The Stunning Truth About Air Fryers

Our Test Kitchen Manager learns what everybody already knows from watching all those infomercials: how to use an Air Fryer. Still, he learns it can be fun to be late to the party.

by John Kirkpatrick


Photo: Getty Images

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Yeah, so, the shelter-in-place life is bananas — n-u-t-s, bananas! When it became apparent that I’d be working from home, I went into the office to grab what I would need for the long term. I was looting my own office, and as Test Kitchen manager, "my office" includes the kitchens.

Along with everything else I needed to WFH, I grabbed the Test Kitchen Air Fryer on the way out the door. My wife had been curious about an Air Fryer because she runs an in-home daycare, and this became the perfect opportunity to test-drive an Air Fryer without having to buy one.

I stopped at the store and bought all those "cheater" frozen pre-breaded thangs. Popcorn shrimp, onion rings, "real" (please I hope they’re real…) fish fillets, shoestring fries, and finally, the ultimate guilty pleasure: tots. OMG! Tots! The whole extravaganza was to indulge in un-deep-fried deep-fried foods and not feel guilty for it.

Background: Deep-Fried Disappointment

When I was a kid, my mom bought a secondhand pot and fry basket combination out of some sentimentality. It was rarely used, and then it was just for fries. Fast-forward about a million years, and when we lived down South my wife bought a small-capacity deep fryer for her daycare lunches. But when I used it, I invariably overloaded it, leaving me with oil-soaked, burnt-oil-tasting, not-crispy food. Home deep-frying has been off my roster ever since, and it’s been pan-fried or nothing.

Is the Air Fryer Worth It? A Review

Now enter this weird moment in all our lives, and I have this Air Fryer at home. And I’ve used it beyond what I thought I would. When I cook all those "fried" things, I feel great that I’m not getting all that oil. Equally, though, I don’t like it just because I’m not getting all that oil. The Air Fryer, for the most part, makes breaded things crisp but more like moon rocks: crusty-hard, brittle, and desperately in need of a sauce. All of it — they all needed sauce.

The Air Fryer's Strength: Vegetables

Here is the truth that slowly dawned on me: between frozen treats, I discovered cooking real food in the air-fryer. Broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, even asparagus. This is where this appliance shone brilliantly, at least IMHO. It’s isn’t so much a fryer but a mini-convection oven. It roasted fresh vegetables, mmwah, so good! And, it’s easy to clean.

Conclusion: Should You Buy an Air Fryer?

In conclusion, if you have your heart set on a healthier version of those indulgent frozen foods, keep dreaming. But if you're looking for an easy-to-clean method of roasting real food without using oil, the Air Fryer just might be the device for you.

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