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Copycat restaurant dishes to give your air fryer a workout

Air fried reuben close up

Let me preface the following by stating: yes I am indeed one of those air fryer lunatics, and no, no you won’t hear the end of it. Turn off now if you’re of the belief that these modern miracles are nothing more than convection ovens. For the rest of you still with me, let’s eat; let’s also steal a few dishes from menus around Salt Lake City too.

Note: I used a COSORI brand air fryer to create these dishes. Your own make and model may vary slightly. Therein, always check your food with a reliable kitchen thermometer and know your safe food temps. I use the ChefsTemp X10. All recipes below assume your air fryer has been preheated to temp as well. Both of these links are affiliate sites, we get an exceptionally modest fee if you buy anything.

Air fried reuben construction
Air fried reuben construction
Air fried reuben sandwich
Air fried reuben sandwich

Feldman’s Deli

Reuben sandwich

Reach for the fryer rather than the pan or hot plate – and you can recreate this classic sandwich with a ton of ease and minimal fuss. The dry forced air makes for great ‘grilled’ sandwich of all varieties. Tuna, cheese, and the mighty reuben all work well. The trick to this one is to layer your sandwich outwards inward, dry to wet. Which is to say, use your corned beef as staunch layer to protect your bread from the soggier innards. I’ve experimented with the reverse and the mushy mountain of failed filings urges me to have you underline this point.

Caputo’s are probably my favorite source for pastrami, at least until Feldman’s allows me to pitch up and roll out with a full pastrami under my arm. Failing either of those the Boar’s Head brand found at most grocery stores sits well above all the other big brand names for my money.

Ingredients and cook time

With the sandwich constructed and exterior layers oiled or buttered, cook for six to eight minutes at 400F. Adjust times upwards or downwards for bread thickness.

  • Rye bread
  • Russian dressing, or well, you know – fry sauce
  • Sauerkraut
  • Corned beef
  • Swiss cheese
Copper Onion style Fried Eggs Over Matchstick Potatoes
Copper Onion style Fried Eggs Over Matchstick Potatoes
Air fried shoestring potatoes
Air fried shoestring potatoes

Copper Onion

Mushroom and eggs

Probably one of the first things we reach for when putting our new fryer through its paces – a bag of frozen French fries. It’s the gateway drug of the air fryer addict. One crunchy bite is all it takes. This particularly dish has been on the menu at Ryan Lowder’s signature restaurant since day one, lasting more than a decade. An exercise in simplicity and nuance, it’s a perfect dish to nudge you beyond basic fries.

For the best results you’ll need some half decent knife skills, carefully slicing each potato by hand to achieve a uniformly thin profile. Once sliced, transfer to a bowl of cold water for 30-60 minutes. This lets the potato release excess starch that can hinder the crisping process. When you’re ready to cook, drain and dry. Then dry some more. And I mean, really dry these guys. Embrace them with loving hug after hug of paper towels. Moisture is the enemy when trying to achieve crisp. From there toss them in cooking oil before frying; I like to use a simple plastic container and thrash them around with a tablespoon of oil to coat evenly. Put down the olive oil too – remember it has a low smoke point that will burn in dishes like this. Also remember to look suspiciously at recipes that insist olive oil everything.

The dish comes together with a layer of well salted shoestring fries, a couple of sunny side up eggs and a slither of pan fried mushrooms. The piece de resistance is an olive oil, parsley and garlic sauce – you can quickly concoct that when you slide the mushrooms out of the hot pan with just a minute’s extra work

Ingredients and cook time

The prepared shoestring fries should take 10-12 minutes at 400F. Give them a toss a couple of times during cooking to ensure they don’t stick together.

  • Russet potatoes
  • Cooking oil
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
Air fried eggs in Nicoise-ish Salad
Air fried eggs in Nicoise-ish Salad

White Horse

Nicoise-ish salad

Believe it or not, you can make a might fine soft-cooked egg (or medium/hard cooked) in the air fryer. For my money, once you’ve dialed in the precise times of your own fryer, this method is more reliable than the pot. You can cook a shell on egg, direct from the fridge to pre-heated air fryer just fine. I’ve never had one crack on me yet. The lower cooking temp used here probably helps.

