Air Frying Transforms the Commercial Kitchen
Just about everyone loves fried food and, as a caterer, one of your goals is to give people what they love. However, most people don’t love the calories and the dubious health benefits of fried foods, such as onion rings, French fries, or even fish (which at least has the advantage of being a protein). So what’s a caterer to do? Enter the air fryer: the caterer’s road to making everyone happy.
What is an Air Fryer?
If orange is the new black, air may be the new oil. With an air fryer, you can cook food with the help of circulated heated air, producing tasty and healthier dishes with a lot less oil. We won’t pretend that air frying replicates exactly the heavenly crispy-crunchy texture of deep frying, but with just a tablespoon of oil, French fries, chicken, fish, and vegetables do achieve the yearned for goal: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and a great taste.
Air fryers were introduced in Australia and Europe in 2010, and followed soon thereafter to the United States. The appliance uses a system called Rapid Air Technology, which circulates air at high temperatures and needs just a fraction of the oil that is usually used to produce evenly browned and crisp end products. The heating element inside the chamber of an air fryer is located very close to the food, creating an efficient method of cooking. The exhaust fan at the top allows the heated air to pass through the food, letting all the parts of the food to cook evenly and at the same temperature. That’s it: heat and a fan; brilliantly simple and efficient. The super-hot air blasts through the chamber and the food emerges tasting as close to fried food as you can get with 70%-80% less oil.
Air Fryers: Safer and Cleaner
In a commercial kitchen – a restaurant or caterer’s kitchen, in particular – deep fryers are a risky business. Those less experienced with handling searing-hot oil that splatters and splashes, subject themselves and those nearby to burns and injuries, while oil related fires are another potential danger from deep frying. In addition, oil creates a mess; the cleanup from the spatter and the … gunk, can be time-consuming and painstaking.
Air frying, on the other hand, is a safer and cleaner alternative. With the controlled temperature of the enclosed air-fryer chamber, users are not exposed to either the high heat or the dangers of splashing oil (especially because there is so little of it). In a busy, hectic, and often crowded environment like a commercial kitchen, there is a clear advantage to this type of safe, clean cooking that cannot be under estimated.
Healthier Foods with Air Fryers
Deep-fried foods, although delicious, are usually higher in fat than foods prepared using other cooking methods. For example, a chicken thigh that has been fried contains about 30% more fat than a roasted or baked chicken thigh. However, air frying produces results with even less fat and with almost the same color and texture as deep-fried foods. This is important for anyone who is trying to eat healthier, as higher fat content in fried foods has been associated with heart disease and other illnesses. Also, deep-fried foods aren’t just higher in fat, but they’re also higher in calories and may contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Downside of Air Fryer
The biggest disadvantage of air frying is that it takes longer to cook food with this method when compared to normal frying. The air fryer has to be warmed up for a few minutes (though, similarly, so does oil), and the cooking process is slower, as well. In addition, if you’re used to deep frying in your kitchen, give yourself some time to experiment and adjust to an air fryer. Expect a period of trial and error to determine the best temperature and timing to achieve your desired results.
Air fryers that are marketed to the home cook are too small for the commercial kitchen and, at first that was a big disadvantage for caterers who were considering switching over to air frying. However, now, there are commercial air fryers with basket capacities of more than five pounds, which means you can cook about 35 pounds of French fries in an hour. That was pretty much the last barrier to air frying commercially.
Recipe for Air Fryer
While classic fried foods, such as French fries and tempura onion rings, are perfect for the air fryer, if you’re looking to impress your guests with some finger-licking delicacies, try this recipe for chicken wings from The Greatist website.
Air Fryer Sriracha-Honey Chicken Wings Recipe
- 1 pound chicken wings, tips removed and wings cut into two pieces
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (see Note below)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oil
- juice of 1/2 lime
- Cilantro, chives, or scallions for garnish
Note: Sriracha is a type of hot sauce or chili sauce made from a paste of chili peppers. It can be found in specialty stores but you can use Tabasco sauce instead.
- Preheat the air fryer to 360 degrees F. Add the chicken wings to the air fryer basket, and cook for 30 minutes, turning the chicken about every 7 minutes with tongs to make sure the wings are evenly browned.
- While the wings are cooking, add the sauce ingredients to a small sauce pan and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes.
- When the wings are cooked, toss them in a bowl with the sauce until fully coated, sprinkle with the garnish, and serve.
Air Fryers Join the Pantheon of Great Kitchen Appliances
More than 40 years ago, the American kitchen was transformed with the advent of the microwave and the slow cooker. Now, the deep fryer, equally innovative and useful, joins the ranks of indispensable appliances. With a hot air fryer, many of your customers’ favorite fried foods are back, as part of a healthier way of eating. Put air-fried options on your catering menu and watch health-conscious customers come home – to comforting, delicious fried foods.