Frying Up a Healthy and Sustainable Meal
The combination of an air fryer, a convection oven, and smarter food choices contributes to a healthier and more energy-efficient household.
When you crunch into a crisp French fry covered in salt, you’re probably not thinking too hard about healthy eating or about energy efficiency. You’re just enjoying the moment.
But savoring some fried food doesn’t have to contradict your commitment to the shared goals of a healthy life and a healthier planet. It’s all about making good choices: what you eat and how you cook it.
If you’re focused on health, air fryers, which have been around for a decade or so, offer an alternative way to cook food with less oil and are estimated to cut calories by up to 80%. But did you know they’re also an eco-friendly choice? You’ll use less energy if you prep your food in an air fryer rather than turn on the oven.
If you’re in the market for new appliances, you may want to consider other energy efficient options such as induction cooktops and convection ovens.
"Energy efficiency continues to be a top driver when consumers make appliance purchases,” says Michael Ledford, Senior Director, Kitchen IoT and Launch at Whirlpool Corporation. “As U.S. consumers continue to grow in their environmental concerns, energy efficiency will likely rise in importance.”
However, Ledford says, many consumers are not aware of the newest eco-friendly technologies and associated changes that may be needed for their homes.
“For example, consumers may not know about heat-pump dryers, induction cooktops or external ventilation importance,” Ledford says. “Builders can support an eco-friendly lifestyle by educating consumers about the new technologies from the beginning of the build process."
Technology continues to improve appliances to make them more energy efficient, safer to use and sometimes healthier, too. In August 2023, Whirlpool will begin selling their KitchenAid 30-Inch 4-Element Induction Slide-In Convection Range with Air Fry, which has built-in air fry functionality.
The sensor-induction cooktop generates heat directly within cookware, reaching high temperatures quickly and cooling down rapidly. The oven features Even-Heat True Convection plus air fry mode, with an included dishwasher-safe air fry basket that aids in crisping and browning.
Benefits of Induction Cooktops
Induction cooktops have many advantages compared to gas ranges and traditional electric cooktops, says Angie Hicks, chief customer officer at Angi and co-founder of Angie’s List.
“Induction cooktops are more efficient than traditional cooktops, with 90% of their transferred energy going to the food and cookware,” Hicks says. “This efficiency helps to prevent overheating and burning of food, reducing the production of smoke, fumes and potential fire risks. /p>
The surface of an induction cooktop is also safer because the heat is transferred directly to the pan and not to the surface of the stove, so it reduces the chance of burns. Finally, they also heat up faster, resulting in shorter cooking times.”
The energy efficiency of induction cooktops is one of the most attractive features of this cooking method, Ledford says. Induction cooktops support sustainability and may even help lower electric bills.
“Induction ranges and cooktops use a copper coil under the cooking surface to generate electromagnetic energy that transfers directly to the induction-compatible cookware,” Ledford says. “This means the surface allows for fast cooking and is more responsive - heating and cooling within seconds.”
The health benefits of induction cooking primarily come from the lack of indoor air pollution compared to gas stoves. You’ll still need to use a range hood for ventilation to reduce particles that come from grease, oil and smoke when you cook.
When using an induction cooktop, you can generally prepare the same types of meals you have made in the past with some minor adjustments, Hicks says. So, if you naturally prepare healthy meals, an induction cooktop won’t change that. /p>
“Induction cooktops only work with cookware made of magnetic materials like cast iron or stainless steel,” Hicks says. “Non-magnetic cookware may not work unless it has an induction-compatible bottom or disc. Since induction cooktops heat up much faster, your first few meals might need a little extra attention to prevent burning or overcooking, especially if you’re used to cooking with gas or electricity.” /p>
Convection vs. Conventional Ovens
Convection ovens have heating elements inside the top and bottom just like conventional ovens, but they use about 20% less energy than conventional ovens because they have a fan that circulates hot air throughout the oven and an exhaust system that ventilates it. That means you can often cook food more quickly and at a lower temperature. In addition, the oven is likely to preheat more quickly.
The convection setting on your oven can be used for cooking, roasting and baking. If you eat meat, convection cooking can be particularly good for roasts because the circulating heat and faster cooking is likely to result in a crisper exterior and juicier interior.
Convection ovens cook food about 25% faster than a conventional oven, according the Kitchn.com cooking site. They also tend to cook food more evenly because of the heat circulation. You won’t end up with hotter or cooler areas of the oven as you sometimes do with conventional ovens. The exhaust system also keeps the air dryer than a conventional oven, which contributes to better browning capability that cooks meats and vegetables quickly and crisply while they stay moist inside.
While Kitchn.com recommends using the convection setting in most cases, the air circulation can be a liability when making bread, souffles, cakes and custards, which can become lopsided. In that case, you can usually switch your oven to a conventional setting.
Kitchn.com recommends lowering the oven temperature by 25 degrees when cooking anything, checking on food a little earlier to make sure you don’t overcook your food, and making sure the air circulation works well by using pans with lower sides and not lining your oven shelves with foil.
Tips for a Healthier Fry-Up
The dry air in a convection oven means you can fry food in it, but you may prefer the quality of a freestanding air fryer or one that’s incorporated in the oven such as the KitchenAid model. Either way, you’ll be preparing food that has less fat than frying with oil, either in a deep fat fryer or even compared to frying in oil in a shallow pan.
According to nutritionists, air frying helps to lower levels of acrylamide, a carcinogen which is found in starchy foods like potatoes. Some studies also show that air frying preserves nutrients in foods better than some other cooking methods.
Of course, what you prepare in your air fryer makes a big difference in the nutritional value of your meal. Air frying kale and fish will be far better than popping in breaded chicken nuggets and a bunch of French fries.
If you’re looking for ways to cut down on your energy use, lower your utility bills and improve your health, induction, convection and air fryer cooking can help you meet those goals.
Publisher’s Note: This content is made possible by our Today’s Homeowner Campaign Sponsors. These companies take sustainability seriously, in both their products and their operations. Learn more about building and buying homes that are more affordable and less resource intensive.