Are you ready for air-fried veggies?
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As someone who loves cooking but works long hours, bringing health-conscious and flavorful meals to the table on a daily basis can be, frankly, exhausting. And that's exactly why I'm intrigued by air fryers, the speedy, seemingly magic gadgets that promise to help you get crisp, crunchy food on the table without using a ton of oil.
Approved by cooking experts, air fryers can be healthier than traditional deep frying. They use less oil, which means less fat seeps into your food. But if you're only cooking the same super-processed meals like chicken fingers and fries in your new gadget, odds are much isn't going to change much about your diet. So what should you actually be making in your air fryer? We did the research and tested some recipes to find out.
Before you start air frying, it’s important to know your appliance and understand what sets it apart from other cooking methods. Hot-fat cooking, or deep frying, submerges foods in oil at a high temperature until the food surface turns golden brown. The intense flavor and crispy texture of these fried foods are a result of something called the Maillard reaction, which occurs when sugars react with amino acids.
Typically, the deep-frying method cooks food quickly, and the high rate of heat conduction in oil ensures all sides of the food are evenly cooked. However, these perfectly browned and crispy treats come at a cost. Research has shown browning in foods creates acrylamide, a product of Maillard reaction that may cause cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Air frying is much more like convection baking than frying. Like baking, it's an indirect cooking method—which is why it takes twice as much time to bake potatoes that it does to boil them.
Convection ovens solve this problem of inefficient heat transfer in baking by adding a fan that blows air rapidly around the oven. Air fryers work in a similar way, using a fan to aid in efficient heat transfer, thereby creating foods that taste deep-fried using primarily hot air.
Here's a thought—why not try crisping up vegetables in your air fryer? The gadget's high temperatures and convection technology can bring out the best in your veggies, crisping up the outsides while keeping the insides tender and fresh.
From working side-by-side with chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants, I learned the key to a successful meal is understanding the temperature required for each ingredient. With vegetables, for example, I’m a strong advocate of roasting them at different temperatures to avoid over-browning.
It requires a little bit more time, but the outcome is totally worth the effort. Tender vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers, and asparagus, require under 10 minutes of cook time. For firm vegetables, like beets and squash, more cook time is needed. In general, shaking or stirring the vegetables throughout cooking can ensure a better and more evenly-cooked result.
|Name||Type of oil||Temperature (°F)||Time|
|Brussels sprouts||Olive oil||425||15|
|Sweet potatoes||Coconut oil||430||15|
|Okra||Canola or coconut oil||360||6|
Want to start cooking veggies in your air fryer? Here are three simple recipes I developed in our kitchen at Reviewed that will get you started.
Total time: 21 min
Prep time: 15 min
Cook Time: 6 min
Total time: 15 min
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 9 - 10 min
Total time: 11 min
Prep time: 3 min
Cook time: 8 min
Yes, air-fried foods are, in many ways, "healthier" than their deep-fried counterparts. But it's less about how you're preparing foods and more about what you're actually eating.
In terms of fat content, deep-fried frozen fries contain 17 grams of fat per serving, whereas air-fried ones contain an average of 5 grams of fat per serving. But when it comes to calorie count, a small serving of deep-fried French fries and its air-fried counterpart both have almost 230 calories. Therefore, it’s safe to say that air frying can decrease fat intake, but just switching to air-fried chicken, fries, and other highly-processed foods won't dramatically change your diet. Exploring fresh, vegetable-based recipes with your air fryer can really help you get the most out of it.
For most people trying to eat well, variety and balance is key. While an air fryer won't transform the way you eat, it can play a positive role in helping you adopt a healthier, fiber-rich that still has lots of flavor and crunch.