Side Orders: Air fryer earns its place on the counter

Anne Braly
Anne Braly

Like many of us wanting to watch our weight and cut down on the amount of fried foods we consume, I've learned to cut back. But we are Southerners, after all, and we were raised on fried foods. It's part of our culinary vernacular, and I can't imagine going the rest of my life without a piece of fried chicken, french fries or fried fish. Maybe even a fried Twinkie, but that may be pushing the envelope a little too far.

So when I first heard about air-frying, I thought it was probably a one-time wonder, another piece of kitchenware that would end up in my closet for unused appliances. How could air fry food? Fried food is best when it's plunged into a deep pot filled with sizzling oil and fried to a golden crisp, right?

After trying my new air fryer, I'm convinced that air-frying is the way to go.

photo Anne Braly

My first experiment was with a small potato. I cut one half into potato chips and the other into french fries, drizzled both with a touch of olive oil and salt, then air-fried them for a few minutes each. My Black & Decker air fryer (Amazon, $99) has a removable divider in the fry basket, so I was able to fry the two potato items separately. The chips were OK; the fries tasted just about as good as deep-fried fries. I was impressed.

Then I moved on to a large potato. It was perfect, taking just 40 minutes to produce a crispy skin with soft insides. Coating the potato with about a half teaspoon of olive oil was the trick.

photo Buffalo chicken burgers cook beautifully in an air fryer.

Next on the menu: Buffalo chicken burgers, which turned out to be the best chicken burger I've ever made. Using homemade wing sauce made them even better. Of course, the burgers can be fried in a skillet on the grill, but you'll have to use a little oil in the pan so they won't stick, as ground chicken has such a small amount of fat. And you'll have to stay in the kitchen to flip them from side to side as they cook. One of the nicest things about cooking them in the air fryer is no oil is needed, and you can set the timer on the air fryer and walk away - no flipping required. When done, they come out nicely browned and delicious. Air-fry some sweet potato fries alongside, and your dinner will be ready in 15 minutes.

I don't like having lots of appliances out on my kitchen counter, but the air fryer is one that I now keep out because since I've gotten it, I use it more than the three other ovens in my kitchen.

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

1 pound ground chicken

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

3-4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup Buffalo wing sauce (homemade or store-bought)

3-4 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles

Hamburger buns

Lettuce and sliced tomatoes, optional

Ranch or blue cheese dressing, optional

In a large bowl, mix together ground chicken, bread crumbs, onions, wing sauce and blue cheese crumbles. Shape into 3 or 4 patties. Heat air fryer to 400 degrees. Place as many patties in the fryer as you can. Do not crowd. Leave a little space between patties. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Repeat with remaining patties. Place patties in buns, and top with lettuce and tomato, if desired. For added flavor, drizzle with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Note: If you cook one patty at a time, you'll have room to add fries and cook them alongside the patties. You will need to use the basket divider that comes with the air fryer to prevent risk of cross-contamination.

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