The trendy air fryer is high atop Christmas lists for many home cooks, and it’s no wonder more than 4 million were sold in only a year—a tenfold increase in the past two years—according to market research firm NPD Group. This incredible appliance gained notoriety for its ability to make amazingly crispy French fries without the oil, but it actually doesn’t fry foods at all: Instead, it works like a mini convection oven, circulating hot air to cook food quickly and efficiently. Given how much valuable counter space this thing can take up (although, this compact one is pretty cute), it makes sense you want to use your air fryer as often possible. Here are some clever ways to use the air fryer that you might not have thought of yet that will help you get dinner on the table in no time.
Cook frozen foods without thawing.
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
Skip the defrosting time from frozen foods like veggie sausages, potstickers and spring rolls—you can toss them directly into an air fryer and they’ll go from frozen to crisp in no time, says Cadry Nelson, vegan recipe developer behind Cadry’s Kitchen. You can even use it to cook proteins straight from the freezer, such as chicken or pork chops (it might not work so well for steak, however).
Make bruschetta in a flash.
Instead of pulling out a baking sheet and preheating your oven, make simple crostini by using your air fryer. Cut a baguette into half-inch-thick slices and put about half of them into the appliance, trying not to overlap too much, says Nelson. Cook at 380 degrees for 3-4 minutes, stopping halfway through to flip the slices so they don’t burn. Cook the other half of the slices the same way and add desired toppings.
Roast eggplant with ease.
The air fryer is super handy for making dishes like baba ghanoush or breaded eggplant quickly without heating up your oven. Roast eggplant quickly and easily by piercing the outside of the skin with a fork first, then removing the stem and cutting it in half lengthwise. Lightly oil each half, then lay them cut side down in the air fryer and cook for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, says Nelson.
Whip up amazing veggies.
“An air fryer makes beautiful roasted vegetables without having to worry about burning them,” says chef Karl Guggenmos, senior culinary advisor with Healthy Meals Supreme, and with little to no oil, as well. Add your desired seasonings and change up your mix depending on the season: zucchini, mushrooms and asparagus in spring, or beets, turnips and carrots in winter. (Or, skip the roasting and go for avocado fries—recipe here.)
Toast nuts without burning.
Toasting nuts in the oven can be a bit daunting because they can go from perfectly golden to burnt and inedible in a matter of seconds. Using an air fryer can be gentler without the direct heat burn, says Guggenmos.
Crisp up a perfect sandwich.
There’s nothing as comforting as a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Make it even easier by toasting it in the air fryer, say experts at Bed Bath & Beyond. Butter one side of each piece of bread, then place cheese between with butter side out. Set the whole thing in the air fryer and cook at 370 degrees for 4 minutes; flip and repeat.
WATCH: How to Make Air-Fried Grilled Cheese
Perfectly hard-boil eggs.
There’s much debate about the best way to make hard-boiled eggs. Bed Bath & Beyond experts say the air fryer method is a strong contender. To try it, preheat your appliance to 270 degrees, then add eggs to the fryer basket and cook for 15 minutes. Remove and transfer to an ice bath, then peel when cooled.
Make crispy pickle chips.
A lot of thinly sliced veggies have gone to waste by people trying to make vegetable chips in the air fryer (word on the street is, they never turn out well), but pickle chips are a different story, say Bed Bath & Beyond experts. Whip up a healthier version of this favorite bar snack by breading dill pickle slices in egg and a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried oregano and garlic powder. Place in a single layer in the fryer basket and cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then serve with ranch dressing.
Bake a crunchy salad topper.
Forget the stale packaged croutons at the supermarket—you can easily make them at home by cubing slices of your favorite bread, tossing with olive oil and sprinkling with garlic powder plus a pinch of salt. Add to the air fryer and cook at 400 degrees for 4 minutes, then toss and cook another 3 minutes, recommend the Bed Bath & Beyond experts.
Reheat leftovers like a pro.
Sure, you can use your microwave to accomplish this—but an air fryer is the ultimate tool for reheating food without sacrificing texture. “No more floppy pizza or soft fried chicken,” says Kenzie Swanhart, director of global culinary innovation at Ninja, which makes an air fryer. The next time you have a leftover slice, add it to your air fryer and cook at 350 degrees.
Practice portion control with baked goods.
You can bake all kinds of things in your air fryer, from cookies to Pop Tarts and brownies to doughnut holes and chocolate chip cookies. It’s ideal for these treats because it functions as a small convection oven, helping you churn out small batches of goodies in less time than baking in a regular oven, says Swanhart.
When a recipe calls for already-cooked items like roasted vegetables, cooked bacon or toasted bread, you can easily prep these in your air fryer before heating up the stove or oven, says Swanhart, making quick work of these prep tasks.
In addition to making the perfect grilled cheese, an air fryer is also an ideal way to complete dishes that require melted cheese on top, such as chicken Parmesan or French onion soup, says Swanhart. Simply add the cooked item to the air fryer for a few minutes to add the finishing touch.
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