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Tommy, June 21 2021

Let's Talk Air Fryers

If you’re anything like me, (normally after an early morning info-mercial or a casual stroll through Macy’s) you’ve been suckered into every new-fangled kitchen gadget ever created. From a Fry Daddy to the George Foreman Grill, from waffle makers to giant electric woks, from food processors to mixers, from fondu pots to a panini press, we use them three or four times and they’re in the basement. Unless you have a commercial kitchen in your house there’s just no room on the counter next to your microwave oven, toaster, coffee maker, and giant Margaritaville blender.

And along comes the air fryer. 

Probably the most-purchased cooking gadget since the beginning of the pandemic, the air fryer is definitely worthy of that one little extra square foot in your kitchen. Seriously. Find a spot.

Strictly because of the messiness, I’ve only oil fried chicken wings once at my house. Of course they came out perfect, but how long do you leave that oil sitting around and where the hell do you dump it? I’ve grilled wings outdoors on the gas grill and smoked them on the Traeger, and again they come out wonderfully but, especially when smoking, it just takes too long. I’ve baked them in the oven and even tried stovetop and wok cooking but have never liked how they turned out. Air fryer; quick and perfect every single time.

I’m not saying that air fried wings taste as good as oil-fried or other methods. Depending on your taste buds you definitely give up a few taste points without that oil, but the (sans oil) cooking saves you calories, cholesterol, and time. 

I picked up a Ninja Foodie Grill (from an info-merical, lol) for Christmas 2019. Doesn’t everyone buy cool stuff for Christmas and use it as a gift to the spouse? Two birds? I digress.

My family uses that bad boy literally every single day. My daughters use it mostly for french fries, tater tots, and other processed frozen foods. My wife grills veggies, chicken, fish, steaks, pork, meatballs, etc, and uses it to warm up almost any leftover protein and even pizza as it doesn’t soggy things up like a microwave. Me? I use it for . . . drum roll please . . . wings. 

To be factual, an air fryer doesn’t actually “fry” anything. It’s more of a compact convection oven that circulates hot air to cook faster and give food a nice crisp to it. Some fryers double as grills or broilers, but the actual definition of “fry” is cook food in hot fat or oil, typically in a shallow pan. So let’s not get hung up on what the marketing people created to rope you in. It’s really an “air cooker.” But it’s life changing!

Other than the fact that they heat up super fast, overall affordability, ease of use, versatility, and healthiness are all great reasons to get yourself an air fryer. However there are a few negatives as well. For me personally, cleaning the damn thing is the only real drawback. Having been a bachelor until 29, I always use the “let it soak” method. So mine goes straight into the sink with water and Dawn dish soap until I can get motivated enough to get after it. Doni The Cleaner tells me to just throw it in the dishwasher. Doesn’t seem feasible, but I need to try that.

You can also ruin a meal if you cook too long. I’ve accidentally made steak tip jerky and burnt brussell sprout powder while checking sports scores.

One must also consider the size of the family. We’ve had Wingaddicts arguments about the (small) number of wings you can cook at a time in the air fryer. Me, I never need to cook more than a dozen so I’m good. If you need to cook for a family larger than four or five, you might have challenges (though they do have larger fryers now).

Like anything that explodes onto the consumer scene, suddenly you have a hundred choices when purchasing one. Which are the best? Like with most things, it can be subjective but here are some of the top-rated air fryers depending on your circumstance. 

Wingaddicts Approved: While Wingchef Ryan is an actual chef and doesn’t prefer to use an air fryer, we all fully  endorse the Ninja Foodi. Doni and I both have the Ninja Foodi 5-in-1, which doubles as an indoor grill. It’s higher end (about $200) and a little bigger than most. But Ninja also has an entire line of strictly air fryers that can do different things. 

Here are some as rated by the Food Network.

Best Overall: Instant Vortex 4-in-1 Basket Air fryer. This is very compact, has a six-quarter capacity and a digital touch screen with four built-in smart programs (air fry, roast, bake or reheat). It can fit a two-pound bag of fries or a four-pound butterflied chicken. The Instant 6-in-1 is also highly rated. It comes in four, six or ten-quart size for larger meals and also has the ability to broil and dehydrate. Both are super affordable at under $100.

Big Batch Cooking: The COSARI Air Fryer Max XL has 13 one-touch cooking functions and has won numerous awards. It has a 5.8 quart capacity which can cook at five-pound chicken and is suited for families of 3-5. It also comes with a 100-recipe cook book and is priced around $130.

Most Fun to Use: GoWISE USA 5 Qt 8-in-1 Electric Air Fryer XL. This fryer comes in multiple colors and includes a 6-piece accessory set including racks and baskets and trays. It’s rated 4.7 out of 5 in almost 800 customer reviews with most people rating it with a five. The only drawback is that this is not dishwasher safe. This can be purchased for under $75 from Wayfair with free shipping.

Best for Small Kitchens: Dash Compact Electric Air Fryer. You can grab one of these little four-quart fryers in five different colors, for under $50! They’re tiny but can fire up a dozen wings at a time.

Best for Square Meals: Gourmia 6-Qt Stainless Steel Air Fryer. This model, with the sliding bottom basket, is versatile and can cook many things with eight digital settings. Normally sold in Kohls and JC Penny it sells for a little under $150.

Best for Families: Cuisinart TOA-60 Airfryer / Convection Toaster Oven. OK, so this bad boy might be easier to fit on your counter as it doubles as a toaster oven as well. Available in stainless, black stainless, silver, cream, and navy colors this oven has the capacity to toast six slices of bread, air fry three pounds of wings, bake a 12-inch pizza, or roast a four-pound chicken. For about $200, this guy has the whole family covered.

Best for Short Oder Cooks: Ninja Foodi 8qt 6-in-1 Basket Fryer. This fryer has dual zone technology which lets you cook two different foods, two different ways, at the same time. It even has settings that allow the foods to finish at the same time. Six programs let you air fry, air broil, roast, bake, reheat, and dehydrate and the XL capacity lets you cook main dishes and sides at the same time and can fit up to four pounds of fries and chicken wings. 

Most Versatile: Ninja Foodi. For under $100, this might be the most popular air fryer on the market. There's a reason for it. It's small (4qt) but can handle a dozen wings, and is compact so it fits easily in your kitchen. Also super easy to use and to clean. Maybe the perfect little air fryer.

Just like with wings, “the best” is all relative to what your personal favorite is. What kind of air fryer do you use? We’d like to hear. Join our “Wingaddicts Community” on Facebook and tell us about your air fryer.

Wings up!

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