When looking at who invented the air fryer, most people credit William L. Maxon as the original inventor, but there have been many people who have contributed to the technological advancement of the original sky oven.
Over the last several decades, innovators have tweaked and modified the original design to somehow morph it into our modern-day air fryer.
The story is quite interesting, and upon digging into the actual history of the commercial air fryer, we see that today's modern air fryer was actually invented by Fred van der Weij and manufactured by Phillips.
- William L. Maxson's Air Fryer
- Nordskog Company and Malleable Iron Range Company
- Fred Van der Weij
- Philips and KCS
- Why are Air Fryers so Popular?
- Does An Air Fryer Work Better Than a Conventional Oven?
- The Downside of Air Frying
- What Does the Future Hold for Air Fryers?
- Tracing the Culinary Origins of the Air Fryer
William L. Maxson's Air Fryer
Credited as the original inventor of the air fryer, Maxson was a well-established inventor. In addition to the air fryer, Maxon is also credited with these inventions:
- a multiplying machine
- toy building blocks
- a robot navigator to calculate air flight positions
- Maxson Multiple Gun Mount
Maxson's journey began in 1944 when he sought a way to provide better meals to troops crossing the Atlantic during World War II. He took his idea to the Navy and soon began producing frozen meals that were divided into three sections containing a slice of meat and two vegetable sides.
Maxson was successful in producing six different frozen meals for the Naval Air Transport Servicemen who had been sustaining off of K-Rations and cold sandwiches. Now he just needed something to cook them in. Thus, the first air fryer was invented to reheat frozen food while in the air.
The First Air Fryer
In 1945, William Maxson filed his patent and successfully created the Maxson Whirlwind Oven from aluminum and steel. It weighed a whopping 35 lbs and operated off of a 120-volt DC motor, which was readily available in most aircraft during the 1940s. It worked with gas, kerosene, or electricity.
Although the Maxson Whirlwind Oven could only reach 200° F (93° C), with its rapid air technology, it was large enough to cook six 'sky plates' simultaneously all in a matter of fifteen minutes. To accomplish this, Maxon installed a fan in the back of the oven that circulated hot air.
In 1947, Maxson's invention became a feature for both Popular Mechanics and Popular Science as the Whirlwind Oven was dubbed 'magic.' Although its resemblance was closer to that of an electric oven, more often than not, Maxson is given credit as the inventor of the air fryer.
Following World War II, William Maxson was all set to sell his technology to the airline industry. Sadly, Maxson died that same year, and his inventions were sold off by his children.
Furthermore, the popularity of the Whirlwind declined with the invention of the microwave. Thus Maxon's version of the air fryer never actually made it to the marketplace.
Nordskog Company and Malleable Iron Range Company
Maxson's Whirlwind Oven wasn't without flaws. Because of the increased airflow, it was known to suck the moisture out of the food leaving dry, tough meats and overcooked vegetables.
Fortunately, in 1967, the Nordskog Company out of California successfully re-engineered the motor with improved heating elements that did a better job at dispersing the hot air around the food so it cooked more evenly and quickly.
At the same time, the Malleable Iron Range company introduced the first full-sized convection oven based on Maxson's original design. This is the first time the convection oven became available at the consumer level. However, because of their high costs, they were typically limited to professional kitchens.
While we can certainly credit Malleable Iron Range with producing the first convection oven, it's a far cry from the first air fryer.
Thanks to the convenience of the microwave, air frying technology never really caught on until the early 2000s.
Fred Van der Weij
Fast forward all the way to 2005, and the air fryer had made little progress until the likes of Fred Van der Weij, an inventor from the Netherlands. Rumor has it he was simply looking for a way to crisp homemade french fries without using traditional deep frying methods.
Three years later was the initial release of his first prototype, which he eventually sold to Philips.
Philips and KCS
To give credit where it's due, Philips is truly the inventor of the first commercial air fryer as we know it in our modern-day society.
