This month Colin Lambert tells us why he invested in an Air Fryer. As energy prices rocket, how is it possible to reduce energy costs in the kitchen? Consider switching to an air fryer to replace most of your oven usage. This is essentially an energy-efficient mini convection oven, using hot air to cook. Food is placed in a basket, so that the air can circulate around all sides of the food. How much do they cost? I bought my first oven for £25 refurbished. New ovens cost from around £50 and £80 buys a sophisticated model with lots of digital presets.
Why should air fryers be considered eco-friendly? Most modern fan ovens are rated between 3000 and 3500 kW, while many air fryers are rated between 1300 and 1700 kW. Unsurprisingly they use about 50% less electricity for the same temperature and cooking time. Savings should be doubled up or more, as air fryers often halve cooking time at reduced temperatures and don’t need the average 10 minute warming up time of a conventional oven.
Take for example our recent pack of sausages: cooking instructions read “oven cook for 30 minutes at 180°C fan or 15 minutes grilled”. Our sausages were very evenly cooked at 165°C in 10 minutes – the time it takes a conventional oven to heat up. In this example oven cooking would take four times as long (30+10 minutes), using twice the energy per minute of use! Air fryers cook so quickly that it’s always worth checking food 5 minutes before the planned cooking time ends. A digital probe thermometer is a useful extra to check that food is cooked to safe internal temperatures.
What about taste? If we take potatoes as an example, the gold standard may be deep-fried double-cooked chips or roast potatoes, cooked in goose fat but both can be cooked in an air fryer with no more than a teaspoon of oil, giving possibly 95% of the taste, with a 100% less guilt. Some foods, like chicken wings and chips can benefit from the high temperatures and shorter cooking times so that they get crispy on the outside, without drying out inside as they would with longer cooking in a conventional oven. These still have a place in bulk cooking large dishes like a baked lasagne, Christmas dinner or batch baking but the best air fryers with a square basket, can roast a whole 1.5 kg chicken.
Air fryers are not just for harassed parents cooking quick meals of chicken nuggets and chips or all sorts of meat from chops to chicken pieces, they are also very good at roasting vegetables, again with minimal amounts of oil. Typically roasted cauliflower will take around 10 minutes in an air fryer, compared to 20 to 25 minutes in an oven + 10 minutes warming up time. Vegetable soups of all sorts benefit from extra taste if the veg is roasted first in an air fryer. Let’s not forget also the health benefits as the baskets drain off fat during cooking !
Air fryers do need an initial investment and take up worktop space but you would expect to be using it almost every day, reducing your energy costs every time you use it (use your smart meter to check out the actual cost). They are very easy to use, many now have pre-set programmes, simplifying the need to set times and temperatures. Once set, they need no more than a quick shake of the basket or flipping over of food halfway through cooking, beeping to warn you when that is due. Cleaning is very straightforward as all have non-stick linings and some are dishwasher safe – so choose your model with care! Don’t buy one larger than you need, as bigger air fryers predictably use more electricity, thus reducing savings.
Finally, don’t forget the benefits of slow cookers. In a recent test, a Russell Hobbs slow cooker, used 16 times less energy than a conventional oven. One pot meals can be cooked in a slow cooker for the cost of a traditional 100 W lightbulb or less.