What’s the Difference Between an Air Fryer and a Convection Oven?

Danilo Alfaro wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’re thinking about buying an air fryer, you might be wondering what the difference is between air fryers and convection ovens. The quick answer is, an air fryer is a simply a smaller convection oven with a catchy name.

There is no actual frying going on inside an air fryer—that’s because an air fryer cooks food via convection baking.

With actual deep-frying, your food is directly immersed in hot oil. The oil completely surrounds every inch of the food, so it gets uniformly crispy. With ordinary baking, your food gets less crispy, because baking cooks by surrounding your food with hot air and air is not as good a conductor of heat as oil.

What Is Convection Baking?

Convection baking introduces a fan to the interior of an oven, allowing hot air to be blown around and onto the food. The force of the air thus transfers more heat to the surface of the food, so that it produces more crispiness than an ordinary oven (but still far less than an actual deep-fryer).

So air fryers are, in essence, convection ovens. But that doesn’t mean the two are exactly the same. Let’s talk about what those differences are.

Note that although many oven ranges offer a convection setting, for this discussion, we’re solely comparing countertop convection ovens with air fryers.

What Is a Convection Oven?

A countertop convection oven is built like a standard toaster oven: rectangular in shape with a front door that opens on a hinge at the bottom. How it differs from an ordinary toaster oven is that a convection oven is equipped with a fan, which blows hot air around.

The motion of the air inside the oven is called a convection effect and it results in faster cooking by transferring higher temperatures to the surface of the food as compared with an ordinary oven. So it both accelerates cooking as well as enhances the browning and crisping of the surface of your food.

Like a toaster oven, a convection oven has an interior rack that will fit a sheet pan (preferably a perforated one to allow maximum air flow). Because it’s wide, it allows for the food to be spread out on the rack rather than stacked in layers.

This is crucial, since stacking or layering food impedes the flow of hot air. Arranging the food in a single layer allows for even cooking all around.

What Is an Air Fryer?

Essentially, an air fryer is a smaller, more portable convection oven. Instead of being shaped like a toaster oven, many air fryers are tall, closly resembling a coffeemaker. It has a removable bucket with a handle and inside that bucket, fits a removable basket. This basket is where the food goes. The bucket slides into the device, you turn it on, and it starts to cook. The fan is situated overhead, above a heating element.

Now, because it’s smaller and the fan is closer to the food, an air fryer is able to focus a high amount of heat onto a relatively small cooking area. Which means that an item of food in that cooking area will cook more quickly than it would in a convection oven.

However, because it is smaller, it will only accommodate a fraction of the amount of food that a convection oven will fit. An air fryer will really only cook about two servings at a time—if that.

This means that if you are trying to feed more than one or two people, you’ll have to cook in batches, so that ultimately it may take longer to serve a meal than it would using a convection oven.

This creates a sort of catch-22, since the small size of the basket prevents you from spreading out an even layer of food, so you have to stack your food instead. But by stacking your food, you prevent the hot air from flowing evenly around it, thus defeating the purpose of the convection effect.

Even when used according to the instructions, cooking French fries or onion rings in an air fryer requires you to periodically shake the basket to ensure that all the fries or rings cook evenly. So not only does it take longer to cook (because of having to cook in batches), you also have to physically do more work.

Source: Spruce Eats

Keep Listeria Out of Your Kitchen

If you eat food contaminated with bacteria called Listeria, you could get so sick that you have to be hospitalized. And for certain vulnerable people, the illness could be fatal.

Contaminated food can bring Listeria into the home. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria germs can grow and spread in the refrigerator. So if you unknowingly refrigerate Listeria-contaminated food, the germs not only multiply at the cool temperature, they could contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there, increasing the likelihood that you and your family will become sick.

Those most at risk for listeriosis—the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes—include pregnant women, older adults and people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

What foods could be contaminated?

Listeria has been linked to a variety of ready-to-eat foods, including deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared deli-salads. A draft study released May 10, 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) evaluates the risk of listeriosis associated with foods prepared in retail delis. There are many steps that deli operators and processing establishments that supply food to delis can follow to reduce the risk of listeriosis.

FDA and FSIS recommend that consumers at risk for developing listeriosis—including older adults, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems—reheat hot dogs and lunch meats until steaming hot.

