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Are air fryers healthy?

An instant vortex air fryer with cooked chicken and peppers

We look at whether air fryers can really help you cut down on fat and calories

Air fryers offer an alternative to deep fat frying by using hot air and as little as 1tsp of oil to produce low-fat versions of classic fried foods. However, most air fryers offer more than just a low-fat way to cook chicken and chips. They can be used to bake, reheat and even dehydrate foods, making them versatile multi cookers that’ll earn their place in your kitchen.

While it’s true that air-fried food doesn’t need to be submerged in oil for a crispy result, most foods still need a coating of oil to achieve the perfect flavour and texture. With that in mind, we’re looking at how much healthier this method of cooking really is when compared to classic methods of cooking.

What is an air fryer and how do they work?

Although air fryers are often touted as an alternative to a deep fat fryer, they’re actually much closer to a fan oven in the way they work. Like an oven, they use a powerful fan to circulate hot air around food, producing crisp, even results.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best air fryers for every budget

However, air fryers have a few advantages over your standard oven. Their compact size means they’re often faster at cooking than an oven and the best air fryers don’t even need to be preheated, cutting down cooking time even further. Most have perforated trays or baskets as well, allowing air to circulate more efficiently, leading to impressively even results.

What’s more, some models, such as the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone and Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 conveniently allow you to cook two different things at once, so you can easily cook meals like steak and chips in the same appliance.

Find out more about what air fryers can do in our What is an air fryer? guide.

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How much oil does an air fryer use?

Air fryers require far less oil than a traditional deep fat fryer, as the food isn’t submerged in oil. However, for the crispiest results, ingredients still require a thin coating of oil. Often 1tbsp is enough to get the best result, but different foods and recipes will require different amounts.

Are air-fried foods lower in fat?

Foods that are deep-fried can absorb a lot of oil during the cooking process, simply because a lot of oil is being used and this increases the fat content of the food. As air fryers use only a small amount of oil, the amount absorbed into the food is far less. This equates to a reduction in calories, with some estimates suggesting air fried foods can have 70 to 80 percent fewer calories than their deep-fried counterparts. On that basis, it’s fair to say that air fried foods are healthier and lower in fat than deep-fried foods.

But what about other food? Air fryers can also be used to bake or roast joints of meat that can often be full of fat. By choosing an air fryer with a perforated tray, you can separate fat from your food, reducing the number of calories you consume. However, your veggies might not be as low-fat cooked in an air fryer, as they still require a coating of oil for the best results. This will increase the amount of fat and calories compared to classic methods of cooking such as boiling or steaming.

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So, are air fryers healthy?

Air frying is a great alternative to deep-frying, so if you’re making the switch from a deep fat fryer to one of the best air fryers, you can be sure your homemade, air fried foods will be lower in fat and calories. And depending on how much deep-fried food you’re eating, this could have positive health benefits.

If you’re only using an air fryer to cook premade oven foods that typically don’t require oil to be added, there will be little difference in the fat content of the finished product. You can, however, still achieve crispier, more even results faster than most ovens, meaning there’s still a huge benefit to using an air fryer with your favourite oven food.

To find the right air fryer for you, be sure to check out our roundup of the very best air fryers.

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