Air fryers have seen a huge surge in popularity recently due to their ability to cook quickly with a minimal amount of oil to keep food healthy. The fact that air fryers also use a fraction of the energy a traditional oven uses also makes them very appealing in light of the cost of living crisis that’s affecting many of us and causing our household bills to skyrocket.
But air fryers are not the only kitchen appliance that can get your food cooked quickly and on a budget. Alternative cooking equipment includes halogen ovens, toaster ovens with convection settings, and even traditional wall ovens or range ovens which have a convection mode.
Here we look at some of the best ways to air fry without an air fryer, using air fryer substitutes.
Air Fryer Pros and Cons
Air fryers are undoubtedly one of the must-have kitchen appliances of the moment, and they certainly do offer many benefits, but there are also drawbacks that come with air fryers which means they aren’t the best option for everyone.
Pros of Air Fryers
Low running costs
One of the main reasons that people are flocking to buy an air fryer is the fact that they promise to cut down our household utility bills. This has never been more important for many families who are struggling to keep up with the monthly running costs of their homes, as the price of energy has risen dramatically over the last year.
Compared with an electric oven, an air fryer uses less than half the amount of electricity per hour. When you factor in that an air fryer also cooks more quickly than an oven, and therefore is running for a small amount of time, the savings can be considerable. Typically an electric oven costs 52 cents per hour, compared with an air fryer which costs 25 cents per hour, and estimates show that an average family can expect to save between $100 and £150 per year by simply using an air fryer instead of an electric oven.
More eco friendly
Since air fryers use electricity, you are not only helping yourself to save money when you use one, but you’ll also be helping the environment.
Air fryers have a smaller cooking chamber than a traditional wall oven or range oven, which means they can heat up more quickly and cook food more quickly. The expected cooking time of most foods can be halved when cooked in an air fryer; for example, in an oven, frozen french fries will take around 20 to 25 minutes to cook when you include preheating time, whereas these will cook in around 6 to 8 minutes in an air fryer.
Chicken thighs will take around 40 minutes in the oven, compared to 20 minutes in an air fryer. The faster cooking time is really useful for busy families who need their meals to work around their schedule.
Air fryers circulate air and oil in their cooking chamber so that your food comes out crisp and golden. The convection is responsible for this and means you can get great tasting food with only a small amount of oil. The results are comparable to deep fat fryers, which of course use more oil, making them significantly more unhealthy.
Air fryers get crisp results which can be hard to achieve in a regular oven. The rapidly circulating hot air in an air fryer, mixed with a small amount of oil, is what gets your food cooked so evenly and crispy.
Cons of Air Fryers
Uses countertop space
Air fryers are countertop appliances, which can be a drawback for those who are short on space. Many people simply don’t want a bulky appliance sitting on their countertop permanently, but the only way to keep this item out of sight would be to store it in a cupboard and bring it out at every cooking time.
Expensive to buy
The rapid rise in the popularity of air fryers has led to some issues with supply and demand. Some of the more sought-after brands have had issues supplying stock, which means that some retailers are charging extortionate prices for air fryers. Even those which are in stock and available can be vastly overpriced, simply because retailers know that customers will buy them.
Small cooking capacity
Most air fryers, even the larger models, have a small cooking chamber which isn’t ideal for big families. You may find that you have to cook your fries in the air fryer and your chicken in the oven, which really defeats the point of having an additional appliance. If you regularly cook for 4 or more members of the household at one time, then you’re probably going to need an XXL air fryer, or two of these appliances on your countertop to run at the same time.
4 Air Fryer Alternatives
If you don’t want to invest in an air fryer, you might be surprised that there are ways to achieve air-fryer results with appliances you already own. If you have a toaster oven with a convection setting, you can use it as a substitute for an air fryer, or ovens with convection settings can also be used in this way.
Halogen ovens are another type of countertop appliance that can offer a lot of the same benefits as an air fryer at a fraction of the cost, and in fact, some people are claiming that halogen ovens are set to be the next big ‘must-have’ kitchen appliance. Here we investigate the best substitutes for air fryers.
A halogen oven features a glass bowl that contains your food and a lid with halogen bulbs that warm up the food with infrared heat. The addition of a fan means the heat from the holden bulbs is then circulated around the food. The premise here is very similar to an air fryer, with the added bonus that halogen ovens are much more affordable to buy.
They use similar amounts of electricity to air fryers, which means they can save you money in energy bills, and they cook food quickly and evenly. If you want an air fryer but can’t face the big price tag, then a halogen oven is a brilliant substitute. They can cook all types of foods, come in a range of sizes, and have thermostat controls so you can cook food exactly as you like it.
Some modern toaster ovens have the option of a convection setting, which will effectively turn your toaster oven into a miniature air fryer. The convection is responsible for circulating the air around the food in an air fryer, so if you use your convection setting in a toaster oven, then you’ll achieve similar results.
The main drawback of using a toaster oven as an air fryer is the capacity, which is significantly smaller than most air fryers, but it could be very useful for those who live alone or cook small amounts. Since toaster ovens are smaller than air fryers, they can be stored away more easily when they are not in use, which means the issue of having appliances permanently positioned on your kitchen countertop can be avoided.
Whether you have a wall oven or a range oven, it’s possible that you already have the ability to air fry in your kitchen without ever owning an air fryer. This is because some ovens have an air-fry or convection setting, replicating the air fryer method. Set your oven to convection mode, and a fan will be used to circulate the heat around the inside of the oven for more even, faster cooking.
A convection oven or fan oven is ideal for cooking more food at one time, which isn’t always possible with an air fryer. However, if you are only cooking a small amount, then an air fryer will be faster and more affordable to run compared with a convection oven. One reason why people may prefer to use their oven over an air fryer is the fact that your oven isn’t going to take up any space on your countertop.
Air Fryer Basket
If you want air fryer results for your food without the need to invest in an air fryer appliance, you could instead just buy some air fryer baskets. These can then be used inside your regular oven, for more even cooking. Unlike using a baking tray for fries, for example, an air fryer basket will allow the fries to be heated from all sides, rather than just on the top.
This can help your food to get a more crisp, golden brown finish compared with using baking trays or casserole dishes in the oven. Be sure to spray your food with a small amount of oil before putting it into the air fryer basket, as this will further help the food to take on a golden, crisp texture.