As the cost-of-living crisis bites, you might be looking for ways to save money in the kitchen – and using an air fryer could be the key.
New research from Which? (which.co.uk) suggests air fryers are up to three times cheaper to run than traditional ovens.
If you’ve never used an air fryer, you could be forgiven for thinking it just fries food, but in a healthier way.
But the truth is, you can fry, bake or roast most things with these gadgets – from roasting a whole chicken to baking a cake. Which? found that while it costs around 71c to cook a roast chicken in an oven, an air fryer would cost 33c to cook a “perfect” roast chicken.
It costs 18c to cook two portions of chips in an air fryer, compared with 53c in the oven, and baking a cake costs 15c in an air fryer, compared with 44c using an oven, says Which?
Of course, any savings would need to be balanced against the initial price of an air fryer – which can cost up to $500, with cheaper models coming in at around $70.
“Cooking is one of the everyday costs that really mount up over time,” says Emily Seymour, Which? energy editor. “There has been a surge of interest in air fryers and smaller cooking appliances in recent months, and our research shows the hype could be justified in some cases, as we’ve found these products cost less to cook certain foods than conventional ovens.”
She points out that it can be more economical to cook large quantities of food in a conventional oven, and adds: “But for quick, small meals, we’ve found it’s worth trying out the alternatives.”
Air fryers generally circulate air at a temperature of between 150–200˚C, and either need a little oil sprayed on food, or none at all.
Ocado’s (ocado.com) in-house food expert Laura Rowe says air fryers are “incredibly versatile – depending on the model, you can reheat, roast, bake, grill and even dehydrate – and often you need far less oil or fat than other cooking methods”.
Here are some delicious ways to cook in an air fryer.
1. French toast
Ms Rowe suggests coating sliced bread in a custard mixture of beaten egg, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon, then shaking off any excess liquid before placing the slices in your air fryer and cooking them for around three minutes on each side.
“It’s also a good idea to use a liner in the basket to catch any residual liquid,” advises Ms Rowe.
2. Cheese croquettes
Danilo Cortellini, former head chef at the Italian Embassy in London, suggests making (or buying) a tomato, chilli and garlic sauce, and mixing 200g of small white bread cubes with 300g of grated Grana Padano cheese, four eggs, garlic, parsley and seasoning, and kneading it into small balls.
Lightly spray the balls with oil and place in batches in the air fryer. Cook at 180˚C for two minutes, turn and cook for another two minutes until golden, then serve on top of the tomato sauce.
3. Speedy pizza
Ms Rowe suggests using pita bread or tortilla wraps as an alternative pizza base, spreading them with tomato sauce before air frying for around eight minutes until crisp at the edges.
Add grated cheese and toppings of your choice, press them firmly into the base, and cook for a further three minutes until the cheese is melted.
4. Roast Brussels sprouts
If you coat Brussels sprouts with a little oil, seasoning and your favourite flavourings – including garlic, chilli flakes, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice – they’ll take just 12 minutes to cook in an air fryer at 180˚C.
It’s not just savoury dishes that work in an air fryer – it makes great sweet treats too. “For a quick fix dessert, whip up your favourite choc chip cookie recipe, and enjoy them warm with a glass of cold milk,” suggests Ms Rowe.
Ms Rowe recommends refrigerating the dough for an hour, before lining the air fryer with baking paper and rolling the dough into golf-sized balls. Put them in the basket and cook for six to seven minutes, until the edges crisp up but the centre remains gooey. Leave in the fryer for five minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
6. Fruit and veg chips
Ms Rowe suggests thinly slicing fruit and vegies such as apple, parsnip, sweet potato and beetroot, seasoning them with salt and pepper – or maybe even cinnamon and nutmeg for something sweeter – and cooking them in a single layer for four to five minutes, or until crisp.
“These are all great options for a healthier take on your usual bag of chips,” Ms Rowe points out.
7. Mozzarella sticks
“DIY mozzarella sticks are the perfect fast food alternative,” says Ms Rowe, who suggests they’re a little healthier if cooked in an air fryer.
She says you need to slice mozzarella into sticks and coat them in flour seasoned with dried oregano, salt and pepper, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs, and repeat the process twice. Cook in the air fryer for six to seven minutes until golden-brown, and serve with dips.
Do you have an air fryer? What are some of your favourite dishes to cook in it? Let us know in the comments section below.
– With PA