I spent a week with an air fryer – are they worth all the hype?
Finally I bowed to pressure and got hold of an air fryer to try out. Here is what I found out from a week of frying air.
At first, I was surprised at the reality of what an air fryer actually is: Not a hi-tech device that cleverly injects minimal amounts of hot oil into a chamber and ‘vortexes’ it through the air to perfectly and healthily cook my nuggets (as I envisioned), but just a basic portable fan oven.
I put my initial disappointment to one side and scoured the internet for interesting recipes to try:
Saturday: Crispy chicken
Today’s meal was to be what we call crispy chicken wraps in the Wall household. Breaded chicken that is usually shallow-fried to perfection by myself, and then wrapped with salad and veges. Today it changed to air-fried crispy chicken wraps. I kept the recipe the same (flour, eggs and breadcrumbs), sprayed with some oil, and into the basket went the carefully prepared morsels. Cooked at 200°C for about 15 minutes with a few shakes along the way. What came out was somewhat disappointing and prompted my eldest son to ban me from ever using the air fryer again. It was dry and nowhere near as crispy as the shallow-fried version, and nowhere near as tasty. Clearly I had overcooked it, but it was also lacking any kind of fried flavour. Just like doing it in the normal oven.
Crispy chicken = FAIL
Despite the ban, secretly I hauled out the plastic barrel of fun again to cook up some home-made burger patties. I was quickly found out as the air fryer emits a certain hot plastic smell that alerted my offspring to my breaking of the new household law. Well, it was too late! The patties were in and nothing was stopping me now.
This time I didn’t want to overcook the patties so I checked them with a meat thermometer to make sure of cooking perfection (about 70-75°C). Normally we grill the burgers so no oil is needed, and they came out pretty good from the air fryer – moist inside and slightly crispy outside.
Burgers = PASS
Working from home this week so I could fire up the air fryer without any complaints during school hours. Today I tried out a simple toastie – bacon, tomato and cheese on granary bread. This was a big win but hey, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients, can you?! What was great about this way of toasting was that none of it was squashed together like in a traditional sandwich press. It was all crispy and melted to perfection. Yum.
Toastie = BIG WIN
Tuesday is sausage day in my house, and what’s good with sausages? Yep, eggs and chips (well I am English, after all). You can’t air-fry an egg, surprisingly (it would drip through the basket perforations), but you can do the chips. Normally I make home-made chips by cutting up spuds, soaking in water to get rid of the starch, and then tossing in a teaspoon of oil and some salt before baking in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The process was the same for the air fryer, apart from the time, which was less – about 20 minutes. The result? Really good, crunchy chips but not overcooked, and far better than in the oven. Kids happy, too, which is the main test. Fryer ban temporarily lifted.
So good we ate them all and I forgot to take a photo…
Chips = BIG WIN
Wednesday: Spicy chickpeas
Wednesday’s mince-based meal wasn’t really appropriate for the air fryer, so I decided to google a few snack options, and came up with spicy, crispy chickpeas. This was easy as to prep – drain the tin, add a little oil and some spices, mix and then into the fryer for about 12 minutes. What came out was great, just like those bags of chickpea snacks you can buy for about $3-4, but cheaper (a tin is about $1) and there was a heap more (400g vs 110g). They were a tiny bit too spicy as I was quite generous with the cayenne pepper, but that stopped the kids eating them all (if any).
Spicy chickpeas = WIN (for me, anyway)
Thursday: Butterfly of lamb
Back to normal for the air fryer today, with a butterfly of lamb to be roasted. I call it mini-lamb roast, cue the children – “I hate mini-lamb roast!”. Cue Dad = “it speaks highly of you too!”
Rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and add some chopped rosemary, along with a sprig. Roasted in the barrel for about 15 minutes. I checked the internal temp with a meat thermometer to make sure it was cooked. Done to perfection, moist inside, crispy outer, and the smell of lamb and rosemary overrode the air roaster’s nasty plastic odour. Now if only my children actually liked lamb. Air fryer ban reinstated.
Butterfly of lamb = WIN
Last day with the air fryer (sob), and another day for snacking. This time potato chippies (or as I correctly call them, crisps). Never had any success making these in a normal oven so thought the air fryer might deliver. Only needed a single potato – used a mandolin to slice finely. Google tells me the secret to crispy chippies is to soak the potato slices in water twice for 15 minutes each time, drain and then pat dry, so quite a lot of prep. Then toss in oil and salt. You are supposed to cook them just in single layers, but that would mean I’d have about eight chips only, so I threw caution to the wind and just chucked them all in and regularly slid out the tray to separate and turn the chips.
The result was great too, very much like those expensive ‘kettle chips’ you can buy. The single spud delivered plenty of chippies and the hungry animals in the house gobbled them down in about two minutes flat. So a fair amount of work, but an excellent result.
Chippies/crisps = BIG WIN
I was on a roll so thought I’d give another snack a go – this one being crispy pasta chips. This recipe involved boiling pasta normally, then adding a little oil and spices/herbs along with some parmesan. Then into the air fryer for about 12 minutes.
The result? Well they were certainly crispy, but tasted like eating dried pasta straight out of the bag. I then realised all I had done was boil the pasta to make if soft, only then to dry it out in the air fryer. I felt like an evil energy waster.
Crispy pasta chips = ENVIRONMENTALLY UNFRIENDLY FAIL
I was pleasantly surprised by most of the recipes I tried in the air fryer, but I’m not sure it would convince me to buy one. They are somewhat bulky and ugly products and I don’t understand why this barrel aesthetic was chosen for some of the models; I feel that a built-in one would be a much better option for a family. Current models would likely be most useful for single or couple households, or students on a budget. They really aren’t fryers though, right? How about “air baker”?