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Meet the air fryer, your next favorite kitchen gadget. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Unlike the Instant Pot, the multicooker preferred by many chefs and cookbook writers, no single brand of air fryer has emerged as a namesake. Instead, numerous manufacturers are making air fryers at various sizes and price points. This is the Gourmia GAF520 Electric Air Fryer.
Unlike the Instant Pot, the multicooker preferred by many chefs and cookbook writers, no single brand of air fryer has emerged as a namesake. Instead, numerous manufacturers are making air fryers at various sizes and price points. This is the Gourmia GAF520 Electric Air Fryer. Gourmia

My husband once misheard an infomercial for air fryers and thought someone was blasphemously claiming to cook with the power of prayer.

With their promise of speedy cooking and a crisp finish with minimal fat, air fryers are invoking devotion among home cooks who must have the newest kitchen technology. Whether they are as miraculous as multicookers remains to be seen, but by harnessing the robust power of hot air, air fryers are persuading the faithful to dedicate room for these bulky cookers on limited counter space.

In fact, prolific recipe developer and air fryer evangelist Ben Mims believes they may be especially welcome in small kitchens and other spaces, where compact stoves (or their complete absence) can leave ambitious cooks desperate.

“I have a tiny apartment in New York and use mine all the time,” says Mims, author of “Air Fry Everyday: 75 Recipes to Fry, Roast, and Bake Using Your Air Fryer,” during a recent call. “It’s not the sole way of cooking, and no gadget is a replacement for learning how to cook, but it’s a great way to get every day food on the table.”

Thinking of his air fryer as a small, supercharged convection oven helped Mims go beyond the bounds of merely reducing the amount of oil needed to “fry” foods with hot air. This was essential to breaking the perception that air fryers are just a toy for people who crave quick delivery Buffalo wings or mozzarella sticks.

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“Air Fry Everyday: 75 Recipes to Fry, Roast, and Bake Using Your Air Fryer,” by Ben Mims Clarkson Potter



“It heats quicker and browns faster, giving foods a crunch factor you won’t get in a traditional oven,” says Mims, who uses his to create such hearty temptations as Chile-Rubbed Rib Eye and Cider-Brined Mustard Pork Chops. “But at a lower temperature, you’ve got a gentle setting that’s great for a frittata or tender yeast rolls.”

At high heat settings, Mims explains, super-heated air whips around to draw away excess moisture, allowing vegetables and proteins to become crisp with just a few drops of oil. At lower heat settings, the rapidly circulated air coaxes maximum rise from baked goods.

During the book’s recipe-testing phase, Mims became intrigued by the way an air fryer deftly manages different ingredients. Eggplant and okra, for example, can easily become mushy or slimey when fried traditionally in a pot or skillet.

“It can take a lot of oil to fry them, and they soak up so much,” says Mims. “With the high heat of the air fryer, they get a crisp surface with a creamy interior.”

He recommends making Caramelized Eggplant with Harissa Yogurt (recipe below) to win over those who think they don’t like eggplant.

His faith in the air fryer’s potential was rewarded through his determination to create an irresistible brownie recipe. Mims nearly gave up when he couldn’t get the middle to set, until he remembered an Ina Garten recipe for brownie pudding.

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Caramelized Eggplant with Harissa Yogurt from “Air Fry Every Day” by Ben Mims. He recommends making Caramelized Eggplant with Harissa Yogurt to win over those who think they don’t like eggplant. Denny Culbert Published by Clarkson Potter



“If Ina can make it a thing, it can’t be bad,” Mims quips of the satisfying mix of crunchy edges, fudgy cake and gooey sauce that he appropriately named Gooey “Spoon” Brownies. Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, Mims says it ranks as “one of life’s simple pleasures.”

And yes, an air fryer does produce heavenly chicken wings. Note that Mims adds baking soda to his dry spice rub.

“It puffs up the skin while it cooks, so it comes out almost like cracklings,” he explains. The outcome, he adds, is “10 times better” in the air fryer than a frying pan.

How to pick an air fryer

Unlike the Instant Pot, the multicooker preferred by many chefs and cookbook writers, no single brand of air fryer has emerged as a namesake. Instead, numerous manufacturers are making air fryers at various sizes (capacities range from about 2 quarts to around 6 quarts) and price points (around $45 to $249) to appeal to the diverse culinary aspirations and design aesthetics of their users.

