Do Restaurants Use Air Fryers: Behind the Scenes

Originally posted on 14 October 2023 @ 10:03

Do Restaurants Use Air Fryers?

Air fryers have become increasingly popular in home kitchens as a way to make crispy fried foods with less oil. This has left many wondering – do restaurants use air fryers?

Yes, many restaurants use air fryers in their kitchens. Air fryers are popular in the restaurant industry because they can quickly and evenly cook a variety of foods, producing a crispy and delicious texture without the need for excessive oil.

These appliances are commonly used to prepare items like french fries, chicken wings, appetizers, and other fried or crispy dishes. The use of air fryers in restaurants allows for healthier cooking methods and consistent results.

However, the extent to which air fryers are used may vary depending on the type of restaurant and their specific menu offerings.

What is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that uses hot air and convection to circulate heat and “fry” food. The food cooks quickly in the basket of the fryer as the hot air envelopes the food, producing a crispy texture similar to deep frying with much less oil. Air fryers use up to 80% less oil than traditional deep fryers.

While deep fryers fully submerge food in hot oil, air fryers work more like a convection oven, blowing the hot air around to cook the food. This makes them a healthier cooking option.

Do Restaurants Use Air Fryers?

Air fryers designed for home kitchens are generally not suitable for most commercial restaurant kitchens. Their capacity is too small to keep up with a busy restaurant cooking for crowds. However, some fast food restaurants and casual dining spots have implemented air fryers on a small scale to cook certain menu items.

Types of Restaurants Using Air Fryers

Here are some examples of food businesses that use air fryers:

  • Fast food restaurants – Some fast food places use small air fryers in the kitchen for cooking items like french fries. This allows them to reduce the amount of oil used while still achieving the perfect crispiness. The smaller size is suitable for their needs.
  • Food trucks – Since food trucks have limited space, air fryers are a practical option for making fried menu items. The limited oil makes cleanup easier as well in compact kitchens.
  • Cafeterias – Schools, hospitals, and other cafeterias are installing air fryers to provide healthier fried foods. Air fryers allow these large-scale food operations to efficiently serve crispy fries and more with less fat.
  • Casual dining restaurants – Some casual restaurants use air fryers to prepare specific menu items as a lower-oil alternative to deep frying. For example, cooking chicken wings in an air fryer.
  • Bakeries – Air fryers can bake crispy pastries like cronuts with less oil, making them ideal for some bakeries wanting healthier options.

Are Air Fryers Used in Most Restaurant Kitchens?

While the trend is catching on, most large restaurant kitchens do not rely on air fryers as their main frying method. Commercial deep fryers remain the standard fryer in most professional kitchens for a few reasons:

Reasons Restaurants Don’t Use Air Fryers

  • Air fryers have smaller capacities – Commercial deep fryers can cook large batches of fried foods like french fries, fish, chicken, etc. rapidly. Air fryers have much smaller baskets and cannot produce big batches as fast.
  • Air fryers don’t get as hot – Professional deep fryers reach optimum high temperatures (around 350-375°F) to achieve the crispy fried textures that customers expect. Air fryers max out at around 400°F in most cases, and the airflow can cool foods.
  • Questions about consistency – Using air fryers could produce inconsistencies in the results based on batch size, proximity to the heating element, and other factors. Deep fryers can evenly cook large batches.
  • Initial costs – While air fryers save oil costs over time, the initial investment in purchasing multiple commercial units can be prohibitive for some restaurants.

Are Air Fryers Used in Commercial Kitchens at All?

While they may not be the best fit for all restaurants, some commercial kitchens incorporate air fryers in innovative ways:

So air fryers can have a place in commercial settings, but may not work as the sole frying appliance for high-volume restaurants.

