The air fryer craze finally hits mainstream media

Snoddy: The air fryer craze finally hits mainstream media
Credit: Channel 4/Jamie Oliver Enterprises

Channel 4’s sponsored programme and The Sun‘s recent coverage show that mainstream media has been slow in catching up to what real people are doing.

Even by contemporary standards, the product placement in Jamie Oliver’s latest show Jamie’s Air Fryer Meals is blatant.

The programme was sponsored by Tefal and, naturally, Oliver cooked with Tefal air fryers in front of the cameras, so every time he placed a dish in or took a dish out of the air fryer, the brand was in your face.

Viewers were warned at the beginning that there was product placement in the programme and Channel 4 would certainly have made sure the level of product placement was within the rules.

But there was criticism on Twitter from viewers suggesting the programme had been little more than a one-hour advertisement, although the programme was undoubtedly good business for the air fryer manufacturer.

Entering mainstream

This two-part series was more notable for something else — it marks the moment when one of the most-high profile and enduring television chefs has publicly embraced air fryers.

There have been occasional articles in the press and a Channel 5 programme on the subject, but they have usually come in the form of a debate on air fryers versus other appliances rather than a series — however short — devoted entirely to the newish cooking technology.

As The Guardian put it last year: “Are air fryers miracle kitchen must-haves or just a load of hot air?”

Catching up

The mainstream media have been slow to register the fact that a dramatic and irreversible change in domestic cookery has happened presumably because, although air fryers have been around for about a decade, they have only really taken off in the past couple of years.

Even though more than 50% of UK households now have one, with the figure rising, this revolution appears to have passed largely unnoticed by those who pump out the weekend cookery supplements that are still stuck in the old world of ovens and microwaves.

Is there a sniffy element of the sort that probably accompanied the launch of microwaves at the time?

Makers of prepared meals have also been slow to catch up. They list cooking times for ovens and microwaves but rarely mention air fryers, if at all. Often, the poor would-be air fryer cook is reliant on the internet to find out such basic facts as cooking times.

Oliver has always been a brash innovator since he first stepped before the television cameras with The Naked Chef in 1999 and has been controversial with more traditional chefs.

Now, with his help and that of Channel 4, the turning point for air fryers has come. They have finally fought their way into the mainstream media and can no longer be ignored.

Tabloid coverage

Oliver’s programme showed that air fryers are not just for cooking sausages, chips and crispy bacon, but can produce a baked Alaska or stuffed chicken breasts. The not-so-naked chef also demonstrated how you can cook three layers of food at the same time.

Maybe not Michelin-star cooking, but a decent plate of food for ordinary cooks.

In this social revolution, The Sun has been in the vanguard and was on to the conversion of Oliver — once a sceptic — like a shot.

Last week, there was a double-page spread setting out his favourite recipes from the programme. As Oliver explained to The Sun: “It’s rare for a gadget to revolutionise the way people cook, but it’s such a great solution for the modern family that the air fryer has done just that.”

The Sun’s Nathan Anthony has also been highlighting “easy air fryer cooking” in its FabDaily section.

New programmes

It is definitely time for the media laggards to catch up. But the real test will come when air frying becomes part of the everyday media mainstream, not just a fad sponsored by an air fryer manufacturer in an occasional programme.

In future, every newspaper and magazine food supplement should feature, as a matter of course, dishes suitable for air frying.

At the very least, the media chefs should provide conversions — how to also cook their recipes in air fryers — and meal manufacturers should urgently pull up their socks with their cooking instructions.

Next step, a MasterChef competition for air fryer cooking fronted by Oliver and the obvious place would be Channel 4 — perhaps without the product placement this time.

Then you can have a cook-off between the original MasterChef winners and the air fryer champions.

Greater attention

Air fryers save time but on costs, according to the Energy Saving Trust, it all depends. Air fryers are most efficient when cooking for one or two people; microwaves are better for reheating and ovens are best for batch cooking.

Still, the rise of the air fryer will continue and the media should pay greater attention to the phenomenon.

It is obviously time to declare an interest. I was already in love with my air fryer long before Oliver stepped up to the plate.

So it seems only fair to add a favourite recipe, salmon teriyaki, for which you need 60ml of sesame oil, 60ml of soy sauce, 60ml of lemon juice, two tablespoons of brown sugar, a garlic clove, a teaspoon of fresh ginger and 200g salmon steaks. After marinating, 10 minutes in the air fryer and it comes out delicious every time.

Raymond Snoddy is a media consultant, national newspaper columnist and former presenter of NewsWatch on BBC News. He writes for The Media Leader on Wednesdays — read his column here.

Media Jobs