It's Valentine's Day, and love is in the air. I have a new relationship, or maybe I should say 'current infatuation'. (Before you start hypothesizing, don't worry, my significant other is aware and wholeheartedly approves.)
I fended off this particular relationship for at least a decade, but the pressure became increasingly strong in the last couple of years from advertisements, articles, store shelves, and word of mouth. (Did you know the first air fryer was introduced to the market in 2010?) Yes, I'm talking about air fryers.
Air fryers, and their cousin, the instapot, along with sour dough bread, had become the security blanket or comfort tool of the COVID shutdowns as so many people turned to cooking to occupy their time (and their minds).
Everyone, it seems, owns an air fryer.
In reality, about 40% of the population now owns one – that might not be everyone, but it is a lot. And sales have apparently risen markedly in 2022, so it wasn’t simply a COVID fetish. The New York Times has a good article by Cristina Morales, "How The Air Fryer Crisped Its Way Into America's Heart" (www.nytimes.com)
I fought the pressure, just as I did with the dishwasher years ago. I truly thought I was fully capable of washing dishes, but now I can’t imagine life without it. I like to cook and like to be hands on, and that's worked fine so far - and kitchen gadgets so often seem to be just gimmicks that I could out-perform in traditional ways. Are there any gadgets and appliances tucked away on the top shelf in your pantry that you haven't used in years?
Then mid-January of 2023 came. We were visiting my sister-in-law who had already (but only just) given in and went the way of the masses and purchased an air fryer. Her first attempt was Arancini (risotto balls with cheese in the middle). We huddled around the air fryer in fascination as it purred and hissed just a bit. The Arancini was crispy on the outside, and the hot middle was oozing with cheese. We dipped them in a lovely marinara sauce - and we were all hooked.
I gave in the next day. I bought an air fryer and sealed the relationship that night, so to speak. The 'fried' chicken was crispy and tender and so, so good. That’s been followed in the subsequent month by tuna steaks, hamburgers, lamb shanks, potatoes, chicken breasts, sweet potato fries, meatballs, steak. Oh, and stuffed portobello mushrooms. Every night, just like teenagers talking about a new love, my sister-in-law and I were texting, “What did you make in the air fryer tonight?” (This is one of the benefits of retirement – the time to play and to enjoy the small things in life.) Even as I write this, I know that she has salmon burgers and I have falafel on the air fryer menu for tonight. And, speaking of retirement, even my financial planner, between dispensing wise financial wisdom, shared that his air fryer speciality is pork belly. Hmmm . . . .
I guess with all that hot air circulating in that cute little oven and the novelty and the excitement and the challenge and all that delicious food, you could say that I’m smitten.
So, what is it about an air fryer? I was shocked to find that this is a real topic on social media. The air fryer has a heavy presence on the internet, Instagram, on-line cook books, blogs . . . even on Facebook.
People like it’s compact, stocky nature. It can sit on the counter if you like, and I see that red or blue or orange just might be the new black. Manufacturers are sprucing things up to match décor. Some people believe the air fryer is healthier with less fat used. Some think the food tastes better with less cooking time and circulated heat. I love the fact that the house doesn’t have lingering odors for hours after cooking. Some people believe less energy is used, resulting in less cost. It might be easier to use for college students or for people who have mobility issues. The New York Times article presents a good case for the air fryer.
But, of course, even your true love has their negatives. Air fryers are generally small and maybe not suited for larger gatherings, so you might have to cook food in batches which takes more time and then maybe less energy and time saving. But some people think they take up too much space. They are an extra investment. Some say the food isn’t exactly like deep fried. Some say it is easy to overcook. Some say the food isn’t healthier. Prudentreviews.com (19 Pros and Cons of Air Fryers: Are They Worth It?) details perceived negatives if you, like me, are really late to the party and remain on the fence.
So, I guess the air fryer works well for some people and not for others, depending on circumstances. It works well for us and it might be a great adjunct to your other kitchen appliances. Even some professional chefs have them.
Now, of course, the debate will rage - will my relationship with the air fryer remain strong or will it peter out with familiarity and over use once the novelty wears off? Or will it go the way of the dodo bird – or all those other implements that seemed such a good idea at the time? Or, will the air fryer become an even more essential part of my life? Time will tell, as they say.
Although I’m currently smitten by my air fryer, I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t given in to the lure of the instapot – yet. Or is that already passe? (But that new espresso maker on my counter is another story altogether.)
Now, I really must run out and get some chocolate for my real significant other.
But I'd like to hear - air fryer: yea or nay? And, if yea, what is your air fryer speciality?
Have a Happy Valentine's Day. And remember to love whatever or whomever you love - as long as it's all safe and legal, I say.