What are the pros and cons of air fryers? That's a question lots of people are asking Google. Some people also ask me, since I am something of an air fryer expert (self appointed). I know more about them than most people, anyway. In my opinion, there are considerably more plus points than disadvantages to air fryers, but they do have some minor issues.
Our best air fryers guide will give you a good idea of what device you should buy, but here are some pros and cons you should be aware of that apply to practically all air fryers.
What are the disadvantages of air fryers?
1. They are considerably smaller than an oven and hob
For a single person or a couple, the capacity of larger air fryers is perfectly sufficient. For a family that just wants air fried chips with meals made in an oven or other device, it's also fine. However, if you want to cook an entire meal in an air fryer, I suggest you either stick to a Chinese-style 'one-child policy' or give up. Air fryers with a basket are just not that big – mine is 7.5 litres, which is big by air fryer standards. However my oven – which is just a standard, single oven – has a capacity almost 10 times that. There's no way I'd invite 4 people over for dinner and try to air fry it all.
You do have the option of buying an air fryer oven, but even this will only get you to about 20 or so litres. Furthermore, I have always found larger air fryers lose their essential air fryer-like qualities, and become more like, well, an oven. But a small one.
2. They don't actually fry
The best air fried chicken recipe – ie: my one – gives you something that is pretty much like fried chicken. However, in my hard-hitting exposé, do air fryers really fry? I was forced to concede that the answer was 'no'. They bake or roast at high temperature, in a small compartment (see drawback #1 above) with a fan in it. People go on about air fried chips but realistically, they are like good quality oven chips. if you went to a burger restaurant or fish and chip shop and received fries or chips that were air fried, you probably wouldn't feel very happy about it. You could try my perfect air fryer chips. It involves cooking them at least twice, so set aside a bit of extra time.
3. The jury's out on their longevity
I don't mean longevity in terms of remaining interested in using my air fryer – this is not like getting an ice cream maker or juicer, where it spends most of its life in a cupboard, gathering dust. I mean the likelihood of most air fryers still functioning 5 years down the line strikes me as quite low. The high temperatures, precision electronics and generally quite low prices all scream 'breakdown waiting to happen', to me. You can read our guide to how to clean an air fryer and that will hopefully help you expand your machine's life span. However it has to be said that while the removable parts of an air fryer are generally easy to clean, the main body of it is not, beyond giving it a light wipe now and then.
I suspect we are also likely to encounter issues with the non-stick coating of the cooking baskets coming off, and minor parts getting broken – the 'diffuser' thing that sits under my fryer basket has already lost one of its legs, because I dropped it.
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Okay but what are the advantages of air fryers?
1. You can make delicious food in them
Always a plus point with any cooking device: air fryers, used properly, can turn out some seriously tasty dishes. Try my best things to cook in an air fryer on for size. The reason for this is the way they try to mimic frying in a pan – high temperatures with fan-blown hot air standing in for a sea of oil. This gives you charring and crispiness without drying out the food. There's probably nothing you can do in an air fryer that you couldn't do in a standard fan oven with a bit of effort, but the small cooking space and ease of use make it simpler in an air fryer.
2. They're very quick
Again, due to the rapid pre-heating, high temperatures and comparatively small cooking space, air fryers are a lot faster than ovens. In some cases, they're even quicker than using a hot frying pan, because heat is applied to everything in the cooking basket, rather than to only one side of it at a time.
3. They're energy efficient
Compared to cooking in an oven, air fryers use way less electricity to cook the same meal. At the simplest level, my air fryer pulls about 1700W, while my oven is 2400W. Admittedly, the air fryer will generally be used at or near its maximum temperature – so 1500W at least, while the oven will often be on a lower temp, meaning it is not actually using the full 2400W. However, the air fryer is consequently so much faster that overall power consumption is invariably lower.
4. They're quicker and easier to clean
Although, as I mentioned, I do have some reservations about the long-term cleaning of the main body of my air fryer, it is very simple to clean its removable parts. That's in stark contrast to the traditional plethora of roasting tins, saucepans, frying pans and so forth used when cooking on an oven and hob.