Kitchn Love Letters

The $4 Grocery I Buy on Repeat for Quick Air Fryer Meals

published Dec 10, 2022
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pizza and pizza dough made in an air fryer, with various toppings in small bowls around the pizza crust and dough
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

My air fryer love affair started with potatoes and grew as I air-fried cauliflower, tilapia, apple turnovers, you name it. The appliance affection peaked, though, once I air-fried my family’s favorite food: pizza.

Air-fried pizzas are sized for personal pies, where everyone can add toppings they love. The pizzas air-fried to crisp and chewy perfection and, after a several-pies-long stretch of success, I began to wonder what other doughy delights I could create with my favorite air-fryer shortcut: store-bought refrigerated pizza dough.

My culinary curiosity has led me from breakfast through dinner and across a world of cuisines, all thanks to the mighty pairing of the air fryer and a refrigerated dough.

What’s So Great About Refrigerated Pizza Dough?

Pizza crusts come in all styles and shapes, but they all start with the same base of flour, salt, water, and yeast. Virtual high fives to all of you who add “making pizza dough” to your meal prep sessions. For me, grabbing a bundle of ready-made dough each week is exactly the type of supermarket shortcut that helps me cruise to the dinnertime finish line.

When it comes to raw rounds of dough, you have several choices: fresh, canned, and frozen. My grocer stocks freshly made and ready-to-bake pizza dough in a small refrigerator right in the bakery (complete with cheese, sauce, and pepperoni nearby). I’ve found that this style of dough is the closest to homemade, and made with the same ingredients I would use in my own kitchen.

Canned tubes of pizza dough and frozen dough have a longer shelf life, so they are useful for keeping on hand during busy seasons when grocery runs are not as regular. The texture of the canned pizza dough is fluffier than a standard dough, but unlike refrigerated dough (which needs to sit at room temperature) and frozen dough (that has to be thawed), it’s ready to use right away.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What’s the Best Way to Use Refrigerated Pizza Dough?

There is no faster or tastier way to prep pizza than with the air fryer. The circulating heat of the air fryer produces perfectly crisp-tender pizza crusts, calzones, rolls, and more. Try making individual pies for the whole family or fold the dough over the filling for hand-held mini calzones.

You can cook the dough directly in the basket or tray of the air fryer, or create a parchment paper sling for easy lifting. The air fryer heats up and cooks the dough quickly, so there’s no need to wait for your oven to reach its temperature limit. It’s perfect for parties too; you can prep the dough in advance and use the air fryer for reheating.

Once you have your dough on hand the possibilities are endless. You can turn the dough into bagels or beignets, or try shaping the dough into rounds and air-frying them. After the dough is cooked and golden, toss with garlic butter and parsley for quick garlic rolls or coat in butter and cinnamon sugar for a sweet doughnut hole surprise.

What is your favorite way to use pizza dough in the air fryer? Share your ideas in the comments.