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Mon, Sept. 27

Air fryer a perfect complement to cooking arsenal

Jan Groves convincing The Dunnery that air-fried chicken is the best.

Jan Groves convincing The Dunnery that air-fried chicken is the best.

Do you know what an air fryer is?

It is a kitchen appliance that cooks food requiring the crispiness of fat frying to give it the mouthwatering delicious taste we expect. Think McDonald’s French Fries or Colonel Sander’s Chicken.

We have heard from various people how wonderful this appliance cooks fresh potato fries and how little fat is used in the process. We began wondering if the use of one might complement our present cooking style.

First the story of our deep fat fryer. Newly married and watching every penny, our visits to Columbus, Ohio, included cashing in Suzie’s mother’s Green Stamps for premiums, after Jeff affixed them into books. Over time, we collected a bathroom scale, a highchair, and a deep fat fryer. How we looked forward to trying every recipe in the book that came with the fryer.

Back home with fresh oil bubbling we made fries, then apple fritters, and then doughnuts before we came to our senses about the quality of our diet. Besides the diet, every time we used it, we had a half gallon of used cooking oil that could be strained and saved if one had refrigerator space (we did not) or dumped in the trash.

What a mess to clean up. The appliance itself got a permanent plasticky grease coating. Ugh! The fryer went into disuse and eventually, landfill.

Back to the future. One night at dinner with friends Paula Potter and Jan and Don Groves, the Groves could not stop extoling the merits of their air fryer. The three of us were invited to the Groves home for a demonstration.

Jan had seasoned meaty chicken thighs which were already cooking in their Ninja fryer, situated on their island. Halfway through the cooking, Jan opened the drawer, gave the chicken in the basket a shake and a spray of oil, then closed the drawer for the remainder of 26 minutes. We had brought along fresh eggplant strips, breaded at home.

After the chicken was done, Jan popped the eggplant in the basket, gave it a spritz of oil and three minutes later, delivered it to the table.

We sat down to a delicious fried chicken dinner accompanied by the eggplant with Marinara sauce, a side salad and homemade date nut cookies.

The Groves were right ... the chicken and eggplant were as good as any ordered out.

The only fat used was the pre-spray. How did this machine do it? We checked out the heating element located in the top stationary part and figured the cooking method was convection. We checked out the cleanup; there was little.

Less than 2 Tablespoons of juices and fat remained in the bottom of the basket and were easily wiped out with a paper towel. We checked out the size and storage location. The Groves have a perfect cubby that their Ninja easily slides into.

We came home and considered that merits of an air fryer. We downloaded several recipes, borrowed Dev Ross’s air fryer, and indulged during a four-day weekend on air-fried chicken wings (oh, dear, yummy), more eggplant, (oh my, just like Calderone Club in Milwaukee), meaty chicken legs (one crispy piece sufficed) and lastly, French fries (not quite MacDonald’s but good!).

Best of all, we were not oozing oil. Directions for use were reliable. Clean-up was simple. The biggest drawback was the height of the appliance ... too tall for any of our cupboard shelves and no counter-top space for another appliance.

The question for us remains unanswered. An air fryer is certainly not a need, but it does what it claims to do. Do we want to cart it to the storage area after each use? For now, we will live without one. Many thanks to all who helped us experiment.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to All Our Readers, Jeff and Suzie @ The Dunnery.

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