Countertop with KitchenAid® countertop oven with various fried foods

What is an Air Fryer and How Does Air Frying Work?

You’ve seen them, heard about them and now it’s time to try them out. Air fryers off a new way to add a delicious, crispy texture to a range of recipes. If you’re wondering what is an air fryer and how does it work, this guide will walk you through the functionality of an air fryer and what types of food are best for air frying. 

KitchenAid® air fryers are countertop ovens that offer air fry along with other functions to help you broil, bake and dehydrate your favorite ingredients. If you decide that an air fryer is the right tool for your kitchen, you can choose a KitchenAid® countertop oven with air fry that complements your cooking style and preferences.

View of an open KitchenAid® countertop oven with food inside

What is an Air Fryer?

Also known as an air fryer convection oven, an air fryer can be a countertop appliance, or a feature built into an oven or range, that allows you to cook crispy, golden-fried food without using a pot or pan full of oil. 

How Does an Air Fryer Work?

An air fryer works by circulating hot air rapidly throughout its interior. Similar to a convection oven, there’s a fan that circulates hot air around food in a perforated tray or basket. Because all the surface areas of the food are exposed to the hot air, the food cooks to become crispy on all sides without having to be submerged in hot oil. 

KitchenAid® countertop oven with various foods

What Are the Different Types of Air Fryers?

Air fryers differ based on size and cooking functionality. Some air fryers are standalone countertop appliances, others are built into ovens or ranges, as well as some countertop ovens.

STANDALONE AIR FRYERS

Standalone air fryers are usually oval-shaped, similar to that of an egg and contain a basket in which you place the food. They are usually placed on a countertop and plug into a wall outlet.

Countertop Ovens with Air Frying Capability

Countertop ovens can offer a range of versatility for cooking. Depending on the model, countertop ovens can come with different functionalities like baking, roasting, toasting and yes, air frying as well. 

The KitchenAid® Digital Countertop Oven with Air Fry can add versatility to your meal routine. You’ll be able to do all of the above plus proof dough, dehydrate foods to make fruit leather, air fry and more with this powerful countertop oven. The No-Flip Air Fry Basket also lets you set it and forget it, because you won’t have to worry about flipping your food halfway through.

Ranges with Air Fry Capability

There are also an increasing number of ranges that now come equipped with their own air fry capabilities and air fry baskets. If you’re in the market for a new range and want to consolidate your kitchen tools, this could be a good option.

Close up of roasted potatoes in an air fryer basket

What are the Benefits of Air Frying?

The primary benefit of air frying is reduced use of oil, which can help to cook meals that are lower in fat and calories vs. traditional deep frying. If you have a countertop air fryer or an appliance with air fry capabilities, here are some benefits you can enjoy: 

  • Crispy results - An air fryer provides consistently crispy results without having to coat ingredients in batter or immerse in oil. 

  • Speed - Select KitchenAid® countertop ovens with air fry come with nine cooking settings and fast preheat features to help you create perfectly crisp dishes with ease.

Is Air Fried Food Healthy?

Because air frying relies on rapidly circulating hot air to crisp up and brown food, there’s no need to immerse foods in hot oil to create the desired crispy texture. An air fryer only requires a few tablespoons of oil, or none at all, to crisp up a range of ingredients, so it can be considered a healthier cooking method than frying in oil.

Kitchen counter with a plate of brussels sprouts and salmon next to KitchenAid® countertop oven

What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?

From classic air fryer foods like chicken wings and potatoes to fresh recipes like zucchini fries, an air fryer can crisp up a wide range of ingredients. The best foods to air fry include proteins like chicken, salmon, shrimp, tofu and even steak, along with firm vegetables like zucchini, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

Typically, solid foods with a lower water content are best to air fry; for example, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussel sprouts are better to air fry than lettuce or cucumbers. 

Cut vegetables and potatoes into smaller pieces, like medallions or cubes, to make it easier for the hot air to reach their complete surface area and result in even browning and crispiness. Be sure to lightly coat in oil before adding to the air fryer.

Make sure that the skin of meat or fish is dry and then add a thin layer of oil to help the skin crisp up. You can also use panko, shredded cheese or bread crumbs (rather than a wet batter) to encourage the right level of crispiness.

KitchenAid® countertop oven with air fryer filled with dried fruit

What Cannot Be Cooked in an Air Fryer?

Avoid foods dipped in wet batter. While deep frying foods often requires dipping into a wet batter, this process is not compatible with air fryers and could make it more difficult to clean your air fryer. You should also avoid putting delicate, leafy greens like spinach into the air fryer.  

side-to-side countertop ovens loaded with different proteins

Air Fryer Recipes and Ideas

Experimenting with your air fryer can lead to healthier options and recipes that can expand your repertoire while giving you room for your own unique twists on classic dinner dishes and snacks, like chicken wings and a variety of fries like sweet potato and zucchini. Try these recipes below while experimenting with your air fryer to see where the possibilities take you. 

Plate of chicken wings and celery

Air fryer chicken wings

For crispy and delicious chicken wings, pat the wings dry before adding seasoning to them–a dry rub of salt, pepper and some garlic powder will suffice to get a nice and golden crisp. Cook in your air fryer and flip them once halfway through, unless you have a model with a no-flip basket. To add sauce, once your wings are done cooking, toss them in a coat of sauce and add them back to the air fryer for another few minutes.

Air fryer strawberry hand pies

Air Fried Strawberry Hand Pie

Hand pies provide endless flavor options, and the filling in this air fried strawberry hand pie recipe is great when used with freshly-picked strawberries or any kinds of berries you can find at the farmers market. Once you’ve filled the pastry dough and sealed the pies, your air fryer takes care of the rest to ensure a delightful hand-held dessert.

Air fryer chicken katsu sandwiches

Air Fryer Chicken Katsu Sandwiches

This Japanese-style fried chicken recipe delivers a satisfyingly crunchy meal that’s great for lunch or dinner. Your air fryer helps create a golden brown crust to the chicken that protects the tender meat inside. Experiment with the spiciness of the breading to match your taste buds.

Air fryer pork and shrimp spring rolls

AIR FRYER PORK AND SHRIMP SPRING ROLLS

These delightful air fryer pork and shrimp spring rolls are a fresh take on a pan-Asian cuisine favorite. An air fryer will help you achieve a crispy, crunchy texture that complements the spicy meat fillings. These taste best with a soy dipping sauce to bring out the layers of flavor.

EXPLORE KITCHENAID® COUNTERTOP OVENS WITH AIR FRY

If you’re looking for a versatile appliance that can help expand your cooking techniques, an air fryer is a great addition to your kitchen. Select models from KitchenAid brand provide features like fast preheat and nine cooking settings.

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