The Air in There: Five facepalm moments in your air fryer life 🤦

The Air in There: Five facepalm moments in your air fryer life 🤦
(Photo: charlesdeluvio on Unsplash)

It would be rash to start chucking out all your other kitchen appliances in the mad, wild and flawed belief that an air fryer can cook, like, you know, anything. Nope.

Think of the air flying around inside an air fryer as a hot wind blasting through your town. It flies around in there at 70 km/h. That’s the speed you drive at when you’re in a 60 km/h zone on an empty road and you see a traffic cop; the speed you’re driving at when you give the guy that cheeky little wink as he scowls at you when you go past with the thought hanging in the air between you, “Ja, bud, I’ll catch you next time.” That speed.

And the air is hot. You know how hot it is because you set the time. Set it to 180℃ and the air in there is donnering around in that air fryer at that temperature, at 70km/h. Therefore, any crumbs inside it will be flown this way and that. Think of a beach with a hot wind coming off the sea, how the sand whips up and your calves get hit by hundreds of tiny grains of hot sand. That’s happening inside your air fryer. And it’s only set to 180℃.

🤦 Popcorn

Let’s put it up a bit higher, to 200℃. The wind off the beach has whipped up as a consequence, in stinking January temperatures, say. And you want to put popcorn in there? (Place as many facepalm emojis here as you like, and some fire ones.)

With luck, your popcorn may not pop at all and save you the agony of finding the insides of your air fryer a pockmarked mess. The Sun, that pinnacle of old style Fleet Street redtop melodrama, carried a piece about a Scottish woman who decided to “give it a go” and set her machine to 200℃.

After setting her air fryer to 200, she gave the kernels a shake after a few minutes before popping them back in. But with just one piece popping, she was forced to keep it in for longer.

“She added: ‘One’s popped. F*** sake, I’m not feeling very confident. Bloody hope it works.’ Then, ‘F’sake, it’s burnt.’”

She was lucky. The man who made the following video tells you how to, and how not to, make popcorn in an air fryer, one rather salient piece of advice being that it may cause your house to burn down, which is something most of us would prefer to avoid. At one point he’s saying that it can be done (making popcorn in an air fryer), but suddenly comes to his senses at the end and accepts that it’s not the best idea he’s ever had:

Perhaps that was the moment when he thought, oops, I might get sued. I, therefore, need to say firmly: don’t do it; don’t even try cooking popcorn in your air fryer. Get out that big pot you’ve been ignoring in that cupboard down there. The truth is that air fryer temperatures generally peak at 200℃, and you need a higher temperature than that for popcorn. That pot with its tight fitting lid is a perfect vehicle that we all know is perfect for popping corn. Why mess with perfection?

🤦 Rice

Little grains of rice flying around … right. Makes perfect sense. Hundreds of tiny, hard grains of rice slamming into all sides of the little oven at 200 km an hour. The scene in your air fryer afterwards would resemble a Western Front bunker after the dust has settled.

Rice, of course, cooks in boiling water. In an air fryer, that water will soon be scorching hot and, along with the rice, will be careering around the oven at a much more violent rate than the fan-driven insides of a dishwasher. Would you cook your rice in a dishwasher?

If you think this is silly (it is), it is something that some people actually consider, and others have even done. Or tried to do.

In a story headlined “9 things we learned by cooking dinner in the dishwasher” (honestly, I am not making this up), the sage advice is given: 

“5. Regardless of how much liquid you add, you’re not about to cook rice in the dishwasher.

“Rice requires boiling, which you cannot accomplish in your dishwasher. As a general guiding principle, anything super dense and starchy (that requires boiling temps to soften) isn’t going to work out with this cooking method.”

That, as you can see, was point 5. Point 1 had been, “No, it’s not like cooking sous vide.” 🤦🤦🤦 Point 2: “You’re limited at what proteins you can safely cook in the dishwasher.” (Sorry, I seem to have run out of facepalm emojis. I’ll leave you to find the rest of the points here.)

Actually no, I’ve just read point 6 and it’s too much for me:

  1. However, small pasta will work.

Dainty pasta like couscous can cook in the dishwasher [couscous is suddenly pasta?🤦] because it can soften simply by soaking (even in cold water).”

I can hear the din of Italian chefs bashing their heads against their kitchen countertops all the way across Africa and the Mediterranean. Talking of which, another thing you should not cook in your air fryer is…

🤦 Pasta

This should not require an explanation but it seems that it does have to be explained because there will always be that one person who has not noticed that pasta must be cooked in a deep pot full of lots of rapidly boiling water, period. There is no other way, not even a dishwasher, not even a slow cooker because it must boil rapidly and not for very long. Not a kettle because that’s just silly. Not a pot of water placed in a conventional or even a gas oven. So, logically, also not in an? ….. Let’s just leave that hanging and throw in some more of these 🤦🤦🤦🤦🤦🤦 thingies.

There is one kind of pasta you can, maybe, cook in an air fryer, possibly, and that is the kind of pasta dish you would also cook in a regular oven: the good old pasta bake. But it needs to be really compact in its dish, with no sloshy sauce that could fly around. And, look, your old oven still has to be useful for something.

You can, however, make pasta chips and go viral on TikTok.

🤦 Couscous

Now, before I get lynched, there are some couscous dishes that can be cooked in an air fryer. These are inevitably found on the kind of food websites that include the word “healthy” in their titles or descriptions. By which is not meant any healthy food (and some meats are healthy and good for you, yes it’s true) but the pulses, raw vegetables, nuts (maybe) and tofu and, and, and that many of us also eat along with our other healthy foods, preferably in a “bowl” because apparently plates don’t work any more. That’s the thing that has a meat-eater tearing what’s left of his hair out: the presumption that we are unhealthy, our diets are unhealthy, when in fact our diet may be perfectly balanced across all spheres of food worth eating. I respect anyone else’s choice of dietary habits and choices: it’s the part where my own choices are not respected that gets one’s kale-eating goat. (Ja, I know, you saw what I did there.)

But, back to couscous: the joy of this wonderful grain is that it cooks so quickly and effortlessly. All you need to do is pour some into a bowl, pour in hot water, and 5 minutes later it has absorbed all the water so that you have a bowl of soft grains. You can then fluff it with a fork, or better still, put a dollop of butter on top and fluff that into it. Or simmer some onions, garlic and whatnot in a pan with toasted nuts, and run that through the couscous.

Why, then, take an entire half-hour to make couscous in an air fryer when it is the one thing, the one thing, that is a true quick fix? Madness lies there. And finally, if you do go mad and just pour the dry couscous into your air fryer basket and switch it on it’s possible that your air fryer will be……

🤦 Toast

Yes, good news for toasters everywhere is that they are not about to become extinct, which is possibly more than could be said for the microwave ovens standing next to them, glaring defiantly (with the new air fryer on the other side of the poor benighted toaster, glaring back). The microwave may survive the onslaught, if only because it’s useful as a defroster. Although, apparently, you can defrost in an air fryer too, but my jury’s out.

To understand why a toaster is a better vehicle for toast (and the clue is in the machine’s name 🤦), consider the difference between a toaster and an air fryer. In the former the element is right there, the bread can almost touch it. In an air fryer there’s a massive gap between the bread at the bottom of the basket (or even raised on an inverted foil tin) and the element above. Like making toast in an oven, it takes some time and ends up dry and a tad leathery. So, let’s not chuck out all our other kitchen appliances just yet. Everything has its place. DM/TGIFood


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