I cooked Christmas dinner in an air fryer: here’s how it went
If you’re new to the world of air frying, you may be a bit nervous to take a gamble on your Christmas dinner. I challenged myself to cook Christmas dinner in an air fryer for the ultimate festive dress-rehearsal to see if it was worthy of dealing with my turkey, and the results genuinely surprised me.
Even the best air fryer will be better at some things than others, but from your sprouts to your turkey centrepiece, I had more hits than misses in my Xmas experiments. Which is lucky, because I had no backup dinner lined up.
‘If you’re looking to save money, time, washing up and stress this festive season, don’t forget to turn to your air fryer,’ advises Zoe Simons, Senior Development Chef at Waitrose (opens in new tab). ‘Depending on how many people you are catering for, it can either do all the work for you or be a much-needed helping hand while you save the oven for your turkey or other centrepiece that needs the extra space to cook.’
I also spoke to Farmison & Co (opens in new tab)‘s Michelin star development chef, Jeff Baker, for some tips on cooking meat in the air fryer. He’s a convert, and told me ‘I have invested in the 3 in 1 model which also slow cooks and pressure cooks, and have been thoroughly impressed with the results on all 3 modes.’
So there you have it, air fryers are a guaranteed Christmas helper, but here are the trimmings you can cook in your air fryer this festive season.
Can you took turkey in the air fryer?
Brief disclaimer: I live in a two-person flat, so I’ll never be able to get through an entire turkey. That’s lucky, because I’m not too confident that I’d have been able to wrestle an entire turkey into my Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer with ClearCook.
I did, however, manage to fit an entire turkey crown. I also cooked some turkey leg that was sent to me by Farmison, who I spoke to in order to get some some tips for cooking Christmas dinner in an air fryer.
‘The air fryer in reality is a high powered convection oven works with a fan that circulates hot air at high speed, producing a crisp food and enhancing the browning, also known as the Maillard reaction,’ explains Jeff from Farmison.
In other words, it’s really good at making things crispy, but this meant I was worried it would dry out my turkey before it had the chance to cook all the way through.
I wrapped both my turkey crown and turkey leg in some tin foil to lock in moisture and cooked as recommended for a fan oven, which was 160 degrees or two hours for the crown and one hour for the leg.
For my crown, I had to remember to go back and set the timer for a second hour once the first had finished, because the timer will only go up to an hour at a time.
After I was finished cooking the turkey in foil, I peeled back the top bit to reveal a lot of lovely juices which I used to base the turkey before I whacked the heat up to 200 degrees for 15 minutes to get some browning on the skin. As Baker predicted, this created some lovely browning. I used a meat thermometer to make sure it had reached its target temperature and then left it to rest while I got on with the trimmings.
Top tip: tip out your turkey juices when you’re finished cooking, and use them to make a reduction or gravy to go with your meal.
Can you cook roasties in the air fryer?
Yes, yes yes. Roasties are the part of Christmas dinner in an air fryer – and they’re always a winner. There are two ways you can go about this – you can either use the air fryer insert to lift the potatoes away from the fat as it drips away, or remove the insert to let them sit in the oil, like they would on a roasting tray.
I opted for the latter because I wanted to make the most of the Pierre Koffman goose fat roasties (opens in new tab) that Farmison sent me. Their cooking instructions recommended 40 minutes, but I was happy with how brown and crispy they were after half an hour.
Top tip: These came pre-steamed and coated in goose fat, and I cooked them from fridge-cold, which is an excellent meal prep tip if you’re trying to reduce the amount of cooking you need to do on Christmas day.
Can you cook pigs in blankets in the air fryer?
Air fryers excel when it comes to party food and picky bits, so I had every faith that my tiny Instant Vortex Mini would make a brilliantly crisp batch of pigs in blankets. I followed Jeff from Farmison’s advice and set the temperature to 200°C for small bite size pieces, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
Sure enough, they were finished after 8 and had some lovely even glazing that made them look pan-fried, without all the faff.
Top tip: Be sure to use your air fryer insert to allow the air to circulate around your pigs in blankets. This will make sure they’re cooked on all sides, without the need to turn them every few minutes.
Can you do sprouts in the air fryer?
There was a time when I turned my nose up at the humble sprout. This is because I’d only had them boiled, and when I started air frying them I realised how wrong I’d been.
To air fry my sprouts I halved them and tossed them in some oil and seasoning. I cooked them in the air fryer for 12 minutes (shaking as I went) and they came out nice and crisp.
Top tip: You could definitely do this with your parsnips or honey-glazed carrots, just keep an eye as they brown, because they burn easily!
Can you cook Christmas dinner in an air fryer?
Actually, yes. The turkey was the biggest surprise, it came out very moist and carved easily, but next time I’d cut down the cooking time by about 10% to account for the fact that it’s being cooked in a much smaller area.
Hands down, I’ll continue to cook roast potatoes in the air fryer over the oven. They were browned on all sides and cooked a lot faster than in the oven. The same can be said for pigs in blankets or any other nibbles you want to have on the side while you serve up your dinner. That goes for stuffing balls, too.
If you prefer steamed vegetables or you want a less crunchy element on your plate, an air fryer shouldn’t be your first pick for cooking your Christmas veg. However, if you’re short on hob space it’s a good way of cooking your veg while you work on your gravy.