Formulating foods for air fryers

CHICAGO — Air fryers, which are basically miniature convection ovens, have become a must-have cooking appliance in America. Unlike other faddish appliances like bread makers and waffle irons, air fryers are more than countertop decor.

Consumers use them regularly, as they make food preparation easier, faster and often healthier, as they crisp foods with only a nominal amount of oil as compared to a deep fryer. However, it’s not a simple swap. Recipes and cooking instructions require modification. That’s why manufacturers are investing in product development to include air fryer instructions on packages or, as in the instance of Perdue Farms, Salisbury, Md., create products specifically for air fryers.

“Knowing 75% of households in the US have air fryers, Perdue saw an opportunity to create the first of its kind chicken wing uniquely made for the air fryer, conveniently delivering the crispiest wings in just 16 to 18 minutes,” said Cody Walter, senior marketing manager at Perdue.

New Perdue Air Fryer Ready Crispy Wings come in lemon pepper, hot and spicy, and roasted flavors. They allow consumers to prepare chicken wings quickly and easily at home.

“The explosion of home air fryers has sparked a wave of products designed specifically for this niche,” said Stacy Borders, business development technical services manager with Cargill, Minneapolis. “In many ways, formulating these products isn’t much different than crafting products to be baked in conventional ovens.

“The biggest changes will come on the processing side, where formulators will want to focus on achieving the right oil and moisture balance to reflect a longer cook time and a different cooking method.”

The actual ingredients used in the formulations does not differ much from other breaded or battered products. They require a minimal amount of oil, but developers should still prioritize options with clean flavors and good stability.

“Stability is a concern whenever you’re dealing with oil, heat and air exposure, and air frying technology is no different,” Ms. Borders said. “However, the high-stability oils used in traditional baked applications — things like high-oleic sunflower oil or high-oleic canola oil — will typically work well in systems destined for the consumer’s home air fryer. Flavor impact is another consideration with oils. Product developers will want to choose premium oils with clean flavor profiles that let seasonings shine.”

Perdue is not alone with investing in air fryer foods. The Pictsweet Co., Bells, Tenn., developed frozen vegetables specially prepared for this cooking method. They are pre-seasoned with olive oil, salt and black pepper and formulated to cook in 14 minutes or less. Mexican Street Corn (four mini ears) with cotija, lime and cilantro is joining the original line of cut asparagus spears, breaded and halved Brussels sprouts, breaded okra, Parmesan cauliflower and red potatoes with onions and sweet peppers.

Farm Rich, a brand of Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, NY, is introducing three frozen finger foods to be sold at Walmart stores nationwide. Packages contain separate cooking instructions for conventional oven, toaster oven and air fryer. The line includes breaded goat cheese bites with a side of hot honey dipping sauce, cheddar cheese stuffed mini sweet peppers and Thai-style chili chicken bites. The latter are chicken fritters coated with a breading. The consumer tosses them in the sweet and spicy Thai chili sauce that comes in the box. The extra step requires the addition of ingredients to assist with adhesion while maintaining crispiness.

“As with breaded products designed for home baking or frying, formulators should look for starches that assist with adhesion and offer a high level of crispiness,” said Conor Sullivan, technical service representative at Cargill.

Cargill has developed a line of starches specifically for breading and batter applications that deliver a crispy, crunchy texture. An advantage of the starches is their ability to provide consistent adhesion of breadings, batters and coatings and uniform batter pick-up, important characteristics in breaded products whether they will be baked, fried or air fried, said Mr. Sullivan.

“In addition to products developed specifically for home air frying, we’ve also seen some manufacturers use this technology as part of their production process as a way to reduce fat,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Some oil is still incorporated into these systems — either directly in the breading/batter or as a quick spray coating — so you still get some of that indulgence, but the end-product will have less fat than traditional nuggets, strips and patties.”

Air fried chips from Campbell Soup Co.Source: Campbell Soup Co.

The Campbell Soup Co., Camden, NJ, is using the air fry to differentiate in the better-for-you salty snack space. Earlier this year the company introduced Kettle Brand Air Fried Chips made using patent-pending technology to kettle cook and air finish potato chips. The product has a light, crispy texture with 30% less fat than original Kettle Brand chips, according to the company.

In addition, companies such as farmer-owned cooperative Tillamook County Creamery Association, Tillamook, Ore., have created recipes for air fryers that feature its branded cheeses.

“Consumers are looking for fun, new ways to elevate classic recipes using a favorite appliance,” said Katie Petri, director-consumer and market insights for the cooperative. “Hello air fryer grilled cheese, air fryer jalapeño poppers and air fryer nachos.”

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