Air fryers, instant pots — two countertop appliances that have changed the way we cook

Meal time has never been the same since this duo of countertop kitchen appliances made their mark on the culinary landscape.

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While both have changed the way many of us cook our food, there are differences in how the Instant pot (left) and the air fryer can (or can’t) work for your specific culinary needs.

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Air fryers. Instant pots.

Meal time has never been the same since this duo of countertop kitchen appliances made their mark on the culinary landscape.

While both have changed the way many of us cook our food, there are differences in how the appliances can (or can’t) work for your specific culinary needs.

The air fryer uses hot air circulation and a very small amount of oil to “fry” food, which can reduce the amount of fat and calories you’llbe consuming. Food is cooked evenly (for the most part; adhere to specific air fryer recipe cooking times) and things like fries, chicken and some varieties of fish fillets turn out properly crispy. But don’t necessarily equate less fat with healthier eating. Because air fryers make it easier to cook some of our favorite comfort foods (like fries), there are still calories to contend with. A lot depends, for example, on the breading used (avoid a wet batter/coating) and the quantity of the finished product consumed. Moderation and portion control are key (even for those breaded veggies you’re frying up).

One upside is you do control the amount of oil and salt (and sugar) added. You can also roast and bake in an air fryer. You’ll skip having to preheat an oven, and with summer ahead, your kitchen won’t turn into a sauna from the heat associated with oven use.

An instant pot is an electric, self-contained multicooker/pressure cooker for the countertop (not the stovetop) that uses water (or broth) to build up steam pressure used to cook foods quickly. You can cook everything from beef and chicken to soups and stews and even cakes in an instant pot. You can sear, steam, saute, brown, bake, make yogurt, cook rice and more with many models of instant pot.

Once your seal is shut, it’s shut tight; there is no evaporation of any liquids to contend with, so flavors are more concentrated. And it’s a faster cooker than say, conventional oven roasting. Some, but not all, models of instant pots will do both slow cooking and pressure cooking (check model labels/packaging carefully).

Foods will cook faster than conventional methods because it’s the pressure in that pot that’s driving the time, not heat. Again, you control the amount of salt, as well as all other flavorings/spices you add to your recipes.

Which to buy: air fryer or instant pot? You’ll have to decide which appliance will best serve your needs, and how much you want to spend. Both air fryers and instant pots can run the gamut when it comes to prices, from mid-double digits to several hundred dollars depending on the size (6 quart vs. 8 quart) and other assorted “bells and whistles.”

We turned to the experts at America’s Test Kitchen for tried-and-true recipes for air fryers and instant pots. Enjoy!

INSTANT POT RECIPES

All recipes courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

SpicedRicePilafwithSweetPotatoesand Pomegranate

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 45 minutes

Why This Recipe Works

The Instant Pot is a foolproof way to avoid mushy, blown-outriceand instead yield fluffy individual grains. Thispilafgets its vibrant color (and subtlespice) from a healthy dose of turmeric, coriander, and cayenne. We bloomed thespicesright in the pot, then stirred in chicken broth,rice, andsweetpotato. After just a few minutes under pressure, the firmsweetpotatotransformed into fudgy little chunks dispersed among perfectly cookedrice. For textural contrast, we deployed some finishing sprinkles — pomegranate seeds for bright little pops of color and sweetness, and savory, crunchy pistachios to counter the tendersweetpotato. We think the fragrant and floral notes of preserved lemon are an important addition to this dish, but if you can’t find it, you can substitute 1 tablespoon lemon zest.

Spiced Rice Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate

Spiced Rice Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes and Pomegranate

Daniel J. van Ackere

INGREDIENTS

  • 2tablespoonsextra-virgin olive oil
  • 1onion, chopped fine
  • ½teaspoontable salt
  • 2garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½teaspoonsground turmeric
  • 1teaspoonground coriander
  • ⅛teaspooncayenne pepper
  • 2cupschicken broth
  • 1½cupslong-grain whiterice, rinsed
  • 12ouncessweetpotato, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced ½ inch thick
  • ½preserved lemon, pulp and white pith removed, rind rinsed and minced (2 tablespoons)
  • ½cupshelled pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • ¼cupfresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼cuppomegranate seeds

DIRECTIONS

1.Using highest sauté function, heat oil in Instant Pot until shimmering. Add onion and salt and cook until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, turmeric, coriander, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth,rice, andsweetpotato.

