I can’t get enough of the best air fryers (opens in new tab), which is why my spare room now looks like an electrical retailers warehouse. I’ve tried all sorts of models, from the cheap and cheerful like the Tower T17021 Air Fryer (opens in new tab) and Ninja AF100UK (opens in new tab) through to the top dollar, bells and whistles machines, including the Tower 10-in-1 Air Fryer Xpress Pro Combo (opens in new tab) and the Ninja Foodi MAX SmartLid OL750UK (opens in new tab).
There have been many highlights with all these appliances and a few low points too. There’s certainly plenty of common ground between the cheapest models and those at the premium end of the spectrum. For example, if you’re looking to cook chips to perfection, just about any air fryer will do the job, from a fifty quid number through to models that cost four times as much.
That’s probably the singular best thing about any of my air fryers. They’re brilliant at doing chips. So, what are the other best and wort things about owning an air fryer? Well, having lived with plenty of them for quite a while now, I’ve got a few observations that you may, or may not agree with. Chances are, you’ve probably got a few opinions of your own. If you’re looking at buying an air fryer for the first time though, or plan on trading up, then these owner-based observations might come in handy…
1. Too much heat
While I’ll admit that the heat that my favourite air fryer generates can be more than enough to produce super crispy French fries each and every time, this can also be a problem. The issue is more to do with how long your use the heat and how effectively you manage it. Air fryers can produce intense blasts of heat from the fan and element aspect of the design, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on things.
If you switch on for a preset time, don’t walk away and leave the machine to its own devices. It’s really worth going back and checking progress. An air fryer has the potential to cremate foodstuffs like fries if you overdo it. Frequent checks and, similarly, regular movement or shaking up of the contents can work wonders. Obviously cooking food is subjective and some of us like slightly wonky fries, while others love their chips straight and crunchy as you like. Nevertheless, a simple bit of visual management can make all the difference.
Therefore, I don’t personally think it’s a great idea to rely on your air fryer to do the whole job unchecked. It’s really not worth risking your dinner for the sake of a quick check on progress.
2. Forget runny stuff
Unless you invest in something like the brilliant Tefal Actify Genius XL (opens in new tab), a slow cooker or Instant Pot (opens in new tab) type of appliance, the humble air fryer isn’t great at handling anything runny. Think wet batter-type dishes, which don’t really work in the air fryer environment. They’re also notoriously messy too, so if you’re planning on experimenting with some miracle batter recipe you’ve found on the internet, it may be worth reconsidering. You’ll probably spend more time cleaning up the appliance and regretting the whole idea – see the 7 foods you should never cook in an air fryer (opens in new tab) for more.
There are exceptions to this rule, mind, like the aforementioned Tefal that I’ve got and which I’ve had for nigh on three years now. This is an air fryer, but the design has a bowel and paddle, which lets you cook runny foods like curries in. Nevertheless, I’d draw the line at trying anything with a runny batter in it, although there is a top rotating tray in this machine where you can place things like fish fillets and chicken wings. So maybe I will give it a go.
3. Best of the rest
So, that’s most of the negative stuff out of the way. Aside from the above, an air fryer can be a brilliant investment and I’m always impressed at just how good mine is at getting the job done. Chips get a very big green tick of approval, but there are other fab things you can do in an air fryer that sometimes get overlooked. Jacket potatoes, for example, can take an age in a regular oven. However, microwave them first to soften and finish them in an air fryer and you get to enjoy great potatoes with super crunchy jackets. Alternatively, chop them up and revel in the best wedges ever.
The same goes for things like party snacks, such as spring rolls and wings. There’s something about the way an air fryer works that seems to bring frozen party food to life. Doing these things in a normal oven just doesn’t seem the same for me and I love the way my air fryer crisps up mini spring rolls. It’s a hard act to follow. If you’ve got lots of mouths to feed, or lots of party guests, then investing in a twin basket air fryer (opens in new tab) is the way to go. These things allow you to effectively have a conveyor-belt supply of snacks on the go – no job is too big or small.
4. More versatile than ever
While plenty of people think air fryers are limited in what they can do, which is partially true depending on the model, something like the Tower Vortex 7-in-1 Air Fryer (opens in new tab) is a great evolution of the design. I tried this recently and it’s a neat twist on the air fryer theme, which allows you to steam foodstuffs too. Normally, putting something like broccoli in an air fryer would be the kiss of death for the green stuff, but this natty appliance allows you to cook a portion of fries and do your veg on the side. This, and other machines like it, are perfect for anyone looking at a one-machine-to-cook-everything solution.
Even better is the way it has a built-in steam clean function too, which allows you to get rid of any grease and grime without breaking into a sweat. That said, cleaning an air fryer is still way easier than getting on your knees and attempting to get to the back of a dirty oven with a scouring pad. Most air fryers have baskets that are dishwasher friendly. The outside of your machine can be wiped over with a hot, moist dishcloth. It’s all much easier than an old-school oven. What’s more, you’re generally working with a lot less oil, and while there’s juice and fat run-off when you cook something like a whole chicken, this can be drained off and either thrown away or used for making home-made soup. There’s less hassle and less waste. What’s not to like about that, eh?