It’s impossible to count how many home appliances introduced over the past century have boasted their potential to “completely revolutionize the way you cook.”
More often than not, they wind up being little more than a nifty trend that’s forgotten after just a few uses. Something simply looks cool, but isn’t all that practical. Just take a gander through the latest SkyMall catalog the next time you’re on a plane.
I’m sure we’ve all fallen victim to the “I’ve just gotta have this” syndrome when we see a slick advertisement telling us how much a new slicer or juicer will change lives as we know it. Pretty sure I’ve still got my old Snoopy snow cone maker somewhere, probably shelved next to the set of waffle irons and soft pretzel makers that also seemed like a good idea at the time.
Kitchen gadgets can be a lot of fun, but fun doesn’t always translate into practical everyday use, unless you consider the extra clutter to be a hobby worth your money.
But every now and then the culinary wizards invent something many would consider a “real doozy,” one that not only does what it’s advertised to do, but stays in the regular routine of how you prepare meals.
A few years ago, everyone seemed to be jumping on the InstaPot bandwagon. It was a big hit around Christmas in my family, and people were all the time posting videos and photos on social media showing what this little device was capable of, in addition to the health benefits and its overall ease of use.
Last year seemed to be, among many things, the year of the air fryer, and with good reason. These nifty contraptions are not only a form of technology that’s still new enough to produce that “wow” factor, but there are a number of other reasons the countertop convection oven can go well in any home.
If you’re living in the South, you know we love our fried foods, but does it come at the cost of buying new pants every year?
Cooking food in an air fryer is much healthier than sifting your food in boiling oil or grease. True, a lot of the deep dried flavor comes from cooking in oil, but it’s a small sacrifice to make if the idea is to make better eating choices. And it’s not like the food doesn’t still turn out delicious.
Not to mention cooking in an air fryer is also much quicker, besting the microwave in more than just quality.
Air fryers can also be pretty versatile. The one I have, for example, is a Chefman Air Fryer+, which not only cooks just about any type of food, but can also roast a rotisserie chicken and serve as a dehydrator, making things like dried fruits and veggies.
After two months and cooking a number of different foods, from chicken to pork, salmon and even reheating pizza, each one has produced positive results in the air fryer. However, the best thing I’ve had so far is a plate of bacon, which really demonstrated what this thing can do.
Figuring out all of the settings, the temperatures and how to cook certain meals has also been kind of like having a new toy, but one in which you won’t get the looks of shame when you’re an adult who gets caught playing with it. At the same time, you’re making a better choice for your overall health.
Many people make New Year’s resolutions to make better health choices, although committing to them is easier said than done. I’m the same way, with each new year affording new opportunities to make better choices, but the old phrase of “I’m never doing this again,” is often a task few can stick with. But it helps when you can make little changes that grow over time, such as how you choose to prepare your weekly meals.
And if better health and wellness isn’t enough to sell, how about the impact an air fryer has on your wallet?
Air fryers also use less power than a conventional oven, which comes in handy during the winter months when bills tend to increase due to increased heat use. They are also quite affordable, ranging in cost from $60-$300, with the pretty good ones running at about $100, which isn’t so much of an expense when you think about the long-term use and savings.
Above all, there is the ease of use. The rotisserie informal guy used to say, “Set it and forget it,” and the same is true with an air fryer. Other than maybe a can opener, it’s the easiest thing to figure out how to use, which I believe was one of the areas in which the InstaPot fell short.
It’s not that an Instapot is hard to use, but there are definitely a few extra steps to keep in mind when using one of them. It’s also the reason why I rarely, if ever, use mine anymore. Cooking at home shouldn’t be complicated, mostly because it’s happening after you’ve probably already had a long day.
With an air fryer, you just set the timer, set the temperature and go.
Its trendy as the next “must have” kitchen gadget is no doubt why the air fryer has been the latest big thing for home cooking. Yet, this isn’t just another fad that’ll come and go by next week, but something that might actually be worth the investment.
There are also countless food bloggers, YouTube videos and other online resources loaded with recipe ideas and how-to templates. It’s also pretty amazing when you realize just how endless an air fryer’s capabilities are, the creative ideas people have come up with and the fact there’s always a chance to try new things.
Between the winter weather and COVID-19, we’re all stuck at home a lot these days. Why not spice it up by investing in something that’ll benefit the experience, create healthier eating habits and, above all, is a lot of fun to explore.
Jay Powell is a reporter for The Daily Herald. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JayPowellCDH.