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Advantages and disadvantages of air fryers: What you need to know before buying

A woman selects a setting on an air fryer that's on a kitchen countertop

Is an air fryer the right choice for your home? We weigh up the pros and cons of cooking with them

If you’re thinking of investing in an air fryer, it’s important to consider both their advantages and disadvantages. In particular it’s worth thinking about whether you’ll get lots of use out of it or if it will sit collecting dust on your countertop.

If you’re not already familiar, an air fryer is a small, tabletop kitchen appliance that uses convection heat, similar to an oven, to cook foods using a very small amount of oil. Air fryer popularity has exploded in the last few years, with many people swearing by them as the quickest and easiest way to make meals. It’s simple to learn how to use an air fryer but will the pros outweigh the cons for your particular household? In this guide, we’ll run you through both so you can decide whether to invest.

Advantages of air fryers

As you might imagine, there are plenty of reasons why air fryers are a useful appliance for your home. Let’s look at the main advantages below.

1. Time savers

“Air fryers are great for those who are short of time, due to the way that they circulate hot air,” says Hannah Hamer, assistant marketing manager at Russell Hobbs. “They can significantly reduce your cooking time compared to other traditional cooking methods, as there’s no usually no need to preheat – you can simply pop your food in and get it cooking.”

On average, even air fryers that do need preheating can reach 200°C in around five minutes. In comparison, an electric oven takes around 17 to 19 minutes to heat to the same temperature, with a gas oven being slightly faster at around 13 minutes. Either way, an air fryer is always going to heat up faster due to its small size and large, powerful fan.

An image of cooked potatoes and carrot sticks in an air fryer basket drawer

Air fryers can also cook your food far more quickly. In our tests, the Tower T17039 5-in-1 Air Fryer cooked a whole chicken in 45 minutes, as did the Ninja Foodi 15-in-1. Similarly, the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone cooked a portion of potato lattices in just six minutes using its Max Crisp setting.

2. Cooking requires very little oil

Air fryers need little to no oil, with the average recipe using only a single tablespoon (15ml) compared to the 750ml of oil needed for many deep fat fryer recipes. There is some debate as to whether air fryers are healthy, but there’s no doubt that they are a far healthier alternative to cooking in a deep fat fryer.

3. Multiple functions

“Air fryers are super-fast and healthy but choosing a multi-functional product will give you so many more benefits like a mini oven, rotating grill spit and a dehydrator as well as functions like defrosting and toasting,” explains Marcus Lux, head of UK, export & business development at Gastroback.

Hannah agrees, adding “there has been an increasing number of air fryer models appearing with extra features and settings that make it easier than ever to create show-stopping dishes.”

Some of our favourite tried and tested air fryers have multiple functions, including the Ninja Speedi, which while technically a multi cooker, has an incredible air frying function at its core, as well as steaming, oven baking and more.

4. Evenly crisped food

Probably the biggest draw of an air fryer is its ability to crisp food evenly, adding a lovely crunch with plenty of flavour. This is because air fryers are mini convection ovens, circulating hot air to cook food on all sides. You do, however, need to turn your food over halfway, unless you have a model that will do this for you such as the Tefal ActiFry Genius + Air Fryer. Of course, it’s also important to know which foods cook the best in an air fryer, along with those that are definitely not suitable, to ensure you make the most of it.

5. Less mess to clear up

Air fryers are also super easy to clean, with the majority of models being both dishwasher and sink safe,” says Hannah. And it’s true that compared to traditional deep fat fryers, air fryers are a delight to clean. There’s no cooking oil to dispose of and you can either pop most removable parts in a dishwasher or wash in hot, soapy water.

The outside of your air fryer can be wiped down with a damp cloth. You even have the option to line your fryer basket with disposable liners that can simply be thrown in the bin after use. Always consult your manual before cleaning though and make sure you know how to clean your air fryer’s heating element, as this needs a little extra attention.

6. Lower energy bills

Eleanor Bell, Product Manager at Tefal, explains that air fryers can help with energy bills. “Our range of air fryers all have the advantage of helping you spend less on your energy bills – you can save up to 70% of your energy (compared to using conventional cooking methods), something we know everyone is conscious of right now”.

As long as you’ve done your research and purchased the best air fryer for your specific needs and capacity, so you’re not unnecessarily heating up empty space, you can save money by using one. It uses less energy to heat than an oven and cooking times are usually reduced too.

7. Safer to use

The simple fact that you’re not handling a vat or pan of boiling oil means that air fryers are much safer to use than deep fat fryers. You also won’t run the risk of any hot oil splashing out of the fryer, making air fryers far safer to use with kids or pets around. The baskets have handles to carry them around safely too.

However, it’s still worth understanding that food still gets very hot in an air fryer, as do the parts, so care should be taken while touching any of the components.

READ NEXT: Best Ninja air fryers

Disadvantages of air fryers

Air fryers might be wonderful inventions, but nothing is perfect. Let’s look at some of the disadvantages below.

1. Overcooked food

This shouldn’t be a problem once you’ve read the manual and become used to how your own air fryer performs, but it’s relatively easy to overcook food with them. This is because air fryers heat up extremely quickly and will retain that hot temperature for far longer – leading to overcooked and dried-out food, even if you’ve followed the recommended cooking time on the packaging.

Our advice? Start by following one of the recipes in the air fryer’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website and follow those instructions to get to know how your fryer works. Once you’re more confident, you can branch out with more adventurous cooking choices.

2. Not great for larger households

Although there are some large oven-style air fryers with generous 11l capacities or dual-drawer models with two baskets, these are generally only going to be big enough to feed four people. If you need to regularly cook big meals for larger families or groups, you’re better off sticking to the oven, where you’ll have far more space. Not only that, using the oven once is more economical, as it uses less energy than running an air fryer multiple times to cook a single meal.

A Ninja Air Fryer Max Pro 6.2l AF180UK with the drawer open and uncooked hash browns placed inside

3. You can’t cook everything in an air fryer

While they’re incredibly versatile, you can’t cook absolutely everything in an air fryer – and some foods can be potentially hazardous. For instance, wet-battered foods and cheese can get onto the heating element due to an air fryer’s powerful fans. In turn, this can cause the whole fryer to overheat. Raw grains struggle to cook evenly, while leafy greens and some types of broccoli can dry out. Make sure you check your manual to see if there’s anything specific that your air fryer can’t cook.

4. Noisy fans

Air fryers use powerful fans to push air around at a rapid speed, this can make them very noisy, with some of the loudest reaching up to 65dB. To put that into context, the average vacuum cleaner reaches around 70dB – so, if you’re sensitive to noise this has the potential to be a huge disadvantage. We suggest doing your research before buying, to look for an air fryer that’s quieter. Some will have noise level information of the product specifications or, you can contact customer support.

5. They are bulky

Even the smallest air fryers are going to take up room on a kitchen counter. Air fryers also need to be able to vent properly during the cooking process, meaning they will need empty space around them. If you live in a tiny flat or have a cluttered kitchen, you might struggle to find enough room for one. We’ve tested some space-saving options, such as the Ninja DoubleStack.

READ NEXT: Best dual air fryers

Should you buy an air fryer?

It all comes down to your specific needs. If you have a smaller family and use your oven regularly, you’ll find it a useful investment that produces tasty food and also helps to lower energy costs. But bigger families might find they’re not large enough for their needs and using them is impractical, as they can’t provide the space of a regular oven.

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