In 2010, Philips released Mr. Van der Weij's air fryer technology during the IFA electronic fair in Berlin, Germany. Eventually, Philips partnered with KCS to produce the modern egg-shaped air fryer that we know and love.
However, it wasn't until 2015 that air fryers gained international fame. Many people attribute the success of Philips' air fryer to their marketing tactics, which included a recipe booklet and a website that catered to health-conscious consumers.
The pandemic era saw a big rise in air fryer sales and according to the NPD Group, by 2020 thirty-six percent of Americans owned an air fryer in conjunction with sales over one billion dollars.
Why are Air Fryers so Popular?
While there are multiple reasons air fryers have become increasingly popular over recent years, one thing for sure is that Americans are addicted to convenience.
Because convection ovens circulate air throughout, they can cook food in a fraction of the time that it takes in a traditional oven. Whether you're using your air fryer to cook fresh food or frozen food, it's a convenient way for quick home cooking.
Additionally, cleaning an air fryer is relatively easy. As such, air fryers save time on cooking and cleaning making them very convenient appliances to have in the kitchen.
In recent years, many people are also pursuing healthier lifestyles and are continually looking for alternatives to traditional deep frying methods.
Because an air fryer circulates hot air, simply adding a coating of oil to your food can give your chicken wings a crispy outer layer without submerging them in gobs of grease. It's a very efficient way to make fried foods without clogging your arteries.
Social media influencers also play their part in portraying the air fryer as the most coveted kitchen appliance. Often using social media to demonstrate air fryer features or cook bizarre air fryer recipes, they easily persuade many home cooks to jump on the latest craze.
Health and wellness trends are also increasing their presence on social media, blogs, and websites that promote healthier eating, which generally incorporates less oil consumption.
Does An Air Fryer Work Better Than a Conventional Oven?
Although it's taken the scenic route, today's air fryers are far superior to conventional ovens in several ways. The main reason people love air fryers is because they cook foods much faster than a traditional oven.
With the simple addition of a fan, the hot air that blows around the food chamber ends up cooking approximately 25% faster than foods cooked the traditional way.
Air fryers also cook more evenly. Since the fan constantly blows hot air around the food, the circulation of air helps balance out temperature variances. In contrast, traditional ovens are known for having hot spots.
Air frying also works exceptionally well at browning meats and vegetables. Simply spray your food with a light coat of oil.
When the fan circulates the dry heat, air fryers are capable of quickly caramelizing the sugars giving them a crisp, brown coating. Plus, it's a much healthier way to eat.
Air fryers also save energy. Since foods cook faster and at lower temperatures, air fryers make cooking less costly.
The Downside of Air Frying
The one downfall of the air fryer is its size. While it's a great option for reheating foods, frying a batch of potatoes, or doing some light baking, air fryers are hard-pressed to feed a family of four or more. Its size is simply not sufficient enough to accommodate a large meal in a reasonable amount of time.
You're better off saving the occasion for air-frying the kids' fries and pizza rolls. The hot air does a far better job of creating a crispy outer layer than the microwave.
What Does the Future Hold for Air Fryers?
Like most household appliances, one day the air fryer will ride off into the sunset and make way for the next appliance that promises to make life easier.
But before that happens, we're likely to see a phase of upgrades and better technology much the same way that microwaves, coffee pots, blenders, and food processors have seen over the decades.
Eventually, we're likely to see advanced features like preprogrammed cooking settings, automatic timers, smart features, and maybe even self-cleaning modes like modern-day convection ovens.
One thing is for certain, this single appliance is not going anywhere any time soon. According to market insights, the air fryer industry is expected to generate revenues close to two billion dollars by 2033.
Tracing the Culinary Origins of the Air Fryer
From the first commercial air fryer to now, they've certainly come a long way. From higher temperatures and digital displays to larger models and more power, air frying has improved eons over the last half a century.
Even if they are a fad, there one of the healthiest ways to cook food, and they are far more efficient than traditional convection ovens and cook food with ease. Their versatility is unmatched and I only see them getting better with time.
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