How Restaurants Can Use Air Fryers

While they have limitations, air fryers can be a useful appliance for some restaurant kitchens in the right scenarios. Here are some tips on successfully implementing air fryers:

Types of Food to Air Fry

Air fryers excel at cooking foods that benefit from crisping with less oil. Good options include:

  • French fries
  • Chicken wings and nuggets
  • Fried fish
  • Potato chips
  • Vegetables like zucchini sticks or fried pickles
  • Egg rolls
  • Croquettes
  • Fried desserts like churros or donuts
  • Foods that are breaded or battered are ideal. The convection heat crisps up the exterior perfectly.

Choose an Appropriate Model

  • Opt for an air fryer design made for commercial use that can handle restaurant needs:
  • Large food capacity
  • Powerful heating elements
  • Sturdy stainless steel design
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Reliable brand with a warranty
  • Some good commercial air fryer brands include Pitco, Perfect Fry, Cleveland Range, and Nutrichef among others. Look for units in the 5-20 liter capacity range.

Have Realistic Expectations

While commercial air fryers can produce crispy results with less oil, understand that the results may not be exactly identical to traditional deep frying. The unique hot air flow and exposure can create slightly different textures. Manage expectations and adjust recipes as needed.

Maintain the Fryer

Air fryers have some parts that need regular cleaning like oil drip trays, baskets, and racks. Review the instruction manual and give your commercial unit frequent cleaning and maintenance to keep it in top shape.

The Benefits of Using Air Fryers for Restaurants

Here are some of the biggest advantages restaurants can gain from adding air fryers:

  • Use significantly less oil – Save on huge amounts of frying oil costs over time.
  • Reduce prep work – Don’t have to spend time breading or battering foods that will get soggy in a deep fryer. Air frying allows you to skip this step.
  • Cook food more quickly – The hot circulating air and convection effect can cook food rapidly. Great for fast turnaround.
  • Make menu items healthier – By greatly reducing the oil, you can create healthier versions of fried foods.
  • Easy to operate – Simple controls and cooking process compared to deep fryers. Great for new cooks.
  • More versatile – In addition to crisping, air fryers can bake, roast, grill, and dehydrate.
  • Compact size – Smaller footprint than commercial deep fryers. Good for tight kitchens.
  • Better ventilation – Require less expensive ventilation than deep fryers that produce grease-heavy air.

The ability to provide great-tasting crispy fried foods with more customization and using less oil makes air fryers a win for many restaurants. While they may not completely replace deep fryers, air fryers are earning a permanent place in many commercial kitchens.


Are air fryers used by any major fast-food chains?

A few major chains like McDonald’s and Burger King have tested air fryers in select locations, but none have implemented them chain-wide at this point due to capacity limitations.

What types of restaurants would benefit most from using air fryers?

Smaller independent restaurants with lower volumes, food trucks, caterers, cafeterias, and fast casual spots are best suited for air fryers.

Can you get the same results as deep frying with an air fryer?

Air fryers can get close to mimicking deep-fried texture and flavor, but the results won’t be exactly the same. Airflow and limited oil impact the end product.

How much oil do air fryers actually use?

Quality air fryers use up to 80% less oil than traditional deep fryers. Many models require only a tablespoon or two to make fries and other fried items.

Is cooking with an air fryer healthy?

It’s much healthier than deep frying because you eliminate most of the oil that contributes to calories and fat. But air-fried food still isn’t as healthy as other no-oil cooking methods.

Do workers need training to use commercial air fryers?

They are fairly simple to operate, especially for those already familiar with deep fryers. However providing staff training on air fryer safety, operation, and maintenance is still a good idea.

The Bottom Line

Air fryers let restaurants offer the signature flavor and textures of fried foods while addressing health concerns and reducing cooking oil costs.

They may never fully replace traditional deep fryers that handle high volumes, but commercial air fryers have cemented themselves as handy appliances in many smaller and specialty restaurant kitchens.

With innovative uses, they can add value and provide customers craving crispy favorites like fries and wings a better option. Air fry on!

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