I fall into the Alton Brown school of thought that asserts more appliances aren’t necessarily better. (I mean, do you really need a banana “nice cream” maker, or is it that just a new way to market a food processor with a dull blade?). However, today’s topic is anything BUT a unitasker. Put this badboy at the top of your Christmas list today.
An air fryer is a space orb of a counter appliance that uses a wind chamber of really hot air to cook your food, coaxing out the Maillard reaction, caramelizing and making your food extra crispy and delicious. It’s like a super-charged oven, heating and browning your food until it’s crunchy, but does so quick enough that food retains its moisture. Air Fryers are different than a microwave because it uses dry heat rather than energizing water particles—like I said, its a super-charged oven. They’re expensive ($150-250) but basically a miracle on your counter.
Here’s some things I’ve learned air fryers are great for:
- Roasting fresh vegetables and potatoes. Anything that you would drizzle in olive oil and roast in the oven can be done in less than half the time by using an air fryer. I’ve tried cauliflower, broccoli, baby potatoes, okra, green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips so far, and they’ve all turned out delicious, yielding tender vegetables flanked with crispy browned edges. The best part is, you can cook soft vegetable in 10 minutes and starchier veggies in under 25. I’ll share some ideas at the end of the post.
- Frozen potato sides. Alexia has an awesome line of French fries, sweet potato fries, roasted potato wedges, sour cream tots, sweet potato tots, truffle fries, and more, and they make perfect easy side dishes on weeknights. The problem is, it takes 15 minutes to preheat the oven, then another 25 minutes to roast them, which lets be real is a lot of time for a weeknight. With an air fryer, preheating isn’t necessary, and frozen foods cook in half the time. What used to take me 40 minutes or more now takes me 15 total.
- Frozen snacks. Mozzarella sticks, broccoli and cauliflower tots, shrimp toast, pot stickers, spanikopita, fish sticks, and pretty much every delicious snackie from Trader Joe’s can be made in the air fryer. Instead of soggy like it’d be if you made it in the microwave, they’ll come out crunchy and evenly cooked in minutes. When it comes to cooking foods in the air fryer, the rule of thumb is to reduce the baking time by half and reduce the temperature by 75 degrees F. This is important, don’t forget it!
- Toasting bread. Croutons and crostini in a fraction of the time!
- Reheating leftover meat. Because it imparts so much even heat, the air fryer is great if you want to reheat rotisserie chicken, pork loin, grilled meats, or whatever you have leftover without it losing all of its juice and texture. It’s also great for reheating breaded items like fried chicken or chicken Parmesan, they’ll re-crisp in the air fryer way better than they would using any other method. You can also cook chicken, steak, fish, pork chops, burgers, sausage, and “faux fry” chicken and fish in the air fryer, but I haven’t experimented much with that yet…
…BUT, I just purchased an air fryer accessories pack, which contains a cake pan for baking, a pizza pan for a super crunch crust in minutes, a double wire rack that helps you “fry” breaded meats and veggies and leave grill marks on meat, a non-stick silicone mat, and a lifted rack to create more surface area in your air fryer, allowing you to cook twice as much food as one. Amazeballs! Can’t wait to try it all out.
Clearly I have a lot more to explore, but I wanted to get you started with some ideas on what to make after your much coveted air fryer arrives. Also (and this probably makes me the dorkiest human being on earth) there are Facebook groups for air fryer enthusiasts that I creep on to get ideas. (Pssst, there’s social media communities for Instant Pot users too…righteous).
*Convert these recipes by roasting in an oven at 425 degrees F and doubling the lowest suggested amount of time*
Duck Fat Fries– Cut a bunch of baby potatoes in quarters and toss with plenty of salt and 2 tablespoons of duck fat (you can pick this up at any specialty grocery store). Cook at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, opening up the drawer and tossing every 7-8 minutes or so. Chicken or bacon fat would taste amazing too, or just use olive oil and herbs for a more simple taste.
Unfried Okra– I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of fried okra is the okra itself anyway. Toss fresh whole okra with olive oil and kosher salt, and fry at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes (Less if you like them tender-crisp, more if you like them charred).
Harissa Carrots– Peel and slice fresh carrots up into 1 inch oblongs and toss with kosher salt, olive oil, and a heaping tablespoon of harissa paste. Air fry at 330 degrees F for about 18-20 minutes, tossing every 6-7 minutes or so. Harissa is a spicy Tunisian seasoning made from red peppers, with an acidic bite and slowly builds heat as you eat more of it. I found my jar at Trader Joe’s and LOVE cooking with it. Feel free to get super creative with carrots–this same recipe would taste awesome with cajun seasoning, barbecue rub, ras al hanout, gochujang, lemon pepper, or whatever your favorite spice blend is. Just be sure to see if the flavor has salt in it before you season. You could use this same method for cooking parsnips or rutabagas too!
Curry Cauliflower– Toss fresh cauliflower florets with a couple teaspoons of curry, olive oil, and kosher salt. Fry at 330 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until they have crispy brown charring on their edges. Finish by tossing it with some golden raisins, a splash of red vinegar, and some chopped mint leaves.
Lemon and Red Pepper Broccoli– Toss fresh broccoli florets with olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder then fry at 330 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until they have crispy brown charring on its edges. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.
Faux Gratin– Toss broccoli or cauliflower florets with salt, olive oil, bread crumbs, and cheese (white cheddar, gruyere, or parmesan) then air fry at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Be sure to grease the fryer basket with PAM for easy clean up.
Brussels Sprouts with mustard vinaigrette– Cut sprouts in half and toss with olive oil and salt, then fry at 330 for 18-20 minutes, so the edges are frizzled and brown. While its cooking, whisk together some olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, and a big spoonful of course ground mustard. Toss and serve.
Shishito peppers– This might surprise you, but we’re going to start by tossing these badboys in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Fry at 330 for 7-9 minutes. From here, serve with aioli, toss with soy sauce and furikake, or get really crazy and toss with white miso, parmesan, and breadcrumbs, a la Stephanie Izard.
Croutons and Crostini– Toss in butter, animal fat, or olive oil, add a dash of salt, garlic powder, and Italian herbs, then air fry at 330 degrees, checking every minute or so (depending on your volume) until it’s to your liking. Damn that was easy!
Potatoes and okra both done in the air fryer. I did the potatoes first, since they take more time and retain heat. The okra fried in a flash! This kept my oven space free for the filet mignon.