To air-fry or not to air-fry




To air-fry or not to air-fry… Was invited last minute to join the opinion on the Jacaranda FM Scenic drive on wether or not air-frying that has been around impressively so since the hard lock-down of 2020 is here to stay…


Not needing much convincing about why I would never buy one, even though I know my daughter uses her’s quite regularly, and more recently I was mightily impressed with the fact that my ex father-in-law manages a wide range of meals for one successfully in his…


So its the concept of very hot air, blown around by a high-speed fan, and technically the heat releasing moisture - this which causes the chemical process in short referred to as the: Maillard Reaction - produces a crisp layer via browning… all in a little dome-tub sized counter-top convection oven like appliance.


Designed to simulate deep-frying without submerging food in oil, saving approximately 70% on the typical calories should one have chosen to go the deep-frying route. Coupled with this calorie saving factor, there is of course the immediate time-saving bonus - accelerated cooking at high speed saves time and possibly ultimately energy, effort, and electricity.


In my mind - deep-frying foods such as potatoes, chips, even pork crackling, crumbed mushrooms perhaps, and so on would then be ideal.


Getting called in on “an argument” between Felicity and Rian, to judge the outcome on how chicken schnitzel, chicken thighs, lamb loin chop, and pork belly would respond to this air-frying, I accepted.


Contestants:


Felicity

- news anchor, mother, biggest “laughter-brings-joy” person I know, hair influencer (“saucy”-babe)


BBQ Chicken Schnitzel, garlic bread, spicy mayo Schnitzel was good, really really good, crisp, very crisp, garlic bread looked amazing, then the power tripped, and she had to read the news quick, and before I could take photos, we had to shuffle the program and when I tasted again, I realized - the schnitzel can’t stand for long, only a couple of minutes, after that it looses the crispiness, and it picks up a rubbery chew in texture…


Nicole

- beautiful textile-and-fashion-design student, newly married, fashionista (lucky husband and in-laws!)


Marinated chicken thighs, sriratcha sauce, creamy rice, potatoes Potatoes looked amazing, parboiled, then quick pop into a smaller air fryer whilst the chicken went into a bigger one - same power trip so there was a lag, and the food had to stand Looked amazing, the skin was superbly crisp, potatoes expertly “roasted”, and plating done professionally… but… same thing, this uneasy chew on the protein fibers after its been nuked with hot air at high speed, reminds me a bit of the old microwave trend years ago, and the flash 1 minute recipes that came with them…


Denise

- proud supporter of hockey-legend son, thorough household cook and foodie (carries secret spice mix) solid match temperament


Marinated lamb loin chops, curried pasta salad Wow, great flavours from the garlic rosemary and olive oil marinade she had the chops in, and the perfect pairing of curried pasta salad - looked and smelt amazing. As time went by, they actually did get browner and crispier - and she rested them well so was cooked to perfection, and the fat was light and crispy, delicious. So I wait for Joe to finish reading the sport, and the chops stand a bit, and they seem to shrivel up slightly, although the fat stays crispy by the looks of it…


Vernice - Au-pair by profession, Boerbok farmer, van die Oosrand net soon Rian Pork belly, mixed salad, pour-over marinade

Herself and her husband have a small flock of milk producing goats. With milk derived from the goats they have explored even goat’s cheese haloumi-making, and plan on building this small flock into a bigger venture. Also then, they have pig farmer friends, that provided pork belly that impressed me with the amount of meat to fat ratio, which now, in hindsight, seems to be the thing I myself, and possibly Rian, don't enjoy when air-fried. Anything meat. The frying seems to be great for fat on meat, but not so great on the fleshy bits, as was prominent in the chicken, and lamb chops. Vernice had a killer marinade, resembling a local chimichurri-style sauce which she pours over after cooking is done (which was also interrupted by the electricity challenges), and a beautiful mixed salad - great combination.


So judgement of

schnitzel for air-fryer, yes, but…

garlic bread, resounding yes!

marinated chicken thighs, mmmm the skin yes, but…

potatoes, wow definitely!

lamb chops, the fat on them was really good, but…

pork belly, possibly one with a lot of fat on then…


Conclusion:

Don’t cook flesh in an air-fryer, in my opinion.

(Even though these ladies definitely knew what they were doing, and knew the equipment well)

*read up on charred food, and the risk of carcinogenic substances


I read this morning that Eskom has plans for should we reach Stage 8 load shedding.

Sometimes cooking appliances simply cannot work without a stronger stream of electrical

current. Its concerning. The industrial era has passed, and the age of technology is struggling to

plug in…


last night was actually such a reminder of the current “State of Disaster” that we still

live in. I think its about time we announce to ourselves at least, that we move to a

“State of Repair” now… and perhaps the next competition I judge Rian, should be “baking bread in a hollowed out anthill”, because convenience cooking and fast-paced life-styles come to a contradictory stand-still without electricity, even if we think we are in control of that tick-list for the day, and have a back-up generator.

I vote for a “State of Repair” and a return to where kitchens were spaces of celebration, and cooking with all the family members gets hailed as being part of an emotional journey that takes us to fond memories around a table by candlelight…