This salad then is one of my Summertime routines; it comes together in 30 minutes or less, and can be reworked over and over with a variety of configurations. Who wants to turn on the oven, when the outside is smelteringly hot? The air fryer cooks quickly and without producing too much extra heat for the straining AC. Pictured above, some air fried eggs over salad dressed with simple vinaigrette (olive oil, lemon juice, dijon whisked up quick). Black olives are a must. I prefer to skip the more traditional potatoes with a slice of good quality bread, usually Harmon’s fresh baguette which is hard to beat. Lastly, some pan fried green beans with a good dollop of chili crisp.

For tuna, by all means hit up Aquarious market in downtown SLC, it’s easily the best fish option in the city. Don’t overlook the canned stuff though. You’ve probably heard a lot by now about conservas (tinned fish) and the quality options out there. Both Harmons and Caputo’s stock the Jose Gourmet brand out of Portugal – and they can’t be beat for quality. Failing that I don’t mind the jars of Tonnino you can often find in other stores. Tonnino tuna is pole and line caught, sustainably harvested and also America’s Test Kitchen’s “Best Premium Tuna Value”.

Ingredients and cook time

I cook my eggs direct from the fridge to a preheated air fryer. Cold egg to hot cooking basket. I cook at 275F for 10, 12 or 15 minutes. That should roughly yield soft, medium or hard cooked eggs. This particular one is quite nuanced with each brand of fryer, but once you’ve got your precise timings nailed down for your own particularly – I find the ability to create a perfect edge very time invaluable.

  • Salad leaves
  • Green beans
  • Eggs
  • Good quality tuna
  • Vinaigrette – olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard
  • Black olives

Crown Burgers

Pastrami burger

Homemade pastrami burger
Homemade pastrami burger

Throw in the burger, throw in the pastrami and boom. One item to watch here is grease. High fat content items like sausages, bacon and burgers will leach copious amounts quickly. This in turn can smoke the joint up if not monitored closely. There are plenty solutions to this that vary based on your style of frying unit. A quick Googling should enlighten you if you need. Pictured is a bog standard Franz Bakery burger bun, but I often like Harmon’s own bakery brand.

Ingredients and cook time

Eight or nine minutes is all it takes for a decently cooked burger in the air fryer. Toss some pastrami in there too for a few minutes as well if you’re feeling like a double whammy.

  • Burger patty
  • Pastrami
  • Burger bun
  • Fry sauce
  • Onions

Red Iguana

Chimichanga

Air fried chimichange with morningstar crumblers
Air fried chimichanga

Excuse the somewhat meagre fillings pictured above, you’ll need to use your imagination here. I know you have it in you. Still this simple veggie meat and rice chimi shows what’s possible. Cook your fillings first then then carefully load and fold onto the largest flour tortilla you can find.

The main tip here is you don’t need to oil the exterior or your wrapped masterpiece. There should be plenty enough fat content in any store brand tortilla to crisp; for reference I use the Mission brand which work perfectly. They won’t reach the momentous heights of their deep fried progenitor, but they’re a pleasing spin on the regular ol’ burrito nonetheless.

Be sure to take a moment to watch some YouTube videos on how to build a solid and sturdy burrito. You’re going to want to study for a few minutes here, and use less filling than you think. Bonus points, here’s my tinga de pollo recipe which makes for a might fine stuffing if I do say so myself.

Ingredients and cook time

Prepare your burrito with finished ingredients. Cook at 400F for five to seven minutes until burrito becomes chimichanga.

  • Flour tortillas
  • Your choice of filling and toppings
  • Careful wrapping skills
Air fried chicken tandoori
Air fried chicken tandoori
Air fried tandoori chicken thigh
Air fried tandoori chicken thigh

Saffron Valley

Tandoori

If you’ve been pondering the installation of a giant clay tandoor in the back yard (haven’t we all at some point? No? Just me?) take a beat before you make that life changing ten grand decision. The humble air fryer will get you largely into familiar territory without needing to call the bank manager and re-arranging your garden setup.

Our friend here will be the sturdy food grade, plastic gallon bag. A good seal doesn’t hurt either. Into that will go a mix of greek yogurt, lemon juice, oil, and a variety of spices. Once loaded up give it a good old smush, to integrate all those ingredients evenly. Next goes your choice of protein. Tandoori salmon is the sleeper hit for my money. The fish cooks quickly with a decent smoky finish, but remains tender and flaky inside.

