It’s NOT just a gimmick
In the words of the immortal Alton Brown (more or less, I’m paraphrasing) you should scrap your unitaskers. A unitasker is any kitchen instrument that exists to perform a single, very niche function; a quesadilla maker, fruit slicers shaped like the fruit they slice, herb scissors, etc. These things take up counter space, get stuck and jam your kitchen drawers, or get regifted to someone you don’t much like.
An air fryer is a highly specialized kitchen gadget, sure, but it’s not anything like the abundance of other goofy kitchen gadgets out there. Sure you can fry some frozen tater tots in it and they’ll come out just fine, but it’s so much more useful than that. As long as you pick up an air fryer that avoids some of the common pitfalls we discovered in the first air fryer we bought, you’ll have an incredibly dynamic and versatile kitchen gadget that will proudly earn the space it occupies on your counter.
So what IS an air fryer?
Basically an air fryer is a convection oven; it cooks food by circulating hot air around it, but the air fryer is designed to do it much faster and more quickly. Their typically cone-shaped bodies allow a tornado of superhot air to cook your food to crispy perfection while also heating the interior so you get evenly cooked food that rivals oil frying. In the world of frozen french fries and chicken tenders, the air fryer is brilliant because it cooks them nearly identically to deep fat frying without the, well, fat. No risk of splashing oil, no BUYING oil, and no messy cleanup.
As for its applications to a keto dieter, I’ve found that a good coating of pulverized pork rinds works wonders – as long as it’s adhered to the food properly, it will crisp up and as the meat cooks the pork rind breadcrumbs will form a fantastic coating. I’ve also found that freshly grated Parmesan works great as a breading as well, because it too crisps up nicely.
Fast food but not fast-food
The biggest benefit of the air fryer is how quickly it can cook anything. For instance, a breaded chicken breast might take 30 minutes in our regular oven but the air fryer will have it cooked in 10 typically. Now that farmer’s market season is upon us, one of our favorite spring crops is asparagus and our air fryer will roast them perfectly in about 10 minutes. In fact, this is the recipe we use:
Air-fried (roasted?) froasted asparagus
- 1 lb of asparagus stalks, ideally on the smaller side
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil or bacon grease
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp minced dried onion
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp red pepper flake
- Fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt, to taste
Wash the asparagus and cut the woody parts of the stalks off. Toss in a bowl with the fat of your choosing, and then sprinkle with the seasonings. Toss to combine and then put an even, single layer of asparagus in the basket of your air fryer at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, checking at 7 minutes. Continue roasting until you’ve reached your desired doneness.
This recipe takes about 3 minutes to prepare and yikes – it’s delicious and healthy. Also, I may have mentioned this but it’s fast. Protein is similarly easy to cook – just toss a few chicken breasts in and let them cook at 375 for about 10 minutes. You’ll need to check with a thermometer to ensure that the food is at temp, but it should be and fast faster with less hassle than a traditional oven or stove top.
It’s a great tool for keto because it cooks so quickly, and that’s a huge deal when you might be the only person in your household eating a keto diet. I have often toss in a seasoned protein and some raw green beans, cauliflower, or broccoli, set the timer and then went and did something else. I come back and everything is roasted to perfection. Because it cooks so quickly, food that typically dries out during its cook won’t dry out; instead you’ll have juicy, delicious meat and crunchy-yet-supple vegetables.
It’s honestly like a little extra oven but if I’m not cooking a large meal for my entire family, or if I’m making something that’s not keto for them, my air fryer sets me up with a one-person meal.
What to look for in an air fryer
Honestly I’ve owned two so far and the reason I’ve owned two is because the first one was just too small. While a compact air fryer is probably great for one person, for my family, I needed something larger. That’s the biggest concern; space. I don’t recall the brand of the first one I bought but this is the one that I personally own
It’s manual, with a dial that’s basically an egg timer, and a dial that controls the temperature, but digital ones have tons of great settings, specific to proteins and various frozen foods. I am completely happy with my manual one, but there’s something to be said about making something easy even easier. In practice, however, it all comes back to size – mine is 5.6 quarts, though you’re going to want something with either multiple layers or as much wide surface area as possible. You don’t want to stack your food, ideally, so a wider basket should be your focus.
If you’re interested in more bells and whistles, more qualified people than I have compared and contrasted many different types of air fryers, what works and what doesn’t. I highly recommend you inform yourself and consider what you want before you make a purchase. I will reiterate that a manual air fryer with enough cooking capacity works just fine for me, so don’t think you need one powered by ancient magic or a hypercomputer to cook great meals.
There’s only good reasons to get an air fryer
The only reason I can think of to NOT get an air fryer is that you don’t have counter space, and you can make counter space so that’s not even a good reason. If something happened to this one, I would without a doubt buy another one. I’m not a shill for the air fryer industry, I just really, really love this thing.
Do you have an air fryer and do you just love it so much? What’s your favorite air fryer recipe? I would love to know so I can also cook it and then eat it because that’s a thing I like to do.