How does an air fryer work? Experts explain how this nifty appliance can cook your food in record time

How this revolutionary kitchen gadget works

Air fryers line up from testing day
(Image credit: Future / Philip Sowels)

While we love air fryers it’s hard to ignore the fact that the name ‘air fryer’ is pretty deceiving. After all, it doesn’t fry your food, so how does an air fryer work… really?

Although we can barely remember a time when the best air fryers weren’t topping the charts in our guide to the best-selling kitchen appliances, the first air fryer has only been in our lives since 2010. But since then, air fryer fever has taken over the world, with many people ditching conventional ovens and microwaves in favour of this countertop creation. 

If you use your air fryer on a regular basis, you might be interested to know how it crisps your chips or how it perfectly cooks your bacon. So, we’ve consulted with the experts to help you understand the ins and outs of the air fryer. 

How does an air fryer work?

In the grand scheme of things, an air fryer is very similar to the large convection ovens that are found in homes across the UK. However, there are many things that an air fryer does better than an oven - and that’s largely due to how this appliance is constructed. 

A typical oven will produce heat from either a gas or electric element, which will then spread throughout the oven as time progresses. However, this can be a slow process, and sometimes it can take up to 20 minutes for the oven to pre-heat. 

That’s not the case with an air fryer, though. An air fryer works by using rapid air technology to essentially blow the hot air around the air fryer basket - and your food. And as an air fryer is a relatively small appliance, it doesn’t take long for your food to cook. 

Testing an air fryer by cooking chips

(Image credit: Future/Phillip Sowels)

In fact, it’s this rapid air technology that makes an air fryer so impressive. Osman Ozturk, Senior Director of New Product Innovation at SharkNinja, told us, ‘An air fryer is an increasingly popular kitchen appliance that can cook food quickly and evenly, with little to no oil, and still provide a crispy finish by circulating hot air at high speeds around the food.’ 

So, it offers you the texture of fried food but without the oil and without the mess! 

How does a dual-zone air fryer work?

Although the best dual-zone air fryers are now just as common as single-basket air fryers, you might not know exactly how this appliance differs from the original.

John Knight from Daewoo Electrical Appliances explains, ‘A dual air fryer works in exactly the same way as a generic air fryer but comes with dual compartments that have their own heating element and fan.'

'Many families opt for this type of air fryer as it is so much more versatile, allowing you to cook different foods at the same time. You can therefore set different temperatures and timings to ensure each cooking compartment cooks crisply and evenly.’

Image of Ninja Dual Zone during testing at test centre

(Image credit: Future/Molly Cleary)

So, a dual-zone air fryer is essentially two separate air fryers wrapped up into one handy appliance. With two separate heating elements and fans, you can cook two different foods at different temperatures and for different lengths of time. 

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to eat these foods at different times. With a dual-zone air fryer, you can programme your food to finish cooking at the exact same time, even if they were cooked for different lengths of time. 


What are 3 disadvantages of using an air fryer?

While an air fryer can be a welcome addition to any kitchen, it’s important to realise that it’s not the perfect appliance. 

One of the biggest disadvantages of using an air fryer is that you’re limited in space - especially when compared to a full-size convection oven. This can make cooking meals for families difficult, but you could opt for one of the best air fryers for a family of four to solve that problem. 

Another disadvantage is that you have to have countertop space to use this appliance. This can be an issue for those who have small kitchens, as it’s often hard to add an extra appliance into the mix when you have very little counter space. But as someone with a tiny kitchen myself, I simply pop my air fryer in a cupboard when I’m not using it. 

The final disadvantage of using an air fryer is that it can take some time to get used to. As air fryers can cook your food incredibly quickly, it’s very easy to burn your food when you start using it. However, the more you use it, the more you’ll understand how long certain foods take to cook to your liking. 

What cannot be cooked in air fryer?

There are many foods you should avoid cooking in an air fryer, and these include: 

  • Popcorn
  • Saucy foods
  • Broccoli
  • Rice
  • Cheese

However, this is nothing compared to how many foods you can cook in an air fryer. So, it’s generally regarded that the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to air fryer cooking.  

Now you know how an air fryer works, we’re sure you’ll appreciate your air fryer even more! 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.