Cook Perogies in an Air Fryer!
When I was a kid, I spent as much time at the ice rink as humanly possible.
I mean ... I skipped more days of school than I attended, for a lot of high school. (Don’t do this, kids. Do as I say, not as I do!). I was skating at the Winnipeg Winter Club at the time, which meant basically unlimited access to the ice, so... I basically lived at the rink.
This meant a LOT of meals at the rink. At the WWC, this was fine - there was a full cafeteria attached to the rink, and - if we were feeling fancy and felt like actually taking our skates off for a bit - there were a restaurant (TOO fancy, and needed reservations!) and lounge upstairs that we could order from.
I used to love going upstairs with friends, placing my standard order - chicken quesadilla, no guacamole (I was weird and thought it was gross at the time. Huh?), and a virgin lime margarita. We’d go and eat in the area overlooking the rink, watching the skaters from the other sessions. (Ie: The ones who could actually jump, LOL!)
So for that period of my skating life, “rink food” meant something wildly different than what most people would consider to be “rink food”.
In my earlier skating days, though, I was WELL acquainted with the more traditional arena food - at least here in Canada.
Hot dogs and chips were the big ones, but my tastes tended towards the stuff I couldn’t get at home: Deep fried perogies, deep fried Pizza Pops.
So trashy, SO good.. So comforting. I haven’t even liked deep fried food in a long time.. But yeah, a deep fried Pizza Pop sounds pretty good at the moment, as I head down memory lane!
(My apologies to all the non-Canadians reading this, as you’re missing out with regards to Pizza Pops!)
As I mentioned in my Honey Jeow Glazed Wings post, we bought an air fryer back when the shelter-at-home thing started up. It seemed like a fun way to make some of the frozen foods that we bought - just in case - more palatable.
AND WE LOVED IT.
As I was writing that post, I started wondering about all the other things we could do with it, and my mind wandered back to my old, pre-WWC skating days. PEROGIES!
Maybe the air fryer would be the solution to “I miss Deep Fried Perogies, but really am not fond of deep fried, greasy foods anymore”.
So, that meant some experimenting. Well, “screwing around in the kitchen”, more like, as there wasn’t a whole lot of scientific method going on as we cackled from perogy delierium. (It’s a thing.)
We kept notes as we went, though, so let’s call it “Science!” anyway!
Yeah, let’s go with that.
Deep fryers are AWESOME and give a great texture without the greasy nonsense.
Can we replicate the texture of deep fried perogies with an air fryer?
Deep fried perogies were prepared by volunteers and random teenagers working at the rinks, and it was not gourmet cuisine.
Given the logistics of rink canteens (not a lot of room, not a lot of specialized equipment), the foods served were generally low-effort, not equipment intensive, and not requiring any special skill.
As such, I believe that deep fried perogies were likely stored frozen and deep fried straight from the frozen state. Defrosting or boiling them before frying seems highly unlikely.
However, I believe that the oil from the deep fat frying was a huge contributor to the final texture, which may not work in the air fryer, without the addition of oil.
We tried a progression of techniques, starting with the closest in technique to how we believe it to be done in arenas, and ending with a technique that we believe will be closest in effect to actual deep fried arena perogies.
The Instant Vortex 4-in-1 Air Fryer, 6 Quart by Instant Pot is the Air Fryer we purchased, and we love it. If I had my time back, I may have ordered this one - a size bigger - but we had no idea how much we'd use it, so we weren't really willing to pay more or sacrifice more counter space for it!
- a 2 kg “Club Pack” of NoName perogies. Due to the nature of the food industry and the limitations and pricing of arena canteen food, I believe that these would be the closest to the base source material. The bag was divided into 3 relatively equal portions.
- Cooking Spray
Trial 1 Method
As we believe that arena canteen employees are likely to deep fry perogies from frozen, with no real preparation, we started with a method closest to that.
We cooked the perogies from frozen, with no additional preparation.
We cooked the perogies for 10 minutes at 380 F, turning when the air fryer told us to - about 2/3 of the way through the cooking time
Trial 1 Results
As an observation, cooking perogies in the air fryer made our kitchen smell like Skinner’s Wet and Wild. I have no idea if they even served deep fried perogies there - I think I went ONCE - but it’s amazing how clear that smell memory hit me!
The perogies had started leaking their filling prior to turning them.
The resulting perogies had a chewy dough, almost like a calzone. It did not have the characteristic crispy texture that we were looking for.
While they were definitely cooked through, they probably could have used a few more minutes to get more browned.
Trial 2 Method
From the results of the first trial, we believed that the addition of cooking oil would help achieve the crispy texture that we were looking for. We also believed that a few more minutes of cook time would be a good idea.
The perogies were cooked from frozen, but sprayed on both sides with cooking spray before cooking.
We cooked the perogies for 13 minutes at 380 F, tuning them when the air fryer told us to. At that point, we re-sprayed both sides of the perogies with cooking oil.
Trial 2 Results
Though the turning point was a couple minutes longer into the cook time than the first trial, the second trial of perogies did NOT leak before this point.
They did, however, start leaking before they were removed, during the second cooking period.
While the texture of the leak from the first batch was just what you’d expect from perogie filling - the texture of mashed potatoes - the leaks from the second trial were different. The potatoes were cooked more, dried out a bit, and almost a leathery texture. It was fun - not unpleasant at all.
The dough of the perogies was similar to the first trial result, just a bit more browned.
Trial 3 Method
From the results of the first two trials, we decided that we would pre-boil the last batch. While this may not be authentic to the arena perogies preparation technique, we felt that it would give a better final texture. The moisture from the oil they are cooked in must be absorbed by the dough, to an extent - the air fryer perogies were too dry.
We boiled the frozen perogies until they floated and were heated through. They were then strained and pat dry on both sides with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.
The perogies were sprayed on both sides with cooking oil, before air frying. Due to them not being frozen, we decreased the cook time initially to 7 minutes, but added 3 minutes on the end as they weren’t browning.
The perogies were sprayed on both sides with cooking oil at both the initial turn time, and at the 7 minute mark.
Trial 3 Results
These were the best batch, with a much better texture. They did not leak at any point during the cooking time. It was not quite accurate to arena perogies, but definitely close enough. They were lightly golden, with a bit of the characteristic blistering that you see in deep fried perogies.
Pre-boiling the perogies prior to air frying them is worth the extra effort / step.
I’d recommend cooking them a few minutes longer, for additional browning / crispiness.
In addition to that, I think that they’d benefit from actually being tossed with vegetable oil prior to frying, rather than spraying with oil. I realize that sort of defeats the purpose of an air fryer, to some extent.
Sprinkling the finished perogies with seasoned salt would make them taste a little more accurate to SOME arena perogies. (Not all do this!)
2 Kg of perogies should not be split between two people in one evening. While it’s technically possible to eat that many perogies - and fun at the time - it’s not a good idea.
Oh, and for a less involved - and probably a little healthier! - recipe inspired by “Rink Food”, check out my Pina Colada Muffins recipe. That plus hot apple cider from a powdered mix was my JAM at the rink I skated at in Calgary for a bit back in the early 90s.
Anyway, let’s get to the final recipe!
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