Alton Brown Doesn't Think Air Fryers Can Really Exist

Alton Brown is a renowned chef who's as loved for his recipes as the science he puts behind them, yet he's also been known for his sharp tongue when critiquing household appliances and kitchen tools. Not only has Brown expressed his frustration towards pointless single-use gadgets, which he calls "unitaskers," as well as the people that buy them — but now he's on to air fryers, questioning their very inner workings, even as the appliance has become more and more popular over the years.

Although air fryers have become a staple cooking item, with 60% of households owning one (per NBC), Alton Brown has persistently reminded people on the internet that the name is inaccurate in terms of how this appliance actually works. On June 7, Brown tweeted, "#CulinaryTruth: There is no such thing as frying in air." This isn't the first time he has criticized the tool, either. In October 2020, Brown wrote in a separate tweet, "There is no such thing as 'air frying,'" and he jokingly asked people to stop pretending it was "a thing."

Alton Brown does have a point

To Alton Brown's credit, he does have a point. An air fryer doesn't really "fry" food, per se. The act of frying is when you cook something in heavy fats or oil. So, cooking bacon in bacon grease, or dunking potato strips in oil to make them french fries would be examples of fried foods — but cooking a steak on a charcoal grill wouldn't be. Nor would making crispy salmon in an air fryer.

Although air fryers make your food extra crispy, and they are even great for making bacon and salmon, they way they work is by merely simulating the taste of fried food. The machine does this utilizing a fan built inside that circulates hot air around your food, making it warm and crispy (kind of like what a dryer does for your laundry). That's why you can bake foods in an air fryer to receive that same crunchy texture, or heat up leftovers to give them the same taste and feel they originally had the first time around. 

There are still many reasons to use an air fryer

Alton Brown's criticism can be taken with a grain of salt. It might be helpful for those unaware of how an air fryer works to understand it doesn't "fry" food, because it will avoid throwing in items that might not be suitable for the kitchen appliance. For example, although leftover mozzarella sticks could be heated up using an air fryer, putting cheese itself in the machine is not a great idea because the cheese would just melt all over the pan, making a huge mess to clean up later.

Nonetheless, there are still tons of delicious recipes for you to enjoy with an air fryer, that can provide that texture you desire and cut down on cooking time, too. You can make some no fuss hard-boiled eggs using the machine. Or, try making a full meal with chicken tacos and Nutella brownies for dessert. So, there's no need to throw your air fryer away just because it doesn't really fry things, there are so many possibilities to cook with the machine and get that crunch you desire.