With Thanksgiving and Christmas now upon us, we all need to try to eat as healthily as possible. The US diet generally involves a fair amount of fried foods and baked goods in various forms and this season is prolific for both. One solution that allows us to continue to eat these foods while cutting the calories and fat content is by cooking them in a different way – hereby introducing the air fryer.
These useful kitchen aids have been around for a few years now, yet they still seem relatively new, or should I say relatively underused. It could be that it is such a different way of cooking that people are just a little scared of committing to something they do not know or understand yet. We just bought ours this summer and I am still coming to terms with it. It IS a completely different way of cooking, using super hot air and very little, or even no oil to cook (“fry”) food with, but if you’ve ever cooked with a pressure cooker or a slow cooker then you can appreciate that cooking in a different way from your norm takes a little getting used to. The results are quite amazing and well worth the effort, but you will have to go through a period of trial and error to get the exact taste and texture you desire. There are recipes around, mainly online, but a few in actual printed book form that are specific to this style of cooking and I would strongly suggest you print some out or purchase a book to give you the basic guidelines.
After doing extensive online research myself I finally bought a Philips air fryer as they consistently get the best reviews across the board and they are super easy to clean up (vital in my kitchen!) We got the Philips Avance XL Digital ($299 at Williams Sonoma), XL because it has the larger capacity should be cooking for guests. You don’t have to spend that much, there are plenty out there for under $100, but if I am buying something for my kitchen I want to know it will last and it will do its job well.
It comes with its own small recipe book. I also bought another small one in Barnes and Noble. So far I have to admit I have only tried a few things – I really want to get a proper British fish and chips down. The chips are working out great, but I still haven’t quite perfected the timing of getting both fish and chips done at exactly the same time. Aside from frying though, you can do a whole myriad of things in an air fryer, from baking cakes (!) to cooking pizza. Air Frying you can do with frozen foods from the supermarket or from your own prepared fresh foods. You can Air Grill – think seafood, vegetables, Air Bake – think muffins, cupcakes, brownies and bread, even Air Roast – meats and vegetables.
Basically it is no more complicated than pulling out the basket (looks just like a fryer basket – to allow good air flow) spreading your food out in it. Putting the basket back in place and setting the time and temperature required for that particular food type. As with all types of oven you will need to preheat it to get the best results. The biggest advantages over regular frying are – little to no oil involved (I use one tablespoon of olive oil for three large chipped potatoes), easy peasy cleanup, no horrible fried smell in your house for days afterwards and no chance of getting burnt! (You, not the food.) That it of course, in addition to the fact that this one machine can cook such a varied assortment of foods.
Gordon Ramsey himself (one of my favorite chefs) is actually supporting the air frying trend, and Philips in particular. He has compiled a list of 200 recipes that you can access online at https://www.usa.philips.com/c-m-ho/philips-chef/recipe-overview-page
Everything from meat loaf to rib-eye, cream puffs to quiche! And if you’ve never tried a Ramsey recipe before, you are in for a treat! I may have to try the Toad in the Hole myself – that would be awesome! (And no, I’m not going to explain, you can Google it. It’s a northern UK dish.)
I would say every kitchen should have one (though I admit to storing our’s in the cellar/kitchen storage area, as they are rather large). My only warning being, eat it as soon as it’s cooked, do NOT try to keep it warm and eat it later. It does not taste anywhere near as good, though neither does regular fried food either! Enjoy!