As the gadget of the year, praised for its power to churn out golden chips, crispy bacon and sizzling sausages, the air fryer may well have made its way on to your Christmas wishlist. But have you considered opening it early and using it on the big day to cook every ingredient on your lunch menu?

According to a new report by consumer champion Which?, the popular appliance beats both the oven and the microwave on timing, cost and taste when it comes to cooking everyday foods such as roast chicken, baked potatoes and even baking a cake.

Amid spiralling energy costs and rising grocery prices, it’s no wonder home cooks are turning to the air fryer — which can cut a third off your energy bills — to make family meals.

But can it really tackle turkey and all the trimmings, which cost an average of £3.74 to cook in a conventional oven — and how much money and time could you save? I turned to my Ninja 5.2-ltr air fryer (£150, to test the hacks, tips and timings you need to cook Christmas dinner for six — all without switching the oven on.

Sarah Rainey has tried out the Ninja 5.2-ltr air fryer (£150, to test the hacks, tips and timings you need to cook Christmas dinner for six ¿ all without switching the oven on

Sarah Rainey has tried out the Ninja 5.2-ltr air fryer (£150, to test the hacks, tips and timings you need to cook Christmas dinner for six — all without switching the oven on


The size of your air fryer will dictate the size of your turkey. The biggest appliances have a capacity of 7.3 litres, which can fit a small bird, but a better option is a medium crown, which is everything but the legs and wings.

Upside-down Turkey crown

Upside-down Turkey crown

My turkey crown weighs 1.8kg, which will comfortably feed six — and should take 2 hours 25 minutes to cook in the oven at 180c.

The air fryer takes less than half this time, but the trick is to start the turkey cooking upside-down, so the skin is in contact with the base and sides of the unit. This will make it extra-crispy. I lightly rub vegetable oil into the skin, season it with salt, pepper and dried herbs, and pop it into the air fryer for 30 minutes at 200c. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but as long as it’s well-oiled all over it won’t stick.

When the timer buzzes, I use tongs to flip it over and cook for another 20 minutes, until the juices run clear. My crown then needs to rest for around 75 minutes — this allows the juices to reabsorb, making it extra-moist. I cover it loosely in tin foil (too tight and the skin will go soggy) to keep it warm while I make the rest of the meal.

The result? Tender, juicy meat; the skin is golden, crisp and stays that way even after resting, thanks to the turbo-charged heat inside the air fryer.

TIME SAVED: 1 hr 35 mins



Crunchy, golden roasties are the secret to a good Christmas dinner — and the air fryer guarantees perfect results every time. But if you want those fluffy insides, there’s a clever hack involved.

First, I peel and cut my potatoes into large chunks. Next, I put them in a heatproof bowl with a little cold water, cover the bowl in clingfilm and cook them on high in the microwave for 10 minutes.

This steams the potatoes and part-cooks them; you could also do it on the hob or, if you have an air fryer with a grill ledge, place the potatoes on top and pour water underneath so they don’t go soggy.

Once steamed, the potatoes need eight minutes in the air fryer at 200c. Amazingly, you don’t need any oil or goose fat to make them crisp up, but it is Christmas, so be as indulgent as you fancy.

Sizzling and golden, with melt-in-the-mouth middles, these are impressive roast potatoes for just 18 minutes’ cooking time, compared to the usual 45 minutes. I set them aside in a heatproof dish and cover with foil until the rest of the trimmings are done.

TIME SAVED: 27 mins



Fridge space is at a premium this time of year, so save some room by cooking the pigs in blankets straight from frozen — a clever way to make the bacon ultra-crisp.

Frozen pigs in blankets

Frozen pigs in blankets

Air fryers are ideal for cooking frozen foods, as the rapid circulation of hot air inside the frying compartment means they cook evenly and quickly without going soggy as the ice turns to water.

Preheat the air fryer to 200c and tip the pigs in blankets in; there should be enough space in the compartment to cook around 20 in a single layer. If you pile them on top of one another they won’t end up crispy.

After just 12 minutes, with some vigorous shaking along the way, they’re done: crispy, browned bacon and perfectly-cooked sausages inside. I try a few — just to be sure — and cover them up with tin foil.

TIME SAVED: 23 mins



Pre-soaking your Brussels sprouts can stop them tasting bitter, as well as helping them cook through without turning mushy and losing their colour. Cooking them in an air fryer is no different. I start by scoring a hole in the base of each of the larger sprouts — to help the water penetrate — and soak them in a bowl of warm, salted water for 20 minutes (you can do this while the roast potatoes and pigs in blankets are cooking).

