How The First Air Fryer Was Invented

Air fryers just sort of appeared, didn't they? A few years ago, they existed but weren't necessarily on anyone's radar. Then, pop! Air fryer recipes and instruction manuals flooded the cultural mainstream.

However, the basic idea of air frying has existed for over 100 years, as can be seen in an article Technical World Magazine published in 1904. "An electric air-pressure cooker, which retains the most valuable food flavors and greatly lessens the shrinkage of meats in cooking, has been recently perfected," the article explained.

From there, the invention seemed to disappear until a William L. Maxson filed a patent for an electric oven in 1945, per Google Patents. Maxson was apparently one of those stereotypical inventors. New Air described how after growing an excessive amount of cauliflower in the '30s, Maxson decided to freeze some and cook it later. He was astounded that it still tasted fresh after reheating. According to New Air, this discovery excited him so much that he gave up on eating fresh food. 

Maxson's obsession with frozen food led him to the airline industry. At the time, transatlantic flights relied on pre-made sandwiches because they kept better than a pre-made steak. Maxson figured that if you froze pre-made meals, you could have nicer food and a greater variety. So, he invented the Maxson Whirlwind Oven, which evenly circulated air that was heated by a motor. Unfortunately, Maxson died in 1947 and in the '60s, microwaves became the tool to reheat frozen food.

The air fryer today

However, to credit William Maxson with the invention of our air fryer overstates the case. As Eater explains, the Maxson Whirlwind Oven weighed 35 pounds and never made it to the marketplace. The idea is there, but it does not really resemble the countertop fryer we know now.

The air fryer of today's kitchen first appeared in 2010 when Philips debuted the Airfryer in Berlin. The machine, as Exnovate describes, boasts the egg shape that has come to define the cooking appliance. According to the article, Fred van der Weij invented this air fryer because of a fat-free fryer he had bought from a television advertisement. Apparently, the food it cooked didn't taste particularly good. So, he set to work, and by 2007, had a working product that was also user-friendly. 

Philips was trying to invent a way of frying foods that did not involve unhealthy oils. Fred van der Weij reached out, and the world was changed when they brought the air fryer to market.