Do Air Fryers Really Live Up to the Healthy Hype?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Most of us never met a fried food we didn’t like. Whether it’s chicken, donuts, potatoes or something more inventive (fried cookie dough, anyone?), there's just something about that crispy, greasy deliciousness that epitomizes comfort on a plate. Unfortunately, all of that tantalizing taste comes with a fat and calorie trade-off, meaning it doesn't have much of a place in most weight loss and nutrition plans.
Enter the air fryer. This latest trend in healthy kitchen gadgets is taking the internet by storm, promising to fry food with up to 75 percent less fat than conventional fryers. Registered dietitian and nutrition consultant Dana White describes air fryers as a "turbo version" of countertop convection ovens. The machine uses the power of hot, circulating air—with little to no oil—to make crispy food in a short amount of time.
Do air fryers live up to the hype—or are they simply full of hot air?

What's So Great About Air Fryers?

The biggest and most obvious, selling point of air fryers is that they can make all of the standard fried favorites with little or no added oil, which results in a lower fat content than traditional frying methods.
Although White says an air fryer can help to cut unwanted fat and calories from your diet, the device shouldn't be regarded as a license to eat chicken wings day in and day out. As an added bonus, air fryers can often prepare meals faster than regular ovens.
Another benefit is that air fryers are compact and easily portable, plugging into any electrical outlet. White points out that they're ideal for camping, vacations, apartments, dorms or anywhere you need to cook in a small or sans-kitchen space.

What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?

Almost any foods you enjoy in their fried state can be prepared in an air fryer—but there’s no need to stop at French fries and chicken fingers. As White points out, the machine can also cook non-fried, non-breaded foods, such as baked goods, egg dishes and veggies.
"As long as you know the proper cooking temperature and how to place the food in the fryer basket, you can cook just about anything in an air fryer," she said in an interview with The Food Network.
In fact, White is such a big advocate of the air fryer's versatility that she created an entire cookbook around it. Her “Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook” includes more than 100 recipes for healthier versions of traditionally high-calorie recipes, all of which are 500 calories or less per serving.

6 Tips for Using an Air Fryer

  1. Practice patience. Like most any appliance, there's a bit of a learning curve when using an air fryer as a beginner—but not a terribly steep one. "I had been known to occasionally overcook things when I first started using mine, but with a little practice, air fryers are very easy to use," White says.
  2. Always preheat. Use the built-in temperature dial to preheat the machine in seconds. This will help to ensure quick, even and precise cooking.
  3. Add oil to the breading. Moistening the breaded coating with a small amount of oil will help them stick evenly to the surface of the food for consistent crispiness.
  4. Be open to batches. White points out that the fryer basket in most standard models is a little on the small side, so if you're cooking for a crowd, you might need to prep in batches. "It’s tempting to crowd the air fryer basket with food, but it’s better to let the air circulate and hit the food on all sides for the best texture," she says.
  5. Keep it clean. Wipe out the inside of the machine between uses to prevent any residue build-up, which can potentially cause some smokiness.
  6. Invest in a pan. To expand your cooking options, White recommends getting a pan that fits inside the fryer basket.

Choosing the Right Air Fryer

One quick Amazon search will reveal an abundance of machines, with a range of bells, whistles and price points. Are all air fryers created equal, or should you splurge for a pricier model?
"There are many models out there, but I really love the Phillips Original Airfryer," says White. "It's a higher price point compared to some other brands, but well worth it."

Easy Air Fryer Recipes

Raspberry Yogurt Cake: The subtle sweetness of antioxidant-rich raspberries mixes beautifully with the tang of vanilla yogurt in this breakfast cake.

Image courtesy of Dana White Nutrition
Cauliflower and Cheddar Potato Skins: Pile on the cauliflower, sprinkle with a sensible amount of flavorful cheese and get the skin nice and crispy skin in the air fryer for a healthy alternative to this popular pub food.

Image courtesy of Dana White Nutrition

Sweet Potato and Jalapeno Potato Hash: Made with nutrient-rich sweet potatoes and some heat from fresh jalapeno pepper, this is sure to become a go-to snack or side dish.

Image courtesy of Dana White Nutrition
BBQ Wontons: Skip the high-calorie takeout version and prepare these healthier bite-sized snacks with chicken and veggies instead.

Image courtesy of Dana White Nutrition
Zeppole with Cannoli Dip: White recommends cooking the zeppole just before dessert, then serving with espresso and fresh fruit.
Image courtesy of Dana White Nutrition
Have you tried air frying, or would you like to?

