What’s cooking this AirFryday: Tjoppies!

What’s cooking this AirFryday: Tjoppies!
Tony Jackman’s lamb chops, air fryer style. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Every self-respecting South African’s favourite braai treat, the humble lamb chop, or tjoppies as we like to call them in the deep Karoo, today makes its debut in your new air fryer. Who would have thought.

There’s much turning-in-graves today in Platteland cemeteries the length and breadth of the Karoo at the thought that there are people in this unfathomable modern world who would dare to cook that most sacrosanct of braai ingredients, the lam tjoppie, in the despised modern kitchen beast they call an air fryer.

But even sheep farmers sometimes cook lamb chops in a frying pan on the stove, or in the oven under the grill. I know – I’ve seen them. And an air fryer is nothing more than a little oven that you put on the countertop. 

It’s just an oven with a grill element on top to cook what’s below it, just like a conventional one. It also blows hot air around, like some dominees and all used car salesmen. And it has fast become what microwave ovens were to young adults of the 1970s and telephones were to Luddites of the late 1800s. That strange contraption which is probably just another silly invention that will soon disappear when they all come to their senses.

But this time, they won’t, and I’m happy to stick my neck out and say it. Because some inventions are worthwhile; some changes are for the better. I don’t see their air fryer going anywhere.

I would go so far as to say that slowly, over some years, some people will not buy a new, big, fat, heavy, space-consuming conventional oven the next time their present one becomes old and past its sell-by date. They’ll settle for a hob and an air fryer (which, I do believe, has been sadly misnamed, and perhaps some manufacturers will come to their senses and start calling them countertop ovens).

What we South Africans will not give up easily is our braai, whether outdoors or in. I will still be braaing lam tjoppies oppie kole; it is in my very genes to need to do that; it’s in my DNA to braai and I can happily believe that this innate need to cook on fire that simmers within the core of my being goes all the way back to times when our ancestors first made fire, smelt its smoke, understood its heat, and began to cook with it.

But this does not mean that we cannot use these air frying aliens in our kitchens to cook anything we blimmin’ well like in them, if they’re fit for that particular purpose. My task is to find out what is worth cooking in an air fryer, and how to do it.

So I had a go, this week, with good old lam tjoppies. If it hadn’t worked out well, I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe with you. Darem lekker, I can tell you.

(Serves 3)


4 to 6 lamb loin chops

3 Tbsp olive oil (i.e. 1 Tbsp per 2 chops)

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, dehusked and finely chopped

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

Salt and black pepper


Preheat the air fryer for 7 minutes at 190℃.

Spray the air fryer basket with a pure oil spray.

Mix the oil with the rosemary, garlic, chilli and seasoning in a flat-bottomed bakkie, and douse the chops in this on both sides. Drain off excess oil because for an air fryer you only need just enough to coat the meat.

Place them in the basket with space between them and cook for 7 or 8 minutes at 190℃, then turn them over and cook for another 3 minutes more for medium chops, slightly less for medium rare. Thicker chops may need a minute or two more.

Rest the chops for 5 minutes and serve. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Malcolm Royal says:

    My Weber hasn’t arrived from South Africa yet. I have been driven to use a rather inefficient built in gas braai.
    But an Air Fryer we do have. No decent potatoes here so the acceptable option is Frozen Chips.
    I don’t think we can do tjoppies and frozen chips together, so tjoppies and salad will suffice.
    Thank you Tony.

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