We know they make delicious chips, but how do air fryers actually work?

woman cooking with air fryer
The low down on how air fryers actually work Getty Images

At this point, you could probably say I have a rather unhealthy attachment to my air fryer. When I moved homes recently, it was the air fryer, above the TV, glass coffee table and sentimental artwork, I was most concerned about getting to my new home safely.

After all, this is the kitchen gadget that has transformed my mid-week evenings, allowing me to cook quick and healthy (ish) dinners after a long day at work, cook an entire succulent roast chicken for a family Sunday lunch and also created the most deliciously crisp truffle oil and parmesan potatoes (a must try). But how does the humble air fryer actually work?

I spoke to Salter's (who have a range of highly rate air fryers) buying director Saul Davies about how exactly my go to gadget actually works.

How does an air fryer work?

A lot of hot air? In a word, yes. Saul explains an air fryer works by, "Using a combination of convection heating and a fan mechanism, air fryers cook food by circulating hot air around the food without the need to pre-heat." Yep, it's really that simple.

And contrary to it's name there's no actual frying involved in an air fryer, although you can get some air fryers that come with a grill option.

How is an air fryer different to an oven?

Air fryers and ovens both use convection to heat and cook food, however, "there are notable differences in their cooking methods. Air fryers are more compact and take up less space in comparison to conventional ovens. Therefore, air fryers do not require pre-heating and operate more efficiently. This reduces overall cooking time and saves money on energy bills," Saul notes.

Do you need to use oil in an air fryer?

Often one of the biggest queries people have with air fryers is if you need to use oil when cooking. The short answer is no, with Saul explaining, "air fryers require little to no oil as hot air is circulated around the food at high-speed. This ensures cooking that promotes better health while still achieving a crispy texture without using excessive amounts of oil.”

However, that being said, there are times when we've found adding a little olive oil, particularly to items such as potatoes or sweet potatoes, gives them an added delicious crispness.

And who can say no to extra crispy chips?

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