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I've thought about this for a while as I love my kitchen gadgets, but I've bought stuff that I've used a few times and never used again and for this price point I need to know that I'll use it often for it to be worth it. Thanks for the information. Report
RREDFORD5 5/8/2019
I think the word "fryer" may be putting people off. As the article says, these appliances also bake and roast, and in some, you can cook and dehydrate. We bought a Big Boss air fryer, primarily because DH wants to dehydrate veggies and fruits this summer. I use it often in place of my oven, for about everything. We don't eat commercially packaged/prepared foods very often, so their nutritional "values" aren't a concern for us. I've been homemaking our "fast food" for several years. The air fryer is handy, and for us, saves a little energy as we don't have to heat the regular oven nearly so often. The Big Boss air fryer does take up some space, maybe as much as a toaster oven. Give it a look online if you're interested. We got it on a flash sale at Wayfair for 49.99. Report
RO2BENT 5/8/2019
I’d rather oven roast Report
I have wondered about these. Report
SOFT_VAL67 10/25/2018
the word air seems to be just a nice way of convincing people they wont use any oil at all, and that the foods cooked in these devices will be less fat and calories. if you buy a bag of mozzerella cheese sticks and cook them in this device, they will have every bit as much fat and calories as they would have if cooked in the oven. the oil adds a little but not that much. unless you are deep frying. dont be fooled, you will have less cooking time, less clean up time and maybe even less oil use but not that much difference in nutritional value of the foods you are actually consuming. Report
SOFT_VAL67 10/25/2018
I agree the blog seems more like a commercial than informational.
I bought one on a pay plan thru a home shopping channel, it arrived, and is still in the box in my jeep, i plan to return it today.
i know many people say how wonderful they are and cut down on cooking time, etc, but other websites i have read reviews on give more diverse reviews, i will try to stay away from any kind of frying if at all possible, and the money will go back into my account, no harm no foul.... Report
TWEETYKC00 9/18/2018
Thanks for the information. Report
Interesting. Will have to check it out. Report
wasn't sure about air fryers but think i'll check one out Report
Thanks for the information. Report
Love my Actifry air fryer, chicken wings are delicious as are French fries and veggies. Would still like to have an air fryer with a basket though, it would be good to cook many more things. Report
Interesting. Thank you Report
My friend just bought one so I will wait and see how she makes out with it. I have just started to use my convection oven so I'll see how this works for me. :0) Report
Interesting! I'd heard of air fryers but assumed that there was more hype to them and that they weren't really all that healthy. I might have to get one at some point in time. Meanwhile, I love my InstantPot and will continue to use it for making many of my meals. Report
I love my air fryer and use it several times a week. I mostly fry veggies -- brussel sprouts, corn, cauliflower, potatoes, broccoli. Report
Up in the "air" not sure if I should try one or not? Report
thanks Report
sorry double entry Report
I'd like to try one before I invest. Maybe I will get one from the second hand store and learn with it then get an expensive one if we like it. Thank you for the info. Report
No more room in my tiny kitchen for gadgets, although it sounds great! Report
Thank you but I don’t think that I will try it. Report
Great information! Report
Great information Report
I was thinking about one and an Instant Pot too but I just don't have room to keep all these gadgets. Report
I've used my mother's nuwave and I love it I haven't tried to bake in it yet much faster way to cook if you work and still want healthy quick meal Report
It just might be the next big thing. Report
Thanks Report
I love my air fryer! I make fried eggplant and chicken in it (comes out crispy, not soggy if you'd fry on the stove), sweet potato fries, grilled cheese (Tastes just like diner grilled cheese!) and lots more! Report
For those of you who have never tried an Air frier, I have one and love it. I fix potatoes in mine and left over's reheated are just as good. Heating pizza it's almost like when first bought but way better than microwave. But for the potatoes along is well worth it but that's just me. Report
Okay, I'm going to investigate reviews on Amazon. This may be an early birthday present to myself. Report
I definitely want one! Report
My three friends bought the air fryer, didn’t like the taste of foods made in it, gave it to thrift stores. But the instant pot they far. Report
Thanks for the information Report
Air fryer or instant pot? Always something new out there that I gotta have. Report
My son and his wife use theirs all the time -- they love it! My daughter and I have yet to taste anything appealing coming out of it -- the things they give us to try all have a raw flour taste. Yuck! After 2 years, I'd think they'd be thru their learning curve -- but no, as I said, they love it. Report
I would be willing to try this one. I don't eat fried chicken today, because all of the oil made me sick. Report
Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness. - Steve Maraboli ~ 2/14/18 Report
Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness. - Steve Maraboli ~ 2/14/18 Report
My daughter just got one. It is a remarkably handy device. She made the best tofu and vegetable dish to show me how it works. It was delicious and without the fat of the same dish done in a wok. Report
Love my air fryer - best appliance purchase last year. Even my husband uses it without my help! Report
Impressive... Report
We use ours almost every day. The food cooks quicker and more evenly than anything else. And crispy, too. Plus, when you remove the basket, you see all that unhealthy fat and grease at the bottom of the pan. That would've been on the food that you just ate. It took us a few tries to learn how best to use it, but we are loving this thing! Report
Not sure if I would like it plus I don't have counter space. Report
I love my air fryer. Fish comes out perfect every time. It’s perfect for roasting vegetables. If you think of air frying as just a substitute for traditional oil frying, you’ll limit yourself to what an air fryer can do. Report
You do not even have to use any oil in it. Google air fryer recipes with no oil. Report
I love my air fryer and use it almost daily. It really does so much more than just frying. I love making healthy ricotta cheesecakes in it and many other things. I use that and my Instant Pot constantly, more even than my range. It is really perfect for two and well worth the space it takes up. Report