Ah, deep frying. That crispy, oily, totally addictive method of cooking. As tasty as it is, it’s not a good idea to indulge in deep fried food regularly, for the sake of our arteries and general wellbeing. It’s also a messy and potentially dangerous cooking method. It’s best to leave deep-fried foods to restaurants and takeaway joints, in my opinion.

Does this mean we have to say goodbye to deep-fried favorites such as fries and crispy chicken at home? Thankfully, no. There are ways of getting around the oil factor when it comes to deep frying, and we’re here to tell you all about it.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the low-fat, high-crisp cooking appliance called the air fryer. We will also look at whether or not we can get a deep-fried result by using our humble oven.

Read on for tips and guidance to deep fried foods without oil!

The air fryer

What is it?

Air fryers are a reasonably new appliance, designed to cook food using hot air to create a crispy result. Some air fryers have a fry basket which sits in a pull-out drawer. Others are more similar to a microwave or small oven in design, with racks or trays. You can cook pretty much anything in an air fryer except very liquid-heavy foods.

How does it work?

It’s quite simple, really. Very hot air circulates around the food, cooking it evenly and making the outside crispy and the inside tender. A little built-in fan helps the hot air to travel evenly around the food.

Are the results really comparable to deep-fried foods?

You’re never going to get the exact same result from an air fryer as you would from a deep fryer. A lot of the flavor and texture of deep-fried foods is due to the oil. However, you can definitely get a satisfying crunch and crispiness, especially with fries and chicken.

How to deep fry without oil, using an air fryer

  • Prep your food with…oil: you may be scratching your head at this, but yes, you do need a tiny skerrick of oil when cooking with an air fryer. A quick spritz with an oil spray will suffice. This is to help the food pieces remain unstuck to each other and to the basket
  • Pop the food into the basket or rack but leave some space: overcrowding the air fryer can risk an uneven result, as the hot air doesn’t get a chance to circulate around the food sufficiently. This means you may have to do a few batches to get everything evenly cooked without packing it all in in one go.
  • Give the food a good shake: about halfway through the cooking process, take the basket or tray out of the air fryer and shake it. This allows the food to remain unstuck and evenly cooked. This is especially crucial when it comes to fries. You want the fries to come out as individual, crispy morsels, not a pile of soft, semi-stuck batons.
  • When making potato fries, make sure they are patted dry before spraying with oil. This helps to achieve the crunchiest, deep-fried reminiscent result

The Oven

Yes, the trusty old oven, we’ve all got one. You might be feeling skeptical as to whether or not your oven could “deep fry” your food. And the answer is…kind of. If you’re craving something crunchy and crispy on the outside, but soft in the inside, the oven can absolutely help.

It all comes down to how you prep the food, and the setting and temperature of the oven. In terms of oil, we do need to use a small amount, but practically nothing compared to deep frying.

The fan bake setting, as opposed to the regular bake setting, cooks faster as the heat is transferred evenly and forcefully around the oven. This helps to get a good crisp on the exterior of the food.

How do deep fry without oil, using an oven

Root veggies:

When “frying” potatoes and sweet potatoes in the oven, it’s important to par-boil them. This is because it gives the potatoes a chance to cook slightly, so they can have less time in the oven. By giving them a short, hot blast in the oven you will achieve a more fried-like result as opposed to a classic roasted result.

  • Preheat your oven to FAN BAKE at a high heat, around 210 degrees Celcius or 410 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Chop your potatoes into wedges or fries (floury potatoes are best)
  • Pop them into a pot, add salt, and cover with water so they’re just covered
  • Bring to a boil until they’re just beginning to soften on the outside but not all the way through
  • Drain the potatoes thoroughly, put the lid onto the pot, and shake the pot. This “roughs up” the outside of the potatoes, creating a fluffy texture. It’s this fluffy outer which really increases the crispiness
  • Tip the potatoes onto a lined baking tray
  • Spray the potatoes with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt
  • Pop the tray into the hot oven and cook for around 20 minutes or until soft in the middle

The result is similar to roasted potatoes. However, the low amount of oil and the very high heat makes them crispier and dryer than traditional roasted potatoes which tend to be oilier.

Chicken:

To make “fried” chicken thighs or drumsticks in the oven, you’ll need a few extra ingredients. You’ll need egg or buttermilk, spices, seasoning and flour. You can use breadcrumbs, but I find that they become either soggy, or don’t stick to the chicken sufficiently.

  • Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celcius or 410 degrees Fahrenheit on fan bake. Line a baking tray with baking paper
  • Dip your chicken into a bowl of beaten egg, then transfer it straight to a bowl of flour mixed with spices (i.e. paprika and chili), salt and pepper, toss to coat the chicken
  • Pop the coated chicken onto the tray and place into the hot oven and cook for 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken, but remember to turn the chicken at least once

Conclusion

There we have it! Although these oil-free deep-frying methods are not going to be exactly the same as the traditional method, they’re still great. They give us that crunchy crispiness, but don’t cover our hands and faces with oily grease as we eat.

By using a small amount of oil, you’re attracting heat right to the surface of the food, turning it crispy while the middle remains soft.

A high heat, on a fan-forced baking mode in your oven, will get you the result closest to deep frying.

And if all else fails, get yourself an air fryer!