Opinion: Air fryer chicken: Don’t try this at home


My wife Mary Ellen has been cooking dinner for me almost every night for more than 44 years. I always felt guilty about that, but never guilty enough to do anything about it. There was a short period when I was in charge of the barbecuing. I was old-school then and still used charcoal, but Mary Ellen read somewhere that this was an unhealthy way to prepare food. Of course, the meat alone was enough to raise our LDL, no matter how we cooked it.

Then we got a new Weber Grill. I had trouble mastering exactly how long to cook our carnivorian (if that’s even a word) selections. Medium-rare is OK for steaks, but it’s life-threatening with poultry.

“This chicken is certainly in the pink,” Mary Ellen told me one night when I took our dinner off the grill. This was not intended as a compliment to the chicken. Or to the chef.

After I was barred from cooking on our deck, I decided to give it a go inside with our new air fryer, another appliance I knew nothing about. But how difficult could it be? I mean, frying with air? This sounded like a fool-proof endeavor. Even for me.

My first attempt at using the new fryer was making a recipe I found on a social media website. You view a sped-up video making you think you can cook this masterpiece in 12 seconds. They usually don’t give you written directions, and I still haven’t figured out how to save something or print it out. No matter now, when Mary Ellen found out I had a TikTok account, I was cooked. Account closed.

The recipe was for lemon garlic chicken. I placed the cutlets and all the required ingredients in a plastic baggie, gave it a good shake and let it marinate. Then I placed it all in a pan and slid it into the air fryer. But first I slathered the top of the bird with olive oil. That was my own little touch.

Mary Ellen had retreated to the back porch to enjoy her night off. I dozed off in my office easy chair. About five minutes later, I was awakened when smoke came billowing from the kitchen. Fumes filled the entire house. What should I do? Call 911? Or Emeril Lagasse?

The problem was that the directions called for baking the recipe in the oven – not the air fryer. And not with oil. Oops! Mary Ellen was aghast at this mistake.

“Look at those directions again. You did something wrong,” she said.

I tried to confirm that she was correct, but it was hard to see the recipe through all the smoke.

But here’s the good news: The chicken that night was very crispy.