Any tool that makes people more efficient in the kitchen and more effective in reaching health goals seems to sell. The slow cooker launched the trend. The rice cooker had its day before the pressure cooker held court, and even the spiralizer had five minutes of fame until grocery stores started selling already-spiralized noodles.
The air fryer makes the crispiest vegetables in half the time of roasting, turns traditionally unhealthful foods into healthful ones (think chicken wings or General Tso’s chicken), reheats leftovers more efficiently than an oven and more tastily than a microwave, and perfects snack foods such as kale chips and crispy chickpeas.
Our family is eating more winter vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and kale since we bought our air fryer, because it makes these foods taste delicious and cooks them in the time it takes to set the table and gather everyone for dinner. It is the healthiest and swiftest way to crisp any food.
An air fryer is a countertop convection oven, meaning it circulates hot air above and below the food, cooking and crisping evenly and efficiently. The air fryer cooks more quickly than a countertop convection oven and is more suited to baked goods. The food is placed in a slide-out basket that is easy to fill, quick to empty and usually dishwasher safe. The devices range in size from about 2 to 6 quarts and in price from about $70 to $300.
You can cook traditionally fried foods with radically less oil; imagine french fries and wings without splattered grease and unhealthful trans fats. You can make almost anything in an air fryer that you would normally cook in an oven; many of the new models have settings to roast, bake and grill, too.
My kids and I have been playing with our new 6-quart air fryer, and here are some of our favorite dishes:
• Roasted chicken — expertly done with just 2 teaspoons of oil in 30 minutes.
• Chicken wings — surprisingly delicious and much healthier.
• Sweet potato, white potato, winter squash, zucchini and avocado fries in 15 to 20 minutes.
• Brussels sprout, kale, beet, shiitake and apple chips in five to 10 minutes.