Should You Get Your Wife, Husband, Significant Someone an Air Fryer for Christmas or the Holidays?
The short answer is yes. I don't write many posts on cooking equipment, but I decided to do so given the many advertisements that have been popping up with air fryers listed for the coming holidays. I received my air fryer as a gift a couple of years ago. I didn't know I wanted an air fryer until I got it. What I've discovered is that air fryers are especially useful for people who like to cook, are short on time, and/or would prefer to make a small batch of something rather than a great big whopping dish of it. One thing you should know, though, is that air fryers do not fry. They are essentially small convection ovens. They will give you crispier french fries than a regular oven, but don't expect deep fried food. Given that I'm not a fried food fan, that's never been a problem for me. Where air fryers excel is in browning food. Baked goods--including breads and cookies--come out well. Air fryers also make great pork chops, salmon (and other fish), and veggies. I've cooked small pork roasts, turkey tenderloins, and small meatloaves in my air fryer, and all turned out well. If you want to cook a fatty steak in the air fryer, you can, but it will make a mess (so, most of the time, I opt for a pan on the stove).
Do you need a big, fancy air fryer? Well, the size depends on the size of your family. If you have a big family and the counter space, go for a larger model. I have a small family and next to no counter space (because I've got way, way too many kitchen things), so a medium-sized version suits me fine. Now, do you need a fancy machine? Only if you like to spend a lot of money, like a lot of bells and whistles, have the patience to figure out those bells and whistles, and are into "fancy." A basic air fryer works really well. Mine is simple and intuitive. It has knobs for temperature and time. It has a basket that pulls out and goes back in. No hassle. Easy. For what it's worth, my husband bought the air fryer for me as a gift after reading the Amazon reviews. It's a Secura model, and I like it and would get another (and no, I don't get any commissions from Amazon or anyone else, for that matter). I've seen a lot of similar versions that are now available. What I would avoid is any air fryer that has a lift up hood on it. A lift up hood, even with a catch on it, is dangerous in my view. I don't want a hot lid/hood crashing down on my hand when I'm trying to put in or remove hot food from the air fryer--really, really bad idea on the manufacturers' parts.
Do you need special equipment for the air fryer. No, you don't need it, exactly, but it's nice to have. Small dishes are great, as are small cake pans. I like the five and six-inch sizes, because they fit in my air fryer basket with a little space on the edges. A folding hot dish lifter is far better and more secure than tongs (like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09DPYGL9Y/ref=sspa_dk_detail_4?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B09DPYGL9Y&pd_rd_w) , or at least a big oven glove (like this: https://www.amazon.com/QUWIN-Resistant-Silicone-Non-Slip-Grilling/dp/B08R86N1J4 ). Otherwise, getting hot foods out of the air fryer basket is a bit risky, especially if you have big hands (I don't, but I still have to be careful). A small rack that fits in the air fryer basket also is useful, especially for cooking crispy pork chops and other foods. Some air fryers come with the racks, so check first.
How do you know how to cook with the air fryer? Well, trial and error are how I've learned. The instructions that come with the air fryers are poor, and most of the air fryer cookbooks are sort of worthless, frankly. The exception is a cookbook by America's Test Kitchen. It's good and is out in paperback (you can get it on their website, or from Amazon, or from the library, sometimes). The other option is to go online and cruise cooking websites and blogs--like this one!
I hope this posting helps you with your decision about whether to opt for an air fryer. In closing, I think the little appliances are great--even better than slow cookers--because of their cooking versatility and the energy savings you get from using them. Oh, and because the food that comes out of them tastes really, really good!