2.Lock lid in place and close pressure release valve. Select high pressure cook function and cook for 4 minutes. Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

3.Add preserved lemon and gently fluffricewithfork to combine. Lay clean dish towel over pot, replace lid, and let sit for 5 minutes. Seasonwithsalt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish and sprinklewithpistachios, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds. Serve.

Greek-StyleChickenandRice

Greek-Style Chicken and Rice

Greek-Style Chicken and Rice

Daniel J. van Ackere

Serves: 4

Total time: 1 hour

Why This Recipe Works

A steaming bowl of oregano-scentedricestudded with sweet peasandbriny capers,andserved alongside juicychickenbreasts, is our idea of a feel-good meal. Bone-inchickenbreasts ensured the meat stayed moist,andbrowning the breasts before cooking them with thericeadded depth to the whole dish. The key to avoiding glueyrice? We simply fluffed thericewith a fork to combine it with peasandcapers instead of stirring.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2(12-ounce)bone-in splitchickenbreasts, trimmed
  • ¾teaspoontable salt, divided
  • ¼teaspoonpepper
  • 1tablespoonextra-virgin olive oil
  • 1onion, chopped fine
  • 2celery ribs, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 4garlic cloves, minced
  • 2cupschickenbroth
  • 1½cupslong-grain whiterice, rinsed
  • 3bay leaves
  • ¾cupfrozen peas, thawed
  • 4teaspoonscapers, rinsed
  • 2tablespoonschopped fresh oregano

DIRECTIONS

1.Patchickendry with paper towelsandsprinkle with ½ teaspoon saltandpepper. Using highest sauté function, heat oil in Instant Pot for 5 minutes (or until just smoking). Placechickenskin side down in potandcook until well browned on 1 side, about 5 minutes; transfer to plate.

2.Add onion, celery,andremaining ¼ teaspoon salt to fat left in potandcook, using highest sauté function, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlicandcook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth,rice,andbay leaves, scraping up any browned bits. Nestlechickenskin side up intoriceandadd any accumulated juices. Lock lid in placeandclose pressure release valve. Select high pressure cook functionandcook for 4 minutes.

3.Turn off Instant Potandquick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. Transferchickento cutting boardanddiscard skin, if desired. Tent with aluminum foilandlet rest while finishingrice.

4.Discard bay leaves. Add peasandcapersandgently fluffricewith fork to combine. Lay clean dish towel over pot, replace lid,andlet sit for 5 minutes. Gently fold in oregano. Carvechickenfrom bonesandslice ½ inch thick. Serve withrice.

AIR FRYER RECIPES

All recipes courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

Air-Fried Brussels Sprouts

Air-Fried Brussels Sprouts

Daniel J. van Ackere

Air-FriedBrusselsSprouts

Serves: 4

Cook time: 25 minutes

Why This Recipe Works

Friedbrusselssproutshave become a menu staple — and for good reason. The tiny cabbages caramelize and crisp while maintaining enough structure to work as a dipping vessel. Of course, deep-frying them is something of a project and doesn’t yield the healthiest results. We wanted to see if we could use the air fryer to make “fried”brusselssproutsthat kept their virtuous qualities but tasted as decadent as their deep-fried counterparts. Our first attempts were promising but not perfect. Since we usually achieve crispiness (when not frying) by using a very hot oven, we tossed thebrusselssproutsin a little oil and roasted them in the air fryer at 400 degrees. They crisped up quickly but tasted raw inside: The air fryer was doing too good a job at browning. We tried adding a splash of water before cooking thesprouts, hoping the resulting steam might soften them faster, but no luck. The solution turned out to be more obvious: Lowering the heat to 350 degrees gave thesproutstime to soften on the inside while the outside crisped. The results mimicked the deep-friedsproutsso well that we were inspired to create a version with another beloved fried vegetable: crispy shallots.

Thebrusselssproutsare delicious with just a squeeze of lemon, but irresistible with Lemon-Chive Dipping Sauce (recipe follows). If you are buying loosebrusselssprouts, select those that are about 1½ inches long. Quarterbrusselssproutslonger than 2½ inches.

  • 1poundbrusselssprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1tablespoonextra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges

1. Tossbrusselssproutswith oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper in bowl.

2. Transfer to air-fryer basket. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 350 degrees.

3. Cookbrusselssproutsuntil tender, well browned, and crispy, 20 to 25 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges.

