Friday, June 16, 2017

What's the Big Deal About Air Frying?


I admit, I felt a bit jealous when the air frying fad started a few months ago and really wished our apartment kitchen wasn't so small so I could fit even the smaller of the Phillips, but after seeing how big even that was in Bed, Bath, Beyond one day, and knowing all our other storage spaces are totally maxed out, I walked away with a sigh.

That didn't stop me from joining an air fryer (low-fat vegan, of course) Facebook community, or drooling over all those new concoctions Chef AJ was posting pictures of everywhere. I clicked to the next post with another sigh.

I told myself I could clear out the closet that holds my sewing supplies to store one, then realized I still use that stuff, frequently. Crafting supplies? No, still use a lot of that, too. Um, under the bed? This is how desperate I was, thinking I could fit an air fryer under the bed!

I started reading reviews of various air fryers on Amazon, just in case we hit the lottery and can afford to move into a larger apartment, preferably in Florida again.

Now, those of you who come here often know I can be a bit of a crank at times, always crabby and complaining about something, major or minor. Grumpy Cat and Maxine are my heroes. When I read reviews on Amazon, I don't go to the 5 star ones - too many of them are fake or bought. I mean, I want to get in on being a Vine reviewer, they seem to get every single item in the store for free, just for a review! No, being the realist I am, I go right for the one-star ones.

And I saw the chink in the armor.

Even the best air fryers had complaints about them, from arriving broken to the timer settings suddenly while unattended. On rare occasions, a fire would break out, or the cooking food would become so smoky, the room's smoke alarms would go off.

OK, I can see how cooking greasy foods could do some of those things, so those bad reviews didn't turn me 100% wanting one.

But there was this one reviewer who asked what the big deal was about this appliance. Potatoes cut into fry shapes come out hard, burnt around the edges, and hollow on the inside. Vegetables cooked in it just looked and tasted charred. Other items were just so dried out they were inedible. I sat there and yelled at the monitor (My husband will vouch for the fact that I do this at least twice a day) and said "Well, what did you expect would happen? You're tossing vegetables into a 400ºF or higher oven with a fan blowing on them to make it hotter! Of course they're charred and dried out!!"

And that's when it hit me.

When people on the Ultimate Weight Loss community made a big deal out of oven roasting vegetables I tried it, and disliked it for the same exact reasons this man disliked the air fryer!  People asked about the caloric density of doing this, because as Jeff Novick explains in his Caloric Density video (Still free on YouTube), when you remove the water from a food you're increasing its caloric density. The reply was, if it gets you eating your vegetables (2-4 pounds a day), don't worry about the caloric density. That was the same response to flavored vinegars, an item Jeff had called Balsamic Crack. So now we're taking veggies, coating them in balsamic crack, and removing their water, causing a previously low caloric density to rise to astronomic heights! Is it still healthy? Well, maybe if you have never eaten a vegetable before in your life and this is the only way to trick you into eating them. But I would put this into the same category as making peanut butter and chocolate flavored green smoothies, an actual recipe I saw on the Eat to Live message board. I doubt Dr. McDougall or Jeff Novick would approve of either one.

But I'm OCD, and in the back of my mind, I still wanted to at least try one to see if I liked it. I know, an impossible feat, since I don't know anyone in real life who owns one, so I tried let the thought leave my head and filled it with nice steamed veggies with my healthy bean or oat based nutritional yeast cheese sauce or a McDougall gravy.

Then we had a heat wave. For about 5 days we had temps in the 90's. My son came home from work one day and didn't want his usual early dinner of pasta with marinara sauce. He wanted grilled cheese, so on the way home he stopped for a loaf of bread and package of cheese slices. No, he's not a McDougaller, a vegan, or even a full time vegetarian, even after the scare of his father needing CABG 4 years ago and his own ER trip with chest pains which turned out to be  panic attack. I made him fat-free vegan cheese from a recipe found on-line a few years ago, but although his father and I loved it, he didn't.

Anyway, to make his grilled cheese he needed the toaster oven instead of the toaster. Again, small apartment, infrequently used appliances stored in every nook and cranny we would find. The toaster oven was in the front hallway under Christmas decorations, so while he took his shower I dug it out and brought it to the kitchen, moving the Instant pot to the bedroom until after dinner. While setting it up and making sure everything was there, I noticed that on the front door of the oven it said it was also a convection oven!! 

Eureka!

I could finally find out what the big deal is with air frying, since an air fryer is nothing more than a miniature convection oven. That night after he had his dinner, knowing he was probably going to use it until he ran out of bread and cheese, I found a more convenient corner to temporarily tuck it into. The next day around lunchtime I put it on the table and plugged it in. I popped a slice of parchment paper onto the roasting tray and dumped some cauliflower on it, put it in the oven, set it for convection roasting, 400ºF, and set the timer to 20 minutes, because that's the time and temp Chef AJ said she uses for everything.

After 20 minutes I had warm cauliflower.

I put it in again for another 20 minutes. When the timer dinged I had hot cauliflower, but nothing browned, blackened or slightly crispy. By then I was really hungry and my sweet potato was getting cold, so I just ate it as-is, vowing to try again in the near future.

Today was that day.

Instead of using raw, cold vegetables straight out of the refrigerator, I nuked up some Brussels sprouts. While that was cooking, I took a Japanese sweet potato out of the refrigerator, sliced it in half, and once again put parchment paper on the tray and put the tray in the oven, this time setting the temp on 450ºF. The potato Chef AJ made the other day looked interesting so I thought I'd give it a try. At 10 minutes the edges of the skin were getting crispy, so something was happening this time. But at 20 minutes, I not only had crispy skin, but a really dried out potato.

Now for the Brussels sprouts. One thing I noticed with all of Chef AJ's veggies is that she coats her Brussels sprouts with the balsamic/mustard concoction, so I did that with mine. I keep a bottle of it in the refrigerator as a salad dressing so it was easy enough to grab, pour, and toss. Onto the roasting tray they go, and in the oven for 20 minutes at 450º again. At 10 minutes I shook the tray, turning them all over to the other side. A little browning on the side that was on the bottom, but not much. At 20 minutes, I shook them again, and again a little browning, but nothing like the dark, charred look that Chef AJ and others get with an air fryer. So I let it cook for another 10, 20 minutes for a total of 40 minutes at 450º.

It says "Convection" in that oval in the lower right hand corner of the door


So, once again, I say "What's the big deal about air frying?" 

I won't be wasting any more time or food on this idea. If you like air fried food, great! Even as a kid eating the crappiest version of the SAD diet there is, I would always prefer my hotdogs boiled instead of cooked on a grill. I preferred plain white bread and cheese sandwiches to grilled cheese. If my hamburger was crunchy on the outside I would give it to one of my brothers and ask for a hot dog or cheese sandwich. I guess air frying is an acquired taste.

My sewing and crafting supplies are happy.

1 comment:

Faith Hood said...

I got sucked into a air fryer - got some cheap one off ebay as I was unsure. The thing is huge. I love the tofu from it, but frankly I can control my fries better in the convection toaster oven. I will try it when I get okra in my CSA share and see if it does better with that. But I don't use it enough for the dollars spent. It was close to the price of a IP. For a one function appliance - that big - I wouldn't purchase one again. My son does like to play around with it and make fries.