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White air fryer with a basket of cooked chips

Why are air fryers flying off the shelves during the cost-of-living crisis?

Published: September 22, 2022 at 12:19 pm
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Traffic to our air fryer reviews and recipes has soared in recent weeks, but why is everyone suddenly getting so excited about this clever gadget?

Air fryers are the kitchen appliance that everyone's talking about. If you haven’t already bought one, you may be thinking about it or have caught wind of the buzz around them.

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For those new to the trend, this clever gadget uses hot air rather than oil. It offers a healthier alternative to deep-fat frying while still giving snacks like chips a crisp, ‘fried’ finish.

Air fryers have been gaining popularity for years. First launched in 2010, the appliance has evolved and some models now feature functions like baking, roasting, and grilling.

With UK energy bills set to rise again on 1 October, air fryers are being touted as must-have cooking appliances that might help keep energy costs down – and sales are currently booming.

Traffic to our best air fryers guide on bbcgoodfood.com surged 893% in the first two weeks of September.

Air fryer with chips

Kitchenware retailer Lakeland has reported a jump in sales too, with an increase of 636% in purchases of its Lakeland digital compact air fryer from February to August 2022.

Are air fryers energy efficient?

As with all appliances, it's important to use them efficiently and air fryers are particularly good for smaller portions or serving sizes.

“Large ovens may be able to cook bigger foods, cook more at once and be well-insulated,” but “their size may mean more energy is required to get them to temperature, and more energy could be lost if access to food is needed during cooking," according to air fryer manufacturer Ninja.

“If you have a small air fryer… there’s no need to heat up your whole oven to cook a single portion.”

So, by switching from an oven to an air fryer for certain recipes, you could save on your energy bills depending on the appliances you’re using.

Archie Lasseter, sustainability lead from energy supplier Utilita, adds that because plug-in appliances like air fryers heat up quickly, “typically heat is not lost into the surrounding space as in cookers, so [they] tend to be more energy efficient.”

Air fryer roast chicken with potatoes

That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule, and air fryers can vary in energy efficiency. To calculate how much energy your air fryer will use, multiply the appliance’s wattage by the number of hours it uses per day, then divide the total by 1000 to get the appliance’s daily kilowatt-hour (kWh).

The cost per kWh will vary depending on where you live and what your energy tariff is, but if you have a smart meter, you can see the cost per use as you’re cooking without having to calculate it.

Air fryers vs ovens – which is cheaper?

Research by Utilita in August 2022 revealed that the annual savings of using an air fryer could be up to £279.66 per year. Air fryers on average were found to run at £55.91 per year, versus gas cookers at £121.06 per year and electric cookers at £335.57 per year.

Ninja also reports that you can cook 500g of frozen French fries in its Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK model in 12 minutes for no more than 14p in electricity.

What can you cook in an air fryer?

There's also been a surge in demand for air fryer recipe ideas. On bbcgoodfood.com, we’ve seen year-on-year growth of over 2,000% across our air fryer recipes in the first two weeks of September, with our audience loving recipes like air fryer sweet potato fries and air fryer doughnuts.

Two air-fryer doughnuts on a wire rack

And the trend hasn’t stopped there – air fryer recipes have been getting a lot of love on social media too, with fans taking to TikTok to film and share their favourites.

One TikTok influencer, @airfryerguy, who uploads lighthearted recipe videos using his air fryer, has amassed 1.8 million followers since launching his channel in January 2020. Some of his most viral content has included air-fried poached paprika chicken and dessert nachos.

Air fryers are certainly versatile. As well as being able to cook dishes like air fryer sausages, buffalo cauliflower ‘wings’, and air fryer chicken thighs using air crisp functions, several models also come with extra functions like baking, roasting, dehydrating, and grilling. This means you can experiment with other meals too, like puddings or roast dinners.

"Air fryers are a game-changing bit of kit for making baked potatoes, with fluffy potatoes inside and a nicely cooked skin," adds Samuel Goldsmith, food copy editor for BBC Good Food.

"I also love the fact I can cook ingredients I use often, like bacon and sausages, in an air fryer. You get lovely, crispy bacon and well-browned sausages, and the air fryer holds in the aroma much better."

"If I'm cooking something like air fryer salmon or chicken breasts, I'll rub them with lots of spices or seasoning before popping them in."

Top-rated air fryers

Looking to invest in an air fryer? We've done the hard work for you with our best air fryers guide, where you'll find options to suit a wide range of budgets and needs.

Our experts rigorously tested these gadgets using set criteria, measuring quality of food, ease of use, value for money, ease of cleaning, and quality of materials – before scoring them out of five. Here's a few of our top picks:

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Cosori Pro 4.7L air fryer

A black air fryer against a white background with a star buy badge next to it

Star rating: 5/5

Best standard-sized air fryer for affordability

Compact and lightweight, this model comes with seven preset functions – including a dedicated bacon function – plus a sleek matte finish and tempered glass touch screen controls.

Read the full Cosori Pro 4.7L air fryer review.

Ninja AF160UK Air Fryer Max 5.2L – Star Buy

A grey air fryer against a white background with a star buy badge next to it

Star rating: 5/5

Best air fryer for quick baking

We love the circular tray inside this simple and practical Ninja air fryer. It's ideal for baking cakes, and it's easy to clean, too. There are six functions to choose from, including air fry, max crisp, roast, bake, dehydrate, and reheat.

Read the full Ninja AF160UK Air Fryer Max review.

Instant Vortex Plus Dual air fryer

Star rating: 5/5

Best dual-drawer air fryer

We loved the Instant Vortex Plus as it provides an upgrade in capacity without compromising on footprint. With its quick heating and low wattage, it also offers potential for lower energy bills when cooking specific ingredients and in smaller quantities, plus two internal lights for checking cooking progress.

Read the full Instant Vortex Plus Dual air fryer review.

Discover our air fryer recipes selection and tried-and-tested picks of the best air fryers.

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Stock images from Getty.

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