MoroccanSpicedHalibutwith Chickpea Salad

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Moroccan Spiced Halibut with Chickpea Salad

Daniel J. van Ackere

Serves: 2

Cook time: 12 minutes

Why This Recipe Works

For an adventurous twist on a fish dinner, we turned to the flavors of North Africa. Rubbinghalibutfillets with coriander, cumin, ginger and cinnamon gave them a warm, fragrant flavor and aroma, and the air fryer cooked them gently and evenly, producing moist and tender fillets. Meanwhile, we made a quickMoroccanchickpea and carrot salad. Warming the chickpeas helped their skins break down and absorb more dressing, avoiding a lackluster salad. A touch of honey complemented the carrots’ sweetness, harissa added heat and complexity, and a sprinkling of mint offered a cooling note and pretty splash of green.

You can substitute cod or haddock for thehalibut. If harissa is unavailable, it can be omitted.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾teaspoonground coriander
  • ½teaspoonground cumin
  • ¼teaspoonground ginger
  • ⅛teaspoonground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2(8-ounce)skinlesshalibutfillets, 1¼ inches thick
  • 4teaspoonsextra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1(15-ounce)can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1tablespoonlemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 1teaspoonharissa
  • ½teaspoonhoney
  • 2carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2tablespoonschopped fresh mint

DIRECTIONS

1.Make foil sling for air-fryer basket by folding 1 long sheet of aluminum foil so it is 4 inches wide. Lay sheet of foil widthwise across basket, pressing foil into and up sides of basket. Fold excess foil as needed so that edges of foil are flush with top of basket. Lightly spray foil and basket with vegetable oil spray.

2.Combine coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Pathalibutdry with paper towels, rub with 1 teaspoon oil, and sprinkle all over withspicemixture. Arrange fillets skinned side down on sling in prepared basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 300 degrees. Cook untilhalibutflakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 140 degrees, 12 to 16 minutes, using sling to rotate fillets halfway through cooking.

3.Meanwhile, microwave chickpeas in medium bowl until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, harissa, honey, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Add carrots and 1 tablespoon mint and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4.Using sling, carefully removehalibutfrom air fryer and transfer to individual plates. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon mint and drizzle with extra oil to taste. Serve with salad and lemon wedges.

RoastedBonelessShortRibswith Red Pepper Relish

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Boneless short ribs with pepper relilsh

Steve Klise

Serves: 4

Cook Time: 18 minutes

Why This Recipe Works

In Argentina,shortribsare often cooked over hardwood coals until tender, smoky, and rosy within. To replicate this in our air fryer, we started withbonelessshortribs, “slow-roasting” them at 250 degrees until evenly cooked (in reality, this took only 18 minutes). As theyroasted, the wire basket allowed excess fat to drip away. A spice rub of smoked paprika, brown sugar, and cumin gave ourribsa smoky flavor reminiscent of grilling. To cut the richness, we prepared a piquant red pepper relish. To avoid using the stovetop, we microwaved red bell pepper with minced shallot, olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of cayenne until the bell pepper was softened. Cilantro and lemon juice brought freshness and balanced the acidity.

The thickness and marbling ofbonelessshortribscan vary; look for leanribscut from the chuck. Do not substitute bone-in English-styleshortribs. Because they are cooked gently and not seared, theshortribswill be rosy throughout. The test kitchen’s favorite ground cumin is Simply Organic Ground Cumin.

  • 2teaspoonssmoked paprika
  • 2teaspoonspacked brown sugar
  • 1½teaspoonsground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½poundsbonelessshortribs, 1½ to 2 inches thick and 4 to 5 inches long, trimmed
  • 2teaspoons plus 2 tablespoonsextra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼cupfinely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1small shallot, minced
  • 2garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2tablespoonsminced fresh cilantro
  • 2teaspoonslemon juice

DIRECTIONS

1.Combine paprika, sugar, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in bowl. Patshortribsdry with paper towels, rub with 2 teaspoons oil, and sprinkle evenly with spice mixture. Arrangeshortribsin air-fryer basket, spaced evenly apart. Place basket in air fryer and set temperature to 250 degrees. Cook until beef registers 130 to 135 degrees (for medium), 18 to 24 minutes, flipping and rotatingshortribshalfway through cooking. Transfershortribsto cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest while preparing relish.

2.Microwave bell pepper, shallot, garlic, cayenne, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes. Let cool slightly, then stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sliceshortribsthin against grain and serve with relish.

All recipes courtesy America’s Test Kitchen.

America’s Test Kitchen’s “Air Fryer Perfection” is one guide to cooking almost anything in the countertop appliance.

America’s Test Kitchen’s “Air Fryer Perfection” is one guide to cooking almost anything in the countertop appliance.

Courtesy America’s Test Kitchen

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