Saving Calories & Time–Air Fryers & Instant Pots

instant pot with tomatoes and vegetables

Maybe you got one of these popular cooking devices for a holiday gift, or are considering giving one of them a try. Here’s some info on each, and a few recipes to try.

Low Fat Frying

Pretty much everybody loves the crispy crunch and moist insides of fried foods. But they do make the guilty pleasure list. At 294 calories and over 14 grams of fat, a battered deep fried chicken breast is definitely not health food. Frying in fat turns an innocent little baked potato (93 calories and 0 grams of fat) into French fries containing 

319 calories and 17 grams of fat. 

The air fryer to the rescue!  It works like a super-hot (around 400 F) convection oven to move air around your food, browning and creating a crispy exterior and keeping the inside soft. You can choose to toss the food in a bit of oil before cooking and try some of your deep-fried favorites.

A Few Drawbacks

There are various models available and a few complaints. Users say they are bulky and do take up a lot of counter space. A really big one is necessary to cook enough food for a larger family. And, noise is a factor. It takes a powerful fan to move the air around and that makes the fryer as loud as a vacuum cleaner or dishwasher. Also make sure you get a model made of BPA-free plastic.

Air Fryer Recipes

Cooking Light offers lots of air fryer recipes, see them here.

Try the Cauliflower Tots, Chicken Tenders, Avocado Wrapped Bacon, and Air Fryer Spicy Chicken Taquitos from Delish.

Not Your Mom’s Pressure Cooker

Another hot item is the Instant Pot cooker. The Instant Pot is the most well-known brand but there are other manufacturers, like Breville and Fagor. They have become very popular in the past couple of years. The appeal of this type of cooking is not necessarily to cut calories – but to save time. They also are multi-taskers, not only are they electric pressure cookers, but also slow cookers (like a crock pot), they sauté, steam rice, and some make yogurt. And unlike the old pressure cookers they now have safety features that prevent the explosions and burns that did happen back in the day. 

How They Work

The pressure cooker feature is the real time saver, especially for meats. It works by creating a very tight seal which raises the boiling temperature of liquids up to as much as 266 degrees. This higher temperature, and the pressure in the pot forces the hot steam into the ingredients, cooking them much faster. If you are cooking meats for bone broth, or a pork shoulder for pulled pork, this is a definite shortcut. It also cuts down the cooking time for dried beans.

Melissa Clark, of The New York Times Cooking, was not thrilled with what her Instant Pot did for a whole chicken, leaving it “flaccid and unappealing.” She also says it doesn’t do crispy or crunchy well, and makes vegetable limp, with the exception of beets and artichokes. Here’s her Instant Pot How To, and list of foods best cooked another way. 

Instant Pot Recipes

Corned beef for a Rueben sandwich in 2 hours? Oh yes, find the mustard!

Here’s the recipe.

And while we’re on sandwiches that usually take all day – here’s BBQ Pulled Pork, also in 2 hours. 

And in this video are 4 easy Instant Pot meals to try.

This year more people than ever are in the kitchen cooking and trying something new. Cooking at home is a way to eat a healthier diet, and sometimes new tools and methods can be inspiring and fun.