If falling in love with an air fryer is wrong, I don't want to be right. 

Like most of my neighbors it seems (I can't help but check out the empty boxes lining the streets on my daily walks on recycling day, can I?) I got the latest, trendiest kitchen appliance last December. Now, we all know, Lindsey Hollenbaugh loves a kitchen gadget — even the 5-year-old in the house will ask, "which thing are you using tonight, mommy? The loud pot [instant pot], the all-day one [crockpot] or the air fryer?" Notice how "air fryer," he knows?

That's because when mommy lugs out her Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 8qt 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone Technology (go big or go home, am I right?) it usually means French fries or chicken tenders are involved. Or bacon. In the beginning, I learned how to use the machine with frozen foods on busy weeknights and found the crispy texture on those kid-friendly items couldn't be beat. 

I've begun experimenting more (I've dried out a chicken or three and burnt Brussels sprouts until they were unrecognizable) and picked up a few tricks along the way. The first thing to remember, is that really, you're not frying anything in your "air fryer." Chef and Food Network star Alton Brown has gone on more than one Twitter rant about the gadget, tweeting: "There is no such thing as air frying ..." Alton is, of course, right. Frying cannot happen without oil, and "air frying" uses very little oil, if any. Really, you're just using a fancy, high-speed convection oven that also promises to do a lot of other things. 

I don't care what you call it; the thing makes perfect Tater tots, the crispiest bacon I've ever had, and carrots that my husband will actually eat, happily. It also makes juicy salmon fillets in 12 minutes that are perfect every time, and reheats pizza to its original glory. 

While it doesn't completely replace my trusty sheet-pan dinners, it does a bang-up job of taking some of the load off my oven. At least twice a week, it's the vehicle for my "no brainer" dinners that get me across the 6 p.m. finish line with little prep or wasted energy. It's also great for smaller meals with fewer servings; I got my parents a smaller one and they use it often for dinner for two. I can already imagine the ways I'll adore it come summer when I don't want to have to turn on the oven. 

Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it:

  • Frozen foods: French fries, chicken tenders, fish sticks, onion rings and even frozen dumplings or perogies crisp up nicely.
  • Vegetables: If you're a roasted veggie fan like me, try cutting up carrots, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, red onion, Brussel sprouts or cauliflower; mix with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and that's it. The insides of the vegetables stay soft, with the outside almost caramelizes with a slightly crunchy texture. 
  • Breakfast foods: Bacon (have I mentioned how GOOD BACON IS IN THIS?!?), frozen hash brown patties, biscuit dough or cinnamon rolls seem doable for a weekday breakfast in quarantine when you just have to set this thing and forget it for 15 minutes.

Like I said, I'm still figuring out proteins, so more on that later. One tip I will stress is to preheat your air fryer. While I'm chopping vegetables, I'll turn it on and let it run for a bit so that when I throw my ingredients in the basket, they sizzle nicely and are more likely to get a crisp skin. 

Do you have an air fryer? Thinking about getting one? Let me know at lhollenbaugh@berkshireeagle.com. And if you're an air-fryer hater like Alton Brown, it's cool. I'll just be over here eating my beautiful bacon.