I Was an Air Fryer Skeptic Until I Tried This Dual-Zone Cooker

I made an entire Friendsgiving dinner inside it.

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CRUXGG 6-in-1 9qt Air Fryer with TriZone Technology
Photo: Target

Air fryers aren't usually my thing. I'm not afraid of a little grease, and I'm a firm believer that the best part of any fried food is the crispy, yet miraculously juicy, texture. When I was in culinary school we were taught that fat equals flavor, and that's a mantra I've always taken seriously. So when air fryers started taking over the internet a couple of years ago, I sort of just ignored them. However, I was recently introduced to the surprising versatility of these kitchen appliances when I had the opportunity to test out the CRUXGG ZONE 6-in-1 Air Fryer with TriZone Technology. As a skeptic at first, I was delighted to find that using the tool was easy and efficient, and more importantly, it produced flavorful food. Unlike other air fryers, this one has two individual cooking zones, which is like having two high-powered convection ovens right on my countertop. I used mine to cook a Friendsgiving dinner for four, and it's earned a permanent space in my kitchen.

CRUXGG Dual-Zone Air Fryer Review
Courtesy of Target

To buy: CRUXGG Zone 6-in-1 Air Fryer, $170 at target.com

The CRUXGG ZONE 6-in-1 air fryer is a part of a larger collaboration between the Ghetto Gastro, a Bronx-based food collective and kitchenware brand CRUX, that recently launched at Target. The ZONE boasts two independently-powered cooking zones, so you can cook two different foods at two different temperatures and even synchronize the cooking process so they finish at the same time. If you want to cook one large meal, just remove the divider and use the extra large cooking basket. The ZONE has six pre-set options for air fry, bake, roast, dehydrate, broil and reheat. I used both the full cooking basket and the individual zones while preparing my dinner.

Roast chicken is by far my favorite food, and whenever I'm tasked with hosting a dinner like Friendsgiving, it's my go-to crowd pleaser. I loaded the cooking basket with lots of chopped root vegetables, whole lemons and garlic bulbs like I normally would then placed the whole chicken on top. I usually expect it to take a few hours depending on the size of the bird, so I was pleasantly surprised when my 6-pound chicken was golden, crispy, and fully cooked in just 50 minutes. "How easy is that?" I thought, in the Ina Garten voice that takes over my brain while cooking. The CRUXGG ZONE helped me achieve the crispy skin I always look for on chicken, and delivered more tender, juicier meat than I expected. Though I love how quickly and efficiently the air fryer cooked my chicken, I did notice that the vegetables in the pan got more blackened than I would've liked, so next time I will plan to cook them separately.

CRUXGG Dual-Zone Air Fryer Review
Courtesy of Laura Denby

Next up, I utilized the dual zone cooking functionality to make two side dishes, crispy Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. I loved that I could set one side to the "air fryer" setting and the other side to the "roast" setting, and then individually plug in cooking temperatures and times. Thanks to the synchronized timing, both sides were done at the same time, which ensured that they were both perfectly cooked, hot, and ready to serve. The appliance itself is sleek with a matte finish and functional design, and the removable air fryer basket, basket divider and crisping trays are all dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.

All in all, I love the fact that I can roast a chicken in under an hour without ever turning on my oven. I also love that I can cook a batch of side dishes on the countertop without overcrowding the stove. When it comes to guilty pleasure treats like mozzarella sticks and tostones, I'll probably stick to my deep fryer, but I like the functionality and versatility of this countertop cooker. If you're looking for a multifunctional countertop appliance to help streamline your holiday prep, consider a dual-zone air fryer like this one.

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