Whether you’ve just purchased a new air fryer or are in the market for one, this post is for you! Learn how to use an air fryer, how exactly it works, how to clean it, tips and tricks, and much more. Fair warning, you’ll soon be air frying anything you can get your hands on!
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is an all-purpose kitchen appliance that makes food prep a breeze! It can “fry,” roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat all sorts of dishes. Air fryers are similar to convection ovens, but they crisp and cook much more quickly and evenly.
Types Of Air Fryers
There are two main types of air fryers — air fryer ovens and basket air fryers. Just as the name indicates, air fryer ovens look like traditional toaster ovens with a mesh rack to fry the food. On the other hand, basket air fryers have a removable drawer where the food is cooked.
Air fryer ovens include more features, but they are generally larger and take up more counter space. Both styles work well for crisping food, depending on the brand you purchase.
How does an air fryer work?
Air fryers contain a heating element and a fan that circulates hot air all around the food in the basket. This system of hot air circulation creates a perfectly crispy exterior, golden brown color, and caramelization that can’t be beaten.
Compared to deep frying or oven roasting, air frying requires significantly less oil, rendering it a much healthier option. Once you learn how to use an air fryer, you’ll be amazed at its simplicity!
Do I need to preheat an air fryer?
Most air fryers suggest preheating before adding food in. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense! The food will not only cook more evenly, but the cooking times will also be more accurate.
Preheating an air fryer is not a requirement, but I do suggest it! If you choose not to preheat your air fryer, your food may take a little longer to crisp up properly. I don’t always preheat mine though, especially if the food takes longer to cook on the inside like broccoli or cauliflower.
The best air fryers
With how popular air frying is nowadays, there are a ton of options to choose from. Whether you are looking for an air fryer oven or basket air fryer, you want to make sure you pick a quality brand. Here are 7 of the best air fryers to choose from:
- Best Basket Air Fryer: Philips AirFryer
- Best Color Selection: GoWISE Air Fryer
- Best Air Fryer Oven Combo: Breville Smart Oven Air
- Best Budget Oven Combo: Cuisinart Air Fryer Convection Toaster Oven
- Best Budget Air Fryer: Black + Decker Purify Air Fryer
- Best Seller: Cosori Air Fryer
- Latecomer Bonus: Instant Vortex Air Fryer
For more information and details, check out my guide on the best air fryers!
How to use an air fryer
Knowing how to use an air fryer couldn’t be easier! It was created with simplicity in mind, so there are just a few key steps to understand.
Step 1: Dry foods before air frying
Before you air fry anything, you really need to dry it thoroughly. This will help achieve the quintessential crispy texture you’re going for. After washing vegetables or opening a pack of tofu (and before adding seasonings), pat them dry with a paper towel or tea towel.
Step 2: Cook food in a single layer
The most important step is to keep whatever you’re cooking in a single layer. The whole point of the air fryer is to circulate hot air so the food crisps up. If you pile it into the basket, the air won’t be able to flow, resulting in steamed food. Cook in batches if need be!
Step 3: Pick the right temperature
In general, you should set the temperature of your air fryer about 25°F lower than you would your oven for any given food. For example, if you normally roast vegetables at 400°F in the oven, cook them in the air fryer at 375°F.
Step 4: Shake at the halfway point
I always like to pull my food out to check the doneness around the halfway mark. This is also a good time to give it a little shake or a flip so all sides air fry evenly.
Tips and tricks
Don’t overcrowd the basket: For optimal crispiness, remember to leave ample room between pieces of food in the air fryer basket.
Use manual mode: Many air fryers come with preset functions, but I generally recommend using manual mode for the best results. This way, you can set the temperature and time based on how crispy and done you prefer your food.
Be aware of smoke points: Always be mindful of the smoke point of the oil you are using in the air fryer and don’t set the temperature above that. For instance, the smoke point of unrefined coconut oil is 350°F, so you wouldn’t want to set the air fryer any higher than that. Alternatively, use a different oil with a higher smoke point.
Don’t deep fry: An air fryer is not equivalent to a countertop deep fryer. Avoid filling the air fryer basket with oil and attempting to deep fry your food.
Follow safety guidelines: Remember to read the safety manual of your specific air fryer, but some general tips are to use it in a well-ventilated area, store it unplugged, use oven mitts when handling the air fryer or basket, and never use or store it on your stove.
How to clean an air fryer
Just like every other kitchen device, air fryers need to be cleaned to perform optimally. The good news is taking care of your air fryer will ensure it lasts a very long time! Here are 5 steps you need to know:
- Don’t delay: Don’t decide to “clean it in the morning” because the food will stick to the basket or drawer, becoming caked on. Instead, let it cool to room temperature and clean it right away.
- Removable parts: All removable parts can be cleaned with soap and water. Use a cloth or a soft sponge. Avoid anything that’s abrasive (like steel wool) as it can scratch off the non-stick coating that comes on the basket. If any food is stuck, soak it in hot water to loosen it.
- Detailing: For small crevices and difficult-to-remove food, use a toothpick, wooden skewer, or Q-tips to reach it.
- Inside & outside: Once the basket and drawer are removed and cleaned, don’t forget about the heating element! Use a soft cloth, sponge, or brush to wipe the inside. You can also use a lemon to remove tough grease and funky smells. Use a soft sponge on the exterior of the air fryer if there are any spills.
- Dry: Dry all removable parts, the basket, drawer, and the outside of the air fryer with a soft cloth, then store it away for next time!
Best air fryer recipes
This all-purpose kitchen appliance makes cooking a breeze! Here are a few air fryer recipes to give you some ideas on how to get started:
- Air Fryer Fried Pickles
- Air Fryer Kale Chips
- Air Fryer Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Air Fryer Buffalo Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks
- Air Fryer Green Beans
Air Fryer FAQs
Yes, air fryers often cook food faster than ovens. This is due to a smaller cooking chamber and the use of “super convection” technology (a fan that blows hot air into the food) rather than just circulating it.
Although air fryers may seem like the perfect answer to any food, there’s a list of things I don’t recommend cooking in the air fryer: Battered foods, leafy greens, grains, and popcorn are all on the list of things that don’t typically mesh well with air fryers.
Yes, you can use aluminum foil in an air fryer, but I don’t recommend using it for everything. Wrapping small objects (like garlic) works well. However, if you block the air circulation too much, the food won’t crisp up as nicely. In other words, don’t line the entire bottom and use it sparingly.