Get over your fear of frying.
Often touted as a way to enjoy rich, crispy foods without remorse or unhealthy effects, air fryers are the subject of infomercials and beloved by homemakers and parent bloggers alike. Even celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse embraces the hype, touting his own line of them and reworking some of his signature dishes for the air fryer. As someone who’s endlessly interested in kitchen gadgets and gimmicks, I love scouring lists of must-have equipment and considering those against my essential collection: pressure cooker, slow cooker, and Vitamix. My core kitchen apparatuses now ring in at four: I’ve added an air fryer to the mix.
There are plenty of things to love about air fryers. Because they cook food in hot, circulating air, as opposed to oils or other fats, they eliminate added calories and fat, making for healthier eats. Maybe even better, air fryers typically cook food in about half the time of a conventional oven. And every cook who struggles with heat in a tiny kitchen will adore the fact that air fryers don’t overwhelm small spaces with stifling heat; in fact, I hardly notice it.
And you can cook pretty much anything in an air fryer. I initially used it as a way to make the bulk of super easy, fast toddler lunches like frozen vegan veggie burgers and french fries. But how useful is it, really? I grabbed some fresh and frozen breakfast and brunch items to air-fry to see how the air fryer measures up.
My omnivore husband selected Trader Joe’s frozen breakfast burritos, quiche, and feta and caramelized onion mini pastries, as well as bacon and eggs. Since I’m a vegan, I air-fried quick-marinated tofu and hash browns. Here are the results.
Frozen Burritos, Quiche, and Mini Pastries
We were apprehensive because the directions included wrapping the burrito in foil, and the pastries had a special tray they were to supposed to be backed in—neither of which can be used in the air fryer. Even cooking them for half the time as the oven was too long, and the filling exploded, leaving a cavernous, too-crispy exterior. The quiche and mini pastries, though, were perfect. I suspect burritos may not be the best food for the air fryer, though I eagerly anticipate more research on this topic.
Some cooks flip their bacon midway throughout, but not my husband. He lined the tray with bacon and watched Luke Cage while he waited for the timer to go off. When it did, he had what amounted to a huge piece of bacon. I’m unsure how to prevent this in the air fryer since there’s no way to press bacon from within (at least not with mine, which is one of the cheaper models).
I made my husband frozen hash browns with freshly-cracked eggs on top, as well as some Pinterest-y ham and egg cups. He loved them both—especially the fact that they cooked while we had coffee.
I love hash browns, but it seems like I can never really enjoy them unless I am committed to ingesting more grease than I want—plus, since I’m rarely hungover anymore, it just seems pointless. The hash browns I made with only a drizzle of olive oil were marvelously light, crisp, tender, and not at all greasy. I consider an air fryer a worthy investment by virtue of this alone.
When I discovered this recipe for air-fried tofu, I was thrilled. Tofu that’s crisp on the outside and velvety on the inside in under thirty minutes? Yes, please. I used a tomato-based marinade, and was excited to try this variety for brunch because it’s different than the standard tofu scramble. Its hearty texture didn’t disappoint.
Among the people I know who love air fryers: a college freshman, a grandfather whose gallbladder removal necessitates a low-fat diet, and a blogger. I take my place among this diverse crew, united in the belief that air fryers are a legitimately useful addition to kitchen arsenals everywhere.
Appalachian born and bred, Brook Bolen is a freelance writer who lives in Atlanta with her husband, daughter, and pit bulls. She makes a hellaciously delicious tofu scramble.