Is an air fryer really the gateway to healthy eating?

Even Kay and Kate Allinson, founders of Pinch of Nom, fell into bad habits with their air fryer. Their new book on the gadget proves that you can ditch the frozen processed chicken nuggets for healthier, tastier options

Hannah Stephenson
Wednesday 10 July 2024 06:00
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Kay and Kate have been using air fryers long before they became ‘cool’
Kay and Kate have been using air fryers long before they became ‘cool’ (Mike English/PA)

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Air frying doesn’t have to be limited to unhealthy, processed frozen foods, says Kay Allinson, one half of the Pinch Of Nom pair, creators of the UK’s most visited food blog who have sold over 5 million books and have an online community of more than 4 million followers.

“I fell into that trap that a lot of people fall into. It’s really good for heating up frozen food, and that isn’t always a good thing. It’s quick and easy but if you’re trying to lose a bit of weight, chicken dippers aren’t the best.”

She and Kate Allinson – partners in work and life – have now written their most requested cookbook to date, Air Fryer, which features 55 new recipes and 20 of Nom’s classic and most-popular dishes adapted for air frying – easy, slimming meals in their trademark easy-to-follow style.

“The amount of requests we had for this book were just insane,” she explains. “The air fryer shouting got quite loud.”

The couple, who married three years ago – Kay, 38, heads up the tech operation of the website while Kate, 54, is a trained chef who owned a restaurant in Wirral before Nom came about – had been using air fryers long before they became a trend.

“We started using an air fryer years ago. We’ve always done air fryer recipes pretty much since we started Nom in 2016. I like a gadget, I’m a gadget queen. It’s my favourite aisle in the supermarket. They’re cheaper to use than the oven, are easier to clean and I use mine a damn sight more than I use my oven.”

But realising she had at one point fallen into the trap of heating up frozen food, she recalls: “We started to play around with recipes and came up with sticky chicken nuggets, a variation of a recipe in the book for Korean chicken nuggets, because I wanted to do something a bit different, a bit nicer.

‘Air Fryer’ is the duo’s most requested cookbook to date
‘Air Fryer’ is the duo’s most requested cookbook to date (Bluebird/PA)

“Frozen food is convenient, easy and quick, but sometimes you can do things just as quick (from scratch) and that brings a sense of pride.”

She says the recipes in the book – including bacon and cheese frittata (327 calories per serving), barbecue pulled chicken (186 calories) and sticky teriyaki aubergine (69 calories) – are pretty healthy, although they are never going to be prescriptive.

“We’re never going to say, ‘Follow these recipes and you’re going to lose X amount of weight’. That’s just not what we’re about. I mean, whenever Kate and I eat the same things, do the exact same amount of exercise, one of us will probably gain weight and the other will lose weight.

“What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone and I think it’s so easy, especially with social media. There are so many fad diets. I remember the days when people used to eat cabbage soup. Eating healthily and eating well doesn’t have to be as restrictive.”

Kay, who lives with Kate in Wirral, has gone through her own weight loss journey.

“I’ve lost 15 stone now since we started Nom. I’m still pretty hefty. I’ve still got a bit to go but I feel so much better about myself.”

But air fryers can be used for healthy eating, she says.

“Obviously they are naturally suited to foods that brown, but we’ve done a lasagne in this (book), we’ve done a soup, there is no limit on what you can do.

“I’m not going to say air fryers are the gateway to healthy eating because that would be as silly as me saying the kitchen is the gateway to healthier eating.

“It’s a way in which you can create dishes that are quick and easy, that don’t take many steps, that are done all in the same thing (air fryer) in not very much time.”

Misting your chips and chicken with an oil spray can be a healthier option, she suggests.

“I’m not saying that the results are exactly the same as a deep fried chip, but I’m certainly quite happy with my chips. It’s not so much the taste, it’s more the finish.

“But for me, you’re never going to beat a chip from a chippy. But that isn’t sustainable for everyone. For me, that chip would lead to other things and it’s not going to be the healthiest meal I eat all week and that is not where I want to be in my life.”

She suggests that anyone who wants to eat more healthily should plan their meals, working out what they are going to eat for the week.

“I tend to do it a couple of days ahead because I have ADHD. I always try to make an extra portion of something so I can freeze it. Quite a lot of the recipes in the book can also be frozen and reheated in the air fryer, which is really handy.”

The Nom pair advise people to defrost frozen food in the fridge overnight and reheat within 24 hours. So, will the air fryer ever replace the microwave?

“That’s something we’ve talked about as a team. I think both gadgets have their place in the kitchen. Obviously the microwave is really handy in short bursts, but it’s not great for crisping things.

“I feel like the microwave may have a little bit of a resurgence because of this focus on gadgets in the kitchen but for us, no matter what our readers demand from us, we are just going to keep making those recipes that are tried and tested, that people enjoy.”

‘Pinch Of Nom Air Fryer’ by Kate and Kay Allinson (Bluebird, £20).

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