By Rabbi Elchanan Poupko
AirFryer, the new device that is quietly making its way into the hearts and kitchens of people around the world is growing in its popularity day after day. More and more people are starting to use this unique form of culinary advancement with little knowledge of what its halachic status is. I will be honest, when I first got a Shayla about this device I myself did not know what it was and had never heard the name before. It is only after researching and asking several rabbinic colleagues that I began to understand the magnitude of the issue.
According to Wikipedia “An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that cooks by circulating hot air around the food using the convection mechanism. It is a downsized version of the convection oven. A mechanical fan circulates the hot air around the food at high speed, cooking the food and producing a crispy layer via browning reactions of two kinds. In caramelization, sugars break down and chemically transform into complex brown-colored substances, while in the Maillard reaction, typically seen where meat is roasted or stir-fried, the carbohydrates/sugars and proteins in a food react with each other to form Schiff bases, which then form other flavorful compounds, including brown ring compound containing one or more nitrogen atoms in the ring, such as pyrazines and pyridines. The Maillard reaction requires temperatures of between 280-330°F (140-165°C), while caramelization temperatures depend on the sugar being caramelized and range from 230-360°F (110-180°C).”
Since this device seems to enjoy some of the qualities of Bishul and other qualities of afiya, questions abound about the status of this new arrival in the Jewish kitchen. Is food made in it considered ofuy or mevushal? Does it need Tevillas Keilim? What if you cooked something milchig in it by accident? And many other questions.
When I reached out to some poskim on this matter, the were hesitant to respond, many did not know the metzi’us of the Airfryer and what it was all about. When bringing the issue up to Rabbi Aryeh Liebowitz, Mara D’asra of Kehilas Beis Haknesses of North Woodmere he seemed to believe the AirFryer had a simple din of Afiya, just like an oven. This was also the response I got from Rabbi Tzvi Sokol, Moreh Tzedek of Yeshivas Beis Yosef in Brooklyn. This would mean that with regard to hilchos Shabbos, food made in an AirFryer would be treated as ofuy—baked—rather than mevushal—cooked, which means that the leniencies of bishul achar bishul would not apply to it.
A written response from the poskim at the Eretz Chemda Kollel in Eretz Yisroel came in with a similar answer: since the AirFryer is a kind of convection oven it is judged as such, with some qualifications. Since the food is held in a basket separate from the actual body of the oven, allowing for the air to envelop the food, the basket is bole’a from the food on the level of tzliya, roasting. Furthermore, while one would think that the closed nature of the device would lend itself to problems of zeya (steam that passes the content of the food into the utensil), that is not a concern in this case. Why? Because the food that is usually made in an AirFryer is dry—yavesh—and therefore there is not much steam to begin with. Additionally, since the heating agent is above the food and not below it, one can argue that it burns any ze’ya that comes out of the food. With regard to using for meat and milk, since one can buy an AirFryer with various baskets for the food, one would be able to designate one basket for meat, and one for milk, and so long as it is heated in-between the two uses on maximum heat for thirty minutes while making sure it is thoroughly cleaned beforehand, one would be able to use the same AirFryer for both meat and milk.
Considering the fact that just in the past year more than four million (!) AirFryers were sold, just in the USA, it seems like it is here to stay. Rabbonim, Poskim, and Balebatim need to be aware of the different halachic issues associated with the AirFryer.