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Air Fryers: The Next Healthy Food Miracle? Or Jumped-Up Convection Oven?

It’s 2017. I’ve arrived at my best friend’s apartment to cat-sit for her over the weekend (I know, I know, find me some situation that’s less predictable, right?) I walk into her tiny main room and find an oblong monstrosity taking up roughly 10 percent of her entire kitchen space.

“What is that?” I exclaim, bemused.

“Oh, it’s my air fryer – Tay, it’s so good!

I immediately narrowed my eyes and tried to suss out whether I was willing to trust her instincts when it came to food, but she soon had to leave, and I soon got too distracted by her cat to pay the air fryer any further mind.

Cut to 2021: nary has a week gone by without hearing some story about air fryers and how they have positively impacted the lives of my friends, colleagues and family. What has happened? Where did this obsession with the kitchen’s newest appliance come from? And – if my friends are to be believed – is it really going to change my life?

What is an Air Fryer?

So, an air fryer circulates super-heated air to cook food – but instead of baking your food like an oven, it mimics a deep fryer with no oil (or very little) used in cooking. The essential idea is that in limiting the oil, the unhealthy parts (read: fat, fat and more delicious fat) of fried food are eliminated while you can still enjoy the crispy, delicious goodness of something fried.

Some people aren’t convinced – whether it markets itself as a “fryer”, many foodies are simply seeing a slimmed-down version of a convection oven. Nonetheless, the air fryer does market itself on the ability to create our favourite deep-fried products (chicken nuggets, battered fish, popcorn shrimp, etc.) without the trans-fats and health risks that come with drenching all these foods in oil while they cook. Sounds great, right?

Air Fryer: Pros and Cons

The problem, from what I can see, is that it feels a lot like kitchen appliance companies trying to hop on the healthy-eating bandwagon too early. Air fryers are a nice novelty and are good for conserving electricity, but they have some obvious drawbacks – because of their compact nature, often there can only be so much food cooked at once. There are also the wildly differing opinions on the taste of the food that an air fryer produces – from the “it tastes exactly the same!” crowd to the “hard, brittle, and in desperate need of sauce” crowd. There seems to be a level of personal taste involved, but it kind of strikes me the same way vegans try to get me to believe that cashew cheese taste the same on a pizza.

It just doesn’t.

Nevertheless, there are some legitimate and obvious health benefits to using an air fryer – in comparing similar foods between an air fryer and a deep fryer, you’re getting about 70 percent fewer calories per meal. Research has also suggested that cutting down on deep frying lowers your risk of cancer. However, these too are tempered by suggesting that there are actually some health drawbacks to using an air fryer.

To me, an impartial observer who was initially just kind of wigged out by my friend’s purchase, I’m happy without getting one of these to take up more room in my already-crowded kitchen. My slow cooker is the only essential cooking appliance I need, thank you very much. However, I remain to be proven wrong! How have your experiences with an air fryer been?

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Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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