But a few months ago I bought an air fryer.
These appliances are essentially countertop convection ovens that can give your food the crispiness and tenderness you get from broiling or deep-frying, but in a fraction of the time and without all the oil.
My expectations were low. But to my surprise, I discovered that this amazing little device opened the door to creating an endless variety of fun, delicious, and nutritious meals. And I can make food in 20 minutes or less, without expensive ingredients or extra cleanup.
Using my air fryer, I’ve made roasted Brussels sprouts, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and sweet potato fries that have the perfect texture and are ready in 10 minutes. I’ve made chicken nuggets at home that my 3-year-old son devoured, and organic teriyaki-flavored tofu cubes that make a great topping for a quick vegetable stir-fry or vegetable curry.
One of our favorite recipes is salmon with broccoli, soba noodles and sesame ginger sauce. We start by steaming broccoli and cooking soba noodles. Then we combine soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and fresh lime juice to make the sauce.
I put a pound of fresh salmon in our air fryer and let it cook for 12 minutes. When the salmon is cooked, we combine it with the broccoli and noodles and drizzle with the sauce. This meal takes little time and effort and tastes great. Even my 1 year old daughter scarfs it down.
Why air fryer is different
I am certainly not the first to discover the joys of cooking in the airfryer. The modern hot air fryer was introduced to the public in 2010 by consumer electronics manufacturer Philips. It was developed by a Dutch inventor, Fred van der Weij, who was looking for a way to make perfectly crispy fries without a lot of oil or hassle. Sales soared during the pandemic as people were stuck at home and had more time to cook. That reports the NPD groupmore than 25 million air fryers were sold between January 2020 and December 2021, an increase of 76 percent over the previous two-year period.
I bought my air fryer, made by Chefman, for about $70, what takes up about the same amount of space as a large coffee maker. It contains a basket with a perforated tray where the food is placed. A powerful fan above the food circulates hot air around the room.
Preheating only takes a few minutes. While it is not necessary to use oil in an air fryer, using a spray bottle to spritz a little olive or avocado oil on foods such as fresh vegetables, sweet potato fries, chicken breasts, and salmon helps keep them moist and at the same time to give it a golden brown color. – brown color.
“The perforated plate promotes air circulation around the food and that’s what produces the crispness and crunchiness on the outside and juiciness on the inside,” says Mona Dolgov, a nutritionist and cookbook author. “Your food cooks less than in an oven, and you get great results.”
Videos of mouth-watering dishes cooked in air fryers have gone viral on social media. But Dolgov noted that many of the popular items made in air fryers, such as grilled cheese, French toast and pasta chips, don’t appeal to those with health-conscious meals in mind. So she wrote “SatisFry: the cookbook for the Airfryer”, which shows people how to use air fryers to make convenient and nutritious meals and snacks.
It includes meals like a spinach, avocado, and mushroom frittata that takes about 15 minutes, and a hummus-crusted chicken that’s made with artichoke hearts, olive oil, and lemon sauce.
Air-fried vegetables can win over picky eaters
Air fryers can turn bits of carrots, parsnips, and other root vegetables into fries that are better for you (you just need a little olive oil and cornstarch). You can mix Brussels sprouts with a little olive oil, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese to make crispy Airfryer Brussels sprouts.
There are recipes for avocado fries, buffalo cauliflower snacks and zucchini chips with lemon herb dip. “My husband used to never eat a lot of vegetables. and now he eats them all the time because I put them in the air fryer and they come out great,” Dolgov said.
Air fryers can be a “huge game changer and super helpful tool for anyone looking to start a healthier routine,” says Jaclyn London, a registered dietitian and the author of “Dressing on the Side (and other nutrition myths debunked).”
For example, many of her customers enjoy eating processed meats like slick turkey and chicken, but are often shocked to find out just how much sodium these foods contain. “About 80 percent of the sodium we consume in our daily lives comes from meals we don’t make at home,” she said.
If you’re looking for an air fryer, you might want to look for one with a rotisserie function. London pointed out that a rotisserie chicken can feed a large family and provide leftovers that you can use in other meals.
“Having the option to make something at home on a rotisserie is great because you get the flavors you’re looking for but without all the salt,” she added.
There is now a burgeoning world of cookbooks devoted to the art of using air fryers. Katie Hale, a food blogger and cookbook author who grew up in Arkansas, said buying an air fryer was life-changing for her and her family.
“I grew up in the South, where fried food was everything,” she said. “I immediately loved that I could get the crispy stuff I wanted out of the fryer without all the oil.”
Hale, who has two teenage children, has written two air fryer cookbooks, including “Mediterranean Air Fryer” and “Clean Eating Air Fryer Cookbook.”
“We live a fast-paced lifestyle where more and more people have two jobs or both parents work outside the home,” she said. “Anything that makes it easier for you to feed your family healthier meals and save time is at the top of my list.”
Do you have a question about healthy eating? E-mail EatingLab@washpost.com and maybe we’ll answer your question in a future column.