‘They’re freaking delicious’: Atlantic Canadian air fryer enthusiasts eagerly share their arsenal of tips and tricks

From dandelion flower fritters to jalapeño poppers, it seems Atlantic Canadians have found interesting ways to try their hand (and succeed) at many recipes using air fryers.

Although convection ovens have been used widely since 1945, the air fryer brand of convection oven was first introduced in 2010. According to Google Trends, Atlantic Canadians did plenty of searching for new recipes to try in their air fryers last year, a trend that seems to have continued into 2022 as well.

Nova Scotia’s Wendy Nowlan makes jalapeño poppers using her air fryer and she claims “they are the best!” All you’ve got to do is halve two jalapeños, scrape their seeds out, soften some cream cheese, place it inside, wrap them in bacon, and secure with toothpicks. Next, you place the poppers in the air fryer at 370°F for 10 minutes.

“They’re freaking delicious, I made them twice this week,” shares Nowlan, who also enjoys making grilled cheese with tomato slices.

Emily Walsh, also from Nova Scotia, loves making salmon in the air fryer.

Wendy Nowlan makes jalapeno poppers using her air fryer.  contributed photo
Wendy Nowlan makes jalapeno poppers using her air fryer. contributed photo

“I just brush some avocado oil on, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and mix Italian seasoning, and cook at 370°F for about seven minutes,” she said.

Walsh adds some freshly squeezed lemon on top, once it’s done.

Air fryers are popular for several reasons, some of which include the speed of cooking and the evenness of the cooking process. With a regular oven, heat usually rises from the heating element at the bottom, which causes the top of the oven to be considerably warmer than the bottom. With an air fryer, the airtight cooking chamber ensures food is cooked evenly and quickly. Moisture from the food is also drained away, leading to food with great texture. Since the cooking process doesn’t require the use of oil, air frying is also said to reduce calories by up to 75 per cent, a statistic that is sure to draw in all those interested in living a healthy lifestyle.

Recipes to try out

Whitney Alane of Nova Scotia makes cauliflower bites in her air fryer. The recipe she uses for inspiration is as follows:

Ingredients: cauliflower (broken into small to medium-sized florets), panko breadcrumbs,

spices (garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, and salt), extra-virgin olive oil, and an egg.

Whitney Alane says she likes making cauliflower bites.  Photo courtesy of loveandlemons.com
Whitney Alane says she likes making cauliflower bites. Photo courtesy of loveandlemons.com

Method: on a rimmed tray, mix the panko, smoked paprika, garlic, onion, cayenne, and salt. In a small shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg, preheat the air fryer to 370°F, dip each cauliflower floret into the egg, coat with the panko mixture, and place onto a large plate. Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil and place it in the air fryer basket in a single layer with a little space between each floret. Air fry for nine to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. The exact timing might vary depending on your air fryer. Repeat with any remaining cauliflower. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

“If you don’t want to use an egg, you can use a dairy or nondairy milk for dredging the cauliflower,” shares Alane adding that if you don’t have any breadcrumbs, you can also just use cornstarch or ground up oatmeal as to coating. “I also found it was more like 15-20 minutes, but this could have been the fact that my cauliflower bites were a bit on the larger side.”

Useful tips? Don’t overcrowd the basket, and work in batches if needed.

Emily Walsh's delicious salmon dish.  contributed photo
Emily Walsh’s delicious salmon dish. contributed photo

Cheryll Lynn, also a Nova Scotian, likes making garlic butter air fryer steak bites and shared the recipe and some tips.

What you’ll need: 1 pound steak, 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil), 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp dry rosemary (optional), 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional), 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped, 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted, 3 garlic cloves, minced, and 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped.

Method: trim the visible fat off the steak and cut it into bite-size pieces (around one-inch cubes; in a large bowl, add steak cubes, oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce. Coat evenly. Let sit for 30 minutes, preheat the air fryer to 400F/200C for a few minutes, add steak cubes to the air fryer basket or tray, air fry mode 400F/200C for three minutes, open-air fryer, flip each piece on the other side and fry for an additional three minutes or until the desired doneness. While the steak bites are cooking, heat butter in the microwave until melted. Add chopped garlic. Add cooked steak bites. Toss until well combined. Add parsley if desired and serve.

