight people. The first category includes devices with a capacity of about 2 quarts that can contain about 2 kg of ingredients. While for several people we recommend taking into consideration air fryers with a capacity of at least 3.2 quarts, which contain about 3 kg of food.
Finally, larger air fryers have a capacity of more than 4 quarts, making it possible to prepare food for eight people or more.
In this regard, we need to open a parenthesis to talk about the different types of air fryers in relation to size. It is true that larger sizes of the appliance correspond to larger dimensions. But it must be specified that not all hot-air fryers are morphologically the same. Some models develop more in height, others more in width: this also depends on the internal cooking system. We see the differences:
Vertical development: in air fryers that develop vertical convection, with a fan that creates a recirculation of air from the bottom upwards or vice versa. The height development is significant, even over 40 cm, with a width also it is between 30 and 40 cm.
Horizontal development: in those models that instead develop horizontal convection the height is more contained, around 30 cm or less, but the overall width is greater, which can reach 40 cm.
The choice of the air fryer must therefore also take into account the space available in the kitchen.
In addition to the size of the closed fryer, you must also consider how this opens up to allow food to be loaded. We have said that there are models that develop vertical convection and others that develop it horizontally. We can say that each of these types corresponds to a different loading system.
Drawer: in vertical convection air fryers, the food compartment is normally located in the lower half of the machine. The resistance that generates the heat and the fan that diffuses it immediately below. The cooking basket is extracted like a drawer, pulling a handle on the front of the appliance. It is usually possible to extract it from the drawer by simply lifting it, and place it on another surface (heat resistant) to load the ingredients.
Therefore, this type of opening requires free space at the front of the fryer, a condition that virtually all kitchens can satisfy.
A book: in a horizontal convection fryer, the fan is normally located behind the cooking basket, which is protected by a usually transparent cover that rises with a book opening to allow food to be inserted. It is not necessary to remove the basket except for cleaning operations after use. The visible lid allows you to monitor the cooking status at any time. This opening system requires some free space above the air fryer.
Another very interesting factor to consider is the one concerning the supply of accessories supplied with the air fryer. In many cases, no accessory is supplied, and if you want to use the machine for a wider range of preparations. You need to purchase the necessary components separately.
In other cases, however, the supply is richer and makes it possible to range immediately with the recipes. Let’s see what are the most common accessories.
Separator: it allows to divide into two the useful space for cooking. So cooker can able to cook two different foods simultaneously without one absorbing the flavors and smells of the other.
Grill: Allows you to prepare grilled dishes or cook two foods simultaneously, allowing the aromas to penetrate.
Shovel: It is used to automatically mix the foods you are cooking, such as chips or risottos.
Molds: they are used to prepare specific dishes, such as small timbales, muffins, sweet or savory tarts.
Spits: they are obviously used to prepare dishes on the spit.
Furthermore, virtually all air fryers are supplied with a cookbook that allows the user to learn how to use the machine. While at the same time showing its versatility. Some models are able to prepare even “wet” dishes such as risottos, and practically everyone is also suitable for the preparation of cakes and baked desserts.
Another aspect to be evaluated is the one related to the functions present on the hot-air fryer. These machines are not at all complicated to use. It is difficult to find models rich in preset cooking programs, as is the case with other appliances, such as microwave ovens or multi-cookers. It is even easier to meet fryers with very simple functions. The air fryer works.
In the following paragraphs, we will see what are the main functions that can be found on an air fryer, distinguishing between the basic functions. Which are found on practically all the models on the market, and the advanced ones, peculiar only to some high-end models.
Temperature selection: the possibility to set the temperature is offered by almost all air fryers. In some cases, the range is minimal and ranges from 180 ° C to 200 ° C, while in other products lower temperatures can also be selected. The settable temperature will hardly exceed 220 ° C.
Timer: the timer is also a very important function. With automatic programs, it is usually not necessary to set it, while with manual programming, setting the timer is often an obligatory step for activation.
Acoustic signals: this function consists of an audible warning both when the set cooking temperature is reached. Which indicates when it is possible to insert the foods to be cooked. Both at the end of cooking, when the timer reaches zero.
Automatic switch-off: intervenes a few minutes after the end of cooking to avoid overcooking, and therefore spoiling, the dishes that have been prepared.
6. Advanced features
Only the most complex models can also be equipped with a grill that contributes to offering a wider range of cooking modes. A selector will allow setting only air cooking or combined with grill and it will be possible to fry, grilling and roasting.
Always among the most advanced models, some cooking programs can then be stored for specific preparations, such as frying chips or cooking risottos. A push-button panel or a dial selector allows you to select the modes with a simple touch. Temperatures and cooking times indicated for each of the stored preparations.
Finally, still speaking of the most sophisticated air fryers. It is possible in some models to manage two cooking areas separately, setting different times and temperatures.
Another factor that may be worth considering is that of power. Let us immediately say that air fryers are not low-consumption appliances, like all the machines that must generate heat. Consumption indeed reminds very closely those of traditional built-in ovens, and can even exceed 2000 W of absorption. Power.
In general, higher absorption does not correspond to a higher maximum temperature. The air fryers reach a maximum of 200 ° C or a little more.
What changes with increasing absorption is the heating speed. An advantage of air fryers is that of cooking very quickly, and to obtain this result the cooking temperature must be reached in a very short time if compared to an oven traditional. The most powerful air fryers reach the cooking temperature set in two or three minutes, after which the cooking can start.
In general, we can say that, given the very small dimensions of the cooking basket. The heating times are always much lower than those of traditional ovens, even if a less powerful air fryer is chosen. We recommend keeping in mind this factor. Inform yourself in advance about the heating times offered by the machines you are evaluating and weigh carefully if a few minutes less waiting may be worth the greater incidence in the bill.
8. Practicality of use
As a last factor, we recommend considering all those aspects that combine to make an air fryer easy and convenient to use and clean. It is clearly a matter of subjective evaluations partly linked to the shape of your kitchen. The spaces you have available and how intensely you plan to use the fryer.
The air fryer is an appliance designed to remain fixed on a dedicated work surface. Since the dimensions are not the most compact even in the case of smaller models. Only those who have plenty of space in the kitchen furniture can pick up the machine after each use if they wish.
To place the fryer, it is important to check for the presence of non-slip feet. Since it is preferable for it to remain firmly in place even in the event of accidental impacts. Feet air fryer, In addition, the length of the cable must be taken into consideration. Some models have a short cable, even less than 80 cm long that can be problematic if there is no power outlet in the immediate vicinity of the machine.
As for practicality during use, we have already talked about the two different types of air fryers. Those with vertical convection with drawer opening and those with horizontal convection with book opening. It is the latter that is more practical because not only the almost transparent lid allows us to see how cooking is proceeding inside, but also it is less complicated to lift the lid and pour the ingredients rather that open the drawer, take out the basket, fill it and put it back.
9. Easy to Clean
Finally, after use, it is important to evaluate how easy it is to clean the parts in contact with food. It is difficult to find an air fryer that does not have a removable cooking tank. But the best models also allow you to separate and clean the cover. The detachable parts are suitable for hand washing with mild detergent, and it is often possible to wash them in the dishwasher.
Periodic maintenance must also be simple. It is important to keep the ventilation grilles or the coils in the machine clean, as well as regularly emptying and cleaning any condensate trap.