Is Buying an Air Fryer Worth It? I Used It For Every Meal of the Day to Find Out
Coming to you from a true air fryer skeptic.
The past few years, I've endured the endless hype surrounding the 'magic' air fryer. I've heard claims that it makes food as crispy as if it's hot out of the fryer and that it's the number one way to accomplish a low-fat diet.
To all this, the inner food scientist in me refused to listen. Circulating heat is circulating heat, right? I can spare 7 minutes of heating up my oven to avoid yet another bulky kitchen purchase taking up its sweet space on my countertop. So I resisted... until I finally felt completely left out — and I caved.
To test out the air fryer's cooking power and see if it was really all that, I tried using it to make every single meal of the day. (P.S. I bought the 6-quart Dash Air Fryer). Here's how it went.
First up, an air fried egg sandwich for breakfast. I took two pieces of white bread and cracked an egg on top of each slice. Then, I wrapped a piece of uncooked bacon around each of the eggs. I carefully moved the open-faced sandwich halves to the air fryer basket and threw in a few cherry tomatoes for good measure. Into a 350°F air fryer for 8-10 minutes!
The first basket-opening took me by surprise. The bacon was beautifully crispy, but the greatest shock was how perfectly the bread had toasted — even better than its usual trip to the toaster. I threw on some shredded cheese and stuck it back in for a final minute of cooking. The result was a warm, crisp, and melty sandwich with perfectly seared and juicy cherry tomatoes. A.K.A. breakfast perfection.
Sure, a sandwich might have been a softball, but could it handle a real feast? I was determined to find out with a batch of Air-Fried Mini Buffalo Chicken Calzones. I started by cooking 2 chicken breasts in boiling water until they reached 165°F. Then I shredded the chicken and moved it to a pan with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, mixing in ¾ cup of Buffalo sauce until well combined.
Then I took some store-bought pizza dough and rolled out small sections into thin 6-inch rounds. I filled each dough pocket with ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella and ¾ cup of shredded chicken. Then, I sealed the calzones off with a brush of water to make the dough stick, and sprayed with cooking oil. Two calzones went into the air fryer at 325°F for 8 minutes before being flipped to cook for a final 4 minutes.
After tasting these quick chicken pockets, I couldn't believe I had made them myself. The crispy crust formed in mere minutes, but the inside was left steamy and gooey. Again, the most impressive part was the consistency and browning all the way around the dough — a regular oven can rarely achieve that.
For the dinner menu, I was searching for a fancy feast that would be ready in no time. I started with the famed Trader Joes' Cauliflower Gnocchi, which I have heard air fryer-fans gushing over for months now. One bag of packaged gnocchi went in for the first 10 minutes at 350°F.
In the meantime, I coated a cup of quartered Brussels sprouts with a glaze made with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and a heavy pinch of salt. I also prepared a salmon filet with a dry rub made with 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, and ½ teaspoon smoked paprika.
When the gnocchi came out, I tossed it with a tablespoon of olive oil, ½ teaspoon black pepper, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan. The Brussels went in the air fryer for the next 5 minutes at 350°F, and in that short amount of time they had already crisped up almost completely. I set those aside, then cooked the salmon and gnocchi together at 380°F for another 8 minutes. Finally, the Brussels went back in for another minute of cooking.
The final product was absolutely delicious. The salmon was caramelized and crispy on the outside, but revealed a butter-like tenderness when touched with a fork. The Brussels cooked as though they'd been roasting for 30 minutes in the oven, and the cauliflower gnocchi came out like golden and chewy nuggets of pillowy potato goodness. I was beyond impressed that this all-star meal came together in a total of 20 minutes.
For those of us who can't finish the day without dessert, I had to test the air fryer's sweet side. But while this was the simplest meal execution of the day, it was perhaps the most delicious. I used a package of store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough and gently pressed the entire amount onto the bottom of a deep-dish, oven-safe bowl. The bowl went into the air fryer basket for 10 minutes at 350°F.
Now, you may have had a crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside cookie before, but you have never had anything this crispy and simultaneously this gooey. This deep-dish cookie was a work of art, and paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it might have been the best thing I ate all day. It's safe to say I can't wait to try this trick with brownie mix.
Throughout my day with the air fryer, I ate delicious feast after delicious feast. While I didn't love the large size of the appliance OR the fact that you can't see inside to monitor how done your food is, I am undeniably a fan. The air fryer was extremely simple to use and clean, and is especially useful if you are cooking for just one or two. If you have a small kitchen and few cooking appliances, invest in an air fryer to make fast, fantastic meals — and if you need help choosing the perfect air fryer for you, we've compiled a list of the best test kitchen-tested air fryers to help you with your search.