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In Defense of the Air Fryer (and Really Good Gnocchi)

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Illustration for article titled In Defense of the Air Fryer (and Really Good Gnocchi)

Photo: Claire Lower

The pedantic criticism of appliances with devoted followings is not something I consider worthwhile. While I understand that it is human nature to want to push back against anything that achieves sudden and ubiquitous popularity, it’s helpful to stop and consider why things become popular, generally. Whether a collection of lovable teens with pretty singing voices or a kitchen appliance, things that become very popular, very quickly usually do so because they make people happy.

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For example, even though the Instant Pot is “just a pressure cooker,” it’s the pressure cooker that got the average home cook comfortable with pressure cooking, allowing them to expand their skill set and get dinner on the table faster. Some purchasers of the Instant Pot probably cooked new and exciting foods with theirs; some probably ate more beans. Either way, that has value, and looking down one’s nose at an appliance that gets people excited about eating and cooking is not, in my opinion, helpful.

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Not everything is meant for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t meant for someone. The air fryer—which, yes, is “just a tabletop convection oven” that “doesn’t really fry anything”—is not a good fit for a mother of four who functions as the primary meal preparer for her family. Even if you get a big one, it simply doesn’t have the capacity to prepare six servings of any given thing. It would make much more sense for this hypothetical mom to invest in an oven with a convection setting.

But for single people, students, or teens whose parents work weird hours and often find themselves in charge of their own dinner (this was me from ages 10 on), the air fryer is very useful, very cost-efficient (mine was $50), and very easy to use. You get convection oven results without having to wait for an entire oven to heat, which means most meals—yes, full meals—can be prepared in about 10 minutes.

It’s like a big Easy Bake Oven, with the speed of a microwave. It doesn’t technically fry anything, but it does help a certain subset of eater eat better, and getting pedantic about the name the appliance is sold under helps no one.

Anyway, this is all to say that an air fryer makes a pretty stellar plate of gnocchi and meatballs in about 10 minutes. Both gnocchi and meatballs are at their best when they’re tender on the inside and ever so slightly crispy on the outside, and shelf-stable gnocchi and frozen meatballs just happen to cook at near identical rates. There is some variation with size of frozen meatball, but the ones I used to test this out were fairly large, and the gnocchi came out perfect—pillowy on the inside with a slight, not-quite-crunchy shell.

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One of the great things about the air fryer is that you can easily check on the food as it cooks. Unlike sous-vide cooking (which is trapped in a bag) or Instant Pot meals (which are trapped under pressure), you can open up your air fryer, poke and prod its contents, then close it again without worrying about “letting all the heat out.” (Any lost heat returns very quickly.) Start checking your balls around the 8 minute mark. Slice one open to see if it’s warm in the middle, and give it another minute or two if needed. If you can handle cooking a TV dinner, you can handle this pasta dish.

Air Fried Gnocchi and Meatballs

Ingredients

  • As much gnocchi as you would like to eat
  • As many frozen meatballs as you would like to eat (do not thaw them)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt (or salt and garlic powder)
  • Your favorite prepared pasta sauce (store-bought or homemade)

Instructions

Set the air fryer to 385℉. Add the gnocchi to a mixing bowl and drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat. Lightly season with garlic salt, then pour the gnocchi into the drawer/tray of the air fryer, keeping it in a single layer and leaving room for the meatballs. Add the meatballs, close the drawer, and cook for 8-11 minutes, until the gnocchi is crispy on the outside and the meatballs are cooked through. While the the air fryer is doing its thing, heat enough sauce for your meal (1/3 cup works for me). Plate the gnocchi and meatballs, pour on the sauce, and garnish with parm and/or fresh basil.

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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