At-risk consumers are also advised to avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses (such as feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined cheeses, “queso blanco,” “queso fresco” or Panela), unless they are made with pasteurized milk.

And Listeria can sometimes be found in other foods. In 2011, a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis tied to contaminated cantaloupes caused illnesses and deaths.

Donald Zink, Ph.D, senior science advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says FDA is aware of cases of foodborne illness caused by bacteria that can live in the kitchen and spread to foods that had not been contaminated.

Consumers are advised to wash all fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking, even if you plan to peel the produce first. Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush.

To further protect yourself and your family from Listeria, follow these steps:

Keep Refrigerated Foods Cold

Chilling food properly is an important way of reducing risk of Listeria infection. Although Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, it grows more slowly at refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees F or less.

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or lower and the freezer at 0 degrees F or lower.
  • Wrap or cover foods with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil or put foods in plastic bags or clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. Make certain foods do not leak juices onto other foods.
  • Place an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically. Adjust the refrigerator temperature control, if necessary, to keep foods as cold as possible without causing them to freeze. Place a second thermometer in the freezer to check the temperature there.
  • Use precooked and ready-to-eat foods as soon as you can. The longer they are stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria has to grow.

“If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, it’s best to throw them out after three days, just to be sure,” says Zink. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Clean Refrigerator Regularly

Listeria can contaminate other food through spills in the refrigerator.

  • Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away—especially juices from hot dog and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry. Consider using paper towels to avoid transferring germs from a cloth towel.
  • Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with warm water and liquid soap, then rinse. As an added measure of caution, you can sanitize your refrigerator monthly using the same procedures described below for kitchen surfaces.

Clean Hands and Kitchen Surfaces Often

Listeria can spread from one surface to another.

  • Thoroughly wash food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water. As an added precaution you should sanitize clean surfaces by using any of the kitchen surface sanitizer products available from grocery stores, being careful to follow label directions.

You can make your own sanitizer by combining 1 teaspoon of unscented bleach to one 1 quart of water, flooding the surface and letting it stand for 10 minutes. Then rinse with clean water. Let surfaces air dry or pat them dry with fresh paper towels. Bleach solutions get less effective with time, so discard unused portions daily.

  • A cutting board should be washed with warm, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher.
  • Dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags should be washed often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • It’s also important, to wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

Source: FDA

The 2019 Kitchen Technology Year in Review

Michael Wolf wrote . . . . . . . . .

2019 was an action-packed year in world of food tech. Among other things, we saw an explosion in new products that promise to change what we eat, rapid change in food delivery models, and something of a slow motion food robot uprising.

The consumer kitchen also saw significant change, even if things didn’t move as fast as some would hope. As we close out the year, I thought I’d take a look back at the past twelve months in the future kitchen.

It’s An Instant Pot and Air Fryer World and We’re Just Living In It

Here’s an experiment: Next time you’re making cocktail-party conversation, ask someone about their most recent cooking gadget purchase for the home. Chances are its either an Instant Pot or an air fryer.

Regardless of how the two products perform relative to one another, the big takeaway is that the Instant Pot/pressure cooker and air fryer represent the two breakaway categories in countertop cooking over the past few years, and that trend continued strong in 2019.

Why? Because both products give consumers lots of cooking power to create a variety of meals at a low entry price point. Add in what are large and vibrant online recipe communities for both product categories, and you can see why both only became more popular in 2019.

Next-Gen Cooking Concepts See Mixed Results

Outside of pressure cookers and air fryers, 2019 was a decidedly mixed bag of results for next-gen countertop cooking concepts. June and Tovala both plugged along selling their second generation ovens, Suvie started shipping its four-chamber cooking robot and Brava’s “cook with light” oven tech sold to Middleby. But unlike the air fryer and Instant Pot, none of these new products have gone viral.

Why?

First, most of these products are fairly expensive, often coming in at $300 or above. That’s probably too high to convince enough consumers to take a chance on a new product in a new product category they don’t know much about.

Second, consumers need to better understand these new products. While I don’t expect Thermomix to replicate the success they’ve found with direct-sales in Europe in North America, there’s a reason such a premium priced product has succeeded in Europe: it has made consumer education and evangelism core to the business model.

