The air fryer is a modern phenomenon–a piece of cookware that cooks and heats food. It’s enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, both thanks to the growth of at-home cooking and the emphasis on healthier foods. But who invented the air fryer? Is it really that new, or has it been around for longer?
The original concept for the air fryer was invented and developed nearly eighty years ago by a man named William Maxson. He came up with a way to reheat frozen meals for American service members while they were deployed. This later grew into what we know today as an air fryer.
The history behind the air fryer involves scientific discoveries, mostly based on two separate men’s dissatisfaction with their frozen food. Now, the air fryer is widely used to heat, cook, and fry foods without the fatty oils and greases used in a traditional fryer. It’s one of the most popular appliances in America today.
How Was the Air Fryer Invented?
In the early twentieth century, very few people had freezers. The microwave hadn’t been invented yet, so most food was eaten fresh or stored dry. William Maxson, who had served in the army, was enthusiastic about freezing his food when very few people even owned refrigerators.
However, Maxson was forced to wait for his food to thaw or bake it in his oven before he ate it. While it wasn’t a huge issue for his personal life, it did affect his fellow soldiers. During World War II, pilots and passengers would eat cold sandwiches or non-perishable food while flying on missions.
William Maxson developed a “whirlwind oven:” a large, multi-layered oven that used a fan to blow hot air onto the food. Instead of burning part of the frozen food while the middle was cold, this oven created a system of evenly heating a plate of food.
Maxson patented his invention and sold the idea to the United States Army. Soon, pilots and service people could eat full meals while still in the air. This early version of the air fryer was popular until the invention of the microwave, and an even easier form of quick heating.
Who Invented New Air Fryer Today
The technology William Maxson put into the air fryer remained the same until another scientist was unsatisfied with how his frozen food tasted. In the early 2000s, Fred van der Weij wanted a new way to eat fried food. Heating it in the microwave and the regular oven makes fried food soggy, and a deep fryer is both expensive and unhealthy.
Using Maxson’s fan and hot air technology, van der Weij created the air fryer as we know it today. He partnered with the appliance manufacturer Philips to release a personal version of an air fryer in 2010. It’s been wildly successful ever since.
The air fryer is popular because of its ease and compatibility with modern life. It is simple to use and can cook food within half an hour. The air fryer method uses less time, energy, and dishes than regular oven or stovetop cooking.
The air fryer as we know it today is a combination of the work of two men: William Maxson and Fred van der Weij. Even though the technology to fry food without oil has been around for almost a hundred years, it took two individuals who were tired of the hassle to create what is now known as an air fryer.
What Country Invented the Air Fryer?
The air fryer has made appearances in several other countries but is largely an American phenomenon. The traditional home of many fried and greasy foods, America provided a need that was filled by an air fryer.
William Maxson, who began using the technology for culinary purposes, was an American inventor. He brought the ease of frozen meals to airplanes before the invention of the microwave or pre-packaging.
Fred van der Weij is from the Netherlands, and his air fryer team-up with Philips debuted at a technology and appliance convention in Berlin, Germany. A European inventor made the appliance what it is today. However, the most significant market for the air fryer turned out to be Maxson’s home, the United States.
Now, about 40% of American households have an air fryer. They have become wildly popular as Americans try to find healthier options than fried foods and begin to cook from home more. Air fryers shot up in popularity soon after the initial release and again during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although Philips is a company based in the Netherlands, most of the air fryers sold are in the United States. Other companies have caught on and begun air fryer production as well. The combination of these factors, in addition to the large American demand, make air fryers the popular product they are today.
Interesting Fact: Air Fryers Are Healthier Than Deep Fryers
There is a lot of hype around the air fryer–customers and manufacturers insist it will fry food without any oils. However, there’s been some debate on this: are air fryers actually healthy, or is that just marketing?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, air fryers are healthier in specific situations. They certainly use less fat than a regular deep fryer because they use hot air to fry the food instead of oils. The decrease in fat is dramatic and can be up to 75% of the previous fat. Air fryers are also safer than deep fryers since no hot oil is used.
However, air fryers are only as healthy as the food cooked in them. Reheating frozen food and previously fried food works great in an air fryer, but the reheating process doesn’t make the food itself any healthier.
In general, air fryers are much healthier than traditional frying food. The absence of oil instantly takes away fat. Air fryers preserve the satisfying crunch of fried food without the majority of the unhealthy aspects. They provide an excellent way to fry and reheat foods without softening the edges.
How Did the First Air Fryer Work?
The first air fryer worked the same way that air fryers today do. It utilized electricity to heat air and pump it through the food chamber. Unlike an oven, which uses a heat source at the bottom, the air fryer surrounds the food with air. It does this with a fan, which blows the air around the food, so it’s evenly heated.
This rapid-air technology is a large part of why air fryers are so popular. It uses electricity and air to heat or fry foods instead of oil or other greasy fats. This increases the ease of cooking while decreasing the amount of fat in certain food groups.
Air fryers still work essentially the same way. Although they don’t bake food, they are remarkably similar to a standard convection oven. It is a quicker way of cooking food based on the heat of the air instead of a heating device. Air fryers are smaller than convection ovens and give food a crispier taste.
Foods that are regularly fried are the most compatible with air fryers. However, the appliances are versatile enough to create many different meals. Potatoes, vegetables, frozen meals, and meat are commonly cooked in an air fryer. The only negative of the hot air technique is that if several different types of food are cooked at once, some things might be dryer than others.
When Did the Air Fryer Become Popular?
The air fryer was used on airplanes and carrier flights to heat soldiers’ meals during World War II. However, it failed to catch on in the domestic sector, largely because the first air fryer was bulky and unwieldy. The microwave was a huge hit and people forgot about hot air frying technology.
When Philips re-introduced the air fryer as a personal appliance in 2010, it immediately caught on. Since then, the air fryer has been a bestseller in the United States and beyond, giving people a healthier and faster way to fry and reheat foods.
The demand for an air fryer grew throughout the early 2000s, even if the population didn’t know it. People rely heavily on fast food and fried food. Since 2010, there has been a massive increase in home cooking and a greater awareness of the importance of healthy eating. The air fryer answered both of these trends perfectly.
During the recent pandemic, people who had never cooked before were forced to try new things while in quarantine. Many people bought air fryers as an easy way to taste fried food at home. A surge in home cooking made it clear that the air fryer isn’t going away any time soon.
The air fryer exists through the combined efforts of William Maxson and Fred van der Weij. It provides a healthier way to fry foods and an easy method of cooking and reheating. The hot air technology ensures that food is warmed up evenly and cooked well, staying crispy without burning or drying. Air fryers are still wildly popular in the United States and elsewhere.