Cooking Tips

When Air-Frying Vegetables, Water and Oil Do Mix

Opposites really do attract in this simple method for perfectly fried vegetables.

Published Feb. 7, 2022.

If you’ve ever tried to wash greasy dishes by just running them under the tap, then you’ll know that oil and water simply don’t mix. In the case of air frying, they might not mix but they do work together.

Connoisseurs of the popular kitchen gadget may know that one of the greatest selling points of the air fryer is its ability to fry, roast, and bake without all the excess oil you would need to do the same jobs with other appliances. That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t need any oil. And air-frying vegetables with just oil can dry them out. 

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To get the very best crispy vegetables with creamy interiors, ATK’s Healthy Air Fryer cookbook advises that a mixture of oil and water not only attains a satisfying crunch but also ensures vegetables such as broccoli and fennel don’t dry out as they cook and crisp.

Oil and water together might seem counterintuitive, but here’s what happens: The water steams the vegetable initially to soften it, and when the water evaporates, the oil provides optimal heat transfer and browning. 

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Want to see what difference a bit of oil can make in your air-fried vegetables? Try this technique the next time you air-fry broccoli or fennel.

  1. Mix equal parts of water and oil together in a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
  2. Toss in your vegetable and coat it evenly with the mixture (the solution will be separated in the bowl, but ensure that the vegetable’s entire surface area is moistened).
  3. Transfer the vegetable to the air-fryer basket and set the temperature to 350 degrees. Cook until the vegetable is browned and tender, 8 to 12 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking.
  4. Transfer the vegetable to a serving platter and drizzle with a splash of extra oil. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

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