Angie Knight supervises Tuesday as sons Ethan, 16, in the foreground, and Joseph, 15, season hamburgers they'll cook in the air fryer, at right. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
May 23, 2018 10:55:23 AM
Three days ago, I enjoyed one of the best burgers I've ever had. Ever. It was cooked in an air fryer. Not on an outdoor grill. Not in a hot cast iron skillet. An air fryer. So, because this weekend is for many the unofficial start of summer -- aka burger mania -- I thought I'd find out more about what made this hamburger so tasty. Was it the air fryer? Was it seasonings? I went to the cook -- in this case, a niece, Angie Knight.
First, an abbreviated bit about air fryers: They cook by circulating hot air containing fine oil droplets around food at high speed and producing a crunchy, crispy exterior. Foods are never submerged in hot oil but cook in a basket that sits above a drip tray. Compared to deep-frying, it can reduce the amount of fat, calories and potentially harmful compounds in food.
"I love that thing," Angie said, talking about the 5.5-quart air fryer she's had for about 10 months. "I cook in it four or five times a week -- pork loin, chicken nuggets, steak, whole chickens, just about anything you can cook on a grill or on a rotisserie, you can cook in it."
But wait, what about the burgers? I wanted to know.
Angie promised there was nothing extraordinary about the ground beef she and her husband, Kenny, started with. The level of delicious ramped up with the combo of flavors Angie applied to the patties.
"I used seasoned salt, a Creole seasoning and McCormick's Montreal steak seasoning," she explained. (With all due respect to cooks who swear by salt and pepper alone, variety is the spice of life.)
"I experiment with different seasonings all the time," she said. "Sometimes I put a little Italian dressing on top of each burger depending on what we feel like that night. My favorite thing is to put Italian dressing on chicken before it cooks."
Before putting burgers in the air fryer basket, Angie lightly sprayed each with a cooking spray on both sides. They were cooked on 370 degrees for 14 minutes (adjust settings for thick burgers).
"I don't flip them; the last time I tried flipping them half way through, the burgers would break in half," she said. "In the air fryer, they cook evenly on both sides, with a crust on both sides," she said.
If you prefer a juicy burger that drips when you bite into it, this was not it, but the flavor and the slightly crisp "char" were more than spot on.
Angie, Kenny and their family are air fryer converts and having a field day trying different foods.
"I've chopped up bell peppers, onions and tomatoes and cooked them in it. Sometimes I cut a tomato in half, take out the inside and put cheese and whatever else in it, seasoned with chives, garlic or added Parmesan, and I just do that like a roasted vegetable.
"The boys have even started to cook with it some," she said, referring to teenage sons Joseph and Ethan.
"The best advice I can give is that, if you have one, be sure you get a recipe book just for air fryers," she said. Her favorites are "Air Fry Everything," by Meredith Laurence, and "The Air Fryer Bible," by Susan Laborde and Elizabeth Hickman.
To give credit where credit is due, it was a chance conversation with Jerry Fortenberry of Columbus that got Angie curious about air fryers in the first place.
"He was telling me about his and the breakfast things he was making, and it sounded so good. Had it not been for Jerry, I would never had looked at the thing, and it's been the best investment," said Angie.
If you're making burgers for a gathering this long weekend -- however you like to cook them-- enjoy. And check out the rest of today's food pages for tips on other great cookout foods like queso dip, corn on the cob and coleslaw.
Have a safe Memorial Day weekend. Above all, take time to remember.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.