Find ‘Air Fryer Perfection’ with these America’s Test Kitchen tips, recipes

When it comes to kitchen gadgets, I could probably be best described as the curious but skeptical type.

A few years ago, at the height of its popularity, I tested recipes and wrote about the cult of the Instant Pot. To be honest, I wasn't sold on the merits, except as a sort of Swiss Army knife-like device for speeding things up.

On the other hand, I’ve always had use for the good old crockpot, which has been around so long it’s become sort of campy-cool, and is still ever so convenient for parties and potlucks.

I rediscovered that when I tested recipes from "The Chef and the Slow Cooker" (Clarkson Potter, $29.99) by James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Hugh Acheson, who surprised me with some pretty sophisticated dishes.

The latest gizmo to find its way through my front door is the air fryer. Like the Instant Pot, it’s spawned Facebook groups, while capturing the imagination of home cooks with the promise of healthier fried foods.

Visiting some online sites, and looking through a batch of air fryer cookbooks didn’t exactly excite me, though. Then I found “Air Fryer Perfection” (America’s Test Kitchen, $24.99) from the team at America’s Test Kitchen.

You probably know the TV show. And if so, you might know the Test Kitchen motto: “Recipes That Work.”

Even better, in the introduction to the cookbook, the team collectively declares that they were skeptical at first, but the more they tested, the more they liked the air fryer.

I found that to be true, too, especially when I used recipes from the book, which goes to great lengths to explain “why this recipe works.”

I learned that air fryer cooking produces real food, relatively fast and easy, with less fat, and minimal mess. Maybe best of all, it’s ideal for cooking for two — though that means it’s not really suitable for large families.

To find out even more, I called up Jack Bishop, the creative director of America’s Test Kitchen, and the guy you see taste testing stuff like pasta sauce and almond butter.

True to his TV persona, Bishop was detailed and enthusiastic talking about air fryer cooking. But he cautioned that getting great results takes a bit of practice, along with the right recipes and techniques.

“Before we do a book on a new piece of equipment, the first thing we do is go out and test all the models,” Bishop said. “And I would say we were fairly skeptical about air fryers in general. So the first thing was to convince ourselves that they actually have a place in the kitchen.

“They are little convection ovens. They do a really good job with all those things you might consider oven-fried, whether it’s chicken Parmesan, or chicken parts, or all the potato things. And they do it with some advantages over oven frying, and over deep frying, too. They don’t need to preheat. They don’t heat up your kitchen. They’re really very easy to clean. So, they passed the first test as far as something that actually has value in the kitchen.”

Of course, the second test was to find out all the things you could cook with an air fryer.

“It’s really great for cooking salmon,” Bishop declared. “You put it on a foil sling. There’s no mess, there’s not really much smell, it’s kind of guaranteed to work, and it’s certainly easier than sauteing two pieces of salmon in a skillet. It’s a good example of something that before we started we never thought we’d be cooking in an air fryer, but it really worked.”

As far as what kind of air fryer you should buy, you can find recommendations from America's Test Kitchen in the book and online. But Bishop has some general recommendations.

“Among the things from the testing that apply no matter what model you’re looking for, we liked the drawer models rather than the lid models,” Bishop said. “They were less messy and seemed safer, and they take up less space on the counter. We also liked the digital models rather than the ones with dials. And you definitely want a nonstick surface on the basket.”

RECIPES

These recipes from “Air Fryer Perfection” (America’s Test Kitchen, $24.99) offer creative and nearly foolproof ways to cook with an air fryer. And the “why this recipe works” introductions explain the logic behind the processes in step-by-step detail.

