Fast and easy... let's talk air fryers

AIR FRYERS. Are they just a fad? I skipped that whole Instant Pot thing because there seemed some kind of mystique around it and the possibility of blowing up if you didn’t release something or other. I’M OUT GUYS. I have a crockpot which I go through phases with. Once my friend Karen said “don’t you think everything that comes out of the crockpot tastes the same,” I kind of went off the crockpot craziness. I still pull it out to make crockpot spaghetti sauce and chili, and every now and then I try something new in it.

When the air fryer started popping off I was intrigued. Our oven is not great. It takes so long to heat up and cook everything that I was interested in something that could make things quick when I’m whipping up my signature dish of frozen French fries, and in March when you-know-what hit the fan, it seemed like a good time to jump in. We bought the PowerXL from (It was $99.99 at Costco, I've linked it there at Amazon where it's just $68 right now!)

It was a 5qt, which is one of the larger in this price range. It worked well as promised – capacity is definitely far too low. Our first couple tries, we overfilled the basket... But hey, it’s not really OUR fault, I mean look at any of the ads for these ones and you’ll see a basket overflowing with French fries, it’s the standard image for these it seems. But basically you can only loosely cover the bottom of the grate – air needs to flow because that’s how it ‘fries’ it.

You will have to pull it out and shake or turnover at the halfway point. Which is a bit annoying, but some newer, fancier models will “shake” it for you. If you don’t turn/shake, they are just more cooked or crispy on one side. I forget alllll the time and nothing has ever been ruined.

Most units in this range have a bunch of pre-set buttons and you can cook so many things in your air fryer with a little trial and error. Basically anything you would bake in the oven, you can try in the air fryer. Here’s some that worked for us:

- Vegetables tossed in oil & seasoning: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans

- Tofu

- Hardboiled eggs

- Potato wedges

- Chicken breasts

- Hot dogs

- Meatballs

- Gyoza/Dumplings

Another bonus is that it’s fairly kid-friendly. My kids can make themselves fries or hot dogs.

What we didn’t like about the air fryer is that it was just too small. And the typical air fryer only has one tray, so if you’re eating a typical gourmet dinner like ours of Costco meatballs and frozen French fries, you have to cook one in the oven or wait. You’ll also need to watch the exhaust at the back. We had ours on the oven and it melted the oven knob; the air that comes out the back on some models is super hot and you need to pull them away from the wall. After 6 months, the contacts seemed to not touch anymore. We were possibly too aggressive when we pulled it out to shake it and slam it back in? Since I bought it at Costco I packed it up and returned it. (I have NEVER returned anything to Costco. Surprisingly easy to ship it right back.)

Now as much as I’d LOVE to buy a super fancy $400-500 model, my budget and tiny kitchen require me to stay in the same range, so I found a slightly bigger model on Amazon that was on discount/sale. This 5.8qt is more square than round which seems a better design. It can fit 4 large chicken breasts which is a good size. It is so much quieter than the previous model and doesn’t seem to be expelling as much hot air at the back. It also looks sleeker and fits perfectly on my counter. I first had it tucked away in my cabinet, but I use it 4-5 times a week so decided to reorganize my countertop appliances. I love my small kitchen but don’t like cluttered counters, so what stays and what goes?

Mind blown when I realized I can TOAST in the air fryer. I thought maybe you could bake bread in it, and that was what that icon was for (YES, it comes with a large manual and recipe book…) but it toasted my bagel to perfection. BUH-BYE, toaster!

So should you get an air fryer? If you like snack foods or make kid foods often – I highly recommend this to make your life easier. I keep finding new things to cook in it and ways to make things better. It is safe and easy to use – your kids can make their own damn bagel bites without burning themselves or leaving the oven on. And yes you can get much larger units with multiple trays, which I'd love to invest in one day. So if you don’t find one under the tree maybe check out some Boxing Day sales this year, just don’t pay full price because you can always find a good one on sale.

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