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Serving: IL

How to put that air fryer to work

Charlyn Fargo Ware spicy Cajun fish fillets on plate
What’s Cooking in Illinois: Here are two favorite recipes and 11 tips to make your air-fried foods even better.

Do you have an air fryer sitting on the shelf, maybe keeping company next to your bread machine?

This is a great time to dust it off and relearn its benefits. In case you don’t have one yet, an air fryer is a countertop appliance that uses convection heat to circulate hot air around food. Think of it like a convection oven, only smaller. In the air fryer, a fan rapidly moves hot air that contains fine oil droplets around the food surrounding it, in a similar way to food submerged in hot oil in a deep fryer.

An air fryer has the added benefit of being healthier than a deep fryer because it gives food a crispy texture without the calories of added fat, using 70% to 85% less oil than traditional frying.

Many recipes do require a little bit of oil sprayed on the food being prepared. The healthiest oils to use are monounsaturated, such as olive, avocado, canola or peanut.

There’s a caveat to the healthier aspect of air fryers: If you use them to cook not-so-healthy foods (like french fries, frozen breaded foods and chicken wings), the healthy aspect can be lost.

But an air fryer can do so much more than reheating already-fried foods.

My friend Jay Kitterman likes to cook a whole chicken in the air fryer. He purchases a 4-pound chicken (large enough to still fit inside the air fryer), rubs the skin with olive oil and sprinkles on his favorite rub seasoning. He places it, breast-side down, into the air fryer basket and cooks for 30 minutes at 370 degrees F. The chicken is (carefully) flipped over and cooked for another 25 to 30 minutes until it reaches 165 degrees. It comes out moist, with a crackly skin.

My favorite foods to cook in the air fryer are fish and Brussels sprouts. Both come out flavorful and with a slight crunch.

A few more air fryer tips, from the University of Illinois Extension:

• Frozen vegetables work better than raw.

• Light, leafy greens and liquid-battered food tend to fly around.

• Frozen cheese works better than fresh for cheese curds.

• Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water to the base if food is high in fat.

• Flip food or shake the basket during cooking.

• Always preheat.

• Don’t overcrowd the basket (it will steam instead of air-fry).

• Measure the oil to get the right amount.

• Clean after each use.

• White smoke means your grease is burning; black smoke means food is stuck to the heating element.

• To convert a recipe to the air fryer, reduce the temp by 25 to 30 degrees and reduce the time by 20%.


Spicy Cajun Fish Fillets

Cajun Spice Mix:

1            teaspoon dried oregano
1            teaspoon dried thyme
1            tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1            tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
1            teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic
1            tablespoon smoked paprika
1            teaspoon cayenne pepper
1            teaspoon black pepper
1            teaspoon kosher salt

The fish:

Olive oil spray
2            firm, white-fleshed fish fillets, 5 ounces each, such as cod, haddock, catfish, grouper or sea bass
½           lemon, cut into 2 wedges

Cajun spice mix: In a spice or coffee grinder, combine the oregano, thyme, parsley, onion, garlic, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and salt. Pulse a few times to combine.

Fish: Spray the fish fillets with olive oil on both sides. Divide 1 tablespoon of spice mix evenly between the two fillets, working it gently into the fish with your fingers, ensuring the fish is covered. Place the fish in the air fryer basket. Spray with olive oil again. Set the air fryer to 400 degrees F for 8 minutes, spraying the fish with olive oil spray again halfway through the cooking time. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 2.

Note: Store the rest of the Cajun spice mix in a tightly sealed container, and keep it in a cool, dry place. Stir or shake before using.

Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

1            tablespoon olive oil
1            tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½           teaspoon garlic powder
¼           teaspoon pepper
1            pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2            tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2            tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

Cooking spray

Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and pepper. Gently toss Brussels sprouts in mixture until covered with seasonings. Place Brussels sprouts in air fryer basket sprayed with cooking spray. Cook 5 to 6 minutes; stir. Cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Mix grated Parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Sprinkle over Brussels sprouts. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until cheese and breadcrumbs are browned. Serves 4.

Per serving: 78 calories, 1 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g fiber, 109 mg sodium.

Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield. Send recipe ideas to her at [email protected].

The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.



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