Air fryer is a culinary gamechanger that's helping me to eat more vegetables – Laura Waddell

I resisted the hype but I can’t deny it: the air-fryer is a kitchen gamechanger.

After my rite of passage, the time I save, I now spend evangelising. I wonder if getting an air-fryer in 2023 felt like getting a microwave in the 1980s. Those who embraced the shiny new machine changed the rhythm of their kitchens; especially women, increasingly working outside of the house while still burdened with domestic duties and expectations of doing it all.

To a child of the nineties, there were few wonders like Microchips, sloshing with vinegar and rattling with salt, after just four minutes from freezer to microwave. The microwave pinged in ever closer circles; a mythic appliance appearing in someone’s divorced dad’s new house, a friend’s neighbour, an auntie – until they popped up all over as familiar kitchen kit, glamourous exoticism worn off by domestic mass-market ubiquity. Many years later, the box no longer feels like a magic trick – but we still expect results at the click of a finger.

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Out of the vinegary reverie of the past and back to the air fryer. Essentially a modernised and well-marketed convection oven with a powerful fan, it doesn’t just heat things through but crisps them up – and does so dramatically better than my rental oven, a creaking, chugging old thing that commits the twin sins of undercooking middles and burning ends, while taking forever to heat up and ages to cook anything.

As a millennial without children, expected to keep only myself alive, I love destressing with some aspirational project cookery now and then – drying jolly, fiddly strands of homemade pasta over a rack; the endless chopping of cabbages, carrots, spring onions and mushrooms to fold into homemade potsticker dumplings that are always, always worth the considerable effort, dipped hot out the pan straight into soy sauce and salty on the tongue. That last one is perhaps the closest thing to bliss I know.

But the rest of the time, which is most of the time, and especially midweek, who has the energy to slouch towards the kitchen and cajole an old oven to do anything – especially with this depression, and in this economy?

An air-fryer might be the key, I hope, to getting more vegetables into my diet. As I get older and realise with dread I’m the one responsible for looking after this body I’m lugging around, vitamin deficiency has become more pressing to correct. Don’t get me wrong. What else, for the first test of this bright new machine said to crisp things up miraculously, but chips? On arrival day – a day of jubilation and experiment, but before big shop day – whatever was languishing in the freezer got tested for a perfectly crisped buffet of beige. Vegetarian sausages? Better than my oven ever managed. Onion rings? Brilliant. Yorkshire puddings? Yes, yes, yes. The frozen croissants and readymade pakora were so good I fear a habit developing. Halloumi fries, the first failure, taught me to take ‘max crisp’ function seriously.

But for my kitchen, producing easy vegetables is the real gamechanger. Broccoli, tossed in a little olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic salt, without parboiling, came out in around ten minutes juicy inside and crisp at the edges. Corn cobs brushed in butter, cauliflower florets rubbed with harissa paste, roast peppers and courgettes, all delicious and produced using less energy, less oil, less time and with fewer things to wash up afterwards than my conventional oven-and-hob set-up, which, since the air-fryer arrived, has remained cold.



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