Talking with Dana Angelo White, Author of the Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook

Air fryers have been around for many years, but recently have become extremely popular. Healthy Eats spoke with registered dietitian and culinary expert Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, the author of Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes with Fewer Calories and Less Fat to get some tips and tricks for air fryer newbies.

Q. Congratulations on your latest cookbook Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook. What made you decide to write a cookbook on this trendy method of cooking?

Trendy is an understatement! I had no idea just how popular air fryers are until I started doing research for this book. There was definitely a need for an exciting and creative cookbook that took air frying to the next level. 

This powerful appliance uses the power of convection heat to cook food to crispy perfection with way less fat and calories. (If you’re in the market, try Black & Decker’s Purifry or Phillip’s Digital air fryers.) It was such a fun challenge to think beyond French fries and create recipes for everything from chicken wings to peach cobbler and huevos rancheros. I also love how compact and versatile the air fryer is. It’s perfect for small spaces, camping trips, basically anywhere there’s an electric outlet.

Q. What are your three top tips for using an air fryer, especially for those who are beginners?

Using an air fryer couldn’t be easier but there are definitely a few tricks I learned while creating 100 recipes. First off, always preheat the machine. It heats up in seconds and helps to cook the food quickly and evenly. Most of the recipes take less than 20 minutes to make. My second tip is to work in batches. It’s tempting to crowd the air fryer basket with food, but it’s better to let the air circulate and hit the food on all side for the best texture. Finally, for breaded coatings like in recipes for fish tacos and chicken fingers, mix a small amount of oil with the breading. The breaking adheres better to the food and makes for an extra crispy crust.

Q: What are the best foods to cook in an air fryer? Which foods are not appropriate for cooking in an air fryer?

You can do so many things with this appliance. Not only is it a useful tool for healthier versions of fried favorites, it can be used for baked goods, egg dishes and desserts too. The book features recipes for breakfasts, main courses, side dishes, snacks and desserts. Some of the most surprising recipes are probably Shrimp Scampi, Pull-Apart Parmesan & Thyme Bread, Zoodles with Garlic Oil and Zeppole with Cannoli Dip – I told you it was versatile! As long as you know the proper cooking temperature and how to place the food in the fryer basket, you can cook just about anything in an air fryer.

As for no-nos, there aren't many. Since there is a constant circulation of hot (very hot!) air, small pieces of food can get blown around, which can prevent them from cooking properly. For recipes like this I like to use a shallow baking pan that can be placed inside the air fryer basket. You can buy a special pan made for the air fryer but a simple 6-inch round baking pan works beautifully too. Sticky sauces can drip the bottom if the pan and burn, so for recipes like my Sweet and Sour Salmon simply add the sauce towards the end of cooking.  

Q: Could you share a favorite air fryer recipe?

Sweet Potato Fries with Fresh Dill

Makes: 3 cups

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Fryer temp: 360°F

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled

1 tablespoon canola oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons crumbled feta

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Instructions

1. Preheat the air fryer to 360°F.

2. Cut the sweet potato into ½-inch-thick fry shapes.

3. Place the fries in a medium bowl, add the canola oil and kosher salt, and toss to coat.

4. Spray the fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray, then place the fries in the basket and cook for 15 minutes.

5. Remove the fries from the fryer, place on a plate lined with a paper towel, and sprinkle the feta and dill on top. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition info (per 1½ cup serving): Calories: 169; Total Fat: 9g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 8mg; Sodium: 326mg; Carbohydrates: 20g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 3g

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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