For Impossibly Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Cook Them In The Air Fryer

While the main draw of an air fryer is its ability to cook foods without using much oil, some ingredients turn out tastier in these appliances than in a traditional oven. Take Brussels sprouts: You need to cook these veggies hot, dry, and fast, because they're packed with sulfurous compounds called glucosinolates. The longer the vegetable is cooked, the more these compounds degrade. The result is the unpleasant smell you might associate with poorly-cooked sprouts, and an acrid, overly bitter taste.

How do you cook Brussels sprouts long enough to become deliciously caramelized and nutty, but not so long that they turn sulfurous? Here comes our friend the air fryer. These devices are essentially small, high-powered convection ovens. They pump hot air throughout their removable baskets, using a fan to ensure that each part of the food inside has contact with the heat. An air fryer heats up much more quickly than a traditional convection oven, too. 

All of this means that air fryers cook Brussels sprouts in a flash, browning them long before they turn overly bitter. Best of all? The circulating air will turn the vegetable's leaves shatteringly crispy. The process should take 10 to 15 minutes in an air fryer set to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The timing can vary, but you'll know the sprouts are done when their leaves are crisp and the exterior is fully browned. The prep work you need to do before cooking the veggie is minimal, too.

Preparing and air frying the crispiest Brussels sprouts

Prepping air-fried sprouts starts with cleaning the vegetable (use this foolproof method to clean Brussels sprouts). After washing, cut them in half so that they cook faster, and try to keep the pieces evenly-sized to help them fry at the same rate. 

Before putting them in the air fryer basket, toss the sprouts in some oil to improve browning. Many recipes call for olive oil, which adds a bit of extra flavor to the veggies. About 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil should be enough; any more can cause the Brussels to come out greasy. Also, avoid aerosol cooking sprays, as they can mess with your air fryer. Hit the sprouts with salt, pepper, and seasonings now — rather than after cooking — as the oil helps the flavorings stick, and the vegetables will become more deeply seasoned.

Arrange your Brussels sprouts in a single layer on the air fryer's basket grate. If you add too many at once, they'll come out soggy and pale, since the hot air won't be able to reach all of the sprouts. Pull out the basket midway through cooking and give its contents a good shake. Redistributing the veggies helps them cook evenly. Finally, if you find the sprouts are still sticking to the basket, coat the grates with a little oil before you fry up your next batch.

Seasoning your sprouts

Given that you're saving so much effort by air frying Brussels sprouts, you have plenty of time to experiment with flavor combinations. The most simple choices are just salt and pepper, but Brussels sprouts pair especially well with cured meats like bacon. Cook the bacon and sprouts separately, as they have different cooking times that might not line up in the air fryer. If you go down this road, you can also toss the veggies with rendered bacon fat before frying to build in even more flavor (make sure to save some to utterly transform you caramelized onions, too).

Because even well-cooked Brussels sprouts are a little bitter, some sweetness can be welcome. Glazing them in a balsamic vinegar reduction is a great way to introduce some sugar and acid into the dish, without it becoming cloying. As with other bitter green veggies like kale or radicchio, Brussel sprouts go well with tartness in general. Hit them with a squeeze of fresh lemon before serving to enliven their flavor. Rich caramelized veggies like these could often use some brightening up.

Once you've mastered Brussels sprouts, try air frying other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale. Broccoli can be cooked similarly to sprouts, and the air fryer gives you florets that are pleasantly tender on the inside and caramelized on the outside.