Last year we added the Instant Pot Vortex Air Fryer to our range. To be honest, I was more than a little skeptical. The whole concept and premise reminded me of one of those vaguely unsatisfying products that we used to fall upon at places like the Winter Show (really showing my age) – single use, gimmicky and, ultimately, a complete waste of time and money – what my grandfather used to call ‘all hair oil and no socks.’
Some of the team were, however and fortunately, a little more open minded so we grabbed a demo and took it for a spin. A week later, we were all total coverts and almost everyone in the team was in the queue to purchase one for home – including me. There’s an assumption around air-frying that it’s a replacement or healthier alternative to deep-frying, which it is, but it has so much more to offer.
With quite a few of us owning one now, and the Instant Pot Vortex 5.7L in regular use in our demo kitchen, here's what we’ve learned along the way:
1. Baked to perfection - 9 minute scones anyone?
Baking doesn’t need to be a once-a-week event involving a hot kitchen, masses of ingredients and enough baking to sink a battleship (especially if the kids have now flown the nest coz we all know what happens to all that baking ie someone has to eat it!) We’ve discovered you can use your air fryer to make quick breads and mini loaves, banana breads, scones, cookies and more. We’ve all be piling on the pounds this week as Steph has perfected her 9 minute cheese scone recipe. They are deliciously moreish and totally easy-peasy (here’s Steph's recipe).
Your air fryer offers an environmentally guilt-free opportunity to enjoy that ‘just made goodness’ with every treat too. Mix a batch of cookie dough and, instead of baking it all in a single session, form into balls or a log, freeze and bake a few at a time whenever the mood strikes you (ie after dinner, mid-arvo, just as friends drop by, etc). You may need to use a small pan or, alternatively, find a free form style recipe, but your air fryer can definitely get the job done. Donut anyone?
2. Always mix your seasoning with liquid so it’s not dry.
An air fryer is essentially a convection oven that cooks by using a high-speed fan to circulate super-heated air. So, if you’re a fan of dry- or spice-rubs you’ll want to re-think how these are applied. Mix a little oil to your seasoning mixture so it sticks to your food or with pizza toppings add your fresh herbs and seasonings when you cut and serve.
3. It’s a marvel with steaks.
Making a perfect steak is an art. Classic pan-seared steak takes some practice to get it right and while it’s tempting to think that the oven is easier (especially for thick cuts), you don’t always achieve the crisp exterior. Air frying combines the ease of baking with all the deliciousness of pan-searing. The hot, circulating air quickly browns the outside of the steak, resulting in golden brown edges that mimic searing – and no more messing with a hot pan, worrying about setting off your smoke detector, or dealing with oil splatters. Our best tip for airfryer steak: heat your air fryer for at least 10mins before starting to cook then flip your steaks half-way through to ensure an even result. Overall cooking time will depend on the thickness of your cut and, of course, how you prefer it cooked.
4. Yes you can cook a whole chicken
A). You can cook a whole chicken, up to the size you can ‘fit’ in your air fryer* (The Instant Vortex 5.7L fits an approx 1.2kg bird). Season your chicken with a marinade or wet rub of your choice, retaining a third separately for basting midway, then brush the rest over the chicken making sure to cover it evenly entirely.
B). Preheat the air fryer to 160ºC. Place the chicken, breast-side down, into the basket and cook for 20 mins. Flip then brush with the reserved marinade. Cook for 10-20 minutes at 180ºC. Check the doneness** of the chicken after 10 minutes. Depending on the size of your chicken, it might be cooked and won’t need the full 10 minutes at 180. Turn the temperature up to 200°C and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken from the air fryer and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes then carve and serve.
* Make sure there’s plenty of space for air-circulation, a large bird doesn't allow the air to circulate meaning when it’s fully cooked, the outside will be hard, dry, and disappointing.
**A whole chicken is cooked when the juice runs clear when you cut between the drumstick and the breast. As long as the meat is opaque and white to the bone (it shouldn’t be pink or have juices with any colour) it is cooked. The meat should read 75ºC on a meat thermometer, however keep in mind that the chicken will continue cooking as it rests so remove it from the heat when it reaches 67ºC and allow to rest until it reaches the “done” or “final resting” temperature.
5. It’s a quick, easy and economical way to roast
Wanting to make delicious roast vege to add to a salad, side dish or deliciously tasty soup but you don’t want to go to the trouble of heating your oven? Utilise the roast function on your air fryer, pre-heating for 2mins at 160ºC then adding your chopped vege, having tossed them in a little oil, salt & pepper and in about 20mins you have a tray of deliciously roasted ‘5+ a day’ goodness ready to be enjoyed or whizzed into a steaming vegetable soup, tossed through a salad, piled into an omelette or tart case – the uses are endless. Perfect for baked potatoes, kumara, chicken breast or fish as well.
6. It’s a great option for re-heating
We’re seeing meal planning and batch cooking becoming increasingly popular as cooks struggle to balance their desire to produce ‘cooked at home from scratch’ with the time demands of work, kids etc. With this comes the difficulty of finding recipes that can be prepared in advance but which also reheat well. Microwaving can sometimes leave you with a ‘soggy’ finish (ever had a microwaved pie? Exactly, terrible!). This is where your air-fryer shines. Pies, quiche, crunchy tacos, burgers, pizza, dumplings … anything where you need to heat but want to retain the crisp texture (unlike pasta, soup or stews), are perfect for the air fryer.
7. You’ll use less oil, not no oil
An air fryer’s claim to fame is that they provide a healthier alternative to deep and shallow frying. Because of that, people often make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to use oil when cooking with one. This is a mistake – a light mist of oil will add flavour and facilitate crispness. You truly don’t need to add much. Apply it before cooking by tossing your food in a little oil, by brushing it on or by or using a spray or mist bottle.
8. Cleanup is easy — and necessary!
Food debris can accumulate quickly in your basket, and fly around onto your next dish, causing some potentially unsavoury flavour combos – salt and pepper squid cookies anyone? Luckily most air fryer baskets are nonstick and clean up easily with soap and warm water. It only takes a minute. Do it, every time you use your air fryer - your taste buds will thank you.