I love the hands-off ease of cooking in an air fryer, but getting the best results involves slightly more than simply turning it on and walking away. If you have the right recipes, an air fryer is the perfect vessel for producing crispy, evenly cooked food with far less effort (and fat) than it takes to oven fry or deep fry. Let’s explore the versatility of this trendy kitchen appliance, because eating healthy should still be delicious! Before you jump in head first to the world of air frying, though, start with these tips to ensure mealtime success…
Air Fryer Benefits
- First, air fryers do produce real food and it’s not just for frozen foods! It’s essentially a small convection oven, so an air fryer can cook many of the foods you might roast or bake with less fuss.
- Air frying turns out crispy fries, juicy chicken wings, and tender chicken cutlets, all with using a fraction of the oil that deep-frying requires. Air fryers are far more versatile than you might think and can turn out amazing side dishes like baked potatoes and roasted veggies to full meals like roasted pork chops with butternut squash to perfect small portion desserts.
- You can set it and *almost* forget it. Unlike stovetop cooking, air frying requires virtually no monitoring, thanks to its well-regulated temperature and automatic shut-off. Other than the occasional flip or toss, it does all the work, allowing you to focus on the rest of the meal. On busy nights when we must convince ourselves to cook not having to turn on the stove can be a blessing. And on hot nights, the air fryer prevents our kitchen from becoming a steam room.
- Air Frying, if you didn’t know, is fast and shaves valuable time off of recipes. Depending on your model you don’t even need to preheat!
- An Air Fryer makes easy meals for kids, and kids at heart. The ability to crisp up a batch of chicken nuggets or a couple hand pies, or roast carrots, without embarking on a cooking project makes this a lifesaver for busy parents. Oh, and my kids have learned to cook their own meals in the air fryer too! If you’re cooking up something frozen that does not have Air Frying directions on the box or bag then look at the oven time and go 25 degrees less and 20% less cook time.
- It’s also ideal for two people or small portions. When it’s just the two of you eating (or you’re cooking solo) and you don’t want to make more than you need, the air fryer helps to prevent waste.
- The Air Fryer can replace so many appliances: oven, stovetop, toaster (yes I make toast in mine almost daily!), toaster oven, deep fryer, grill, rotisserie, and dehydrator.
- The best though? Consistent results! All the above benefits to air frying wouldn’t be worth it if the results were spotty, but throughout all my use of it over the last year I am consistently impressed.
Air Fryer Do’s
- Rotate and flip proteins. It may seem fussy to rotate and flip meats halfway through cooking, but it helps the air circulation reach every part of the food. Think of it like grilling or pan searing. Since the heat comes from the top you want to sear both sides of the food.
- Toss vegetables in a bowl before adding them to your air fryer basket or trays and give them a little shimmy half way through cooking (or rotate the trays). This also gives you the opportunity to add seasonings such as herbs and grated cheese partway through cooking.
- Pat your food dry. Air Fryers (or skillet cooking for that matter) doesn’t like moisture. Removing excess moisture from the surface of meat and vegetables helps prevent steaming and ensures crisper results.
- A little fat helps and taste better. Cooking without any oil whatsoever may sound appealing, but fat promotes browning and can help food to crisp up. In many recipes, adding just a small amount of oil gives optimal results.
- Baking? Brush your dough with egg wash. When cooking pastry dough in the air fryer, brushing the top with egg wash will give you even, glossy browning.
- Cook your protein with skin side up. Like I said before, air fryers heat from above, so make sure your skin-on poultry always finishes cooking skin side up to crisp in the more direct heat. This means starting thicker bone-in breasts skin-side down and then flipping them.
- Use a foil or parchment paper sling for delicate fish. This protein is especially prone to sticking and breaking, so a sling facilitates easy removal from the wire grates.
Air Fryers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from 4qt drawers to 12 qt doors, to attachments for other products. Do your due diligence with research so you have the best cooking experience. I will leave you with some of our family’s favorite air fryer recipes: