December 5, 2021

The Luxuries of an Air Fryer

Last year, I asked for an air fryer for my birthday. I’d heard wonderful things about it and I was eager to add to my cooking repertoire. They’re all the rage right now and are commonly marketed as the tool to achieve healthier fried food. It really works like a tiny convection oven that allows hot air to circulate around your food, cooking it and leaving a crisp outside. 

Now, at the time I added it to my wish list, I had never actually seen one. Therefore, I was surprised to open a large box to find something that looked like a shiny, black, alien baby incubator. They don’t all look like that, but mine certainly does. Furthermore, I didn’t actually think I’d get one, so I had no idea what to put in it first. But as they say, when it’s tough to get going, go to Pinterest. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? 

The most popular item to cook in an air fryer seems to be chicken, but the first thing that really caught my eye was shrimp tacos. I had never considered cooking seafood in my air fryer but it turned out amazing! I was completely shocked how quickly the translucent, grey shrimp turned out to be the perfect shade for eating (opaque pink). Shrimp has since become my favorite item to make in my air fryer.

Part of the appeal of these nifty little machines is how it has a knack for cooking food evenly and thoroughly. It’s a blessing for me also because I live in an apartment with an extremely temperamental oven. I’m also not cooking roasts for a whole family, so having an air fryer and following recipes suited for them makes it easier to portion out meals. 

Aside from giving meat and seafood a crisp outer layer and even internal temperature, air fryers are also often praised for their ability to heat frozen meals and appetizers.

This week, I tested all of those wonderful features using my PowerXL Air Fryer. Over the last several days, I experimented with cooking steak, veggies, more shrimp, eggs, and potatoes! My dad was kind enough to play taste-tester for some of these.

On the first night, I started with steak, green beans and sweet potatoes. air fryers are mercifully well-aligned to the guess and check method of cooking. It also helps that I own a meat thermometer. For my first time cooking beef this way, I chose a very thin cut of meat (a skirt steak) that I further sliced up into strips. 

I felt like getting extra fancy, so I also made an herb butter to coat the steak in before cooking it. The green beans were tossed with oil and Johnny’s Seasoning Salt and the sweet potato cubes were coated in oil, pepper and a little brown sugar. The air fryer was able to cook all three wonderfully.

That same night, I also prepared a shrimp salad. After wiping out any excess grease from the basket, it was good to go. I tossed in the shrimp and checked every 4 minutes for doneness until it looked and smelled perfect. Coating food in a marinade or dressing lets the flavor come through when cooked with the air fryer. However— remember to avoid prolonged overlap in the frying basket. For the salad, add spinach, tomato, feta cheese, and avocado to a bowl.

The following morning, I tried to make an air fryer breakfast. It didn’t go as great, but still alright. The first part of breakfast was the potatoes again. These always turn out great with a crisp outer layer and a soft inside. 

Then, I tried cooking an egg in the air fryer for the first time. The egg was cracked into a ramekin lined with bell pepper and spinach and topped with cheddar cheese. It had to go back into the air fryer at least twice before the egg white was cooked completely.

Egg over easy with cheese, bacon, and seasoned potatoes.

The last use I tested was in the category of frozen foods. In the evening, I gave my Air Fryer a passing grade on cooking frozen appetizers, as long as the thickness of the food is consistent to begin with.I picked this up at Trader Joe’s for my experiment in frozen appetizers. Two out of the three that I cooked turned out great. The last one was a bit lumpy to begin with and didn’t cook as thoroughly.

Honestly, I had no idea what these are, but they’re delicious…

However, trying to cook a frozen eggplant parmesan dinner was a major fail. I had to take it in and out of the air fryer several times to thaw the center. 2/10, would not recommend it.

In the end, an Air Fryer is a remarkable gadget to have. It can cook just about anything (except for frozen eggplant parm). They’re available at a variety of price points and different sizes. If you want to achieve crunchy exteriors and tender foods on the inside, an air fryer is your new best friend.

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