There are many methods available to cook healthy foods. Using an Air Fryer has become the latest and greatest method for cooking fried foods without all the oil. Historically frying has never been considered a healthy cooking method but the invention of the air fryer has changed that. Air Frying allows you to “fry” foods using nothing but very hot air. The method isn't exactly new, it's based on the idea of convection baking with a twist.
Convection vs. Air Fryer
Convection ovens circulate hot air throughout the oven to cook the food evenly. They also provide a moister end product than do air fryers. Air Fryers use ultra-hot air and the temperatures get much higher than those in a convection oven. As a result the food cooks much faster and crisper than in convection ovens. It's a minor difference but important if you want a crispy fried-like end product.
Air Fryer-Only Models
Air Fryers that are only air fryers and not a combination appliance like the Cuisinart model are typically smaller, rounder appliances that look almost like a pod. They typically have a basket in which to put the food to cook. They are also smaller than traditional convection ovens thus allowing you to cook smaller amounts at a time. If you're cooking for a big group, be prepared to cook multiple batches. Since the air fryer tends to cook things much more quickly, it shouldn't be a significant difference in time.
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Convection/Air Fryer Combination Model
We have a small toaster/convection oven combo that we use for everything – toast, veggie burgers, chik'n patties, french fries, etc. When we contemplated getting a new one, we looked around at the options. I had my eye on an Air Fryer for awhile but didn't want another single use appliance. I have enough of those already and storage available is minimal for anything additional.
The Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven Air Fryer had the same footprint of our existing convection/toaster oven with the added bonus of an air fryer capability. No additional counter or storage space would be needed and I could have the added air fryer component? Sold!
Taking the Air Fryer for a Spin
We unpacked the new Cuisinart Air Fryer Combo and found that it was taller than the old one, but took up less counter space. We measured the cooking area and it is a bit smaller than the convection/toaster oven. I don't think that will be an issue though since it was a minimal difference. My husband tested it out by making french fries on the air fryer setting. He put them in frozen and they were done in about half the time it took in the old oven. They came out crispy and a little burned on the edges because we weren't expecting them to cook so quickly.
We tried it again the next day to cook Boca Chik'n Patties. We eat them a lot in my house and had the cooking time/temperature down to a science. Using the Air Fryer setting they cooked in about half the time and came out much crispier than they had in the convection oven.
What about the Toaster Oven?
Since the appliance is also a toaster I took the toast setting for a spin. It turns out that the air fryer isn't the only setting upon which things cook quickly! The toast was done in about half the time and was bit more brown than we would have liked. We dialed back the level of browning and have found that by setting things at about half of what we think they should be, things turn out perfectly.
All in I like the new appliance. I will be trying out all sorts of things in it to see if it makes a big difference. One of my most favorite recipes Oven Baked Onion Rings will be a good test. They crisp up nicely in the regular oven but I'm thinking the Air Fryer will take them to the next level. I will surely find out!
If you are considering an air fryer for yourself, think about what you will use it for and if a combo appliance might be a better fit for how you cook and eat in your home. An Air Fryer would have been more of an annoyance for me because I would probably only use it sporadically and it would end up collecting a lot of dust due to having to get it out every time I wanted to use it.
A combination oven fits the needs of my family and I'm more apt to use the air fryer capability because it's right there. I don't need to haul out a special appliance to cook one specific thing. If you eat a lot of fried foods, or want to eat a lot of fried foods, then an Air Fryer only model might be a better choice for you; however, if you want the option but use a toaster or small convection oven more, then the combination model might be the better choice.