The truth about what air fryers actually do to your food

Air fryers just might be the new Instant Pots. These seemingly magic home appliances are compact and claim to be a healthy alternative to deep-frying, thanks to significantly less oil. 

According to Taste of Home, these appliances are essentially tiny convection ovens that sit on your countertop. That means they blow a lot of hot air down from a fan at the top of the appliance, and only use a very amount of oil. The hot air hits your food and then circulates all around while the food cooks. Because the air fryer is so small, it also makes the food cook faster and the hot air comes into better contact with all the surface of the food, which helps get it so crisp (via The Kitchn). 

There are a couple of downsides to air fryers. First up is that the small size does mean that cooking for several people or a family means you'll have to cook in batches. Some foods do not work well in the air fryer either, like unbreaded cheese or anything that has a wet batter. Though air fryers get food pretty close to tasting fried, it still just isn't quite the same even if it is crisp. Don't forget that air fryers can be pricey too.

Foods that work well in air fryers

Again, some foods do far better in the air fryer than others. Foods that are meant to be fried, but come prepared and frozen in a bag like french fries, chicken nuggets, empanadas, and cheese sticks, all do really well in an air fryer. The result still isn't quite what it would be if those foods were deep-fried, but they still come out tasty and very crisp.

Breaded foods tend to do particularly well in the air fryer too — homemade or frozen. Things like fried pickles, fish sticks, ravioli, fried shrimp, and more are great in the air fryer. Foods that are made at home and battered, whether it is a breaded batter or a wet batter, should be frozen before being cooked in the air fryer. When battered foods are not solid, the wet batter or the breading can just fall off into the bottom of the appliance.

Other unusual foods that work are cut-and-bake cookies, according to Taste of Home. Muffins can be made using the appliance too, according to The Kitchn. In these cases, the air fryer acts more like a convection oven, but the baked goods will not brown or rise like they would in an oven.