Considering an air fryer? Think of it as a companion to your microwave

Illustration for article titled Considering an air fryer? Think of it as a companion to your microwave
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The reason there is not already an air fryer in every kitchen in America is because of the fear it is a “gizmo appliance,” which is understandable. We live in a country where millions of people have dropped cold hard cash on everything from George Foreman grills to wifi-enabled coffeemakers, and rarely do these things end up changing our lives. It doesn’t matter if the person endorsing the machine is Emeril Lagasse or Jesus H. Christ—we’re all wary of overspending on highly specific equipment we might not get a lot of use out of.

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As I’ve explained previously in a multitude of air fryer recipes, these “miracle machines” are simply small, high-powered convection ovens, and they “fry” by surrounding foods with rapidly cycling hot air instead of submerging them in hot oil. While that’s a nifty capability that can produce delicious vegetables, breakfast treats, and desserts, you might still be asking: Why take the leap? What makes this kitchen appliance worthy of its countertop space?

Here’s my strongest argument in favor of the air fryer: stop thinking of it as a fryer, and start thinking of it as a microwave for un-microwaveable foods. Roughly 90% of Americans own a microwave, and we’ve all thrown stuff in there that we shouldn’t have, just because we’re impatient. I mean, I know all the proper ways to reheat a slice of pizza, none of which involve the microwave—but some mornings I refuse to wait more than 90 seconds to claw at my leftovers. Some people use the microwave to make baked potatoes even though the results are less than ideal, because you don’t always want to heat up your entire oven for a few measly potatoes. And what about Hot Pockets, which come out of the microwave unappetizingly soft to the touch? The point is, the microwave is a kitchen staple that sometimes doesn’t get the job done the way we’d like it to. And in those situations, the air fryer is your friend.

Reheating food in an air fryer isn’t quite as quick as using the microwave, but it will get the job done in a fraction of the time your stove or oven would. I can heat up just about anything that’s been hanging out in the fridge in under 7 minutes, and can usually heat things directly from the freezer in under 15. It takes 4 whole minutes to heat up a slice of leftover pizza, but its crispy crust and brown, bubbling cheese are well worth waiting for. Now that my air fryer has blessed me with powers of pizza resurrection, I can never go back to the life I knew before. And I find new uses for it all the time; I have used it in some capacity nearly every day for the past year.

So if you’re weighing whether to buy an air fryer, think first of all about how you use your microwave, and by extension, how often you’re missing out on crispy, crunchy foods. There’s a chance it’ll be the best $40 you ever spend.

Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.

DISCUSSION

I got an Amazon gift card from my boss as a Christmas gift, and used it to buy an air fryer. If you are a lover of roasted vegetables, do not hesitate to buy one of these. Absolutely perfect roasted asparagus takes 5-6 minutes (depending on the thickness), no preheating necessary. Green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, every vegetable I have thrown in there has come out amazing. I’m so excited to be able to keep on roasting vegetables this summer without worrying about heating up the whole damn apartment by turning on the oven.

I will say though, that another thing it makes to perfection are premade hashbrown patties from the freezer section of the grocery store. I don’t eat them very often, but they come out of that air fryer virtually indistinguishable from the hottest and freshest you’ve ever had them at McDonald’s. If you are hungover, or hormonal, or just craving salt in the morning, they taste like fucking ambrosia.