Are you wondering if you can cook your favorite ready meals in an air fryer? The answer is a resounding “yes”! In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore how to cook TV dinners, Lean Cuisines, and more in your air fryer. Get ready to discover how easy it is to make frozen ready meals in this versatile kitchen appliance!
Is it Safe to Cook Ready Meals in the Air Fryer?
Before you begin, there are a few things you should consider. First, check if the container your microwave meal came in is safe for the air fryer. Most containers that can be used in the oven will also be safe for the air fryer. Just make sure to read the box or packaging to confirm.
Next, ensure that the container will fit inside your air fryer. While air fryer ovens can accommodate most microwave meal containers, smaller basket-style air fryers may require you to transfer the food to a different pan.
Lastly, think about whether you want the top of the food to get crispy or not. Air fryers excel at crisping up food and adding texture. However, if you prefer a softer top, you can keep the frozen dinner covered with foil for most of the cooking time.
Why Cook Ready Meals in the Air Fryer?
You might be wondering why you should bother cooking microwave meals in an air fryer when they can be quickly cooked in a microwave. Well, there are several advantages to using an air fryer:
- Quick and easy clean-up: When following the directions provided, you’ll have minimal clean-up. If you can’t air fry the meal in its original container, you can use parchment paper to minimize mess.
- Crispy perfection: Air fryers excel at crisping foods, unlike microwaves. If you want a crispy texture, the air fryer is the way to go.
- No added oil: Unlike stovetop cooking, you don’t need to add oil to cook your TV dinners. Even stir-fry-style frozen meals can be cooked in the air fryer without any oil.
- Fits various dietary restrictions: You can find frozen microwave meals and TV dinners to fit almost any dietary restriction, including gluten-free, low-carb, keto, dairy-free, and vegan options.
- Budget-friendly: Frozen meals are available at various price points, so you can choose options that fit your budget.
Ingredients and Equipment
To make TV dinners in the air fryer, you’ll need the microwave meal itself. If you want a more filling meal, consider adding some additional protein, such as cooked rotisserie chicken breast or hard-boiled eggs. Bagged salad and a light dressing are great options for a side dish.
As for the equipment, you’ll need an air fryer, foil, and a meat thermometer. Depending on the type of meal, you may also need parchment paper and an aluminum pan that fits in the air fryer.
How to Cook Ready Meals in the Air Fryer
Now that you have everything ready, let’s dive into the cooking process for different types of microwave meals in the air fryer.
For a 9.5-ounce (269g) frozen vegetable lasagna, remove the plastic wrap and cover it in foil. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Bake the foil-covered lasagna for 45 minutes in the middle of the air fryer oven. Uncover the lasagna and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes to melt the cheese.
Frozen Mac and Cheese
To cook a 9-ounce (255g) frozen mac and cheese, remove the plastic wrap and cover it in foil. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Bake the foil-covered mac and cheese for 40 minutes in the middle of the air fryer oven. Stir, cover with foil again, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Frozen Stir Fry Meals
For a 20-ounce (567g) package of frozen chicken fried rice, transfer the meal to an aluminum baking pan lined with parchment paper. Cover the pan with foil. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Bake the meal for 30 minutes in the middle of the air fryer oven. Stir, cover with foil again, and air fry for an additional 30-35 minutes. Remove the foil and stir. Air fry uncovered for 5 minutes to evaporate any excess water.
If you have a 16-ounce (454g) container of fully cooked refrigerated chicken, transfer it to an aluminum pan lined with parchment paper and cover with foil. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Bake the foil-covered chicken for 30 minutes in the middle of the air fryer oven. Break the chicken into pieces, cover with foil again, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
For a 9-ounce (255g) frozen cheese enchilada, remove the plastic wrap and cover it in foil. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Bake the foil-covered enchilada for 45 minutes in the middle of the air fryer oven. Let it cool briefly before serving.
To cook a 10-ounce (283g) chicken tikka masala meal, transfer the frozen rice and curry chicken to an aluminum pan lined with parchment paper. Cover with foil. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes. Bake the foil-covered meal for 30 minutes in the middle of the air fryer oven. Stir, replace the foil cover, and air fry for an additional 20 minutes.
Remember to check the internal temperature of the food to ensure it has reached a safe minimum temperature.
Cooking times and temperatures may vary depending on the size and type of microwave meal. It’s always best to adapt the oven directions from the packaging. When in doubt, aim for an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) for safety.
Most TV dinners and microwave meals are intended to be single-serve, so reheating leftovers may decrease their quality. To avoid this, it’s best to only cook what you plan to eat.
While microwave meals offer convenience, they may have some downsides, such as high sodium content and being considered ultra-processed. Look for low-sodium options and less processed meals to mitigate these concerns.
- Air fryer vs. microwave oven: Air fryers cook food with hot circulating air, providing a crispy texture. Microwaves use radiation to heat food quickly.
- Do you need a microwave if you have an air fryer?: Microwaves and air fryers have different cooking methods, so one doesn’t completely replace the other.
- Is the air fryer safer than the microwave?: Both methods are considered safe, but proper usage is important to avoid burns or other accidents.
- Can I use microwaveable plastic in an air fryer?: No, microwaveable plastic is not safe for use in an air fryer. Stick to oven-safe containers.
- Best keto and vegan microwave meals: Look for brands like Primal Kitchen and Amy’s Organics, which offer options suitable for keto and vegan diets.
Other Quick and Easy Air Fryer Meals
If you’re looking for more recipe ideas, try air frying Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken, frozen fish fillets, or explore our list of the best frozen foods for the air fryer.
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For more details, including specific quantities and temperatures, consult the original recipe here.