Air frying is one of the hottest cooking techniques of the last year. You’ve probably heard of it, but if you haven’t here’s a breakdown: An air fryer is actually just a convection oven. What’s a convection oven, you ask? It’s an oven with a fan, which blows the hot air around. That movement dries out the food, creating the super-crispy effect that mimics frying. Hence: air fryer.
Sounds great, right? In theory, yes. But air fryers are annoying for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are generally pretty large, taking up a lot of precious counter space, but the actual drawer that you fill with food to cook is relatively small, so it’s hard to cook a large quantity of food. Thinking that you’re going to air fryer potatoes for your family to go with hamburgers? It’s going to take you a couple rounds of cooking to get enough for 4-6 people. There’s also the simple fact that most of us have very little interest in buying yet another appliance.
Here’s the good news, though. There’s a good chance you already have an air fryer in the form of…your oven. Many electric ovens have a convection setting, which simply blows a fan into the oven, creating that circulation of air that helps get everything super crisp. It’s built in and it’s big enough to accommodate plenty of food for you and your family.
Try it for things you want to fry—like potatoes and General Tso’s chicken, but don’t be afraid to put your convection setting to the test with other things that are extra delicious when crispy. Think roasted broccoli (we’re all in it for the crispy bits), roasted sweet potatoes, or even switch on the convection setting to get a little extra browning on you baked goods, like pies and cookies. Air fryer recipes are easy to convert to your oven—simply preheat to the listed temperature, place your food on a baking sheet, and turn on your convection setting. Oven temperatures often vary slightly from the listed temperature, so keep an eye on your goodies to make sure they’re cooking at the correct rate.
If you don’t have a convection setting on your oven, you still don’t go out and buy an air fryer. If you’re desperate for that extra-crunchy effect, we prefer a toaster oven with a convection setting, which is more multipurpose (and will cook more food) than most air fryers. When you’re not convection-ing your way to crunchy happiness, use it to keep sides warm or even to cook a meal for just yourself—toaster ovens heat up faster and use less energy than traditional ovens, so they’re a great option for a smaller household.
Ready to get your crunch on? Here are some of our favorite air fryer recipes to get you started.
- Air-Fried Crispy Curry Chickpeas