Recipe Review

I Tried 5 Popular TikTok Air Fryer Recipes and Ranked Them from “Never Again” to “More, Please!”

published Jan 20, 2022
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Credit: Perry Santanachote

Every time I check my TikTok feed, I’m faced with an endless and entertaining stream of cooking hacks and recipe walkthroughs — an increasing amount of which are made in an air fryer. Some posts seem brilliant and some seem pretty ill-advised, but still I can’t help but wonder: Does it actually work? To find out, I spent a week cooking five viral recipes from TikTok. Here’s how it went and my totally subjective ranking, from worst to best. 

Credit: Perry Santanachote

5. Soy Sauce Chicken

In my feed: The popular soy sauce chicken thigh recipe by @tiffycooks looks mouthwateringly juicy with perfectly crisp skin. Tiffy marinates 2 boneless chicken thighs in 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder, 1 teaspoon sugar, and a dash of ground white pepper. The thighs marinate for 30 minutes, then cook in an air fryer, skin-side up, at 380°F for 20 minutes.

In my kitchen: At the 18-minute mark, I saw smoke wisping out of the air fryer. I pulled out the chicken and found the skin charred to a black crisp. I tried again with a second batch and checked on them after 10 minutes. The skin was already looking too dark but the meat could use more time. Three more minutes and the meat was cooked through but the skin was once again blackened — not like the glistening brown skin in Tiffy’s video at all. I could have continued tinkering with the temperature and time, but I gave the chicken a taste and thought the combination of dark soy sauce and five-spice powder was a bit too licorice- and molasses-forward for me. When it came time to scrub the burnt marinade off the air fryer basket, this recipe dropped one ranking for each time a curse word slipped through my hungry lips.

Rating: Never again. The burnt soy sauce smell is still clinging to my drywall.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

4. Taquitos

In my feed: The air fryer is supposed to make deep-fried favorites easier to cook without all that oil, but oftentimes the finished food isn’t fooling anyone — it just doesn’t have that crispy, crunchy goodness of something that’s been submerged in hot oil. But @richardeats claims these taquitos are an air-fried winner. The filling consists of 1 shredded rotisserie chicken, 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies, 4 ounces cream cheese, and 1/4 cup salsa verde. Richard wraps spoonfuls of filling in small flour tortillas, sprays them with cooking oil, and air fries at 325°F for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

In my kitchen: The filling tasted good but could use some salt (why do so many TikTok recipes skimp on salt?). I used about 2 tablespoons of filling for each 6-inch flour tortilla and there was enough filling to make 22 taquitos, which was way more than I anticipated. I could only fit seven in the air fryer basket at a time, too, so making the whole batch would have taken me over 1 1/2 hours. The taquitos definitely tasted like a healthier, non-deep-fried version of taquitos — the shells are a little hard and chewy, not shatteringly crisp — but I didn’t have a problem gobbling down four taquitos in a row with the help of a little guac, pico de gallo, and sour cream. After they cooled down a bit, however, the shells got harder and chewier. Considering that I’d normally serve taquitos as party food, that’s not going to cut it. Plus, I think deep-frying them would have actually taken way less time if I made the entire batch.

Rating: Hard pass (inspired by the texture of the cooled taquitos).

Credit: Perry Santanachote

3. Bananas with Cinnamon

In my feed: @kassandra_cross shows us how to air fry bananas as a creative snack. Just slice up 3 bananas, spray with cooking oil, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, and air fry at 400°F for 6 minutes. Then flip the bananas, sprinkle the other side with cinnamon, and air fry for another 6 minutes.

In my kitchen: These remind me of maduros — crispy and caramelized on the outsides, and soft and gooey on the inside. They were easy enough to make; the hardest part was flipping delicate and flaccid banana slices one by one. But I just don’t see myself craving this (I actually enjoy eating bananas raw) or serving it up to guests, as they’re not exactly picturesque party food. Kudos to Kassandra for thinking of a fun, novel way for people to eat more fruit, though.

Rating: Yeah, OK, you convinced me to try bananas in a new way — and my taste buds didn’t mind one bit.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

2. Cupcakes

In my feed: Want cupcakes fast? @bigmommakimbo7 whips up air fried cupcakes in silicone cupcake liners at 370°F for 10 minutes.

In my kitchen: Air frying cupcakes worked, but they were misshapen and very poofy due to the high winds in that air fryer. They look like mini popovers. For comparison, I baked a batch in the oven for 18 minutes and they came out smooth and flat. The taste and texture were almost indistinguishable, however, and once frosted, I couldn’t really tell them apart. An air fryer works well when making a smaller batch of cupcakes (mine fit nine), as they cook much faster than a conventional oven, but a box of cake mix makes enough batter for 24 cupcakes, which would need to be fried in three batches.

Rating: Great for a quick treat — because when a craving hits, every minute counts.

Credit: Perry Santanachote

1. Twisted Bacon

In my feed: A lot of cooking hacks seem gimmicky, but the twisted bacon trick (popularized by @houseofketo ) is a game-changer. It was originally made in the oven but @lowcarbstateofmind adapted it for the air fryer, somehow making a viral recipe even more viral. You twist bacon strips tightly, line them up in the air fryer basket, and air fry at 275°F for 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.

In my kitchen: The bacon was crispy with the ideal amount of fat rendered out. I’m already a big bacon fan and this novel way of prepping it made me enjoy it even more. The twisted shape actually gives the bacon a different mouthfeel and chewing experience. And the space-saving shape means you can fit more bacon in the basket. The only downside is waiting an excruciating 40 minutes for bacon to cook while the house fills up with its intoxicating aroma. 

Rating: Don’t tell my cardiologist, but I’ve made this every day this week.

Looking for more things to air fry? Check out our list of surprising foods you can cook in an air fryer.