Spicy Fried-Chicken Sandwich

“Crunchy, juicy, and slicked with mayo, a spicy fried-chicken sandwich is a lunchtime favorite, but we aren’t about to heat up a skillet of frying oil whenever the craving strikes. The air fryer gave us a less greasy route that was nearly as convenient as hitting up our favorite lunch spot. For our spicy chicken sandwich to live up to its name, we added heat in three stages. First, we whisked hot sauce into the egg-flour dredging mixture to ensure that the heat was directly coating the chicken rather than getting lost in the breading, as it does in many recipes. Combining more hot sauce with mayonnaise for a creamy spread upped the heat level further. An unwritten rule of fried sandwiches states that a pickled element is a must; this was our opportunity to add even more heat with fiery sweet pickled jalapeños in lieu of pickle chips. Shredded lettuce provided a crisp, fresh component that tempered the heat a bit.” — From “America’s Test Kitchen Air Fryer Perfection”

Spicy Fried-Chicken Sandwich
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons hot sauce, preferably Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted if desired
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/4 cup jarred sliced jalapeños
  • Toss panko with oil in bowl until evenly coated. Microwave, stirring frequently, until light golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to shallow dish and set aside to cool slightly. Whisk egg, 2 tablespoons hot sauce, flour, garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper together in second shallow dish.
  • Pound chicken to uniform thickness as needed. Halve each breast crosswise, pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. Working with 1 piece of chicken at a time, dredge in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then coat with panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere.
  • Lightly spray base of air-fryer basket with vegetable oil spray. Arrange chicken pieces in prepared basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until chicken is crispy and registers 160 degrees, 12 to 16 minutes, flipping and rotating chicken pieces halfway through cooking.
  • Combine mayonnaise and remaining 1 tablespoon hot sauce in small bowl. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over bun bottoms, then top with 1 piece chicken, lettuce, jalapeños and bun tops. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 496 calories (percent of calories from fat, 44), 34 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 24 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 124 milligrams cholesterol, 735 milligrams sodium.

Korean Steak Tips with Napa Cabbage Slaw

“Inspired by Korean barbecue, these succulent morsels of beef offer a winning combination of spicy, sweet, sour, and salty flavors. We built a simple but tasty marinade by blooming ginger and garlic with sesame oil in the microwave and then whisking in honey, gochujang (a Korean chili paste), and soy sauce. We used this to coat sirloin steak tips; the combination was so tender and flavorful that the meat needed no marinating period but could be cooked straightaway in the air fryer. For contrast, we made a crunchy napa cabbage and carrot slaw, tossing it in a bright but not overly sharp rice vinegar dressing. Sprinkling the beef with scallions and sesame seeds added a fresh and toasty finish.

“Sirloin steak tips, also called flap meat, are sold as whole steaks, cubes, and strips. To ensure uniform pieces, we prefer to purchase whole steak tips and cut them ourselves. Gochujang can be found in Asian markets and some supermarkets. If you can’t find it, substitute an equal amount of Sriracha.” — From “America’s Test Kitchen Air Fryer Perfection”

Korean Steak Tips with Napa Cabbage Slaw
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced to paste
  • 6 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak tips, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 small head napa cabbage, cored and sliced thin (4 cups)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, divided
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin on bias
  • Microwave 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon ginger, and garlic in large bowl until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring once halfway through microwaving. Whisk in 4 teaspoons honey, gochujang, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce until smooth. Add steak tips and toss to coat.
  • Arrange steak tips in air-fryer basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until steak tips are lightly browned and register 130 to 135 degrees (for medium), 13 to 18 minutes, flipping and rotating steak tips halfway through cooking. Transfer steak tips to serving platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest while preparing slaw.
  • Whisk vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 1 teaspoon ginger, remaining 2 teaspoons honey, and remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce together in large bowl. Add cabbage and carrot and toss to coat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir in 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. Sprinkle steak tips with remaining 1 tablespoon sesame seeds and scallions and serve with slaw. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 503 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 34 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 33 grams fat (11 grams saturated), 107 milligrams cholesterol, 500 milligrams sodium.

