The answer may surprise you.
I love to cook. But years of working in restaurants and cooking in tiny New York kitchens has made me pretty intolerant of kitchen gadgets. Sure, everyone needs essential pans and a really great chef’s knife, but with very few exceptions, I am 100% anti-kitchen gadget, small, uni-tasking appliances, and unnecessary kitchen clutter. The kitchen is my happy place, and I don’t need all of these new-fangled things cluttering it up! I’m basically like the cooking equivalent of an old guy screaming “Get off my lawn!”
So okay, I bought an Instant Pot (hey—it was on sale), but it’s still in its box. But I get the Instant Pot—I’ve always been terrified of pressure cookers because I don’t want to blow myself up, and the IP can help me you know, not do that. But air fryers? Air fryers are a different story. I get wanting the crispness of fried foods without the added fat and calories, but I’ve been making chips and “fried” chicken in my oven forever—why stop now?
My disdain grew when I watched my colleague fighting with an air fryer as she was developing recipes. Her potato chips, though labor-intensive, were quite delicious. But (sorry, Elizabeth!) her attempt at making bacon—which resulted in an appliance belching thick white smoke—was actually pretty hilarious. But it got me thinking.
Remember turkey bacon? That weird, textural nightmare that your parents ate when they were on a diet? I’ve always secretly loved the taste (I know, I know, processed foods are bad—plus if I admitted it to anyone, they’d take my Food Person card away), but that flabby, floppy texture has always been off-putting. So I thought, if bacon doesn’t work in the air fryer because it’s too fatty, maybe the one thing that might actually benefit from the device is weird, lean turkey bacon.
I love being right. (It doesn’t happen often.)
I went up into the test kitchen and cooked turkey bacon per the package instructions, both in the microwave and on the stove top. The microwave bacon was alright, but it had weird, unsettling tiny bubbles on it and that icky texture I remember from childhood. The stovetop bacon was little better; it was crispier, but still just felt… wrong. But the air fryer bacon! It was crisp, without being burnt, and it even curled up a little like regular bacon. In a very scientific survey of people who happened to be in the test kitchen at that exact moment, we all agreed: it was by far the tastiest sample. (To make it: put slices of turkey bacon in your air fryer at 350℉ for 10 minutes, flipping once halfway through.)
So there it is. I may not be an air fryer fanatic yet, but I will concede that, given its ability to make a decidedly un-lovely food into something you might not be ashamed to eat, the air fryer has possibilities. So this week, I’m going to try one of my ultimate guilty-pleasure foods: fish and chips. Stay tuned.