I don't know if you've noticed, but air fryers have literally been everywhere lately. Instagram, Facebook, Tasty videos– you name it. The thing is, do you even know what an air fryer is? And do you even need one? Well, I'm here to shed a little light on the issue, because an air fryer is not a deep fryer, nor is it the same as an oven. 

So, WTF is an air-fryer?

Air fryers are magical appliances, making any food taste like its been deep-fried but with way fewer calories. Not hot oil, and no splatters. Using only a minimal amount of oil (or none at all), the air fryer shocks foods with hot air, crisping them as if they were fried. People typically use air fryers to cook chicken, french fries, or prepared fried frozen foods, but they can do so much more. Different air fryer models range between $40 and $160, and are sold at a multitude of stores, including Target, Kohl's, Walmart, and on Amazon. From what I've read, the Philips air fryer is a safe bet, but it will also run you about $160. For a more economical buy, check out the GoWise model for about $78. 

What To Make With Your Air Fryer 

Zucchini fries! These fiber-filled fries are the best of both worlds– they're a vegetable, yet they have a crispy crunchy breading that is also satisfying. Considering a medium zucchini is only about 25 calories, you can eat a whole meal of zucchini fries made in the air fryer with no guilt. And with lots of ketchup. These fries would also be perfect with a tahini dip or hummus.  

Just kale me now. The air fryer is the perfect gadget for making the crispiest kale chips without dealing with an oven heating up your whole kitchen or a dehydrator. 

I bet you never thought of this one. Tater tots in the air fryer! Pictured above is a *vegan* plate of loaded totchos (tater tot nachos) with nacho cheeze sauce, seasoned beans or veggie ground beef, salsa, plus cilantro and chives for garnish. 

Another quick, inexpensive, easy, and healthy meal idea: buddha bowls! Applesandamandas, one of my favorite vegan Youtubers, swears by her air fryer to make these crispy "fried" tofu nuggets. Tofu is the perfect protein to pop into an air fryer, as it can be tossed with the simplest of marinades (think plain old soy sauce) and still come out delicious and crispy. It's just like getting fried tofu at a restaurant, but with significantly less fat and oil. Toss your fried tofu in a bowl with salad greens, vegetables of your choice, a carbohydrate such as rice, quinoa, or sweet potato, a sauce, and you're done!

And finally, the recipe I've been waiting for: buffalo cauliflower wings! The air fryer makes this recipe super convenient, easy, and healthy with the minimal amount of oil used for "frying." Simply cut your cauli into florets, dredge them in a batter of your choice, and toss them in the air fryer. When they are golden brown and crispy, toss them in your favorite buffalo sauce or hot sauce and you've got the perfect appetizer or side to a burger or sandwich.

The Verdict

Honestly, I'm torn. Researching the appliance itself has made me think a little more carefully about impulse-buying one the next time I go on Amazon. They are on the expensive side, and take up extra counter space. On the other hand, you get great results every time with so little effort and time. It's a toss up. 

In my personal opinion though, I have enough appliances on my counter and can work with an oven pretty well. I don't eat fried food unless it's vegan (so basically fries or veggie tempura) and unless I'm at a restaurant. So, unless you are willing to shell out some big bucks for an expensive, high quality model, the lower-end models tend to wear out quickly and break easily. I also don't think another appliance is necessary on your countertop, when an oven can give food a similar effect. But hey, if you're just dying to have an air fryer of your own and have the $$, why not give it a go?