I was an air fryer skeptic, but now it’s the only thing that gets me excited about pandemic cooking – Washington Post

I groused — as author and Food Network personality Alton Brown did on Twitter in early October — that these miniature convection ovens aren’t fryers at all. Instead, they surround food in an El Niño of hot air, cooking with little or no oil. Baking and roasting, yes; frying, no. Plus, chances were high that any new countertop appliance would soon join my junk-cabinet graveyard of George Foreman grills, bullet juicers, electric griddles and Tupperware.

But then a friend mentioned the magic words: “egg rolls.” The last time I’d bitten into one that snapped, crackled and popped, I was dining at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Before Times. I had tired of sad, soggy takeout egg rolls that needed broiler time to reach their full crunch potential.

Armed with my air fryer and anticipation, I fired up chicken wings, roasted carrots and broccoli, citrus salmon and moist banana bread. Trying to recapture the spontaneity the pandemic has drained from everyday life, I tossed fruit into the air fryer. An unpeeled plantain yielded steamed — but not appropriately caramelized — maduros. I rescued one of summer’s last peaches from incipient mealiness with a single pat of butter and brown sugar. The infamous mushiness of a whole Red Delicious apple became a delightful no-added-sugar applesauce.

Fred van der Weij,