I really wanted to love my air fryer. After talking to a few experts who raved about them I decided to give one a try. I figured even if I wasn’t ambitious enough to make chicken parmesan or kebabs, air-frying up some veggies regularly would be a tasty way to get myself to eat more of them.
But before I got going on some veggies, I needed some protein for lunch, so I tried this coconut shrimp recipe from Ben Mims, author of "Air Fryer Every Day: 75 Recipes to Fry, Roast, and Bake Using Your Air Fryer". They came out great — crispy and golden with a nice, coconutty crunch.
I’m going to need a bigger basket
That was when I discovered my first problem with the air fryer — its size. I bought the 2.75-quart Philips TurboStar, which says it provides up to four servings. (There are bigger models on the market like the highly-rated COSORI Air Fryer, which offers up a 5.8-quart capacity and which I'll explore below.)
The half-pound of shrimp the recipe calls for fit nicely in the bottom of my fryer’s basket, with room for the air to circulate around and brown it. But it made for a light lunch for two people — if I was cooking for more, I’d want to make a second batch.
Later I tried making chicken wings. Patted dry and air-fried for about 30 minutes, they finished with skin that was deliciously brown and crispy. They fell into the same camp as the shrimp, though — leaving enough space for the air to circulate meant I could only cook about a pound of wings at a time.
While the cooking area of the air fryer is on the small side, the overall footprint is big — about the size of my Instant Pot. And dismantled, the basket takes up about half of the top drawer of my dishwasher, so I found myself handwashing it most of the time.
The fan was a little loud
The second thing I didn’t love about the air fryer? The noise. The fan that circulates the air in the fryer and crisps everything up so perfectly is on the loud side, at least in my model.
The Philips web site says the fan noise can be up to 65 decibels, comparable to a vacuum cleaner. That sounds about right to me. It’s loud enough that my husband, whose office is adjacent to the kitchen, wanted his office door closed when I was testing the air fryer.
Other models might be quieter. The team at America’s Test Kitchen says they vary a bit from model to model, but most are about as loud as a hard-working laptop. Brandi Crawford, author of "The Super Easy Air Fryer Cookbook: Crave-Worthy Recipes for Healthier Fried Favorites", says her Power Air Fryer is a lot less noisy than the COSORI, though she prefers the COSORI overall.
My favorites? Veggies and healthy snacks
In spite of the less-than-ideal size and sound, I experimented with more air-fryer recipes. I loved them all. Crispy chick peas were perfect, and perfectly easy — just drain and dry a can of chick peas, add some oil and herbs, and fry them up for a few minutes. And because they’re a snack, I had plenty of room in the fryer basket to cook as much as I needed.
Same for French fries and sweet potato fries — they both came out great. I followed the directions that came with the fryer and peeled and chopped the potatoes, soaked them in cold water and dried them, then air-fried them with a little oil and salt for 15-20 minutes, shaking them once or twice as they cooked. As a side dish for two people, I could easily fit plenty of fries in my air fryer.
Cauliflower was another success — super easy, crispy, and delicious. I think just about any “sturdy” vegetable would air-fry up nicely with a little bit of oil and salt, and I could see that throwing a few veggies in the air fryer would make for a fast, easy side dish with just about any dinner.
My toaster oven is nearly as good as an air fryer
Everyone raves about brussels sprouts in the air fryer so I decided to try an experiment. I cooked three batches—one in the air fryer, one in my toaster oven with the convection feature, and one in my standard oven.
The air-fried sprouts were the best. They were perfectly browned and crisped on the outside and tender but not mushy on the inside. And they were the fastest to finish, ready in about 20 minutes.
The standard oven was subpar. It took a long time to preheat, and then a long time to cook the sprouts — I probably should have cranked its heat up higher than 350 degrees. By the time the sprouts were brown on the outside they were too soft on the inside.
But the convection toaster oven delivered results nearly as good as the air fryer. It needed a few minutes to heat up, but it was hot by the time I was finished slicing the sprouts and tossing them in a little oil and salt. And it took five minutes longer for the sprouts to brown and crisp, but the flavor and consistency was comparable.
Plus, it was much quieter than the air fryer, and I already have it and use it, so it doesn’t take up any more space in my kitchen. And the trays I used for cooking the sprouts only take as much room as two dinner plates in my dishwasher. For me, as much as I wanted to love the air fryer, the toaster oven comes out on top.
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