Date published

November 3, 2021

What is an Air Fryer?

Air fryers are, essentially, small convection ovens that use fans and heating elements to cook food quickly. The heating elements are located at the top of the unit, and the fans force the hot air down and around the food to heat it through. They come in a few different sizes, ranging from a counter-top friendly 1 litre up to a family and soccer team-sized 6 litres. Some air fryers have shelves or racks for the food, but basket models seem to be more popular because they’re easier to clean and tend to cook the food more evenly.

What Should I Cook in an Air Fryer?

If you find you’re heating up a lot of frozen foods, air fryers might be made just for you. They shine when taking food from frozen to crispy. Browse Co-op’s frozen food section for ideas: French fries, chicken nuggets and tater tots work perfectly in an air fryer. Roasted vegetables are excellent when made with just a touch of oil, and roasted garlic becomes a snap without waiting on the oven to heat up.

Steaks and pork chops are almost foolproof once you get your timing down in the air fryer. The circulating air allows the meat to cook on all sides at once, trapping those juices inside the meat. Salmon and pork chops are great for the same reason.

You can even heat up leftovers in the air fryer; it will give them more crispiness or meltiness without making them tough or inedible like using a microwave sometimes can.

What Shouldn’t I Cook in an Air Fryer?

While a lot of foods can benefit from and be made lighter with use of an air fryer, there are a few things that are just a bad idea. Anything dipped in a freshly made batter (one that’s essentially ‘wet’) is a no-no in an air fryer.  The wet batter will simply drip through the basket or pool on shelves. (Frozen battered foods, however work very well).

Large foods are tricky to cook in an air fryer. While many models boast about their ability to cook a whole chicken, you’ll need a very small chicken or a very large air fryer to do so—ditto for large roasts or cuts of meat.

Bacon cooks fine, but the oil and grease will end up everywhere inside, making cleanup more work.

Rice is tricky with an air fryer. While some models feature a pan you can use to keep the rice in place, you’re much better off sticking with a pot or a rice cooker that uses steam to cook the rice.

How is Air Frying Healthier Than Deep Frying?

The big difference between air fryers and deep fryers is that the air fryers use a lot less oil for cooking the food, and less of it ends up on the food and in your stomach, so the calories from air frying will be much lower. Additionally, you can air fry more vegetables than you can deep fry.

You’ll likely want to add a spritz or two to your food to give it a crispy fried exterior, but since you’re no longer bathing or immersing your food in oil, the food will be lighter and healthier.

Making Chicken Wings in an Air Fryer

The air fryer shines at making foods crispy on the outside and juicy inside, perfect for chicken wings. They’ll get the job done in a third of the time that an oven will take (though depending on the size of your air fryer, you might find yourself having to make more batches than the oven). The air fryer doesn’t need to pre-heat, so you’ll save even more time. While you can prep, season and even batter your own wings, another time-saver for wings is to use frozen wings from Co-op. There’s no prep-work involved; the wings go in frozen and come out delicious.

For extra crispiness, try spritzing them with oil lightly halfway through the cook, then add any sauce near the end of the cook. Saving the sauce for near the end helps prevent burning. Watch for Cal & Gary’s Chicken Wings in Honey Garlic, Buffalo, Salt & Pepper, and Smokey BBQ. These are the ideal quick and easy appetizer or fast weeknight dinner.

Healthy Options for the Air Fryer

Beyond some of the foods like salmon and steak that can be cooked with less oil, there are many healthy foods that can be made in the air fryer, and most fried choices will be healthier just deep-frying them.

Roast vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, are a great healthy option that works well in the air fryer. You can also add any kind of frozen fish to the list of foods that turn out well. Chicken thighs will work well and taste amazing in little time.

You can even make dried fruit like apple chips in the air fryer, giving you a very healthy snack—and there’s an abundance of apples available this season in the Co-op produce department. Most fruits that work in a dehydrator will work here. Sprinkle some sugar or cinnamon on them, and let the air fryer dehydrate for you!

The air fryer craze is here to stay, so head to your local Co-op store and find tasty options to experiment with.