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Ready for an Air Fryer?

The last few years have seen an explosion of new kitchen appliances designed to save users time without sacrificing taste. Today we are talking about the air fryer. An air fryer is essentially a small convection oven; it cooks food by circulating hot air around the food. Unlike a deep fryer, air fryers use little to no oil, which makes for healthier meals. They also produce food that is crispier than food cooked in a regular oven. Most air fryers are pod shaped and come in various sizes. I use a compact air fryer that holds two quarts. That is typically enough for a single person or a couple. However, family-size air fryers can go up to five or six quarts and toaster air fryers (a combination of a toaster oven and air fryer) can get up to sixteen quarts.

Most people buy air fryers to make “fried” food at home. After all, how many of us have access to a deep fryer? It’s not a coincidence that almost every ad for air fryers features the most golden, perfect-looking French fries you have ever seen. The prospect of making those golden, perfect-looking French fries in the comfort of your own home is pretty enticing; as well as any of your other fried faves, including chicken wings, calamari, even steaks! However, as any air fryer aficionado will tell you, air fryers are much more versatile than that. Air fryers are great for roasting almost any kind of vegetable, including Brussels sprouts, green beans, and mushrooms. What really surprised me is how many recipes for baked goods I found; recipes for bundt cakes, lava cakes, cinnamon rolls, and brownies. These uses for the air fryer are so popular that a lot of companies offer baking accessories like pizza pans and cake barrels. Another use for air fryers is reheating fried foods. I think everyone knows the heartbreak of microwaving once-delicious French fries the next day and tasting nothing but disappointment. Air fryers will keep fried leftovers delicious and crisp.

Prices for air fryers can vary. The smaller sizes range somewhere between $30 and $70. The family sizes range from $60 to $200. Toaster air fryers are the newest to the market and the most expensive and can range from $80 to $300. So are air fryers worth it? Well, that really depends. The biggest criticism I’ve heard about air fryers is that their food doesn’t taste like actual fried food. Well, that’s fair - the two cooking methods are wildly different, but not tasting authentically fried does not mean the food from an air fryer does not taste good. Also, air fried foods are not soaking in saturated and trans fats so your heart will thank you. Another thing to think about is whether you have the counter space for a new appliance. I really like my air fryer but it had to bump my coffee maker off the counter to make room, and I have one of the smaller sized ones. If you want to get a family size, you’re going to need a place to store it or just have a big kitchen with lots of counter space. If you get one of the large toaster air fryers I assume it will be replacing your toaster oven, so that may not be as much of a problem.

If you decide you want an air fryer or if already have one, the Mercer County Library System has more than a few cookbooks to help you out with recipe ideas. The digital collection features:

Air Fry Everything
by Meredith Laurence.

Meredith offers 130 recipes including air fried recipe favorites such as beer battered onion rings, chicken wings, shrimp egg rolls, and of course the perfect French fries (this will be a recurring theme in air fryer cookbooks). Meredith also gives less obvious recipes like herb roasted mushrooms, maple balsamic salmon, and mini molten chocolate cakes.

Air Fry Genius
by Meredith Laurence.

One hundred recipes designed for newbies and experienced cooks. These recipes are neatly arranged by type of meal and type of food, and include a lot of variety. Some of what this book has to offer includes veggie chips, Nashville hot chicken, jerk rubbed corn on the cob, and beignets. (Air Fry Genius is also available as a physical copy (ISBN: 9780982754061)

The Vegan Air Fryer 
by J.L. Fields.

Obviously features vegan recipes, but also focuses on turning your fried favorites into healthy vegan fare. These recipes include jalapeƱo poppers, eggrolls, fajitas, and Buffalo cauliflower.

The Healthy 5-Ingredient Air Fryer Cookbook

Offers healthy recipes that are designed to be relatively simple and quick. They incorporate world flavors and offer vegan and vegetarian options, as well as traditional comfort food recipes. There is also an entire chapter devoted to kid-friendly options. This book includes recipes like blueberry French toast muffins, chili-lime taro chips, and veggie and chickpea nuggets.

If you would prefer to wait until the physical collection is available again, you can look forward to cookbooks like The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook: The 75 Best Healthy Recipes for Your Air Fryer by Gina Homolka. Gina transforms comfort foods into low-calorie, healthy dishes, including crispy coconut shrimp, Korean pork lettuce wraps, churros, and very berry mini pies. Every Day Easy Air Fryer: 100 Recipes Bursting with Flavor by Urvashi Pitre has recipes to make in less than one hour, but still using fresh ingredients. Some of Urvashi’s recipes include Scotch eggs, Indian eggplant bharta, beef satay, and mixed berry crumble. This is just a sampling of the air fryer cookbooks the Mercer County Library System offers; there are cookbooks specifically for those with diabetes, more vegan and vegetarian recipes, and Indian recipes as well.

If you decide to jump on the air fryer train, allow me to leave you with my favorite recipe for crispy potato wedges:

Crispy Potato Wedges

INGREDIENTS: 2 medium Russet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp of your favorite seasoning blend
    • This is the fun part, I personally love using everything bagel seasoning, but cajun seasoning also works well. You can use any combination that adds up to two teaspoons - rosemary and garlic; paprika, cayenne, and red chili pepper flakes; or classic salt and pepper.
  1. Place raw potato wedges in a bowl. Add cold water and 2 cups of ice cubes. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes then drain and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Preheat air fryer if it is recommended for your model.
  3. In a ziplock bag, combine olive oil and seasoning blend. Add the potato wedges and toss to coat the potatoes with the seasoning.
  4. Place wedges in the basket of the air fryer and cook for 15 minutes at 400°F. Shake the basket every 5 minutes.
  5. Serve with ketchup on the side, if you desire.
- by Shanna, AcqCat at Lawrence

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