Prepare your protein as you will then add to the bag o’ smush and repeat the massaging so everything is coated well. From there, refrigerate for about 4-6 hours. You can go overnight if you like, but be aware the the enzymes in the greek yogurt (alongside the citric acid of the lemon juice) will break down the protein. Eventually, tender yields to mushy. Over marinate and you will end up with a mealy final product. Nix the lemon juice for longer marinades. Yogurt is slow, lemon juice fast.

Ingredients and cooking

Cook at 400F. Chicken should peak over the 165F mark after about 15 minutes, go a little longer for more char. Salmon will need 15-20 mins depending on thickness. Thighs should take in the region of 25-30 mins.

  • 4 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 4 cloves grated garlic
  • 1 inch grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
Air fried chicken gyro
Air fried chicken gyro
Air fried Greek chicken
Air fried Greek chicken

Greek Souvlaki

Chicken souvlaki gyro

All the fun and flavor of your local Greek fast food favorite. In a similar vein as the tandoori above, our friend the gallon bag is needed once more for this dish. The difference here is that we’re gonna create a Greek-flavor profile for the marinade – garlic and oregano. I prefer a longer, thinner cut of chicken breast, compared to souvlaki cubes. I think they just fit more simpler onto a pita wrap. Don’t forget the tzatziki an red onion too! Before you toy with the idea of tossing your pita into the fryer, restrain that excitement, the bread will more than likely dry up too quickly.

Ingredients and cooking

Scrape off excess marinade before frying and discard. You don’t need to completely remove it, but you probably don’t want globs of yogurt getting all over your fryer interior either. Cook at 400F. Chicken should peak over the 165F mark after about 15 minutes, go a little longer for more char.

  • 1-1.5 lbs chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon ground oregano, Greek preferably
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pita
  • Tzatziki
  • Red onions
Air fried scotch eggs
Air fried scotch eggs

Piper Down

This English delicacy (just let me have this one) works surprisingly well with the dry forced air of air frying. It’s a little finicky to prep, so the magic is all in the mis en place, aka, get your ducks in a row first. First of all you can go ahead and use the trick above for soft-cooking your eggs. From there, you’ll want to wrap them in ground sausage meat that’s had a full egg mixed in. This helps the texture and pliability when crafting the final sphere. Go ahead and use any type of ground meat you like, a basic roll of Jimmy Dean’s through fancier stuff from Harmons, Beltex or whoever. Heck, go crazy with flavor fusions if you like, a chorizo Scotch egg with chipotle mayo anyone?

When it comes to construction time, setup three stations: a plate for the initial building efforts, a second to to roll the ball in panko breadcrumbs, and a final to plate the finished goods – where you can spray them with cooking oil. A quarter pound of sausage meat is usually fine to cover a single cooked egg; don’t forget to take the shell off 😉 I tend to use disposable kitchen gloves when building these – they can be a terribly messy affair. Do note that you will get exceptionally better as you roll these, your fourth Scotch egg will look like a Michelango compared to the first one you make. Just saying.

Scotch eggs

Ingredients and cook time

Add prepared Scotch eggs to air fryer and cook for 12 minutes at 400F, or until sausage meat is cooked through and exterior golden brown.

  • One pound seasoned sausage meat
  • Five eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • Panko breadcrumbs
Air fried costco dog
Air fried costco dog

Costco

Polish dogs

Don’t look at me like that. Yes Costco counts. If a business takes my money, and gives me prepared and ready to eat meal in return – that’s a restaurant as far as I am concerned. And you’d be hard pressed to find better dining deals than the slices and dogs at Costco’s food court. That is – unless you cook them at home.

I like to slightly score the dog every half inch or so. The helps safely release steamy heat as it cooks, rather than say, via a caustic explosion of fat and paprika. The result looks kinda cool on the bun too.

Bonus points awarded here for those who also considered, “will my bun toast in there too?” Yes my friend, yes it will. One to two minutes tops is all you need (bun sliced and placed face down in the fryer) to generate a lovey added textural extra.

Ingredients and cook time

Cook at 400F for around six minutes, be sure to score your dogs before adding.

  • Costco Polish dogs
  • Buns
  • Toppings

Kitchen essentials 

Lastly, you might want to have a look at our concise list of essentials for any home chef. These are all products I personally use and recommend in a heartbeat. Don’t worry, the list is small, I hate clutter too.

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