Todd English has a new — and unlikely — love: the air fryer.
"I was amazed at the quality of the way things came out," English, a prolific and award-winning restaurateur and television chef, said in a recent interview. "And the versatility of it was something I also loved."
Air fryers aren't new, but the high-profile attention they have been getting is. Which is all a bit surprising, given their as-seen-on-TV appeal. Unlike classic deep-fry devices, air fryers don't use kettles of oil to cook. Instead, they are essentially small, countertop versions of a convection oven. They use a fan that constantly pushes super hot air around the food. This means they cook faster, deeper and — with almost no oil — crunchier than traditional appliances.
English has become so smitten with air fryers, he's just released a cookbook dedicated to them, "The Air Fryer Cookbook." The book features recipes for everything from stuffed portobello mushroom and spinach pizzas to sesame-ginger fried pork, as well as the more classic (and expected) french fries and chips.
He argues that air fryers are a natural for home cooks, who generally love fried food but don't know how to properly cook it using traditional oil methods. "Most people don't know when to change the oil on a tabletop" deep fryer, nor do they know how to properly manage the temperature, he said.
Air fryers, English explains, correct for all of that. Many of his recipes use only cooking spray or bread crumbs, while others typically call for just a tablespoon of oil. He said an air fryer can cook a dish in about 10 to 15 minutes, compared to 25 to 30 minutes in a regular oven. "Simple, and the results are very close, if not an exact replica of fried food," English said. But with far less fat.
Guy Crosby, a professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health, agreed that air fryers can help cut back on the amount of fat used in cooking, but obviously are only as healthy as the foods that go in them.