Finally, the market has yet to see a product with just the right mix of new technology and high-value user-focused features that supercharges consumer interest. That said, there are some new products like Anova’s steam oven or the Miele Dialog’s solid state cooking (I’m told most big appliance makers are working on a similar product) that could potentially capture the imagination of consumers.

Large Appliance-Makers Continue to Dabble in Innovation

So here’s what some of the big appliance brands with resources did in 2019: Whirlpool came out of the gate fast with a lineup of new smart cooking appliances at CES 2019, including a pretty cool modular smart oven concept in the SmartOven+. Electrolux launched a new Drop-powered blender and partnered with Smarter to add machine vision and connected commerce features to its smart fridge camera platform. Turkish appliance giant Arcelik debuted a combo cooking and washing product concept under the Grundig brand.

Overall though, it wasn’t a big year for appliance-makers on the innovation front. Many of us waited for these companies to launch some of their more promising technologies, like Miele’s Dialog or BSH Appliances Pai interface, but neither effort seemed to move forward much, at least in any public way, in 2019.

A Sputtering Consumer Sous Vide Market

It was a bad year for those who make sous vide gear. In mid-year we learned that ChefSteps, maker of the Joule sous vide circulator, would be laying off a significant amount of the team after they ran into money problems. And, just a little over a week ago, one of the first consumer sous vide startups in Nomiku announced it would be shutting its doors.

Why did the consumer sous vide market lose steam? My guess the primary reason is because sous vide cooking is just too slow as an everyday or multiple-time-per-week cooking method. While some like Nomiku wanted to position the sous vide as a replacement for the microwave, it just isn’t convenient enough and requires too many steps for culinary average joes accustomed to the push-button cooking of the microwave. The reality is over time many sous vide circulators ended up stuck in the kitchen drawer.

Software Powers The Meal

At Smart Kitchen Summit 2017, Jon Jenkins said we will all someday “eat software” as it becomes more important in how we create food in the kitchen. Evidence of this was everywhere in 2019 as companies rolled out new software features to do things like cook plant-based meat to companies like Thermomix and Instant Brands betting big on software for the future.

We also saw kitchen-centric software players like SideChef, Drop and Innit loaded up on more partnerships with appliance and food brands to better tie together the meal journey, while Samsung NEXT acquired a digital recipe and shopping commerce platform in Whisk.

In short, it’s fairly obvious that for a kitchen appliance brand to survive, it’s becoming table stakes to have something of an evolved software strategy.

Amazon Continues Its Push Into Kitchen

If there’s been one takeaway from watching Amazon over the past few years, it’s that they see the food and the kitchen as an important strategic battleground. This past year did nothing to dispel this belief as the company introduced their own smart oven and continued to file weird food-related patents. Amazon also pushed forward with new delivery concepts for the home that bring together the different parts of the Amazon portfolio (voice ordering, smart home, grocery and more).

Grocery Delivery Space Race

Amazon wasn’t the only one looking to connect the smart home to grocery delivery this year. Walmart also debuted a new in-fridge delivery service called InHome. Meanwhile both companies and big grocery conglomerates like Kroger continue to invest in robotics and home delivery.

The reason for this growing interest in innovative home delivery concepts is pretty simple: more and more consumers are shopping online for groceries. Big platform players like Amazon and Google see a massive new opportunity, while established grocery players are forced to innovate to play defense.

No One Has Recreated The Success of the Keurig Model (Yet)

While much of the early focus for new kitchen startups has been on copying the Keurig model of pairing a piece of kitchen hardware with a robust consumer consumables business, unfortunately none have really been able to emulate the model for food products. There’s been no shortage of cocktail making robots, coffee, 3D food printing, chai tea and others attracted the the concept of recurring revenue that food sales bring, but as we’ve seen it’s hard to emulate the pod model approach.

Some, like Tovala, look to have had some limited success on pairing cooking hardware with food delivery, while others like Brava, Nomiku and ChefSteps weren’t able to create sustainable models. Genie and Kitchenmate are making a go of it in the office environment, while Level couldn’t and had to shut its doors earlier this year.

I expect kitchen hardware entrepreneurs to try to continue to pair food sales with products, but I expect that it will be tough sailing unless the company land upon very compelling, easy-to-use solution that turnkeys the cooking solution.

