Food writers seem to always be trying out the latest buzzworthy appliance or kitchen tool. Some are pretty exciting, and others end up hard to use and wasting valuable kitchen space. But for every confusing sous vide circulator or overwhelming multi-cooker, there’s that one appliance that’s actually indispensable. For me, that was the air fryer.
My first air fryer was a small, basic variety meant for a single person living in a small apartment. That’s exactly what I am, so it was ideal. I was immediately floored by how I could make just about anything I’d make in the oven or a toaster, or even stovetop, all in this one device. Plus I’m able to reheat food without having to also heat the whole house up with the oven.
For starters, it’s probably a good idea to explain what an air fryer actually is, or rather what it
does. Advertisements often show platters of chicken wings and fries, which probably suggests they’re just a new version of an unhealthy deep-fryer. In fact, it’s more like an alternative to fat-based frying at all. The device uses heat and circulating air to crisp food. For me, it’s sort of like culinary magic.
I’ve struggled with my weight for much of my life. During quarantine, I found myself isolated and giving into cravings for fried and heavy foods. That’s when I turned to my friendly air fryer, which became my go-to companion for making versions of what I craved – be it fries, pizza, even grilled cheese – without adding the butter or oil fat that would typically go into the skillet or fryer.
It turned into something of a pandemic hobby, as I combatted loneliness by sharing my dinner creations with friends on social media and what started as casual food pics soon turned into creating and posting original, air fryer-centric recipes. As my repertoire grew, I learned just how many functions the air fryer was capable of.
Whether roasting tomatoes to turn into a salad, sauce, or salsa, making a lunch of blistered
shishito peppers, or doing a quick and easy eggplant parm, this works fast and makes beautiful results. I’ve also used it to make gorgeous roasted potatoes in way less time than I would in an oven, and a rather addictive roasted cauliflower.
Why an Air Fryer Is Specifically Veggie-Friendly
Typical plant-based food prep can be a lot faster and easier with an air fryer. I’ve thrown bags of frozen vegetables straight into the air fryer to bake or roast. No need to thaw first, just toss it in there and let the heat and circulating air crisp them up. In 10 minutes you’ll get a golden color that normally takes a bunch of time on a sheet pan in the oven. I’ve yet to find a single vegetable, frozen or otherwise, that is not only able to be made in the air fryer, but better for it.
Choosing Your Air Fryer
This may seem simple, but when you go shopping for an air fryer it can actually be confusing. Air fryers are not sold by their physical size, in the same way a Dutch Oven or skillet might be, but by capacity size. A four quart capacity may be great for a single person or a couple; if you are a larger household, you may want to go for a six quart capacity or even eight quarts.
Of course, you have to weigh cooking capacity with your own kitchen counter space limitations. I’m dealing with a tiny New York City studio apartment with very limited space. After getting hooked on my small, starter air fryer, I eventually wanted to upgrade. To justify it, I got rid of my toaster. After all, the air fryer can toast, too, so no reason to have a dedicated appliance competing for prime real estate.
The One Thing It Can’t Do
While an air fryer can take on the jobs of many kitchen appliance, there are some limitations. For one, an air fryer is not set up to cook liquids. Keep your soups, stews, and sauces in a pot or slow cooker – at least until the air fryer scientists invent some type of accessory that accommodates them.