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An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks by circulating hot air around the food using the convection mechanism. A mechanical fan circulates the hot air around the food at high speed, cooking the food and producing a crispy layer via the Maillard effect.
Traditional frying methods induce the Maillard effect by completely submerging foods in hot oil. 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 fry foods like potato chips, chicken, fish, steak, cheeseburgers, french fries or pastries using 70% to 80% less oil than a traditional deep-fryer.
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. Some models accomplish this by incorporating a food agitator that continuously churns the food during the cooking process, while others require the user to perform the task manually.
Convection ovens and air fryers are similar in the way they cook food, but air fryers are generally smaller than convection ovens and give off less heat. Similar results can be achieved by using specialized air crisper trays and putting them in a convection oven.
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 200 °C/400 °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.
Some products are required to be placed in the air fryer as it is preheated. An example of this is the preparation of an egg. This allows the egg to gradually come up to temperature and helps avoid explosions.
There are various types of air fryers available in the market including ones with small baskets as well as large five quart baskets. They also come in digital as well as manual models.
Counter-top air fryers provide an alternative to traditional oil frying. The circulating hot air has many applications in the kitchen, including cooking: