Before I got an air fryer for Christmas, I had one question – Do air fryers work? Today I’m sharing the ins and outs of the air fryer + some of my favorite vegan air fryer recipes.
Many times readers have reached out with follow-up questions about air fryers. So I thought I’d put together a round-up of everything you need to know about air fryers.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance, roughly the size of a juicer. They have been around for a while, but it seems that recently, they’ve taken the vegan blogosphere by storm.
Do air fryers work?
When you put food into the air fry basket, it is cooked by blasting hot air around it. The circulation of heat moves at such a high rate of speed that it cooks quickly and provides crispy results, unlike a microwave, which leaves food soft.
Air fryers have a timer and adjustable heat controller. Very little babying is required when it comes to cooking with an air fryer. Just an occasional shake of the basket to make sure that the food is evenly browning is all that’s needed.
Salad with air-fried chickpeas, air-fried tofu, dolmas, and olives
What is the best air fryer?
There seem to be 2 brands that are the most highly recommended and that people are the happiest with long-term.
The first is GoWise, which is the kind I purchased. Of the two options, it’s the less expensive one. 3.7 works for a family of one or two and 5.8 for families of four or more. That said, there are times that I wish I had a larger one, especially on evenings when I want to cook multiple courses in the air fryer.
(Update: I now have a 5.8 size GoWise air fryer, and it’s really convenient because there’s plenty of room for everything to spread out. Get all of the details on that one here.)
The more expensive air fryer option is from Philips. Oprah had it on her 2016 favorites list. People seem to love it, but it is quite a bit pricier.
Air-fried vegetable potstickers
Do you have to use oil with an air fryer?
For the most part, no.
Adding a little oil can help with browning or with getting salt & spices to stick to the food in question. However, if you’re anti-oil, a lot can be done in the air fryer without it.
That said, I’m not anti-oil. So I often use a spritz of oil for extra browning and to keep things from sticking.
If I’m making frozen potstickers, for example, I just give a spritz of cooking spray, and the potstickers are totally brown and crisp as if I’d drenched them in oil. I never used to deep fry my potstickers, but now I get that deep fried texture without the added calories.
(To cook Thai vegetable gyoza, one of my favorite vegan Trader Joe’s products, I air fry at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, stopping once or twice to shake.)
If a product was cooked with oil already and frozen like tater tots, spring rolls, or Gardein, I leave the oil off. It’s not needed.
Air-fried chick’n sliders & homemade potato chips
How long and at what temperature do frozen products need to cook in the air fryer?
Generally speaking, it’s the same temperature that’s listed in the directions on the bag and half the time listed.
So if the bag says 400 degrees & 20 minutes, set the air fryer for 400 degrees and 10 minutes. The time may vary depending on your machine, if it’s already warmed up, how full it is, etcetera. So be sure to check during the cooking process, so that you don’t burn anything.
Also, if the package lists that it needs to be cooked at 425 degrees, but your machine doesn’t go that high, just go as high as it can, and then cook for a while longer.
Marinated lentils, air-fried french fries & sauteed kale
Is air frying better than baking on parchment paper?
Yes and no.
I’d say that things like homemade french fries, for example, are about the same quality as if you’d baked them on parchment. Things that are already oily, like tater tots, are a little better in the air fryer. They get an extra overall crispiness that they don’t on parchment.
There are some things that I wouldn’t recommend doing either on parchment or an air fryer. For something with really wet and drippy batter, deep fat frying is the only way to go.
What are the perks of air frying?
No warm up time.
With the oven, you have to wait until it gets to the correct heat to start cooking. With the air fryer, it’s ready right away.
Food cooks in roughly half the time in an air fryer versus the oven.
So if you’re cooking Gardein, for example, instead of waiting 20 minutes for something to be done, it’s ready in 10.
I’ve made kale chips in the air fryer, and they come out feather light in a lot less time and more evenly done than the ones cooked in the oven. (Plus, unlike a dehydrator which many people use for that kind of thing, you’re not waiting around for 12 hours before you can have kale chips.)
Food can go into the air fryer straight from frozen.
No thawing required. In the past when I used to cook things like breakfast patties in a skillet, I’d thaw before cooking. You don’t have to worry about that with the air fryer.
No parchment paper needed.
I buy the parchment paper that is unbleached, and that can run about $5. In the air fryer, I don’t have to use it, which is a savings.
It’s easy to do just one or two small items without filling a skillet with oil.
Want just one spring roll with your stir-fry or a couple of potstickers with lunch? No problem.
Easy clean up.
When I am shallow frying things on the stove, food can get kind of stuck on the pan. That doesn’t happen in the air fryer basket. Just a simple wipe and it’s clean.
The double basket can also go into the dishwasher; although, I haven’t done that. It doesn’t take long to wipe it out, and then it’s ready to go.
You’re saving on energy costs since you don’t have to heat up the oven, which could make your house warmer in the summer. And because it cooks so much faster, it’s also less time that you’re using energy.
Tofu scramble & air fried tater tots
Vegetable rice & an air-fried spring roll
What are the drawbacks to an air fryer?
If you have limited counter space, an air fryer is bulky.
With dimensions of about 9 inches wide and a foot tall, it doesn’t tuck easily away into a closet. Luckily, I have loads of counter space. Mine hasn’t left the kitchen since I got it over a month ago.
If you overfill it, the results are really underwhelming.
I was feeling impatient one evening, and instead of cooking some things in the air fryer and some in the oven, I decided to pile it all in to the air fryer.
What resulted were soggy chips and Gardein chick’n strips that lost all of their coating in the process. So you’ll either want to get a size that’s large enough for your needs, be willing to cook in batches, or remember to allow enough time for other courses to be done on the stove or in the oven.
(A tip on the Gardein or Trader Joe’s chick’n strips: Don’t flip them until they are almost completely cooked. If you flip them before they are browning, you’ll lose the breading in the move.)
Not everything can be cooked in an air fryer.
It isn’t one-for-one with a deep fat fryer, for example. If you want to do very wet batters, you’ll still have to use a traditional fryer or coat the batter in panko to dry it out. Otherwise, the drippy batter will whip around the inside of the fryer and not coat the food in a satisfying manner.
(A note about wet batters: If you want to make something with a wet batter in the air fryer, I’ve heard that using parchment paper cut down to basket-size for the first half of cooking, until the batter is set, can work. Then remove it after the batter is set enough.)
Wraps stuffed with buffalo cauliflower coated in panko & air fried
Get cooking! Vegan air fryer recipes & ideas
Air fryer eggplant dip (Vegan baba ganoush)
Artichoke crostini with hummus & marinated cashews
Air-fried fishless tacos with chipotle crema
Store-bought pizza dough broken into balls & air fried, served with warm marinara
Get even more delicious ideas on my air fryer recipe page.
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