Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.
Air fryers are a relatively new piece of kitchen equipment that are becoming more popular each day. It’s an alternative to traditional deep frying.
Air frying is often quicker to do, and much healthier for your body. Since the food doesn’t have all the added calories of oil, you can consume much more for the same amount of calories. It also requires less clean-up afterwards and much less maintenance during the entire cooking process.
Have you ever wondered how they actually work though? How can you take something that is normally deep fried in oil, “fry” it with air instead, and get similar results?
Let’s find out!
Table of Contents
What Happens in an Air Fryer?
When you place your food in an air fryer, what happens is actually quite similar to traditional frying methods. The end result will still be crispy, flavorful, juicy, and browned.
Instead of being surrounded by oil, the food that goes into an air fryer is surrounded by hot air. This hot air circulates around to create the same effect.
The heating element found in air fryers is located right on top of the cooking chamber. This location helps to go under all of the food in order to cook it quickly and evenly. Right on top of the heating element is a large fan. The fan works to pull out the hot air. Once this hot air gets to the cooking chamber, it is circulated around by the fan, cooking the whole time.
Air fryers wouldn’t be able to work without the process of convention, which we will explain soon.
Even with all the hot air circulating the chamber, most air fryers are cool to the touch, so you won’t burn yourself if you accidentally touch it while cooking.
The Maillard reaction is a well-known scientific concept. It explains how we get the “browning” on fried foods. This reaction happens when the surface of any food gets dehydrated. The dehydration causes a crust to form.
The extremely high levels of heat break down everything in the food, including fibers, proteins, and starches. This explains why fried food has a different taste than the non-fried version. It adds a depth of texture and flavor that wouldn’t be achieved otherwise.
Air Fryers As a Miniature Convection Oven
Even though they don’t look anything alike, air fryers and convection ovens are surprisingly similar. Convection is a verb. The official dictionary definition is The movement caused within a fluid by the tendency of hotter and therefore less dense material to rise, and colder, denser material to sink under the influence of gravity, which consequently results in transfer of heat.
Air fryers use convection to quickly heat and thoroughly cook crispy foods. When the air fryer gets very hot, natural convection currents start to form. Air fryers also have a fan built inside of them to then move around this hot air. The quicker the hot air circulates, the better.
Air fryers contain a cooking basket that will come with holes in it. This is to allow hot air to move even more freely around the food and to reach every part of it. This is the method behind why air fryers work so quick!
Rapid Air Technology
High speed air circulation (which is the name for what we described in the previous paragraph) is used in air fryers is actually a patented thing now.
This innovative technology is the reason that air fryers exist. Without it, the hot air wouldn’t be able to circulate quickly enough to heat the food properly.
Exhaust Systems of Air Fryers
All air fryers will have an exhaust system. We know that the air inside the chamber is extremely hot. What happens if there’s too much hot air, though? Well, the exhaust system takes care of that. It will usually take a little bit of the hot air from inside the cooking chamber. This will release the internal pressure just a little bit, so it’s not too high.
Before being released into the air, the smoke from the food is always filtered. This helps to recuse any smells in your kitchen from the typical fried food and smoke that you might be used to.
Air Fryers Cook Food Faster
Air fryers are known to be quick and easy. Many dishes that you would normally make in the oven or convection oven will cook faster. On average, it takes 20-50 percent less time to cook food thoroughly.
This fast cooking time is due to the heat being transferred so rapidly and evenly in a smaller space. Air fryers are also designed to minimize external heat loss, so all of it stays inside. The combination of rapid, circulating air with next to no heat loss is what cooks food so quickly.
How to Clean an Air Fryer
One of the many benefits of air fryers is that they’re so much easier to clean compared to deep-frying your own food at home. You won’t be left with a greasy countertop or grease-splattered clothing.
All of the washable parts of air fryers are non-stick which not only allows for easy cooking, it’s easier to clean too. The parts of an air fryer can be washed in a dishwasher or with warm, soapy water.
The manual of your specific air fryer will always have the best instructions.
Do Air Fryers Smell?
If you’ve ever fried food at home, you know just how smelly it can be. All the clothes you’re wearing will quickly begin to smell like whatever you’re frying. With air frying, you don’t need to worry about this.
You won’t be left with any lingering smells in your home. This is largely due to the built-in filter that removes any strong smells from the air.
We hope that after reading this article, you are more knowledgeable about how air fryers work. Whether you are using the air fryer for yourself or buying it as a gift, now you know the ins and outs of it.
Below are a couple of videos demonstrating how air fryers work.