How do air-fryers work?

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If you’re using oil, I assume it heats then atomizes the oil so it cooks the food item in hot oil by coating it with a mist rather than the traditional method of dunking it in liquid oil, but it says on the box you can cook many items with no oil.. so how is this different from just baking/roasting them in a traditional oven?

ETA: Thanks everyone!

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Like a regular oven, it just heats the air and circulates it around the food. If there’s oil on/around your food, it’ll be heated as well, but nothing atomizes the oil to spread it around, that’d be extremely dangerous and inefficient for heat transfer.

Air fryer = convection oven, with a fancy name. If you have an oven with a convection setting, you have an air fryer. Convection ovens come with fans that help circulate the hot air around the oven to uniformly cook the food. It’s great if you’re cooking in large batches; all the food will cook at the same speed.

If your oven has a “convection” mode, it’s literally no different. Air fryers/convection ovens use fans to circulate the air around whatever you’re cooking. The convection feature on ovens isn’t the default setting because it’s loud, uses more energy, and doesn’t make a difference if you’re making lasagna or a casserole or whatever. But most ovens have it.

If you baste or spray whatever you’re about to cook in an air fryer/convection oven in oil, it comes reasonably close to the taste of deep frying. But a lot of people are using them for health reasons and avoiding oil altogether. Without oil, it’s still better to use the convection setting for certain things as it can make them crispier.

Counter-top air fryers are just for convenience, similar to a rice cooker. You can make rice on the stove but if you have the space, a rice cooker makes it super easy and frees up your stove for cooking other parts of the meal.

Like the others have said, air fryers are essentially scaled-down convection ovens. However, there are a few crucial differences:

– air fryers don’t get as hot (mine tops out at 400F/204C)

– air fryers have a much higher fan speed than most convection ovens

– air fryers don’t need to preheat in the same way (you only need to wait for the heating coils to warm up, no need to warm the basket itself)

Before air fryers were introduced, there was an appliance called the NuWave that was essentially the same thing, but with multiple tiers like an oven or dehydrator instead of the basket you’ll find in most air fryers.

The surface of foods cooked in the air fryer are a bit more dry than what you’ll get out of a traditional oven or deep fryer. That’s sometimes a good substitute for the crispiness you get from a deep fryer, but an air fryer can’t achieve the “bloom” that you get from deep fryers, which relies on a rapid transfer of heat between the cooking medium (oil or air) and the surface of the food. (Fun fact: Food in a deep fryer is essentially “steamed” by its own moisture while the surface is fried; properly fried foods will have relatively little oil remaining on the surface.)

It’s a small convection oven with a higher fan speed than a standard convection oven. They also don’t have to preheat, so they’re a lot more usable for single people who live alone and just want to make a single serving of fries or something instead of taking the time to preheat the oven and then wait 20 mins. My air fryer will cook up fries from frozen in less than 10 mins without preheating.

There’s really nothing special about them over a traditional convection oven, they’re just a lot faster and more convenient.

Yep. It’s the same as an oven, but it is small and with a fan that is bigger and faster relative to the size of the air fryer.

Things tend to heat and subsequently to cook faster for these reasons. I’ve been using it to do personal oven stuff much quicker, or to just heat stuff up instead of the microwave. You can also use a bit of oil on food, so you get a type of oily fried food without preparing whole tub of hot oil.

Honestly, a skillet and an air fryer and you’d be set for a lot of cooking.