With energy prices climbing and the National Grid encouraging us to use less electricity, many of us are looking for ways to be more economical with our power. And, as ovens are one of the more energy-hungry appliances in our homes, using them less seems like a no-brainer. That is until we realise that no oven means no roast dinner.
Or does it?
There are actually plenty of other ways that we can whip up a tender joint of meat, crispy, fluffy spuds and all the trimmings you’d hope to see on a Sunday lunchtime spread, all without touching the oven. We’ve spoken to the experts to find out how.
Jenny Tschiesche, an author of The Air Fryer Cookbook, explains, “Anything you can put in an oven you can put in an air fryer – and typically it’s going to cut the cooking time by about 20 percent and the heat by about 20C.
It’s a particularly useful bit of kit when it comes to cooking meat, says Tschiesche. “Most cuts will cook in under an hour. However, it’s important to have a food thermometer to hand as internal temperature is a far better measure of doneness than appearance.
When using a thermometer, Tschiesche says you should be looking for it to reach the following temperatures:
Well done: 71C
Medium rare: 55C
Well done: 71C
A vegetarian centrepiece will also work well in the air fryer: “A 3.5-litre air fryer basket would fit a 1lb loaf tin in, which is perfect for a small nut roast. Another option is a filo parcel. Filo works wonderfully in air fryers; it really crisps up. You could make something like brie and cranberry filo parcels, which, incidentally, would also make good starters.”
Air fryers also love vegetables – including hasselback potatoes and sprouts – and are great at getting those golden, caramelised edges that we associate with oven-roasting. And that other all-important trimming, stuffing, is a goer in an air fyer, too.
This is especially helpful if you’re making your meat ahead or in a different appliance (like a slow cooker) as it means you won’t have to turn the oven on just for one dish.
Author and slow cooking expert Sarah Cook says this old-faithful countertop cooker is perfect when looking for an alternative way to ‘roast’ your meat.
“Slow cooker Sunday lunches mean pull-apart, meltingly tender meat, which sorts itself out while you spend more time enjoying the weekend. Plus, adding liquid to your meat in the slow cooker gives you a ready-made gravy.
“Another bonus is the joints which are best suited to slow cooking are often much cheaper than the leaner alternatives traditionally associated with an oven roast. Pork shoulder is a great example. One of the most affordable cuts of pork, it comes with a little extra fat running through it than you’d get with, say, a leg joint, so has bags of flavour and loves a slow cook. It will take about six hours on low or three hours on high. And if you can’t forego the crackling, remove the skin first and it crisp up in an air fryer to serve.
Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson, author of Microwave Magic, suggests cooking your veg in a microwave instead of roasting it in the oven. “Nutrients are retained, you’re saving on energy costs and the flavour and the colour of the vegetables is absolutely beautiful.”
It’s a great way to keep things simple and cut down on faff, too. When cooking sprouts, for instance, “just peel them, cut into the bottom, rinse them under a tap and cook them in a covered dish.”
Marshall-Jenkinson highlighted her microwaved veg skills on a recent episode of The One Show, where she prepped and cooked broccoli, cabbage and carrots, all within a few minutes.
You can even, says Marshall-Jenkinson, cook your meat in the microwave. “I’d put a chicken in a roasting bag, lay it in the microwave upside down for 20 minutes and then turn it the other way and to continue to cook.” To get the browned appearance you could rub some paprika or, Marshall-Jenkinson’s personal favourite, Worcestershire sauce, onto the skin before to cooking.
If you want to follow your roast with a comforting dessert, steamed puddings are easy to make in your microwave, too. A super-quick favourite of Marshall-Jenkinson’s is a black forest upside-down pudding.
“Take a 220g packet of chocolate cake mixture and pour into a greased 2L microwavable oven-proof dish. Add 2 large eggs, 6 tablespoons of cooking oil and 2 tablespoons of water and beat together until smooth, scraping down the mixture from the side of the dish.
“Pour a 385g can of black cherry pie filling over the mixture and cook on medium-high for 7-8 minutes until the cake has risen and is spongy. Cover with a dinner plate and let it stand for 1-2 minutes, then flip the dish so the plate’s on the bottom to turn it out.