As far as countertop appliances go, air fryers have particularly passionate advocates... and particularly passionate detractors.
Some swear by this tool’s ability to quickly fry vegetables, meats, doughs, leftovers and frozen snacks without the use of oil, while others view air fryers as overrated and overpriced products that clutter your counter. Hydration Backpack
If you fall into the first category (or if you’re an air fryer newbie who’s intrigued by the possibilities), then a knowledge of which foods are most conducive to this cooking method will prove useful, as will an understanding of which foods never belong in an air fryer.
We asked chefs, cookbook authors and recipe developers to offer their opinions, and they gave us this list of five foods that thrive in the air fryer and five foods that do just the opposite.
If you want to make vegetables with crispy exteriors and warm, tender interiors without compromising their nutrition by frying them in oil, the air fryer is the perfect tool. One hearty veggie that air fries especially well is the Brussels sprout.
“As long as the sprouts are seasoned accordingly and prepped well before they’re placed in the air fryer, you can make them work,” said Mike Sheerin , the executive chef of François Frankie in Chicago.
The “seasoning and prepping” process that Sheerin mentions can be done by drizzling the sprouts with olive oil, adding a hefty pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and using your hands to toss the sprouts until they’re fully coated. That will allow you to maintain the interior moisture while also getting a crunchy outside. “The crunchiness is so satisfying,” said Monica Lynn , a recipe developer and the author of “ 5 Square Low-Carb Meals .”
Try this recipe: Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts from Well Plated
Like Brussels sprouts, potatoes excel in the air fryer because this cooking method gives them a “crispy outside and tender inside,” said Yankel Polak, the head chef and culinary director of ButcherBox . He added that the starch content of potatoes “works really well with this appliance.” The air frying method offers impressive potato-cooking versatility, working for French fries, home fries, potato skins, “roasted” potatoes and hash browns.
Try this recipe: Easy Air Fryer Potatoes from Le Creme de la Crumb
Plantains are also starchy plants, which gives them an edge where air frying is concerned. “ Plantains easily dry and cook in air fryers because they are more solid with less external moisture content,” said Michael Haas, the owner and recipe developer behind Angry BBQ .
Try this recipe: Air Fryer Plantains from Piping Pot Curry
Now we come to this writer’s personal favorite air fryer dish: the fried chickpea fritters known as falafel. The air fryer does a masterful job of “ building a quick external crust while warming the interior,” said Olivia Roszkowski, a chef-instructor of health-supportive culinary arts at the Institute of Culinary Education . The process is as efficient as it is effective; in less than 15 minutes, you can air fry a dozen falafel to perfection.
Try this recipe: Air Fryer Falafel from Simply Recipes
When it comes to air-fried meats, our experts largely agreed that chicken lends itself especially well to this form of cooking. “ The fat content in the meat and the skin of the chicken allows the meat to stay juicy while the skin gets nice and crispy,” said Trisha Pérez Kennealy, a culinary educator and owner of the Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington, Massachusetts.
When cooking “chicken tenders with a crunchy coating like panko, the air circulation in the air fryer ensures even cooking, crispiness and a beautiful color,” Kennealy said.
Polak also likes to cook breaded chicken in the air fryer, and he recommended the following preparation steps: “ To ensure [that] breading stays on the chicken, make sure to moisten each piece with a swipe of olive oil or mustard. Additionally, don’t put TOO much breading on ― this can lead it to being blown off by the airflow of the appliance.”
Try this recipe: Air Fryer Chicken Breast from Little Sunny Kitchen
Some air fryer ads and sponsored influencer posts insist that the air fryer can be used to cook absolutely anything without a drop in quality. As much as we’d love to believe that, the facts don’t support that claim. Case in point: the classic hamburger.
“Unless you like your burgers well done, leave them out of the air fryer,” said Anna Vocino, the cookbook author and recipe developer behind Eat Happy Kitchen. “Air fryers are not ideal for grilling red meat. You’d be able to get the inside of a burger to medium rare, but the outside wouldn’t get that ‘char’ that you want on a burger. Plus, it’s really messy.”
Several of our experts reminded us that air fryers and deep fryers are not the same thing, and some items that work beautifully in a deep fryer aren’t suitable for air frying. “Foods that have wet batters, like onion rings” are a key example, Kennealy said, explaining that air frying “ makes it harder to get the batter to set and become crispy.” In most cases, the result is a texturally-unsatisfying bite that leaves a sticky mess of batter all over your air fryer.
It stands to reason that placing fresh greens like kale in an air fryer would produce crisp “chips” ideal for snacking, but Polak said the convection oven-style air circulation in these fryers will cause “greens like kale or spinach to fly all over the place and cook unevenly.” For that reason, Polak advised us to “stick with a normal oven” when making kale chips.
Cheese, like wet batter, can’t be its best self when cooked in an air fryer. “An air fryer is actually NOT a deep fryer. When you make something like a mozzarella stick in a deep fryer, an instant outer crust is formed,” Polak said. “In an air fryer, this does not happen, and you’ll instead end up with a gooey, cheesy mess.”
The trouble with cooking bacon strips in an air fryer lies in both their fattiness and their size. “ Bacon is a fatty food, and when it is cooked in an air fryer, the fat can drip down and cause smoke or splatter,” said Brenda Peralta, a recipe developer for FeastGood.com. “This can make the bacon difficult to cook evenly, and it can also produce a lot of smoke and odors.”
Peralta also told us that “a bacon strip is a small and delicate food, and it can be difficult to flip or remove from the air fryer basket without breaking it.” If you like to cook bacon in batches, then Peralta also has some bad news on that front: “The air fryer basket may not be large enough to accommodate a large quantity of bacon. This can make it difficult to cook a lot of bacon at once, which can be inconvenient if you are cooking for a group.”
Don’t have an air fryer yet? Check out our guide!
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