Air fryers have proven to be a good candidate for preparing pork chops, burgers or steaks and surprisingly, chicken.

The other day I heard a term that really resonated with me: “Back to School Nesting,” used to describe when you are gathering school supplies, decluttering workspaces and getting your “nest” ready to slide into back-to-school season.
Even if you aren’t in the part of your life where you need to buy 16 boxes of Kleenex for teachers, the close of summer and entering into fall is still a time everyone finds themselves in some kind of transition period and this often involves the kitchen.
Summer is full of meals prepared outside and on the grill, but whether those school buses starting to round the corner are stopping at your house or not, they mark the shift to warm and filling meals that are quick to fix and get on the table, in a valiant effort to beat the dark sky as the days start to get shorter.
With this seasonal transition and whatever seems to spark it, fall and winter recipes traditionally brought the crockpots back to a prominent spot on kitchen counters.
But this year as I jotted down some easy recipes to have on hand, I saw more and more of the uber popular pressure cooker, instant pots, air fryers and Ninja recipes.
I’ve been a crockpot girl for a while now but as I brace for not only back to school season but also hockey season, I decided to stir things up and ask on my social media which appliance everyone loves the most as I need all the help I can get. As it turns out — it’s a hot topic, indeed.
Just so we are all talking the same language here, an Instant Pot or InstaPot is indeed a pressure cooker, hitting Amazon in 2010, taunting itself as “all-in-one next-gen pressure cooker.” And true, the next-gen model is less intimidating than the occasional exploding ones that debuted at the World Fair back in 1945. The gadget claims to replace the slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauteing/browner, and warmer, if you actually own all seven of those.
Next to hit the market was the Ninja Foodi, which then takes all that technology and throws in air fryer capabilities.
One trusted Cordova cook who seldom comes home from pot-lucks with leftovers of her dishes, says she even uses it for potato salad, prepping her potatoes and eggs at the same time. Those are all processes that if I can make them easier and faster, just having those ingredients to incorporate into other meals would be helpful.
Surprisingly, just about everyone I look to as a health and fitness friend, were also singing praises for pressure cooker appliances.
Spaghetti squash, which cooks so long in an oven you are ravenous by the time it comes out and may even eat leftover pizza while you wait, can come out of the Instapot in a mere 7 minutes.
For plant-based families, it makes sides like rice or beans faster, too.
While I was surprised at how many of my friends had been converted to an instant pot, being an average of 70-percent faster than a crockpot, they are a hard option to pass by. For example, sweet potatoes in the InstaPot take about 30 minutes, while a crockpot would take 6 hours and an oven would take about 50 minutes.
That said, several mentioned that when it comes to their “dump-and-go” favorites like roasts and other winter comfort classics, they do keep their crockpots around.
Pressure cookers are faster and still easy, but take you hanging out in the vicinity of the kitchen while it is cooking. Plus, there is a waiting period waiting for the pot to come to pressure for cooking.
We all know about crockpots and the mastery that can come out of them, so I’ll just share where their rave reviews come in at. Number one: Crockpots remain the life of the party. Crockpots reign the best vessel to make your cheesy, crabby, spicy, chicken, sausage, salsa- whatever dips to set it and forget it while you go to get ready for an outing. They are easy to tuck under your arm and trot out the door with, and great to plug in to keep your dish hot when you get there. I’ll even go as far as to say a husband could probably use it.
When it comes to soup or stews, crockpots and pressure cookers are tied. For dumping and going before work, a crockpot was still the way to go. But for those coming home craving a hot bowl of soup and wishing they’d prepped, pressure cookers can really save the day.
Another Christmas gift that’s been making the rounds the past few years is the air fryer. And hands-down, if chicken tenders and french fries are in your rotation, this is the quick and easy appliance for you. Other “fast foods” like hot dogs, fish sticks, chicken wings, or meatballs are all good bets, as well as actual fast foods reheated, like pizza or restaurant leftovers.
But think past the “fryer” and into meals you can make. It’s also a good candidate for pork chops, burgers or steaks and surprisingly to me, got multiple votes for best appliance for cooking chicken. Two folks said they can fit a whole (but small) chicken in theirs and said it had better taste but would defer to the crockpot for meat they were going to serve shredded. Veggies and potatoes also get a taste upgrade when cooked in the air fryer.
But the air fryer does have hang-ups or at least some work-arounds, friends say. It’s not a good candidate for any recipes where there’s a liquid or too much of a sauce, but it does work well for flavorful recipes with rubs and spices. You also need a decent size model if you have a bigger family — in order to cook well, food needs to be spread evenly and though it’s quick, if you have to cook multiple rounds, it could be a pain. And lastly, since forced air is used, you do have to learn a bit of preparing techniques such as utilizing toothpicks so you aren’t blowing the top off your quesadilla or grilled cheese.
Finally, there is the smaller but still proud group of toaster oven fans.