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The lowdown on air fryers & why they make sense

If you're after crispy roast potatoes, succulent salmon steaks, Yorkshire puds risen to perfection or simply getting golden chicken nuggets and sizzling fries in front of your kids before they start to moan, the trusty air fryer really is your best friend.

Whether you’re a die hard air fryer super-fan or a newbie who is keen to save some cash on your bills during the colder months, air fryers make an awful lot of sense. They save you time, money and the hassle of switching on your oven and waiting for it to warm up.

​​If you’ve wondered what all the fuss is about, an air fryer is essentially like a turbo powered miniature electric oven which can perform a heap of functions, including baking, frying with minimal fat or oil, crisping, reheating and even dehydrating in around half the time they would take in the oven. And because they take less time, they’re pretty cost efficient to run.

So how does an air fryer actually work?

Air fryers use something called convection heat which circulates the food, similar to the way that a fan oven would, and special technology enables the food to crisp up. It can be a bit confusing because frying foods with air doesn’t make much sense, and an air fryer doesn’t actually fry your food. Think of it more like a sauna for your favourite dishes. The heat combined with rapid circulation makes the food lovely and crisp and taste delicious.

Usually, air fryers have a perforated tray or basket that allow hot air to flow around the food without anything in the way. Because of this, very little or no oil is needed which is why air fryers have become famous for being a healthier method to cook foods higher in fat, such as chips. Some air fryers even have paddles to stir food, which means you don’t have to manually do it, so do look out what what functions different air fryers offer.

What is the difference between an air fryer and an oven?

The main difference is their size. Unlike a conventional oven, an air fryer can sit on a worktop and is much more portable. The flip side is that the capacity for food is much less than a conventional oven but it is their compact size which is their superpower, enabling food to be cooked in half the amount of time.

What’s more, is that air fryers need little to no preheating time, which makes them quicker and more efficient to use than a conventional oven, and is a brilliant way to reduce meal prep time, particularly for modern busy families.

And in case you weren’t sold already, one of the big advantages of an air fryer over a conventional oven is that they have been known to cook food better! By that, we mean crispier, more evenly cooked and passing the taste test of the pickiest kids.

How much money could I save?

Well, research from energy firm Utilita and supermarket Iceland have reported that a standard electric over costs around 87p a day to run, which is £317.55 a year, based on average usage (43 mins). By comparison, a standard air fryer used in the same way costs around 14p a day to run (based on approx. 20 mins use), or £51.10 per year. Now, our math may not be so hot but the saving here is pretty obvious.

Are air fryers healthy?

The short answer to this is, for the most part, yes, as they use little or no oil on foods that would normally need oil to cook and crisp up. Let’s take chips as a good example here. If you deep fat fry chips, the absorb a lot of oil in the process, whereas the air fryer uses heat and circulation to cook them through, reducing the number of calories involved.

However it does depend on what you intend to cook. If you take a vegetable for example, such as cauliflower, you would need to add some oil to it to cook it through in an air fryer. If you steamed the cauliflower, no oil would be needed in the process and so this method would be healthier.

If you eat a balanced and healthy diet, swapping using a conventional oven for foods that usually involve fat or oil to cook can be a great switch to reduce your overall calorie intake.

Which model should I choose?

There are a huge range of air fryers available on the market and so a lot of the factors that can inform your decision will be personal. The first thing to consider is how much you want to spend. You can get an air fryer from as little as £50 however some of the more budget models have been known not to produce the same (or as good) results as their pricier counterparts.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to cook your food in baskets (air fryers normally have one or two) or on trays, a bit like a conventional oven. An advantage of having trays is that these models normally come with a rotisserie function which enables you to cook a whole piece of meat, like a chicken, in one go. However large baskets on many air fryers can do this too. It is worth thinking about what you and your family tend to eat and how an air fryer can help!

Whatever you choose, we’re pretty sure you’ll wonder how you managed without an air fryer before long.

Have fun, and if you have any air fryer tips, we’d love to hear about them in our Facebook group community, FAMILY LOWDOWN TIPS & IDEAS!

Written by Claire Balkind

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