How do air fryers work, and are they healthy?

Ninja Foodi DualZone FlexBasket with drawer open and cooked food inside
(Image credit: Future)

Ever wondered how air fryers work or whether they are even healthy at all? Well, if you have, you’re in the right place as we find out how air fryers work and whether they are worth buying. 

The best air fryers will create a whole variety of food without using anywhere near as much oil as the best deep fryers.

Air fryers are made by a huge range of small appliance companies now so there's plenty of choice when it comes to choosing a model that's best for you. A great deal of choice also means there are budget air fryers, high-end sophisticated models, and everything in between. 

To find out how air fryers work and whether they are any healthier than other cooking methods, just keep reading. 

How do air fryers work?  

Air fryers work in a very similar way to a convection oven but on a smaller scale. After you place food inside your air fryer and switch it on, heat is circulated around the food at a fast speed until it is cooked. This works by using a heating element and a fan which makes the hot air whizz around in circles inside the air fryer, evenly cooking the food that’s inside. 

Do you need oil in an air fryer? Most air fryer manufacturers recommend you use a small amount of oil in your air fryer to help create tasty food; however, the amount of oil you need is significantly less than the amount you’d need for a deep fryer.

The inside of an air fryer features a basket with small holes in it. This basket is where you place your uncooked food, and as the machine is switched on, the hot air will be pushed around through the holes in the basket. For that reason, it’s also important not to overfill your air fryer basket so that the hot air has enough room to circulate. 

Compared to a normal oven, air fryers can cook food a little quicker. However, air frying your food is slower than deep frying or flash frying in a pan. 

COSORI Air Fryer

(Image credit: Amazon)

Are air fryers healthier? 

Because air fryers don’t require masses of oil, they are generally considered a healthier option compared to deep-frying your food. However, it obviously doesn’t mean you can’t cook high-calorie foods in your air fryer. And it’s important to remember that using oil isn’t necessarily bad either.

So, what can be cooked in an air fryer? Air fryers can be used to cook a huge variety of foods, including meats, fish, donuts, vegetables, apples, and some fruits. 

If you’re limited on oven space, an air fryer can actually be pretty useful when you’re cooking for a crowd, as you can make one dish in your air fryer in addition to using your oven. It is worth bearing in mind that air fryers alone have a limited capacity, but different models will be able to offer you a larger cooking space. Generally speaking, air fryers alone won’t cater to a crowd, so be prepared to cook in batches if you want to use an air fryer to cook for a crowd.  

How much do air fryers cost?  

Air fryers range in cost from around $50 right up to over $300. Cheap air fryers should still do a good job of cooking your food. However, more expensive models will offer advanced features and cooking programs.  

Sophie Bird

Sophie is Home Editor at Top Ten Reviews. Starting off her career in print journalism, Sophie then moved to digital and now specializes in lifestyle, home interiors and social media. While she has scooped awards for her journalism, Sophie likes to whip up a storm in the kitchen when she's not writing.