Mims tested several makes and models for his book and found them fairly consistent in quality and function, though some are louder than others or more difficult to take apart for cleaning.

He favors the 5.3-quart digital Crux, a moderately priced house brand of Macy’s, in part because he likes the way its sleek, copper-accented black finish looks in his kitchen. I use a slightly larger unit made by GoWISE, also the choice of Durham cookbook author Kathy Hester. It was among several models she tested while writing “Vegan Cooking in Your Air Fryer: 75 Incredible Comfort Food Recipes with Half the Calories.”

If you plan to buy an air fryer, Mims suggests choosing digital settings over dials for their precision – they also pause the timer when the cook basket is opened to check progress – and advises against choosing a mini model with small capacity.

“Unless you’ll never cook for more than two people, think about Goldilocks when you choose,” he says. “You want one that’s just right for your needs.”

Jill Warren Lucas is a Raleigh-based freelance writer. She can be reached at 3lucases@gmail.com or on Twitter @jwlucasnc.

Caramelized Eggplant with Harissa Yogurt

Years ago while working in the test kitchen at Saveur magazine, I fell in love with a technique for cooking eggplant that involved deep-frying small pieces until caramelized and tender. The process produced ethereally smooth, custard-like texture in the eggplant, but also made it pretty greasy, something I just dealt with by dabbing at it with what seemed like an entire roll of paper towels. I was so happy when I tried that same technique in the air fryers, and this has become one of my favorite recipes in the book. Not only do I get an equally wonderful texture, but I have a healthier version without anywhere near the mess to clean up anymore. Try it, and I think you’ll be a convert, too.

1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and quartered

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)

2 tablespoons harissa paste (see note)

1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane grater

2 teaspoons honey

In a medium bowl, toss together the eggplant and oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss evenly to coat. Transfer to the air fryer and cook at 400 degrees, shaking the basket every 5 minutes, until the eggplant is caramelized and tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, harissa and garlic, then spread onto a serving plate.

Pile the warm eggplant over the yogurt and drizzle with honey just before serving.

Note: Harissa is a spicy, slightly smoky condiment that hails from North Africa. If you can’t find it, simply substitute 2 tablespoons tomato paste with with 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Yield: 2 servings

Reprinted from “Air Fry Every Day.” Copyright 2018 by Ben Mims. Photographs copyright 2018 Denny Culbert. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Gooey “Spoon” Brownies

Feasting on a warm brownie, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, is one of life’s simple pleasures – the dance of hot and cold, chocolate and vanilla, is magical. Oftentimes, though, you have to bake the brownies, let them cool completely to set, then warm them back up.



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Gooey Spoon Brownies from “Air Fry Every Day” are made in an air fryer and are intentionally left soft in the middle, so you can spoon the brownie “pudding” straight into a bowl while hot and molten. Denny Culbert

With the air fryer, they’re intentionally left soft in the middle, so you can spoon the brownie “pudding” straight into a bowl while hot and molten and get straight to your happy place. An important tip: If you don’t have an insert with an easy-lift handle, serve the spoonable brownies directly from their pan in the basket since trying to lift the pan out by tilting it while the brownie is still hot could cause the liquidy center to spill out all over your air fryer. Trust me on this.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Vanilla ice cream and flaky sea salt (optional), for serving

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Then add the melted butter, vanilla and eggs and whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour and chocolate and pour the batter into a 7-inch round cake or pizza pan insert, metal cake pan or foil pan. Place the pan in the air fryer and cook at 310 degrees until the brownie “pudding” is set at the edges but still jiggly in the middle (it may form a “skin” in the middle, but it doesn’t affect the taste), about 30 minutes.

Let the brownie pan cool in the air fryer for 5 minutes, enough time to grab some bowls and allow the ice cream to soften to the perfect scooping consistency. Divide the gooey brownies among serving bowls and top with a scoop of ice cream and, if you like, a decent pinch of flaky sea salt.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Reprinted from “Air Fry Every Day.” Copyright 2018 by Ben Mims. Photographs copyright 2018 Denny Culbert. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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