This is the time of year when your love for fried chicken clashes most acutely with your love for pool time and fun summer selfies. Air frying can potentially help. As Linda Larsen, author of the Complete Air Fryer Cookbook, explains in its opening pages: “Air frying is better for your health. In fact, most recipes cook without any added fat.” That’s a boon for reaching your healthy eating goals, while still being able to host a fabulous Fourth of July bash.
Larsen explains how the technology works in this passage: “An air fryer is basically a miniature convection oven: A fan blows heated air over food to cook it quickly.” She points out too that they’re safer to use than deep fryers, as there’s no risk of splattered oil, and they’re typically easier to clean after use.
Wellness Benefits of Air Frying
Registered dietitian Lauren Manaker agrees with Larsen’s observation about health. “Air fryers are excellent appliances if you are trying to cut down on your caloric intake but you can’t do without your beloved fried foods. Air fryers give certain recipes that satisfying ‘crunch’ without the need to deep fry,” she notes. There’s another benefit, as well, she points out. “While deep frying foods can result in the formation of certain potentially dangerous chemicals, like acrylamides, air frying doesn’t appear to create the same result.”
As with so much good health news, Manaker has a caution for meat-eating fried food fans: “Using air fryers can play a role in the formation of other potentially harmful chemicals that are formed when high heat comes into contact with animal proteins, like PAHs. The good news is that air frying veggies does not run the same risk.”
PAH stands for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, substances emitted from cooking oils heated at high temperatures that can cause gene mutations. One recent study showed that “air frying could reduce the formation of acrylamide and PAHs in chicken meat in comparison with deep-fat frying.” Reduction is definitely good, but elimination and avoidance are even better.
Air Fryer Options
There are different ways to add air frying capability to your kitchen, depending on your current setup and plans. For those of you not planning a remodel, addition or appliance replacement, there are dozens of countertop models you can choose from.
If you’re looking to replace your standard 30-inch range, you also have numerous options, from gas to induction to electric, slide-in or free-standing, in most of the popular finishes. One appliance manufacturer added air frying capability to its existing connected ranges with a free upgrade for owners.
Wall ovens are now available with air frying capability too. You can choose from single or double, or oven plus microwave combinations. In short, if frying with less fat is a must-have for you, you can spend less than $100 or more than $6,000 depending on your wants, needs and plans.
Countertop air fryers have been hot holiday gifts for the last few years. Some industry studies say that almost 40% of American homes have one now. If yours isn’t one of them, Blue Jean Chef blogger Meredith Laurence has created a guide to choosing an air fryer on her site, including the pros and cons of the different formats (e.g., ovens vs. baskets) and this Forbes.com shopping guide has 11 models you might want to consider, from $48 to $220. Well-known and highly-rated brands for countertop air fryers include Instant Pot, Ninja, Cuisinart and Philips.
For homeowners who were already planning on replacing a free-standing 30-inch range that under-performed for your household during the pandemic, or is just completely outdated, there are numerous new models that will add this feature. It’s as close as your local appliance seller, installation and haul-away of the old range. Home Depot lists eight stainless steel gas ranges with air frying capability from $898 to $1348.
Your next replacement option would be a 30-inch slide-in range. Since these models don’t have the riser piece in the back that free-standing ranges do, you may need to redo an existing backsplash to accommodate the gap this would leave. There are 22 gas models available at Lowes’ when you screen out unavailable models, priced from $989 to $3149. There are five induction models starting at $1999. Slide-in ranges generally deliver a more designer-friendly, upscale look (and price), but don’t differ significantly from their free-standing cousins.
Custom kitchens often have wall ovens paired with separate cooktops instead of ranges. These can be more ergonomic options, as they don’t force you to bend over to lift a heavy roast or turkey out of a range’s close-to-floor oven section. You can position the height of the ovens to the user’s needs, within the manufacturer’s specifications. Kitchens designed for older or wheelchair-bound clients can place two single ovens side-by-side for easier access when wall space is available. Online appliance retailer AJ Madison lists eight single wall ovens with air frying capability, priced from $1973 to $4699.
The alternative for more compact kitchens is the double oven. These stack together, thus delivering more cooking capacity in a narrow space, but less ergonomic benefit. Sometimes the second oven is a microwave or combination convection-microwave for more versatility. AJ Madison offers eight double ovens with air fry (one with convection and steam), priced from $2693 to $6699.
That Free Upgrade
Tesla and iPhone owners take for granted that the latest upgrades for their models will arrive via download. It’s likely that thousands of GE appliance owners didn’t expect the same capability for their ranges. Those who bought one of 60 connected models from the manufacturers’ Café, Profile and Haier brands in the last four years got a free no-preheat air fry upgrade starting on April 1.
With so many brands offering connectivity in their appliances today, buyers may not be aware of, or even taking advantage post-sale, of all their features. Sometimes – especially with extensive appliance shortages right now – shoppers buy the model that fits their preferences and budget, not even thinking about the connected capabilities. This is one upgrade that does seem worth noting.
It’s likely that other manufacturers with wifi-enabled cooking appliances will follow suit. It’s also likely that they’ll all be looking for ways to deliver more upgrades over time to enhance brand loyalty in a highly-competitive market.