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It’s 2022 and one thing is certain: By now, you are either an air fryer enthusiast or you remain seriously skeptical. I fall into the latter camp — I am proudly low-tech and struggle with embracing new technologies in my kitchen. Besides, counter space is seriously limited in my small kitchen. But increasingly, I’m encountering the air fryer in conversations, social media scrolls, and recipes. So many home cooks, chefs, and recipe bloggers love this tool. I had just one question: Why?
With that one-word question in mind, I set out on a mission to learn why this techy gadget has become so popular — beyond the novelty of a new toy. I chatted with 12 cooks who ranged from home cooks to professional chefs — plus the one-and-only Drew Barrymore — about why the air fryer gets so much play in their kitchens, and wow, were they willing to share.
1. “They should rename it, ‘The Easy Breezy Beautiful Fun Food Machine.’” —Jake Grigg, TikTok’s @airfryerguy
“Air fryers cook food perfectly every time,” Jake Grigg, the TikTok- and Instagram-famous content creator behind @airfryerguy, told me. He, like lots of cooks, praised the air fryer’s ability to cook food with little to no mess, in record time. “The main reason I use an air fryer is convenience,” Grigg added. “The food cooks faster than an oven and there is little to no preheating involved. Air fryers are easier to clean than deep fryers and you don’t end up with splashes of oil all over your kitchen.” Easier, faster, cleaner, better? Hmm … sounds like something I could get into.
2. “The air fryer is fun to experiment with.” —Andrea Nguyen, cookbook author
Plain and simple, so many cooks agree: This is a fun tool. Andrea Nguyen — the creator of Viet World Kitchen, cooking instructor, and author of numerous cookbooks, including Vietnamese Food Any Day — finds it particularly enjoyable to rethink some of her favorite classic recipes. “I’ve used it for Asian dishes like salt and pepper shrimp, salt and pepper tofu, Japanese-style fried chicken, sweet and sour pork, plus sweet and sour spareribs.” Along with air fryer recipes, her website offers some helpful tips about how to get the best out of your air fryer — for example, don’t fry foods that are too wet (because they’re prone to stick), and be sure to use some fat to keep things from drying out.
3. “It’s a revelation for reheating pizza.” —Beth O’Neil, home cook and former air fryer skeptic
There’s no debate here: The air fryer makes food crispy, crunchy, and, well, downright delicious. Upstate New York home cook and former air frying skeptic Beth O’Neil says, “I love the air fryer because it gives a good crunch to frozen vegetables, as opposed to blanching them.” Yep, you read that right: The air fryer will even crisp up frozen veggies.
O’Neil adds that she never would have taken the leap had her mother not regifted hers because she was too intimidated to give it a chance. O’Neil immediately used it to reheat leftover pizza, producing wow-inducing results. “Spoiler: My mom asked for her air fryer back after she saw the pizza hack.” (See our take on the best way to reheat pizza.)
4. “Air frying is a great way to get kids cooking (and eating their veggies).” —Regina Chaperon, cofounder of an air frying website
“The other day, I got my son to eat a bit of sweet potato, which was such a win,” says Regina Chaperon, a home cook in Massachusetts, and one of the founders of the website Air Fryer Addicts. “He’s typically a picky eater, but is more willing to try crunchy, delicious air-fried food — no matter what it is. The air fryer also functions as a way for him to experiment with cooking that’s much safer than cooking on a stovetop.”
5. “It may be an obvious answer, but the time-saving element really is the best.” —Kara Shilalie, cofounder of an air frying website
Kara Shilalie, the other Boston-based creator behind Air Fryer Addicts, praises her air fryers (yep, plural!) for how much time they shave off dinner prep. A traditional baked or roasted salmon and Brussels sprouts dinner, which can take 30 minutes to prepare when you account for preheating the oven, gets reduced to a quick eight minutes with her air fryer. “It may be an obvious answer, but the time-saving element really is the best,” Shilalie says. Both she and Chaperon are time-strapped teachers and are amazed at how quickly dinner prep and cleanup happen with their air fryers.
6. “It’s an amazing way to cook tofu.” —Anna Rios of TikTok’s @healthysimpleyum
“My air fryer makes cooking delicious food a lot easier,” says registered dietitian Anna Rios, who creates vegan recipes on her TikTok, @healthysimpleyum. “I highly recommend making tofu in the air fryer and coating it with soy sauce, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast.” The yeast acts like a low-carb breading, and adds plenty of flavor. Try Kitchn’s recipe for air fryer tofu to get a taste of how crispy and delicious tofu cooked in the air fryer can be.
7. “On the days when I need something quick and don’t want too much of a cleanup, the air fryer is the way to go!” —Abdulaziz, recipe developer
The air fryer has changed how Sara Abdulaziz, a digital recipe creator who recently launched a YouTube channel, approaches her daily cooking tasks. She notes that searing salmon or chicken on the stovetop can take twice as long as cooking it in the air fryer. “Not to mention the mess of having to clean pans, utensils, food, and oil splashes all over the stove,” she adds.
8. “It transforms frozen foods like fries, chicken nuggets, and French toast sticks.” —Josh Porosky, home cook
“I’ve found that conventional ovens leave frozen food — like french fries or chicken nuggets — either soggy and pasty or brown and dry,” says Josh Porosky, a home cook in Austin. That’s a huge bummer, because frozen foods are huge time-savers. Like many Kitchn readers, Porosky relies on them for snacks and easy meals. “I think the air fryer’s magic is in re-frying the residual surface oils, leaving a crispy and ‘deep-fried’ exterior.” Sounds sciencey! And tasty. For the record, Porosky is a big fan of French toast sticks at 380°F for 7 minutes.
9. “It makes amazingly crunchy, deliciously crispy chickpeas.” —Jamie Yonash, cookbook author
10. “There’s less grease to clean up.” —Natasha Jackson, home cook
Natasha Jackson, a North Dakota home cook with a B.S. in Nutrition Science, takes an all-foods-fit approach to cooking and eating. But while she doesn’t ban anything from her diet, she does appreciate the air fryer’s ability to cook up foods with less oil (and grease mess). “The hot temperature allows me to get the crispy taste of fried food, while maintaining a lower fat content.”
10. “When I need to get dinner on the table fast, when I want to reheat leftovers, when the moment calls for tasty nuggets … air fryer, air fryer, air fryer.” —Drew Barrymore, actress
Actress, lifestyle guru, and all-around Renaissance woman Drew Barrymore loves air fryers so much, she created her own model, pictured above. This tool gets such major playtime in her kitchen, she feels it makes her entire life easier. Barrymore also has two aha-moment tips for tastier results: “If you make that little bit of extra effort to dry your food as much as possible — just dab with a paper towel — before popping it in, and resist the urge to overload and overcrowd your basket, you’ll get that perfect crispy texture you’re after.”
12. “It’s helpful for solo cooking and small spaces.” —Sophie Shafer-Landau, home cook
Air fryers come in a variety of sizes, but mini air fryers, like Dash’s 2-quart capacity model pictured above, are especially handy to have if you’re cooking for one. It’s served California-based home cook Sophie Shafer-Landau for over four years, allowing her to cook single portions of protein in a flash. “Salmon and chicken are done in under 20 minutes, without having to deal with the oven,” she notes. One other big benefit of her cooking-for-one model? “It’s especially great for a little apartment with no dishwasher and barely any counter space for appliances. This knocks out the need for a toaster or microwave in most situations.”
Are you in love with the air fryer, or are you a skeptic? Let us know in the comments below.