Orange-Mustard Glazed Salmon

“A sweet, tangy glaze offers appealing contrast to rich, meaty salmon, but most recipes stumble by calling for broiling the fish, which can result in unevenly cooked salmon and a burnt glaze. So we were happy to find that the air fryer produced foolproof results; the direct heat from above caramelized the glaze’s sugars, while the circulated air cooked the fish from all sides. We liked the idea of an orange glaze, but on their own orange juice and zest didn’t pack enough punch. Adding orange marmalade was just the ticket to boost the flavor, and it helped the glaze cling to the salmon. Some whole-grain mustard gave the glaze more acidity and pops of mild heat to balance its sweetness and cut the richness of the fish. We brushed the mixture on the fillets before cooking and after 10 minutes were met with crispy glazed fish boasting beautiful browned edges and a velvety pink interior. This technique lends itself to a variety of flavors, so we also developed an Asian-inspired glaze made with hoisin and rice vinegar and a sweet-smoky honey-chipotle glaze.” — From “America’s Test Kitchen Air Fryer Perfection”

If using wild salmon, cook it until it registers 120 degrees.

Orange-Mustard Glazed Salmon
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 (8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets, 1 1/2 inches thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • Make foil sling for air-fryer basket by folding 1 long sheet of aluminum foil so it is 4 inches wide. Lay sheet of foil widthwise across basket, pressing foil into and up sides of basket. Fold excess foil as needed so that edges of foil are flush with top of basket. Lightly spray foil and basket with vegetable oil spray.
  • Combine marmalade, orange zest and juice, and mustard in bowl. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Brush tops and sides of fillets evenly with glaze. Arrange fillets skin side down on sling in prepared basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook salmon until center is still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 10 to 14 minutes, using sling to rotate fillets halfway through cooking.
  • Using sling, carefully remove salmon from air fryer. Slide fish spatula along underside of fillets and transfer to individual serving plates, leaving skin behind. Serves 2.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 295 calories (percent of calories from fat, 25), 46 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 118 milligrams cholesterol, 220 milligrams sodium.

Parmesan, Rosemary, and Black Pepper French Fries

“Once we learned how to make crave-worthy french fries in the air fryer, we thought that giving them a Parmesan-rosemary coating would be a cinch. We tossed the hot fries with grated cheese and minced herbs, but only some adhered; the rest fell to the bottom of the bowl. Switching gears, we added the cheese partway through cooking. Now the cheese clung and even crisped into a coating, but it lost some of its Parmesan flavor. The Goldilocks moment came when we cooked some cheese onto the fries for a crust and then tossed more with the cooked fries for flavor. (Adding the rosemary both during and after cooking also best highlighted the herb’s aroma.) To gild the lily, we added black pepper and sprinkled a third handful of cheese onto the finished fry pile, which melted into a lacy coating.

“Frequently tossing the fries ensured the most even cooking and the best browning. We found that tossing the fries in a bowl, rather than in the air-fryer basket, yielded the best results and the fewest broken fries. Do not clean out the tossing bowl while you are cooking; the residual oil helps the crisping process.” — From “America’s Test Kitchen Air Fryer Perfection”

Parmesan, Rosemary, and Black Pepper French Fries
  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup), divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks. Stack 3 or 4 planks and cut into 1/2-inch-thick sticks; repeat with remaining planks.
  • Submerge potatoes in large bowl of water and rinse to remove excess starch. Drain potatoes and repeat process as needed until water remains clear. Cover potatoes with hot tap water and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain potatoes, transfer to paper towel–lined rimmed baking sheet, and thoroughly pat dry.
  • Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil in clean, dry bowl, then transfer to air-fryer basket. Place basket in air fryer, set temperature to 350 degrees, and cook for 8 minutes. Transfer potatoes to now-empty bowl and gently toss to redistribute. Return potatoes to air fryer and cook until softened and potatoes have turned from white to blond (potatoes may be spotty brown at tips), 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Transfer potatoes to now-empty bowl and toss with 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1 tablespoon rosemary, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Return potatoes to air fryer, increase temperature to 400 degrees, and cook until golden brown and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing gently in bowl to redistribute every 5 minutes.
  • Transfer fries to bowl and toss with 1/4 cup Parmesan and remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large plate and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Serve immediately. Serves 2 to 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Based on 2: 488 calories (percent of calories from fat, 37), 16 grams protein, 62 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 20 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 417 milligrams sodium.

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