Cooking Media: A Peloton For The Kitchen Emerges

Forget Buzzfeed Tasty quick-play cooking videos. In 2019, we saw the emergence of other players providing deeper, more personalized cooking guidance that emulates what Peloton or Mirror have done with home-fitness instruction. Food Network made the biggest splash with its Food Network Kitchen concept while others like FET Kitchen are creating their own hardware platforms.

For Buzzfeed’s part, they haven’t given up on Tasty quite yet. Instead, they partnered up with Amazon to push their recipes onto the Echo Show, complete with step-by-step guidance. The combo creates essentially what is a fairly quick and easy guided cooking product.

Food Waste Reduction Comes Into Focus — Everywhere But The Home

If any place is lacking in innovation when it comes to reducing the amount of food we throw away, it’s the consumer kitchen. Sure, some startups are trying to rethink how we approach cooking by helping us to work with the food we have, while others are rethinking the idea of food storage, but innovation in home food waste reduction is lacking when compared to what we are seeing in restaurants and CPG fronts. We hope this changes in 2020.

True Home Cooking Robots Remained A Futuristic Vision in 2019

While single-function taskers like the Rotimatic did significant volume and others like Suvie positioned itself as a “cooking robot” for the home, the reality is we saw no significant progress towards a true multifunction consumer cooking robot. Companies like Sony see the opportunity to create a true home cooking robot, but for now food robots remain primarily the domain of restaurants, grocery and delivery.

Source: The Spoon

Opinion: 4 Ways To Reduce Plastics And Other Single-Use Disposables In Your Kitchen

Kristen Hartke wrote . . . . . . . . .

The 40 days of Lent, which began last week, are a time when many Christians around the world decide to voluntarily give up bad habits or luxuries. This year, it might be time we all consider how to give up – or at least reduce – our reliance on disposable products.

A year ago, I decided to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable kitchen, focusing particularly on reducing my use of disposable products such as plastic sandwich bags, aluminum foil and paper towels.

It’s worth the effort: Americans toss 185 pounds of plastic per person each year while also going through 13 billion pounds of paper towels as a nation. Aluminum foil sounds like a “natural” alternative to a lot of people, but it can actually take a hundred years or more to biodegrade. If composting kitchen scraps or reusing old coffee grounds for a body scrub seems like a step too far, there are a few simple ways to reduce the environmental footprint of your kitchen without sacrificing modern conveniences.

I’m not going to sugarcoat my experience. It takes commitment and a willingness to change long-held habits. In creating my sustainable kitchen, I tried a lot of different alternative products and some plain old common sense; the result, however, has been worth the effort. I’m recycling more and relying less on single-use products. The kicker: I’m saving money too.

Want to reduce reliance on plastics in your kitchen? Here are four steps that I found can stand the test of time:

Invest in alternative storage.

I’m not kidding when I say that I used to really love plastic storage bags, from snack-size to gallon-size zip-top bags — so this was, perhaps, the biggest challenge for me. Switching to reusable storage bags was a financial investment up front, but the cost was reasonable considering that I previously spent at least $100 annually on disposable plastic bags and wrap. My favorites: Stashers, heavy-duty reusable silicone zip-top bags that can go from the freezer to the microwave ($10 to $20 each), and Food Huggers, silicone disks that slip over the ends of cut pieces of fruits and vegetables ($12.95 for a set of five), are functional and durable (except for that avocado-shaped Hugger, which I want to love but it never really fits correctly). Fabrics coated in beeswax are handy for wrapping sandwiches or oddly shaped pieces of food and for covering bowls; variety packs from Bee’s Wrap, Abeego, and Etee all run about $18, while Trader Joe’s has a pack for under $10, but you can also make your own. For packing lunches, consider the highly affordable Japanese bento box, designed with food compartments that negate the need for disposable wraps. The proof is in the pudding: I haven’t purchased any disposable plastic bags for a full year.

Recycle. Really recycle.

