An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks by circulating hot air around the food using the convection mechanism. It is a downsized version of the convection oven. A mechanical fan circulates the hot air around the food at high speed, cooking the food and producing a crispy layer via browning reactions of two kinds. In caramelization, sugars break down and chemically transform into complex brown-colored substances, while in the Maillard reaction, typically seen where meat is roasted or stir-fried, the carbohydrates/sugars and proteins in a food react with each other to form Schiff bases, which then form other flavorful compounds, including brown ring compound containing one or more nitrogen atoms in the ring, such as pyrazines and pyridines. The Maillard reaction requires temperatures of between 280-330°F (140-165°C), while caramelization temperatures depend on the sugar being caramelized and range from 230-360°F (110-180°C).
Traditional frying methods induce the Maillard effect by completely submerging foods in hot oil, which attains considerably higher temperatures than boiling water. The air fryer works by coating the desired food in a thin layer of oil while circulating air heated up to 200 °C (392 °F) to apply heat and initiate the reaction. By doing this, the appliance is able to brown foods like potato chips, chicken, fish, steak, cheeseburgers, french fries or pastries using 70% to 80% less oil than a traditional deep fryercitation needed.
Most air fryers have temperature and timer adjustments that allow more precise cooking. Food is cooked in a cooking basket that sits atop a drip tray. The basket and its contents must be periodically shaken to ensure even oil coverage. High-end models accomplish this by incorporating a food agitator that continuously shakes the food during the cooking process. However, most air fryers require the user to perform the task manually at periodic intervals. Convection ovens and air fryers are similar in the way they cook food, but air fryers are generally smaller in capacity than convection ovens and give off less heat.
The taste and consistency of foods cooked by traditional fried and air fried techniques are not identical, because the larger quantity of oil used in traditional frying penetrates the foods (or the coating batter, if it is used) and adds its own flavor. In particular, if food is coated only in a wet batter without an external barrier of a dry coating like breadcrumbs that are pressed firmly to ensure adhesion, the air fryer's fan can blow the batter (or loose crumbs) off the food.
Some air fryers are equipped with accessories, such as pizza pans, skewer racks, and cake barrels.
Air fryers use circulating hot air to cook food that would otherwise be submerged in oil. The air fryer's cooking chamber radiates heat from a heating element near the food, thus cooking it more efficiently. A fan is generally used to circulate hot air around the food. The opening at the top is used to take air in and there is an exhaust at the back that controls the temperature by releasing any undesired hot air. It is also used to counter any increases in internal pressure. The temperatures inside can go up to 230 °C (445 °F) depending on the model. For safety, it is essential to not put oil inside the air fryer or have flammable objects near the air fryer. In general, cooking times in the air fryer are reduced by 20% in comparison with traditional ovens. This varies per brand and the quantity of the food cooked in the air fryer.
In 2010, Philips introduced the Airfryer, a new kitchen appliance at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), a consumer electronics fair in Berlin. It was developed using the patented Rapid Air technology.
As of 2019, there are a host of brands selling air fryers. According to Consumer Reports of 2019, the five top brands of air fryers are Elite, Farberware, GoWISE, Ninja, NuWave respectively. The prices range from as low as 59 dollars to 119 dollars.
Counter-top air fryers provide an alternative to traditional oil frying. The circulating hot air has many applications in the kitchen, including cooking:
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- Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. (2004). Scribners. ISBN 978-0684800011. The Maillard Reaction, pg. 778-779; Caramelization, pg. 656-657
- Melissa Clark. 6 Tips for Using Your Air Fryer. New York Times, April 1, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/dining/air-fryer.html
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