Air fryers are becoming ever so popular in many households. Sales are on the rise, as they offer a nearly oil-free cooking experience. NPD, a market research firm, released a study that they had conducted from late May 2017 through mid-March 2019 indicating that close to 10 million items were sold, 4 million of which were sold last year. Why are they so popular? Because even with a small amount or no added oil – which are fats that are liquid at room temperature – there is no compromise on quality of taste, as noted by world-renowned TV chef Todd English, who upon using it for the first time said, “I was amazed at the quality of the way things came out.” He became so excited by this type of cooking that he created, “The Air Fryer Cookbook.”
Air fryers have high speed fans that circulate hot air around the food, but with more force and hotter temperatures than regular convection ovens. This generates a brown crisp layer on the outside, but without all the oil. This serves as the ideal alternative to deep-frying which relies on substantial oil saturation to produce the outer crispy result.
You could certainly make the commonly fried items in the air fryer like french fries and chicken wings, but it really has no limits in terms of what you could make. It’s good for roasted chicken, brussels sprouts, crispy chickpeas, crispy tofu, salmon and for almost everything else that you would make in your oven.
Recently, Naomi Hazan, whose recipes have appeared in numerous publications, including the Cleveland Jewish News, has added to her repertoire with a new air frying recipe. It is featured on kosher.com and is a recipe for Asian Cauliflower Tacos. In a mere twenty minutes you could cook up this tasty dish.
With an air fryer, the question is when is it recommended to add a small amount of oil, which should usually be around a teaspoon or a thin layer of spray, for optimal results? Because oil is fatty on its own, the rule is if the food being cooked contains fat in it already, like steak, then no oil should be added. On the other hand, if your making food, like dry vegetables, that have no inherent fat in it, then it is recommended to add a very small amount.
There are many health benefits to using an air fryer because of the need to use such a small quantity of oil or none at all. Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD, Founding Director of UC Davis Integrative Medicine, notes why oils are so unhealthy to consume. They are full of calories, but devoid of nutrients. Excessive quantities of oil have been linked to a depressed system and an increase risk for heart disease. According to The National Academy of Sciences we need only a 1/4 of a teaspoon (for women) to a 1/3 of teaspoon (for men) of fatty acids per day. This amount would provide the needed amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid consumption that promotes brain function, reduces inflammation and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. This amount is easily obtained through normal dietary practices.
There are various cooking oils that would work well with your air fryer. Just to name a few with high smoke points, which means they can endure high temperatures without smoking, are avocado oil, extra light olive oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, refined coconut oil and peanut oil. You would want to stay away from using butter, extra virgin olive oil, margarine and non-stick sprays as well as any other oil with low smoke points because at high temperatures they will emit smoke and affect the quality and taste of your food.
There are many models of air fryers. A main consideration is how many people you are using it for. For a large family, you want to get a larger size. If it’s just for yourself then you could go with a smaller version.
In terms of kosher guidelines, an air fryer should be designated for “meat” or dairy”. Any pareve items cooked simultaneously with meat or poultry would be considered “meat” and should not be eaten with dairy. Likewise, a pareve item cooked with dairy would be considered “dairy” and should not be eaten with meat or directly after eating meet (6 hours). On the hand if the air fryer is cleaned thoroughly between use the pareve item would be considered “meat equipment or dairy equipment” respectively instead. Consult your local orthodox rabbi for recommendations in the event that the unit needs to be kashered altogether.