Americans are estimated to recycle just 30 percent of the recyclable materials that they consume each day. Plastic and glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans and newspaper are common items that we’ve gotten used to throwing in the recycling bin, but milk, eggs, Tetra Pak cartons, pizza boxes and plastic deli and pet food containers are also items that may be accepted at local recycling centers; check online periodically in your local jurisdiction for recycling updates. TerraCycle offers a pack-and-ship zero-waste box for a wide variety of non-organic kitchen items, from party supplies to silicone or mixed-material food containers. The company recommends getting together a group of friends, neighbors or co-workers to purchase and contribute to the box. (They cost from $130 to $475 and range in size from 11″ x 11″ x 20″ to 15″ x 15″ x 37″, but the largest box — split among a group or sponsored by an employer — can be the most cost-effective.) Once the filled box is returned to TerraCycle, the company will sort the waste into four categories (fabrics, metals, fibers and plastics) that are then recycled, upcycled or reused — depending on the type of material. The company also works with a wide range of manufacturers to offer free recycling of individual hard-to-recycle items, like Brita water filters and Clif Bar energy bar wrappers.

Keep it clean and eco-friendly at the same time.

I’m a clean freak and used to go through an unseemly amount of paper towels on a daily basis, but it’s easy enough to take old T-shirts or towels and cut them up to use to wipe down surfaces. (If you’re cleaning surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat, poultry or fish, throw those towels in the washing machine to get them really clean.) I’m also a fan of bamboo paper towels, which have the look and feel of traditional paper towels, yet are made from a highly renewable source and also break down in landfills in just 45 days. Better yet, they can be reused up to 100 times. I can attest to how sturdy they are because I bought a single roll of bamboo paper towels for $7 a full year ago and still have more than half the roll left, using a single bamboo towel to clean my countertops and stove for a few weeks until it’s worn out (rinse the sheet in hot water, then wring and let air dry). When I consider that I probably spent up to $15 a month on single-use paper towels before, that roll of bamboo paper towels was a huge bargain. As for kitchen sponges, keep an eye out for those made with natural materials, because typical polyurethane sponges cannot be recycled and end up in landfills.

Think before you buy.

In our disposable society, it’s easy to purchase items that are convenient but not sustainable — and more environmentally friendly options are generally available once you know what to look for. Juice boxes that include plastic straws, dishwasher tabs individually wrapped in plastic and coffee makers that use K-Cups are all examples of items that can create additional waste. When grocery shopping, ask yourself if you really need to use individual plastic bags in the produce section for those lemons, potatoes or apples. Consider packaging as you peruse the shelves for your favorite purchases, from cookies to pasta to frozen pizza. For instance, the plastic window on that pasta box may make it convenient for you to see what the pasta inside looks like, but the mixed-material container can be a problem for some recycling facilities. When purchasing bulk pantry or other household items online from companies like Amazon or Jet, ask to have them shipped in as few boxes as possible to cut down on the number of boxes you receive, and if you get a single small item sent in a huge box, let the company know that you’d prefer that it pay more attention to how it is packaging items for delivery.

Source: npr

Gadget: Smart Induction Cooktop and Wireless Sensor Probe

Michael Wolf wrote . . . . . . . . .

Electrolux’s AEG brand is rolling out a new smart cooking system in the form of a new induction cooktop with a wireless sensor probe at IFA next week.

The new AEG SenseCook system, which was first uncovered by design site Yanko, features what the company claims to be the first wireless and battery-less sensor probe for an induction cooktop. The SenseCook induction cooktop gets realtime temperature reading from the sensor probe and automatically adjusts temperature of the heating surface.

It’s an interesting move by Electrolux in that it’s the first time the European appliance giant is getting into smart surface cooking. The company’s early smart kitchen efforts (such as its partnership with Innit) have centered around cavity/oven cooking, but this marks the first effort to integrate smart cooking technology into the company’s induction cooktops.

The Electrolux/AEG news follows an announcement by Hestan Cue’s parent company, Meyer, in January at the Kitchen and Bath show of a new appliance range with built-in smart surface cooking. The Hestan smart appliance line and the AEG SenseCook system are a natural evolution from first generation smart cooking systems like that of the Hestan Cue, FirstBuild’s Paragon and the Cucianale that feature portable countertop induction burners. Longer term, I expect most appliance brands will build smart cooking intelligence into their larger cooktop appliances and AEG and Hestan are early indicators of that trend.

Source: The Spoon