I Used My Air Fryer Every Day for Two Weeks—and Found a Whole New Way of Eating
Your air fryer really can be an everyday appliance.
I was slow to jump on the air fryer train, thinking it was a gimmicky appliance (looking at you, quesadilla maker) that I had no room in my kitchen for. Then I found out that “air fryer” was a flashy name for “tiny high-powered convection oven that fits on your countertop and will change your life forever.” I bought this kitchen tool immediately and never looked back!
When I was a professional chef, the only ovens I ever used were convection ovens, which cook food by rapidly circulating hot air and maintain a more even temperature than a regular home oven. Then I became a professional recipe developer, working out of my own kitchen, and remembered why it’s so hard for home cooks to get restaurant-caliber results.
Even though they’re much smaller than professional convection ovens, there’s a lot you can do in an air fryer. To prove it, I spent two weeks cooking three meals a day for our family using only an air fryer.
How I used my air fryer
Matt Robicelli for Taste of Home
My family of four doesn’t eat breakfast at the same time, nor does anyone like the same things—my wife and I like “fancy” things like omelets and veggie-packed hashes, while our teenage sons prefer toasted bagels and frozen waffles. (Speaking of, here’w why bagels are so much better in New York.) And thanks to its versatility, all of these things can be easily made in the air fryer with minimal mess. Anything that keeps me from needing to clean the kitchen in the morning is A-OK in my book.
At first, we all kept our air-fryer breakfasts pretty simple. The kids made toast they could schmear with peanut butter or jam (air fryers also work as toasters); my wife made air-fryer hard-boiled eggs she could drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with good salt; I’d whisk up some eggs with leftover veggies from the previous evening’s dinner, divide between two ramekins, and make myself a pair of mini-frittatas. All these things were so easy to make, we were always able to start our day with a delicious breakfast, no matter how groggy we were.
Because the air fryer was easy to use and didn’t leave us with a sink of dirty dishes, all four of us began upgrading our breakfast game significantly. The kids learned how to make eggs Lorraine, and my wife and I would crack eggs into ramekins filled with tomato sauce and spices for individual shakshuka. While cooking dinner, I’d whip up quick and easy things that could be kept in the refrigerator to be air-fried the next morning, like homemade sausage patties and cinnamon breakfast bites.
Matt Robicelli for Taste of Home
Lunch is usually simple, since my wife and I work from home and don’t want to do dishes in the middle of the day. Many times, we’d use the air fryer to heat up leftovers from the night before, since unlike the microwave, air fryers can be used for foods that are meant to be crisp. (It’s now the only way any of us will reheat cold pizza.) And while she and I are more than capable of whipping up a gourmet lunch, we did discover the wonders of air-fryer grilled cheese. Then we upped our game to fancy grilled cheese, which is any kind of sandwich with a slice of cheese and mayo smeared on the outside, popped in the air fryer until bubbly and golden brown.
Another lunch we fell back in love with: mini English muffin pizzas. My wife and I both made those as after school snacks when we were kids and realized they were a perfect recipe for the air fryer. We started riffing off that recipe like we did with the grilled cheese sandwiches. One of our favorites was a Tex Mex–inspired version with crumbled chorizo, cheddar cheese, and my guilty pleasure, Taco Bell hot sauce.
Matt Robicelli for Taste of Home
I figured dinner would be a cinch, considering there’s no shortage of amazing air-fryer recipes out there: air-fryer pickles, coconut shrimp, and beef Wellington were all big hits in this house!
But where the air fryer truly excelled was the nights I was so exhausted, I could barely bring myself to cook. Toss some tofu and vegetables in soy marinade, throw it all into a 400°F air fryer, watch some TV, and before you know it, dinner is served. Chicken thighs marinated in salad dressing, salmon steaks brushed with bottled teriyaki sauce, frozen shrimp tossed with blackening spices—the air fryer was made for mindless cooking. Or “can do” on days you “can’t even.”
I followed the suggested cooking times given in my air fryer’s manual and got a fantastic dinner every single time. By the way, here’s a chart that shows you how to air fry your favorite foods.
What I learned about air-fryer cooking
Keep it clean
When you use your air fryer only occasionally, it’s pretty easy to clean—usually a quick wipe down or rinse is all you need. But when you’re using your air fryer for three meals a day, it needs a deep clean every night.
Fortunately, this isn’t hard to do! After shaking off any crumbs and stuck-on food, we put the air-fryer baskets and drip tray into the dishwasher at the end of the day, and they’re ready to use again when we wake up for breakfast. You can also use materials like aluminum foil and parchment paper in your air fryer to reduce the mess.
Preheating is key
Just like a big oven, your air fryer (a small oven!) cooks best when it’s been preheated. But because of your air fryer’s compact size, it takes only 60–90 seconds to get hot. Though the results would be worth waiting for—food comes out browner, crispier, and more evenly cooked. Preheating is only one of the simple air-fryer hacks that will make your meals delicious. If you’re curious about how air fryers work, we have a more detailed explanation for you.
Don’t forget to spray
Even though many air fryers have nonstick interiors, always give your trays and basket a light spritz of cooking spray before adding your food. We learned the hard way that there is such a thing as “too much cheese,” and a little cooking spray will save you from a lot of scrubbing. Here are some other air fryer mistakes people make.
Don’t think of an air fryer as a fryer—think of it as an oven. And just like with an oven, picking the right size cookware for your air fryer is very important. Make use of ramekins, cake pans, and other air-fryer accessories, which will open you, and your air fryer, up to a whole new world of possibilities.
Next, read up on some things you probably shouldn’t cook in an air fryer. Happy air frying with our favorite air fryers of 2022!