Do you need an air fryer?
In typical terms, the answer will be it depends. It depends on what you’re using it for. It depends on how often you use an air fryer or how often you fry things in your house. It also depends on whether you have a convection oven or not and a couple of different other factors. So, let’s start with the basics.
Air fryers actually bake your food instead of frying your food. They’re really just mini convection ovens or an OTG. It typically has a basket where you will actually keep the food that you need to cook in. You can cook a lot smaller quantity than a traditional convection oven or an OTG.
That is because, whenever you’re cooking food in an air fryer, the surface of your food needs to be exposed. And since the basket size of an air fryer is relatively smaller compared to the surface area exposed on an OTG, it means that the quantity of food that you can cook in an air fryer is significantly lower as well.
For example, a four-liter air fryer, which is a typical size of an air fryer, will cook a lot less than a four-liter convection oven if that size was available. Typically convection ovens only start from 16 L onwards. These days, most microwaves that also include convection ovens have been re-labeling their convection capability or have added functionality called slim fry or air fry in the convection oven itself so that customers can start using that feature rather than purchasing an air fryer.
So, long story short, if you already have a convection oven in your house, then you probably do not need an air fryer.
Why Air Fryers are so Popular?
So, why is it so popular? Well, it’s because brands do a great marketing campaign. They have had a majority of celebrity chefs endorse it.
Yes, the amount of oil it uses is much lower than the amount of oil you would use when you are deep-frying something. But that is really not the right comparison because, conceptually, they are two different things.
One is deep-frying, the other is actually baking. So, ideally, you should be comparing air frying with a convection oven, not really with deep-frying. So, in our comparison, we’re going to compare all the three so you can actually get a holistic picture of what it is. How it compares with the convection oven. And how it compares with deep-frying itself. There are multiple different parameters that I am going to cover, so bear with me until we reach the end. So, first is the quantity.
A typical air fryer comes in a four-liter size or maybe slightly higher. And this is enough to serve 2-3 servings. A convection oven or an OTG typically starts at about 16 L so you can make serving sizes of 3-5 servings. And for deep-frying, you can scale it based on requirements. All you need is a Kadai, and you can increase the oil and you can continue to fry as much as you want. Let’s talk about the amount of time taken.
So, for this example, let’s assume you’re making 100 gr of French fries. So, in an air fryer, it will take about 20-25 min, plus a preheat time, which I’m not going to include here. In a convection oven, it might take you 25-30 min, again plus a preheat time. In deep-frying, once your Kadai is heated, which is similar to preheating in your air fryer and your convection oven, you can actually make 100 gr in 1-2 min.
So the amount of time taken in deep-frying is a lot lower. So, if you have to make bigger quantities in larger serving sizes, then it is always better to deep fry. Otherwise, for every batch, you will actually require to do it for 30 min each. The next aspect is crispiness. Again, let’s take the example of French fries themselves.
So, typically when you are doing baking, which can be both convection oven or baking in an air fryer, it turns out to be quite crispy but not as crispy as you would have it in deep-frying. Now, it also depends on how you’re placing the food in your air fryer. For example, in the air fryer, the basket is typically vertical. Right?
So you need to expose as much surface area that you can of the food for the air frying to actually work. That means that you can only populate until about half. And you need to keep turning it over so that all the pieces of potatoes are actually exposed to air frying. In a convection oven, you would use a flat tray and place all of the pieces of potatoes flat on the convection oven so it is always evenly crisp.
But when you are using an air fryer, maybe unevenly crisp because some of the potatoes that are inside which are not exposed to air frying may not actually be completely cooked and maybe soggy in the center.
The next thing is what can you cook in an air fryer. So, typically, anything that can be baked can actually be cooked in an air fryer, similar to a convection oven. You also do get accessories for your air fryers when you actually need to make pizzas and so on. But in a convection oven, you don’t need any additional accessories if you do have the various trays that are required for baking or making pizzas. Then, you don’t need any additional accessories. Using your stuff actually, you can pretty much do everything. You can make bakes in a pressure cooker, as well as deep-frying in a kadhai. So all you need is those two pieces of equipment.
Now, let’s talk about the most important thing which is the number of calories. So, again let’s take an example of 100 gr of French fries. So, when you are using either air frying or you’re using a convection oven, the amount of oil used is significantly lower. And 100 gr of French fries is about 150 kcal. And when you’re doing deep-frying, it is almost double, which comes up to almost 310-311 kcal. So, definitely, a lot healthier when you’re either using an air fryer or a convection oven.
Now, let’s talk about the size. Typically, an air fryer is more vertical, and a convection oven is more horizontal. I have kind of shown you a comparison on the screen on how the relative sizing will be. If you look at the dimensions, there is no significant difference between the two because it depends on what size of a convection oven and what size of air fryer you are comparing. I’ve compared the two smallest sizes over here. For deep-frying, it does not matter. You only need a Kadai which you can use and that is typically using the same Kadai that you would use for cooking anything else.
Now, let’s talk about the noise. The air fryers have a humming noise that it makes when it is actually cooking. And at times I’m told that it can be quite annoying. With the convection oven, it is the regular sound of a microwave. It normally does not make as much sound like an air fryer. And with deep-frying, of course, there is no sound at all.
Now, let’s talk about the material used. Now, the basket and the pan that is used in an air fryer are non-stick. With the convection oven, you can use aluminum. You can use non-stick. You can use ceramic or glass. So you have a choice of multiple different materials that you can use. In the case of deep-frying,