Tip: “Do not overcrowd the air fryer with steak cubes. Give them some space,” says Lynn.

Maureen Webber Williamson's roasted okra in the making.  Contributed photo - Contributed
Maureen Webber Williamson’s roasted okra in the making. Contributed photo – Contributed

tender and juicy

Nova Scotia’s Tracy Moxsom MacCallum says her whole chicken recipe turns out “so tender and juicy” when made using an air fryer. She advises everyone to cook it for 70 minutes total, with 35 minutes on each side.

“I spray the chicken lightly with oil. I also put a piece of parchment paper under the chicken. It prevents sticking to the fryer pan.”

Maureen Webber Williamson, who also hails from Nova Scotia, is trying all kinds of vegetables in her air fryer. Sharing her de ella roasted okra recipe, she says she used seven washed and trimmed okra, cut them up to about one-inch pieces, tossed them in a bowl or bag with one teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkled some Old Bay Seasoning.

“Add more if you like it spicy,” she says. “Make sure they’re all nicely coated. Use a parchment paper liner for your air fryer to allow for easy clean-up.”

Next, you add the okra pieces to your air fryer basket and cook for about 17 minutes at 360°F. “Check them halfway through and give them a toss. I like them a bit crispy, so judge accordingly. This method is very versatile with many vegetables. You can use a variety of spices too!”

Sara Bryanton's Peruvian chicken and mash dish.  Bryanton says her air fryer cooks a whole, four-pound chicken in 45 minutes.  Contributed photo - Contributed
Sara Bryanton’s Peruvian chicken and mash dish. Bryanton says her air fryer cooks a whole, four-pound chicken in 45 minutes. Contributed photo – Contributed

dos and don’ts

Considering how enthusiastic these air fryer cooks were in sharing the tricks of their cooking, we asked them what the main dos and don’ts are. Here’s what they shared.

Sara Bryanton from Prince Edward Island made Peruvian chicken on the rotisserie with a Peruvian sauce recently.

“Grease the basket or trays to prevent food from sticking but don’t use a can of oil spray as they can sometimes contain harsh agents. I just brush on some oil,” she says.

“Don’t overload the trays/basket. Food seems to like some social distancing,” she laughs, adding that she chose to invest in an air fryer that does not require preheating just to speed things up a bit.

“I have the one by Pampered Chef. It’s a larger model and I love the option of trays or the basket that uses the rotisserie so no need to flip or shake fries!

“Keep the air fryer clean. It works better if cleaned after every use.”

Bryanton had her yummy chicken with mashed yellow potatoes, steamed broccoli, and stovetop stuffing and says it only took her 45 minutes to cook a four-pound chicken.

“Easy peasy.”

“Clean-up is super easy if you buy pre-cut parchment paper that is purchasable online. It lies in the bottom of the basket and is a game-changer.”
— Cheryl Lynn

Kim Fielding from Nova Scotia makes lemon cakes in her air fryer.

“I use a lemon box cake but use olive oil in it,” she said. “Just remember that it cooks from the outside in, so the dough needs to be even in the pan.”

Alane, meanwhile, is cautious about using oil.

“You don’t need much oil at all,” she says.

Nova Scotian Samelia Yvoné, who makes dandelion flower fritters using her air fryer, shares that different designs of air fryers probably have different problems.

“If your fryer vent fan is directly on top, beware of the item you’re frying if it’s light enough to be blown off: I cooked a breakfast pizza with a raw egg on top and the egg blew right off the pizza and fried to the bottom pan,” she laughs. “Silicone dishes are handy.”

Lynn, who enjoys looking up recipes on Pinterest, says it’s important to enjoy the journey. “Remember it (the air fryer) cooks things real fast. So, if you don’t like a well-done steak, cut the cooking time.”

Williamson recommends buying an air fryer that has a stainless steel basket. She said many air fryers have non-stick baskets and, over time, the coating will flake off.

“If you’re looking at the portable, take-anywhere units, I recommend getting one with a stainless steel basket. Also, clean-up is super easy if you buy pre-cut patchment paper that is purchasable online. It lies in the bottom of the basket and is a game-changer.”

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