French fries are one of the most popular comfort foods of all time — but also far from healthy. Between saturated fat, high sodium, and their use as a vehicle for aioli and other cholesterol-packed dips, traditional fries are artery-clogging and best saved for occasional indulgence.
But what if you could eat more fries without sacrificing your health? It is possible, thanks to a trendy kitchen appliance and stand behind: the air fryer.
When using an air fryer, you also need to use the right cooking method for fries that are crispy and perfectly browned on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside, and delicious without being overly salted. True, you will not have the grease and super crunchy-crispy edges like you get from a deep fryer, but they really come close — much closer than any other method, including baking or microwaving with contraptions that claim to result in crispy food (hint: they fall way short).
(One of our favorite air fryers, this one made by BLACK+DECKER, is currently on sale for nearly half off at $79.99. It's on the smaller side, but it is capable of creating a delicious serving of fries. If you're looking for something larger to feed the whole family, we recommend this product from Ninja, which is marked down 20% and available from Macy's for $229.99. For more options, check out our shopping list below.)
Here is our step by step guide to air frying french fries:
Step 1. Start with clean, scrubbed, and dried raw potatoes cut into the shape of fries you prefer. Traditional julienned "sticks" or sliced "coins" that are about a half-inch thick cook the most evenly. Leave the skins on, as they crisp up nicer than peeled potatoes and provide extra texture and key nutrients like fiber. You can use frozen, pre-cut fries, too, but you will get the best results with raw, plain potatoes.
Step 2. Use a kitchen oil mister (our favorite here) or can of spray oil to lightly coat the cut potatoes on all sides. We prefer olive or avocado oil — but sunflower, peanut, or coconut oil work well, too. Just know that different oils result in different tastes.
Step 3. Sprinkle lightly with a seasoning or simple sea salt. Toss well to coat evenly. We like to change it up and try different herbs and spice blends, like cajun seasoning, nutritional yeast, or garlic salt. These seasonings make it less necessary to overdo it on dips — even most ketchup is loaded with added sugar or corn syrup.
Step 4. Put the fries in your air fryer basket and shake gently so they are evenly distributed in a single layer. Do not overfill, because if they aren't in a single layer, they will cook unevenly and fail to crisp up on all sides. If you're feeding a crowd, you might need to do a few batches. Get an air fryer with a capacity of at least 4 quarts if you plan to cook a lot of food at a time in it.
Step 5. Set your air fryer to 380ºF for 20 minutes. If your french fry preset is a different temperature, you might get different results — the magic number seems to be 380ºF. After the first 10 minutes, you will want to shake them up in the basket every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking and to crisp up all sides. If your fries are especially thick or thin, the cooking time might need to be adjusted. They should be crispy on the outside, slightly browned, and cooked all the way through when done.
Is it worth it?
If you like crispy foods, an air fryer is definitely worth buying. The only true downsides are that they tend to be bulky (but you can get one that's under 4 quarts if space is a big concern) and if you truly won't settle for less than the greasy, extra-crispy deep fried results, you might still not be impressed. But the much healthier results, very easy cleanup (the baskets are super nonstick), quick cooking time, and huge savings on oil compared to traditional frying all give the air fryer a useful place in almost every kitchen.
Our favorite air fryers
Ninja 4 Qt. Air Fryer
Ninja is a household name for kitchen appliances, and their air fryer delivers the expected quality. This model evenly circulates the convection heat to ensure crispy consistency with each and every french fry, and its wide temperature range will let you branch out to other foods if you get tired of fries.
Get it from Amazon.
Get it from Macy's.
Philips XXL AirFryer
The Philips XXL AirFryer cooks food quickly and efficiently, so it's ideal for people with a busy schedule. We also recommend this option for those who like to entertain, as the double-layer rack maximizes the cooking space.
Get it from Amazon
Cuisinart TOA-60 Air Fryer Toaster Oven
This is a slightly different take on the typical air fryer, but it's a great option for those looking to capitalize on available countertop space. Cuisinart's Air Fryer Toaster Oven has seven functions that allow you to effectively air fry, bake, broil, convection bake, convection broil, warm, and toast — all with just one device.
Get it from Amazon.
Get it from Macy's.
Katie Reseburg is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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