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Tips for an air fryer sceptic

THE WASHINGTON POST – Kitchen storage is a precious commodity. It’s one of my top concerns when considering adding a gadget or appliance to my arsenal, along with utility and price. For instance, I don’t own a toaster, nor have I invested in a pressure cooker or multicooker.

So when the air fryer entered the market and started gaining traction, I was sceptical. After all, “it’s just a small convection oven!” I proclaimed.

We have Fred van der Weij to thank for the invention of the air fryer; the Dutch inventor was on a quest for crispy french fries without much oil or hassle.

Much of the initial marketing focused on how the air fryer needed little to no additional fat to cook up crisp foods – which shoved the appliance into the diet fad section of my brain and closed the door behind it. But a pandemic sales boom made the appliance harder to ignore.

While it is “just a small convection oven”, size matters. Its reduced size makes it more efficient at cooking. This means browner, crisper food in a shorter amount of time.

I can also quickly revive leftovers to almost the same texture as when they were freshly made; use it as the toaster I refuse to purchase; and cook crispy, golden tater tots and other frozen prepared foods in a matter of minutes.

Here are some rules and tips I’ve learned along the way to get the most out of the appliance.

Air fryer chicken wings. PHOTOS: THE WASHINGTON POST
ABOVE & BELOW: Air fryer brussels sprouts; and air fryer apple hand pies. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST
PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

1. DO NOT USE NON-STICK COOKING SPRAY

Consider this your regular reminder that you should not use aerosol cans of cooking spray on nonstick cookware, which includes air fryer baskets.

“Cooking oil spray can not only burn but also leave a sticky residue,” my colleague Becky Krystal wrote.

However, spray bottles filled with oil are okay to use.

2. PREHEATING IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY

As I’ve mentioned before, you do not always need to preheat your oven. One of the main reasons I skip this step with my regular-size oven is that it can take 20 to 30 minutes.

The air fryer takes only a few minutes to preheat. But if you decide to put food in the air fryer right away, it may take a few minutes longer for items to cook.

3. COOK FOOD IN A SINGLE LAYER, IN BATCHES

The air fryer is all about – well – air. Meaning, you need to allow for good airflow to create all the browning and crisping the appliance was designed for.

You don’t want to crowd the food in the basket too much, leaving space for the air to circulate.

Depending on the size of your air fryer and the quantity of food, you may need to air fry in batches to achieve the best results.

4. MOVE THE FOOD FOR EVEN COOKING

While convection is more efficient than a standard oven, it’s still a good idea to shake or flip most items for more even cooking as the heat source is coming from above. I typically do this once about halfway through the cooking time.

There’s no need to turn off the machine, as it automatically stops as soon as you pull out the basket and will restart when it’s returned.

5. NOT ALL AIR FRYERS ARE CREATED EQUAL

In addition to size, strength among models can vary. Even in testing recipes at home and at the office, I noticed that the model at the office produced slightly browner food than the one at home.

As such, you may need to adjust time or temperature from published recipes for desired results.

AIR FRYER BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH HONEY-LEMON VINAIGRETTE

Total time: 25 minutes

Four servings (makes about four cups)

Brussels sprouts get beautifully browned and crisp when cooked in the air fryer. Here, they are simply seasoned and can be served as is, or you can drizzle the vegetables with a honey-lemon vinaigrette to make them truly shine.

Storage: Refrigerate leftover for up to four days.

Substitutions: To make this vegan, use agave syrup instead of honey in the vinaigrette.

INGREDIENTS

For the Brussels sprouts

One pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)

One tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Half teaspoon fine salt

Quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Quarter teaspoon garlic powder

For the honey-lemon vinaigrette

Two tablespoons honey

Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about one lemon)

Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One-eighth teaspoon fine salt

One-eighth teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Make the Brussels sprouts: Set the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat for about five minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder until evenly coated.

Add the vegetables to the air fryer in an even layer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are browned and crisp, shaking the basket halfway through. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter.

Make the honey-lemon vinaigrette: While the Brussels sprouts cook, in a small bowl, whisk together the honey, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until combined. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the Brussels sprouts and serve.

AIR FRYER OLD BAY CHICKEN WINGS

Total time: 30 minutes

Two servings (makes about 10 pieces)

These air fryer chicken wings are easy, quick and irresistible. Borrowing a technique for crispy oven-baked Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings, the pieces are tossed with baking powder for enhanced browning and crisping. Old Bay, the seasoning blend designed for seafood, lends its distinct flavour profile that includes celery salt, pepper, paprika and warming spices.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to three days.

INGREDIENTS

One pound chicken wings (drumettes and flats)

Two teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

One teaspoon baking powder

Blue cheese or ranch dressing, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Set the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat for about five minutes.
Place the wings in a large bowl and pat dry. In a small bowl, whisk together the Old Bay

Seasoning and baking powder to combine. Sprinkle the wings with the mixture and toss until evenly coated.

Once the fryer is ready, add the wings to the basket in a single layer evenly spaced out. Cook in batches if necessary; the wings can touch, but don’t overcrowd them. Close the basket and air fry for 25 minutes, turning the wings halfway through.

Transfer to a shallow bowl or platter, and serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping.

AIR FRYER APPLE HAND PIES

Total time: One hour 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes cooling time

12 servings (makes 12 hand pies)

Deep-frying pies made with homemade dough produces the tastiest results when it comes to hand pies, but an air fryer and store-bought pie dough make it so much easier to make them at home.

Make ahead: The uncooked hand pies can be placed on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, frozen until solid, transferred to an airtight container, and stored in the freezer for up to three months. To air-fry from frozen, add two to three minutes to the listed cooking time.

Storage: Cool completely, then place in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to two days or refrigerate for up to one week.

INGREDIENTS

Quarter-cup (55 grammes) packed light brown sugar

Two tablespoons granulated sugar

One teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Half-teaspoon ground cinnamon

One-eighth teaspoon fine salt

Two tablespoons unsalted butter

Two medium Granny Smith apples (12 to 14 ounces total), peeled, cored and diced

One package refirgerated pie crust or one homemade pie crust recipe (enough for a double-crust pie)

One large egg, beaten

Demerara or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

STEPS

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt until combined; set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about five minutes. Add the sugar mixture, stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and coats the apples, about seven minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll out each pie crust to about a 12-inch-wide circle, rotating and flipping and dusting with more flour as needed to prevent it from sticking. Using a four-inch biscuit cutter (or a four-inch-wide plate or bowl and a paring knife), cut out 12 (four-inch) circles.

For each hand pie, add about one tablespoon of the apple mixture to the centre of each circle, brush half the border with the egg, then fold the pastry over the top, seal in a half moon and crimp the edges with a fork.

Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pie crust and filling. (If freezing some or all of the hand pies for later, line the baking sheet with parchment paper and freeze them at this point.)

Set the air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat for about five minutes.

Brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash, sprinkle with demerara or turbinado sugar, and cut two small vents in the top of each.

Working in batches, add pies to the basket so that there is at least one inch of space between them and air fry for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Transfer to a platter, carefully wipe out the basket if there are any spills, and repeat with the remaining hand pies. Serve warm or at room temperature. – Aaron Hutcherson

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