I'm in love with an appliance, and I'm ready to go public as being pro-air fryer. I'm sure you've heard of them and you're almost definitely curious. Maybe you're even a hater. I kinda was myself. Frying — with air? Is it healthier than deep frying? Healthy-ish? Or an infomercial load of crap?
Well, what you need to know, and may or may not know already, is that an air fryer is a basically a glorified convection oven, shrunken down to countertop size and given a fancy name. Super-hot air circulates, cooks and crisps up your food sans oil in a pretty short amount of time, and you can use it for grilling, baking and roasting, too.
I received my Philips Avance XL Digital Air Fryer as a gift, and it's been a game-changer in my kitchen — er, technically my living room — ever since. (I'll explain that later.)
Buy: Philips Avance XL Digital Air Fryer, $300 at Williams Sonoma
First Impressions on my New Air Fryer
Admittedly, I'm not the most committed (or patient) cook. Most days by the time I get home it's after 8 p.m. and all I want to do is order in. So when my air fryer arrived, I half expected it would soon be relegated to the cabinet above my refrigerator, which has basically become a graveyard of appliances that failed to make mealtime magic — a rice cooker, a pasta maker, a stovetop smoker. They all just take too long. The best appliance that's gotten me closest to dinner nirvana is probably my slow cooker, and even that requires the discipline to get things going in the morning, when frankly, I'm not the most motivated.
After unboxing the thing, I still waited to use it for about a week. There's something weirdly intimidating about it, although now that I know the ropes I swear a monkey could use it. Part of my hesitation had to do with size. Yes, it's smaller than a full-size oven, but it's still pretty mammoth. It's a giant orb-shaped appliance that was just too large for my postage stamp-sized kitchen. So yes, I placed it on a wooden dining chair right in front of a window in my living room. Ideal? No, but it was the best make-shift countertop solution I could find. To be fair, you can find smaller (and cheaper) models, so don't let size (or price) discourage you.
Using My New Air Fryer
Finally one random Sunday, I got a hankering for buffalo wings and decided to put the fryer to the test. I made a batch without oil and, to my surprise, they were pretty darn good. My boyfriend's batch, dipped in flour and drizzled with oil, was better. But I couldn't deny the results or help but marvel at the cook time — just over 20 minutes for wings taken out of the fridge. My next challenge: crinkle-cut butternut squash fries. I learned I can have those ready in about 24 minutes and that they are my new favorite side dish. (I have since gotten the extra rack for the fryer, so I can fry twice the amount of squash in the same amount of time.)
I've yet to bake a cake or make a pizza in there, so stay tuned. But I even prefer to heat up leftovers and grilled chicken breast in my air fryer, as opposed to the oven or the microwave, because things just turn out better and/or faster. Although I cringe to use the word, stuff that comes out of my air fryer is just more ... moist. In the summer, the air fryer's a godsend for my small apartment, where turning on the oven really does create a lot of heat. And I have to say that it's better at containing cooking odors as well, which makes a difference when your bedroom is right next to your kitchen.
We've had our bumps, like the time I was having a dinner party and used the fryer to heat up frozen spring rolls, which ended in smoke-alarm hysteria. And it's not the most fun thing to clean if food cakes onto the metal basket. And again, it's in my living room, which is not a good look.
I know a lot of people (and this very site!) say you don't need an air fryer. And maybe you don't. But if you love crispy food (and are just a little bit lazy in the kitchen), definitely think twice about it. Or at least don't make fun of me for how much I love my own!
Do you have an air fryer? Do you love it? Are you against air fryers in favor of your oven? Tell us in the comments below!