Wondering what these air fryers are that everyone seems to be talking about? Let's look at what an air fryer is and answer some common questions about them!
Table of Contents
- What is an air fryer?
- Do I need an air fryer?
- Air Fryer FAQ
- Air Fryer Cookbook Recommendations
Wondering what to make in your air fryer? Get 50+ vegan air fryer recipes here!
What is an air fryer?
Think of an air fryer as a speedy veggie roaster plus a deep "fryer" that doesn’t use cups and cups of oil.
Instead of boiling in oil, like a deep fryer, an air fryer uses hot, circulating air to cook food to crispy perfection.
Some air fryer recipes are completely oil free. Others use just a little bit of oil to prevent sticking and get that extra crispiness.
Between my air fryer and pressure cooker, I sometimes cook for weeks while barely touching the stove or oven. That’s especially great in the summer when you don’t want to heat up the house.
An air fryer also cooks food considerably faster than an oven, usually about half the time.
When you’re cooking in the air fryer, shaking the basket occasionally is important to prevent sticking and to cook your food evenly. For most recipes, I shake once, halfway through cooking, but for food that tends to stick more, it's a good idea to shake every 2-4 minutes.
Do I need an air fryer?
I know: You don't need yet another kitchen gadget taking up pantry and counter space. I hear you -- I was like you. And then, one afternoon I threw caution to the wind, ordered my first air fryer, and haven't looked back.
Air frying is, of course, healthier than oil frying, but it's the convenience that really appeals to me. Air frying is less messy and faster than oil frying or even baking.
I tend to shy away from deep frying, because cleaning up all of that cooking oil is such a hassle.
One challenge for me as a freelancer is making lunch. When you work at home, packing a lunch seems silly, so every day at lunch time, you end up staring at the fridge, hoping that something quick and easy and at least slightly maybe healthy will appear.
My air fryer has made this SO much less of a challenge.
Everything cooks super fast -- twice as quickly as it would in the oven. And it's a hands-off gadget. That means I can throw my food into the fryer, turn it on, and get back to work until lunch is ready.
If you're shopping for an air fryer, the FAQ below can help answer some of your burning questions.
The Air Fryers 101 video below is sponsored by ZenChef. All opinions are 100% my own. I LOVE my ZenChef Pro XXL!
Air Fryer FAQ
A lot of readers have been asking me air fryer questions via email, Facebook, and Instagram since I first published this list, so I thought I'd put together a handy list of FAQ for you!
Do I have to use oil?
I get this question often, and the answer really depends. Some air fryer recipes do call for oil, some use no oil, and some have optional oil.
When I do use oil in an air fryer recipe, it's to add either flavor, moisture, or texture. If it's possible to skip the oil in a recipe, I include oil-free options. It's really up to you!
One important note about oil: Often, a recipe will just call for a spritz of spray oil. Do not use aerosol spray on your air fryer's basket! Aerosol spray can damage your basket's nonstick coating.
Instead of an aerosol can of oil, invest in a non-aerosol spray bottle. The cool thing about these is that they're refillable, and you can fill them with any liquid oil you like! You can also brush on oil, if you don't want to pony up for a spray bottle.
What kind of air fryer do you have/recommend?
My air fryer journey has been long and meandering, so I'm just going to cut to the chase here.
My current brand of choice is the ZenChef PRO XXL. It is hands-down my favorite, from a function and size perspective, and the price is right.
I have tested many, many brands. Seriously, I have purchased, returned, and exchanged over a dozen air fryers on my quest to find a favorite one. This is the one.
What about combo ovens?
If you're looking at a combo oven that includes the air fryer function, it's not a bad option. I used to have the The Cuisinart TOA-60. I found the air fryer function a little bit inconsistent, and it was harder to clean than my other air fryers.
That said, it's not a bad option, especially if you're trying to conserve space. There are just a couple of things you need to know.
Combo ovens tend to cook a lot more quickly than conventional air fryers, so you need to check in more frequently when following a recipe. Otherwise, you may end up burning your food!
If you do get a combo oven, I found that the convection option actually works better when following air fryer recipes than the air fryer function.
What size should I get?
If you're cooking for one or two, a two quart air fryer, should do the trick for you. The downside to the two quart is that most generic air fryer accessories are made for three quarts and larger, so if you're an accessories person, you might want to get a larger one, just for that.
For up to about three people, a three or four quart air fryer will work fine. For my family of three, I was good with my old 3.7 quart fryer, but I have enjoyed the larger, 5.8 quart basket on my newer one. It means I can cook with leftovers in mind!
If you have a family of four to six people, I'd definitely suggest opting for a fryer with a big basket, like the ZenChef PRO XXL, which is 5.8 quarts.
Do I need to preheat?
This is a question I get a lot, because some air fryer recipes specify a three minute preheat.
Unless a recipe specifies preheating, I always skip it. Part of an air fryer's beauty is that it's small, so it heats up super quickly. You can always add a few minutes on the back end, if your food doesn't seem like it's cooked to your liking.
Do I really need to soak the potatoes for my fries? Soaking takes forever!
I have soaked my potatoes exactly one time, the first time I made air fried French fries. It's supposed to help get rid of some of the starch, and technically you're supposed to do the same thing for oven fries.
I honestly don't feel like it makes enough of a difference in the finished fry, considering the added time. If you want to soak, go for it; if not, don't!
Looking for how to make perfect air fryer fries? I lay out all the dos and don'ts in this detailed post.
Is it easy to clean?
Usually, yes! Though, of course, this depends on the model.
Make sure that you choose an air fryer with a basket that comes apart for easy cleaning (if it has a basket).
With most conventional air fryers, you can pop the inner basket away from the outer basket, so you can easily wipe away anything that falls through the holes and clean the bottom of the inner basket.
If you have a combo oven, the tray should come out completely, and you can wash it with the soft side of a sponge. I did find that oil stuck onto the lower tray of my combo oven, so if you do use oil in your air fryer, this is something to consider.
If something is stuck on, just soak your basket until it softens enough to wipe away with a sponge.
DO NOT use an abrasive cleaner or abrasive sponge to clean the basket, because you don't want to damage the nonstick surface.
Regular dish soap and a regular sponge are all you should need to clean your air fryer.
Vegan Air Fryer Cookbook Recommendations
A lot of readers have been asking if I'm working on an air fryer cookbook. I'm not at the moment, but there are two that I can recommend:
- My friend, Kathy Hester, just her air fryer cookbook, Vegan Cooking in Your Air Fryer, in 2018, and I have two recipes in it!
- JL Fields released her air fryer cookbook, The Vegan Air Fryer, in 2017, and it's great.
Do you have more questions that I didn't answer? I want this FAQ to continue to be a helpful resource, so feel free to ask away. I'm happy to help and to add to this list of FAQ!