Next, I drain them, tip them into the air fryer with a little herb-flavoured butter, chopped red onion and bacon pieces, and cook everything at 180c for 15 minutes.

Amazingly, the sprouts are still green, with a nice fresh bite and yummy charred edges. The bacon and onions have gone crispy, and the herby butter has melted to make a delicious indulgent sauce. These are much tastier — and more gourmet — than plain boiled sprouts.

TIME SAVED: 15 mins



Ultimate crispy parsnips

Ultimate crispy parsnips 

Peel and chop your parsnips as you normally would, and add them to the air fryer with a drizzle of olive oil, maple syrup and sea salt. You can also add a handful of grated Parmesan for flavour.

These take 14 minutes at 200c — I can hear them starting to sizzle almost instantly, as they release their juices and turn crunchy. You’ll need to shake them a couple of times during cooking to ensure even roasting.

The strong fan inside the air fryer blasts them all over with super-hot air, so there’s no risk of soggy parsnips. Instead, they’re beautifully-caramelised and sweet.

I cover them with foil until it’s time to serve up.

TIME SAVED: 26 mins



Whether your stuffing is homemade or shop-bought, it’s easiest — and safest (from a food hygiene perspective, avoiding contact with raw meat)— to cook it in balls rather than inside the bird.

These taste best crisp and crunchy, so the air fryer is perfect for getting them just right.

Mine take 10 minutes at 200c, shaken regularly to ensure they don’t stick to the fryer. They’re salty, meaty in the middle and golden-brown on the outside — just how I like them.

TIME SAVED: 20 mins



Air fryers aren’t known for gently cooking veg, but there’s no reason you can’t use it to ‘steam’ red cabbage; an essential in any Christ- mas spread.

I slice my cabbage into strips, then mix it in a bowl with festive spices: orange zest, ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, a teaspoon of cranberry sauce and some grated apple.

Next, it’s into the air fryer with a few tablespoons of water, and I cook it at 180c for six minutes. This steams the cabbage and locks in its tart flavour. To crisp it up, I drain off the water, add a tablespoon of olive oil and turn the heat up to 200c for another six minutes.

It’s still saucy and fragrant with spices, but there are a few crispy bits, which add crunch. I’m impressed — the two-stage cooking process really works. I keep it warm in a foil-covered bowl.

TIME SAVED: 33 mins



Make the gravy after you’ve cooked the turkey, to make the most of all those meaty juices that have run off the bird. Sprinkle a handful of plain flour over the base of the air fryer and cook at 210c for a few minutes. Whisk the cooked flour into the liquid and leave it for a minute to thicken.

Add boiling water (the more you add, the thinner the gravy will be), some seasoning, a glug of red wine and — if you want — a teaspoon of Marmite for saltiness. Put the gravy back in the air fryer at 200c for two minutes until bubbling, thick and delicious.

TIME SAVED: 5 mins



Three-ingredient Christmas pud

Three-ingredient Christmas pud

Not included in the total cooking time, you can whip this Christmas pudding up in advance — and put it in the air fryer when you sit down to eat, meaning it’ll be piping-hot in time for dessert.

Made from just three ingredients, it couldn’t be easier. And, unlike a traditional Christmas pud, which is steamed for several hours, it takes just 30 minutes to cook.

Mix 250g mixed dried fruit with 260ml chocolate milk (you could also use orange juice or unsweetened milk, if you prefer) and leave the fruit to soak overnight, until plump and juicy.

Sift 90g self-raising flour over the fruit mixture and stir well, before decanting it into a greased pudding basin (mine is 1 litre, which will feed six but also —crucially — fits inside my air fryer). Cook at 180c for 30 minutes.

Leave the cooked pud to cool for 10-15 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the inside edge to loosen it before tipping out on to a plate. Serve with dollops of brandy cream — and challenge anyone to guess how it was cooked.

TIME SAVED: 2 hrs 30 mins




TOTAL TIME: 2 hrs 25 mins for the turkey. Allowing for shared oven space and simultaneous cooking (not possible in the air fryer), trimmings take 1 hr 20 mins, so total: 3 hrs 45 mins



TOTAL TIME: 50 mins for the turkey, plus 1 hr 26 mins for the trimmings (while the turkey rests): 2 hrs 16 mins



COST SAVING: £2.42 — an energy saving of 65 per cent

Without doubt, doing your entire festive meal in the air fryer saves money and time. But there’s a drawback. Because you’re cooking everything sequentially, you really can’t keep it all piping hot. Also, roasties kept under foil for more than an hour don’t quite keep their crispiness, and there’s a bit of a wilt to the parsnips, too. You can experiment with the cooking order to get round this, or stick the trimmings in a very low oven to keep warm.


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