A few months ago, I had no idea what an air fryer was. Until that moment in time, my family and I had been nonchalantly cooking our meals using our regular oven, the dependable workhorse to which we had entrusted the baking and cooking – and occasional burning – of our family meals for all time.
Its faithful companion, the microwave, had also enjoyed regular use in our household over the years. Unlike the lesser-handled gadgets of yesteryear – the soup maker, George Foreman and the virtually antique sandwich toaster – which had remained forgotten, gathering dust in an out of reach cupboard since sometime in the early 2000s.
The cost of living crisis, for all its painful energy-saving consequences, had, however, brought a new kitchen gadget to the forefront of public attention, just in time for Christmas.
The result of the economic downturn was that the air fryer became the top selling gift in the UK last Christmas, with sales over the latter half of the year rising by a reported 3,000%. We were one of the lucky recipients.
To my wife’s bemusement, I unwrapped our box of delights with a level of enthusiasm not seen since Father Christmas delivered a Raleigh Burner to my front room in 1985. I had a good idea of what was inside and, after profusely thanking my father, did what all self respecting middle aged men do and proceeded to read the instruction manual while the rest of the family tore open their lesser gifts.
This, the manual promised, was going to transform the way we cook. And it hasn’t disappointed.
In the weeks since, I have become obsessed with air frying. Indeed, my fascination with this magic box’s ability to speedily cook almost anything has reached a level not seen since my procurement of a set of WiFi plugs last Amazon Prime day.
Now working from home with the rest of the planet’s post-covid hybrid workforce, my lunch yesterday consisted of an air fried cheese and tomato panini. While dinner, a few hours later, included air fried chips (an air fryer staple) and, as I write this, I am snacking on air fried popcorn.
But why have they boomed in the way they have?
As I’ve said, it’s purely down to timing. Sky high energy prices have led Brits across the nation to penny pinch like never before. Indeed, my wife and I now watch our gas and electric smart meter like James Bond watches a bomb ticking down to disaster. We’re constantly switching TVs off standby, turning down radiators and donning extra layers in an attempt to keep warm.
The air fryer has therefore arrived at the perfect time for many of us as, once you’ve got over the initial outlay, it instantly saves power and money by cooking food more efficiently.
However, as well as its money-saving potential, the air fryer appeals to food experimenters everywhere. A quick search of Instagram results in endless polished recipe videos, all promising to be quick and easy, and most actually delivering on that promise.
So, is the air fryer a fad?
Possibly, but when you can cook a chicken breast to perfection in 20 minutes, without having to put the big oven on, I think there’s a good chance it will avoid the cupboard of forgotten gadgets.
The more pressing question for me, is how on earth has my life come to this?
Why am I writing about kitchen gadgets and chicken breasts at all? Is this what now counts as excitement in our house?
There’s no hope for me! Oh well, some air fried bagel bites will make it all better.