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Frying with just air?

"It bills itself as “a healthier alternative to deep-fat frying” – a low bar, given that anything is a healthier alternative to deep-fat frying, even frying."

Rhik Samadder - the Guardian

The photograph at left is taken from the article in The Guardian from which my opening quote comes. It's quite an amusing review and I will come back to it.

Why am I writing about air fryers because I think I have written about them before? Well coincidence really. I was going to write about the next on my list of other blogs - My Korean Kitchen - and I will - tomorrow. When I opened that website I was presented with a very tempting photograph of a dish called Air Fryer Korean Chicken Wings.

Coincidence comes in through the October edition of Coles Magazine, which I had just thrown away for recycling. For it included a section on air fryers, which included three recipes for some spring rolls, some chicken schnitzels and a cake. When I had seen the article I discarded the thought of writing about it because I had 'done' them before (well I think so anyway) and I really didn't think I needed an air fryer. But the My Korean Kitchen article seemed to be telling me to revisit, so here I am.

I have now read two or three articles about why you should or should not have an air fryer and I have to say the almost overwhelming conclusion is that they are a waste of money.

What is an air fryer? In the words of Adam Liaw it's really a:

"small convection oven that circulates very dry, hot air around food with a promise of crisp results, similar to frying without the need for a lot of oil."

Which is more or less what all of the other reviewers said, with one of them saying that her toaster oven really did the same thing and Rick Samadder saying:

"It is nothing like frying; it’s a grill-roast-bake hybrid, without the satisfaction of any of them."

And in spite of him saying that there is nothing sadder than oven baked chips, it's still probably better to stick with them. They also said that the air fryer was better with frozen chips than with home-made ones. Anyway we shouldn't really be eating chips. Save them for those special dining out occasions. Don't try at home.

The main advantage over an oven is that it is much faster - well it's a smaller space to heat up and therefore presumably uses less power than heating up an entire oven.

One of the other reviewers - from Wired tried baking potatoes, with somewhat underwhelming results really:

"The spuds were good but that was more of a sour cream, cheddar, and chives thing than an air fryer thing. Clearly, more testing was in order." Joe Ray - Wired

But for me I think the biggest disadvantages are three - one of which you wouldn't know about until you got it home and tried it. Which is that they are apparently very noisy. One reviewer said about as noisy as a vacuum cleaner. Which I think is appalling. Somebody else said a boiler going at full blast. I assume he meant a hot water boiler. No, no, no.

The other, as you can see in the picture at the top of the page is that they are large - admittedly that is the largest size I think, but look at the size of the cooking space - the drawer that he has pulled out at the bottom. Very small. The Wired guy talked about how he tried to squeeze a chicken into his. Indeed he had real difficulty finding a chicken that would fit. They all said, that even that large size would barely provide food for 4 people, and the smaller ones really only do 2. Because you cannot crowd the food together - it has to be reasonably spaced. Most people simply would not have room for such a large piece of equipment in their kitchens.

The final nail in the coffin for me is reading about the things it does best - all unhealthy - like cooking frozen chicken nuggets and chips. Coles list of what it is good at, includes sausage rolls and party pies, pork crackling and bacon, mini pizzas, cookies, doughnuts and churros.

And those Korean chicken wings? Well I had another look at the recipe and found that that gorgeous sticky sauce is just brushed on at the end. Which may be fine, but is not quite what I thought. Suspect that's more than one batch in the photograph too. The author also does not give you an alternative way to cook them if you haven't got an air fryer - which Coles does do I have to say.

So no - not for me. I will have a look at what else the My Korean Kitchen site has to offer tomorrow.


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