7 Brilliant Ways to Use Your Air Fryer for Meal Prep
Time to give this appliance the attention it deserves.
We already know air fryers are brilliant tools for making crispy, crunchy fried-like foods in minutes. With almost zero work, you can have a full fryer basket of French fries, wings, or meatballs on the party platter without having to deal with the mess of a deep fryer or heat up your oven.
Air fryers create a crispy coating on foods using minimal oil by way of convection. This style of cooking uses fans to circulate hot air around your food, which activates the maillard reaction (a term that refers to the delicious browning of protein you taste you bite into a just-seared steak or fresh-baked biscuit). Air fried food won’t necessarily taste like it’s been deep fried, but it will have a crunchy coating and only needs about a tablespoon of oil. I like to use oven fries as an example—they aren’t French fries, but they're delicious in their own right.
Speaking of oven fries. Because air fryers are often celebrated for their ability to make fried-like party foods, like onion rings or fish sticks, we easily forget that convection cooking is actually a lot closer to the cooking you do in your full-size oven (i.e. roasting and baking) versus your deep fryer. Translation = let’s start treating the air fryer like a mini oven that sits on the countertop. When you think of it this way, the number of foods you'll see you can cook quickly in your air fryer increases tenfold.
Next time you’re powering through a Sunday cooking session, don’t bother preheating your oven. Your air fryer may be small, but this appliance is mighty when it comes to meal prep potential. Here are seven ways you can use it to make healthy foods you can eat all week long (buffalo wings not included).
Just as you would with a sheet pan in the oven, you can roast several servings of broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, or any other vegetable in your air fryer. Simply cut them into bite-sized pieces and toss in a bowl with a quick drizzle of olive oil before adding to the fryer basket. We like to shake them every five minutes or so to ensure even browning. The cook time and temperature will vary based on the veggie, but plan on cooking them at 375°F for around 20 minutes (this is less than half the time it’ll take you in the oven). You can also air fry frozen veggies.
If you’re intimidated by cooking fish, this method couldn’t be easier. Coat a couple of 6-ounce filets of salmon, halibut, or tilapia (or any other type) with a bit of butter and lemon juice or dredge them with eggs, flour, and Panko before cooking in the air fryer at 375°F for about 8 minutes.
Crisp Up Chickpeas
Dried, toasted chickpeas are perfect for topping salads, mixing into trail mix, or snacking on as-is. Drain a can of chickpeas and toss them with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper before air frying. Toss the basket every 5-10 minutes at 400°F until crisp. Add savory spices like cumin, curry, or paprika if you want some extra flavor, or make them sweet with cinnamon and sugar and serve on yogurt.
Make Baked Potatoes
Use a fork to poke several holes in a Russet or sweet potato and air fry for 30 to 40 minutes. Air fried potatoes come out lighter and juicier than those baked potatoes in the oven.
Instead of grabbing a store-bought rotisserie chicken for your weeknight salads, sandwiches, and stir fries, we love crisping up pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs in the air fryer. The convection heat will give your nuggets a nicely browned exterior but leaves their insides tender and juicy (wish we could say the same about that pre-made rotisserie chicken).
Gone are the days of prying sticky tofu from the surface of your pan. Simply cube a block of extra-firm tofu and mix the pieces with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. Air fry for 15 to 20 minutes, and be gentle with shaking so as not to break up the bits. Toss with soy sauce, ginger, and sesame seeds after cooking.
Make 5-Minute Pizza
Seriously! Coat slices of pita bread with marinara sauce, veggies, and cheese. Cook one pita pizza at a time in the air fryer basket at 350°F until cheese is melted and pita is crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.