The Air Fryer
From a convenience and a health standpoint, the invention of the air fryer has changed my kitchen game. It has enabled me to incorporate more variety of nutrient-dense foods into my busy weekly routine, while minimizing prep and cleanup time. Let’s unpack the functions and benefits of this savvy kitchen device.
How it works: Air fryers use circulating hot air to produce a crisp, golden-brown texture with minimal to no oil. It also targets food from every direction so that the outside is crisp but the inside is moist. They also use less energy and don't heat up the kitchen as much as oven frying (beneficial for small living spaces). The temperature of the air fryer and the type of food you’re cooking will help determine the amount of time you need to cook your recipe.
Why I love it: Nutrition: From a nutrition standpoint, there’s a lot to love about the air fryer. Compared to deep-frying, the air-frying cooking method can reduce overall caloric intakes. Most people reduce their calories by 70-80% when using air fryers. Even as someone who wasn’t frying food prior to using this device, I have noticed a lessened need for oil/breading/cheese when seeking a crisp outcome for certain foods.
Efficiency: Using my air fryer has resulted in significantly less time spent in the kitchen for both cooking and clean-up. For example, you can bake a chicken breast faster in an air fryer than you can in your oven, and you dirty less pans/dishes by nature of this device.
Palatability: Air fryers are a great way to crisp up vegetables and make them more palatable for picky eaters. I’ve used them to make everything from zucchini fries to crispy brussel sprouts.
Air frying for the imperfect or new cook: I have done a lot of experimenting with my air fryer, and there’s still hundreds of items I have yet to try. Toxic trait confession time: because I’m often in a hurry, I am terribly impatient when it comes to following recipes and cooking instructions . However, the air fryer makes it impossible for someone like me to mess things up. I don’t think I have ever cooked something the same way twice. Sometimes I try cooking my food on a higher temp for a shorter duration, and other times I go lower and slower. The experimentation is the most fun part for me, and it’s easy to check the food frequently/reset the timer if need be. If you are someone who likes a little more certainty surrounding how your food will turn out, fear not, there are tons of recipes online with exact temps and cooking durations for air frying foods. Air fryers are also a great appliance for the newer cook who is graduating from microwave life onto better things. It diversifies food options while keeping the same concept of minimal prep and timer-facilitating cooking.
My favorite foods to air-fry: After owning an air fryer for 3 years, here are my staple items: burgers (I’ve done frozen raw turkey burgers, pre-cooked chicken burgers, and black bean burgers), veggie fries (sweet potato and squash are my go-tos), chicken tenders (I throw them in raw, frozen or thawed, with a dry seasoning packet sprinkled on top, or add a sauce afterwards), frozen fish or shrimp, frozen turkey meatballs (literally every week of my life), cauliflower gnocchi (Trader Joe’s brand), crispy tofu (add to a stir fry or a veggie scramble), kale chips (with lemon and parm), frozen veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, brussels), and snacks (prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, buffalo cauliflower bites, crispy chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs).
Interested in purchasing: If you are looking into purchasing an air fryer, the options are numerous. You will see some models that are more basic, while others have fancy features such as broiling and roasting capabilities. The one I own is a basic model from Gourmia (click here) that has lasted me a few years now with no issues. Mine was gifted to me so I did not do extensive research on a brand. However, because there are so many variations out there, I would base your purchase on your needs. Look for a brand that has great reviews and is BPA-free. The model and size depend on your cooking preference, but if you have a big family, you may want to buy a large one so you can cook in higher volumes. Pay attention to “add ons” as well. My air fryer came with 2 racks that make it nice for cooking large batches of food. Some brands come with baking dishes, muffin liners, and other bonuses that may interest you. Happy shopping and here’s something you thought you’d never hear from your dietitian “happy frying”!