Paola Bassanese is a freelance author and writer specialising in food, lifestyle and entertainment.
Air Fryers Are Here to Stay
It seems that air fryers have taken the world by storm—just a quick look at Instagram gives you an idea of how many people around the world use air fryers to cook everything from meals to snacks to party food.
I like bandwagons when I see them, so I went out and bought myself an air fryer.
Where I live, in Ireland, Tower (manufactured in the UK) is one of the best-selling brands.
I got the Tower 3 Litre Manual Air Fryer, one of the simplest to use and very affordable. Depending on your needs, this air fryer may be too small; this model is ideal for a couple or a single-person household.
Video Review: Tower 3 Litre Manual Air Fryer and Cooking First Meal
Pros and Cons of the Tower 3 Litre Manual Air Fryer
Let’s go into more detail about what’s great and not so great about this air fryer.
- Compact, takes little space on the countertop
- Easy to clean, especially compared to traditional ovens
- Not too noisy when baking
- No strong smells as everything is contained within the air fryer basket
- Straightforward to use as there are only two dials, one for the temperature and one for the cooking time
- Sleek and modern design
- Shortens the time it takes to bake and reheat food compared to a traditional oven
- Energy efficient
- You can check the cooking by opening the basket, which will stop the oven, so you can turn the food over, for example.
- The maximum temperature is 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit), which limits what you can bake compared to a traditional oven
- If you prefer to use presets, there are none so you really need to experiment with timings and temperatures a few times to avoid under-cooking or over-cooking food
- The instructions could do with improving as they are not very detailed
- The recipes in the booklet that comes with the appliance are approximated and sometimes they don’t include cooking times, which means there is a lot of guesswork involved
- The basket is quite small, measuring at 19.5cm x 19.5cm (7.6 inches x 7.6 inches)
- There is no window so to check if your food is cooking correctly you need to slide open the basket
- All of the heat comes from the top, so if you are baking something like bread you have to turn it halfway through the cooking otherwise one side will remain raw and the other will be burnt.
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What You Can Cook in an Air Fryer
I have experimented with many recipes to see what works in the air fryer. If you look at social media, most people use their air fryers to reheat ready-made food, such as chicken wings, but you can actually cook many meals from scratch using the healthiest ingredients you can find.
For example, I grow my own vegetables and I’ve always liked kale chips. You can use any leafy green vegetable and turn it into a crispy snack: I have used broccoli leaves from my garden and they taste great if you season them with salt, paprika, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
They cook really quickly as they only take about three minutes on each side and they are ready to snack on.
Fajitas are perfect for the air fryer, as you can cook strips of meat (beef or chicken or other protein source of your choice) with sliced peppers and onions, seasoned with your favourite spice blend such as cajun or piri piri.
You can line the inside of the basket with greaseproof paper and pour cake batter in it as if it was a normal cake tin, or if you prefer you can use a small cake tin (smaller than the basket) or ramekin to bake individual cakes. For example, I baked blueberry muffins in the air fryer and they came out really well. The secret is to bake at a lower than normal temperature for a longer time, to allow the inside of the cake to cook through.
Sweet Potato Fries
Probably the biggest revelation of using an air fryer is getting good sweet potato fries: when you try to fry them in oil, they may get too brown on the outside and may still be raw inside. For best results, try baking them at a lower temperature first to allow the inside to cook through, then raising the temperature to crisp up the exterior.
Pizza and Bread
Considering the size of the basket, you can bake a small individual pizza or a small loaf or bread, remembering to turn it halfway through. Bread will take longer to bake in an air fryer compared to a traditional oven because you need to lower the temperature to prevent the crust from burning and to allow the inside of the dough to cook through.
For pizza, start by baking the base on one side for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius, then flip over, add the toppings and bake for a further 10 minutes, checking that the edges don’t get too brown.
What You Can’t Cook In an Air Fryer
Popcorn! Even at the top temperature (200 degrees Celsius) and for a total of 20 minutes, popping corn in the air fryer will not pop. For my experiment I wrapped the corn, lightly drizzled with oil, with kitchen foil to prevent it from jumping inside the air fryer basket. Unfortunately, none of the kernels popped so that was a waste of time and food, however, you can learn from my mistake!