Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney
When I first heard from myfoodtrail she bought an air fryer, I couldn’t quite comprehend how you could deep fry food without oil. How could air replicate the same effect as hot oil? It didn’t make sense.
Interestingly, it’s hardly new technology with Phillips releasing one of their earlier models in 2010. So 5 years on, it’s surprising to hear there’s still a lot of people who at the mention of the words “Air Fryer” have the same confused looked on their face that I once did.
To explain it simply, Air Fryers use “Rapid Air technology” which combines high speed air circulation with a top grill. It’s like a fan forced oven on steroids. Phillips is a premium brand on the market with their Air Fryers costing between $300-$500. So when I saw a lessor known brand on sale for significantly less, I entertained the idea of owning one. Having not heard of the brand before, I did a bit of research before stumbling on to a video that won me over.
Fade into a short montage showing off the design features of the Kitchen Chef 3.2L Family Sized 1400W Air Fryer, to the soundtrack of curious music, which strangely makes me more curious. The video has sudden change of pace, the temperature dial gets turned up the max and the music turns into an uplifting melody that prepares me for what’s to come. A raw family sized chicken is placed into the cooking basket of the air fryer, followed by some cubed pumpkin, potatoes and carrots. The chicken is lightly and almost carelessly brushed with a teaspoon of oil before the basket is placed back into the Air Fryer to be cooked. Cut to 30 minutes later and once the basket comes out, a beautifully cooked chicken is revealed as though it has been taken out of an oven.
The video moves on to hand cut potato fries stating there is no oil added and moves on to cooking other ingredients including salt & pepper squid, roast vegetables and even a full size meat pie! Impressed by the video and seduced by the price, I jumped on the sale and became the proud new owner of an Air Fryer.
It was time to put it to the test and I attempt to recreate the hand cut fries I saw in the promotional video.
I use Sweet Potato as my guinea pig, chop them into shape and throw them into the Frying Basket. The guidelines for cooking “frozen thick cut chips” is 12-20 minutes at 200 degrees so I give them just under 10 minutes at 200 degrees before checking on them. The user manual also mentions I should add a 3 minutes to cooking time if starting the appliance cold so after 7 minutes of air frying, I check how the fries are progressing.
To ensure even cooking, the user manual also advises on stopping the cooking process midway to “shake” the contents. Since this is my first time using the Air Fryer, I “pause & shake” more times than I normally would so I can see how quickly the fries are cooking.
While waiting in the initial 7 minutes, I decided I wanted to see the effects of air frying carrots so I cut them and add them to the mix. They’re sliced thinner than the sweet potatoes so 10 minutes later, I check on them and they’re cooked enough for me to take them out.
Eventhough the sweet potato is cooked, the outside isn’t as crispy as I’d like it. As you can see, some are even a little soggy that they sag. Almost looks like a sweet potato praying mantis.
I decide to go for more crispy fries so I put them on for another 5 minutes. This was the result. A few minutes more and they would have been hard to salvage.
I’ve tried both pan frying and oven baking sweet potato and found that whichever method I use, it’s tough to get a crispy skin without using batter. I also noticed the demo video I saw used white potato which is easier to crisp. With that considered, eventhough it didn’t look exactly like the video, I was pretty happy with the results. I added a sprinkling of rosemary, sea salt and shaved cheese and my Air fried Sweet potato fries were served.
Does it work better than a Deep Fryer? I can’t say it does. It’s difficult to replicate the effects of deep frying food in hot oil without actually using oil but it’s not far off. The results were somewhere between an oven and a deep fryer. Although, without excess oil taking refuge in your food, it’s a small sacrifice to make for the health benefits.
The positives: Main one is the health benefits since the Air Fryer can be used for oil-free cooking. Phillips even claims air frying results in 80% less fat compared to fries prepared in their conventional fryer! Other positives include convenience (no messing around with oven mitts, opening/closing oven doors or dealing with oil), faster cooking time compared to an oven and ease of cleaning as the frying basket is removable and dish washer friendly.
The negatives: Uses a lot of electricity, slower cooking time compared to deep frying, limited size frying basket so you’ll need to cook in batches if you have a lot of people to cater for (although my 3.2 litre basket fits a family size roast chicken or 1 kg of frozen fries so this is fine for most occasions).
From this list, I’d say the positives outweigh the negatives. Would I recommend it? Definitely