While family gatherings might be a bit more intimate this holiday season, there’s no reason to forgo your favorite seasonal recipes. But if you’re in the mood to save some time and energy — and have less to clean — while cooking up a storm, perhaps an air fryer could be the smartest — and healthiest — way to go.
If you’re on top of the latest trends in kitchenware, you likely already know about the rise in popularity of the air fryer. Aside from a pile of positive reviews and the growing awareness of the importance of eating healthier foods, many of us are gravitating toward the air fryer as a preferred cooking method.
[SEE: Healthy Holiday Snacks.]
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a countertop-friendly device that circulates heat at high temperatures to bake, grill or fry your food with either very minimal or no oil at all. It works like a countertop convection oven, creating a crispy outer layer while leaving the inside of your food moist and chewy.
Are There Health Benefits to Using an Air Fryer?
Using an air fryer is a more healthful way to cook foods you might typically deep fry, as it requires considerably less oil than the alternative. You can use as little as one tablespoon of cooking oil or even a cooking spray, which also contains negligible calories.
There really is not much you cannot cook in an air fryer. It’s probably best to avoid wet batters and cheese because they will make a mess. Some of the foods that tend to be favored are potatoes and vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and carrots. Many people love to take frozen items and cook them in the air fryer as well, because they become crispier instead of mushy and watery like they can be in, say the microwave or on a skillet.
What Kind of Air Fryer Should I Get?
Air fryers are available in plenty of different sizes, so no matter the size of your kitchen, you can find the right one for you and your lifestyle. You’ll want to make sure your countertop has adequate space when you’re cooking.
This is because when your food is finished cooking, you’ll need space to pull out the basket the food is cooked in. It will not overheat a countertop, but ideally keeping it away from anything plastic in the general cooking area would be wise. There are mini air fryers, which will fit about two servings at a time, and then there are quart-sized air fryers that can fit enough for family-size recipes.
Some air fryers have levels, so there’s the ability to cook two separate foods at the same time. This isn’t necessary, but can be nice depending on how much air fried food you want to cook. Many have baskets that detach and go in the dishwasher, making cleanup even easier.
Most air fryers come with different settings, reaching temperatures of up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and also have timers . A nice added feature on many air fryers is pictures of items such as frozen food or poultry, so you can click on that setting and the appropriate temperature and time needed for cooking will show up.
What Kind of Holiday Recipes Can I Cook in My Air Fryer?
My absolute favorite air fryer recipes are vegetables, because you don’t need to use a lot of oil to get that crispy outer coating, and it takes a lot less time than roasting vegetables in the oven.
Green beans are definitely a holiday favorite. This air fryer Brussels sprouts recipe will be a sure fire hit at your holiday dinner table.
Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
— 2 cups of fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and sliced in half.
— cooking spray of choice.
— salt and pepper to taste.
— shredded Parmesan cheese (optional).
1. Placed washed and cut Brussels sprouts in a bowl.
2. Use cooking spray. Be sure all the sprouts are coated.
3. Spray the air fryer basket with the cooking spray as well.
4. Add the Brussels sprouts. Depending on your air fryer size, you can cook them all at once or in batches. Try not to overcrowd the basket.
5. Set your air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook your Brussels sprouts for 10 minutes.
6. At the 5 minute point, open the air fryer and toss the sprouts around with tongs to make sure they are evenly cooking. The total cooking time could be up to 15 minutes depending on your air fryer size.
7. When the Brussels sprouts look done, remove them immediately from the basket and transfer them to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and let it cool for 5 minutes. Serve.
Air Fryer Acorn Squash
Squash is another fall favorite that makes an excellent holiday side dish. This air fryer acorn squash recipe from Massachusetts dietitian Chrissy Carroll is fabulous as a healthy carbohydrate. You can use most any fall squash for this easy recipe.
Another great recipe is air fried sweet potatoes. After peeling, they can be split in half or sliced into cubes, and similar to the Brussels sprouts recipe, sprayed with a cooking spray and spiced with onion salt and lemon pepper. Or for a sweet twist, dusted with cinnamon and brown sugar and cooked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes.
Meats can also be cooked in the air fryer. Obviously, a larger air fryer will cook larger portions. Ideally, if you wanted to cook a full turkey in an air fryer, set the air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The trick to getting a crispy outside is to coat it with butter.
For some holiday flavor, an herb butter rub is ideal. You can cook a turkey skin side down for a full 25 minutes, then turn and cook another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. You’ll need a meat thermometer. Slightly more or less time will be needed, depending on the size of your turkey.
Overall, it takes less time to cook in the air fryer than the traditional oven method, which makes it more desirable for those who actually want to enjoy their holidays away from the oven and don’t want to spend hours on the cleanup either.
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