The Crispy Conundrum That Inspired The Inventor Of The Air Fryer

As women entered the workforce, microwaves emerged as the choice kitchen gadget for whipping up dinner in a flash, per Love Food. About the same time, food manufacturers realized that consumers were craving crispy textures most of all, per The New York Times. If you've ever pulled limp fried leftovers from the microwave, you can relate to the frustrations those mid-century multi-taskers might have felt. 

So, you can probably only imagine what chef James Hemings must've thought when President Thomas Jefferson asked him to recreate those crispy potatoes he had that one time in France, as The Jefferson Monticello notes. It took a ton of heat and oil to achieve french fry perfection, which left plenty of margin for error.

The New York Times nods to the fact that efficient deep-frying techniques were widely available to food manufacturers in the mid-20th century. Still, home cooks relied upon a pan of hot splattering oil, or perhaps a Fry Daddy of the '70s, to achieve that crispy golden quality they craved so much (via Presto). Convection ovens also gained popularity but failed to deliver crispy nirvana as they dried potatoes out. 

So, as the publication explains, Netherlands inventor Fred van der Weij was looking for a more efficient way to make french fries in the early 2000s when he took the matter into his own hands by developing a gadget that eventually would become an American obsession — the air fryer.

How the air fryer became a holy grail product

The New York Times states that it took just three years for Fred van der Weij to develop his prototype, which debuted at the Internationale Funkausstellung (a German consumer electronics expo) in 2010 made by Philips which now holds the patent for the air frying technology. Close-range radiation and better airflow are how van der Weij achieved the perfect crisp without all the fuss. 

"It was kind of a holy grail that many companies were looking for — to make better French fries," he told the outlet, "To find a way to make the handling much easier and the results much better would be a very big potential, that was clear. But I did not expect it would be as big as it is right now." Other companies, such as Cuisinart and Ninja, quickly followed suit by producing similar versions.

The air fryer isn't just for french fries, of course. From steaks to cheesecakes, American food influencers have created a sensation that isn't going anywhere fast. Browse the TikTok #airfryer along with the more than five billion other viewers, and you too can discover the air fryer's many uses. And to boot, air-fried foods are better for you, according to WebMD, which recognizes benefits like calorie and fat reduction, along with cutting down on the harmful effects of traditional oil frying.

It's doubtful your air fryer will ever make its way to the gadget graveyard. Still, there's no telling what Fred van der Weij will think of next.