Here's everything you need to know about how to use an air fryer, how it works, how to clean it, how to operate it safely and get answers to practically every pressing question you have in mind.
You’ll also get to dig deeper into some actionable tips and tricks to make your first time with the air fryer smooth and effortless.
Sounds like something you were looking for? Read on to discover all that and more.
- What Is An Air Fryer?
- What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
- Different Types of Air Fryers
- How Do Air Fryers Work
- Before Using The Air Fryer For The First Time
- Air Fryer Safety Tips
- Air Frying vs Deep Frying
- Air Fryer vs Convection Oven
- How To Preheat Air Fryer
- How To Clean Your Air Fryer
- Do You Need Oil To Cook In An Air Fryer?
- Tips For Cooking In An Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Mistakes To Avoid
- Recommended Accessories for Air Fryers
- Air Fryer Recipes For Beginners
What Is An Air Fryer?
Let’s start with the basics first. If you’ve already got your hands on the air fryer, you know how it's an incredibly versatile kitchen appliance designed to make cooking delicious meals easier and quicker.
Its unique selling point lies in the fact that it's able to cook foods using hot air that circulates through its interior with less oil or any fat needed for the process, which makes the food low in calories, and in turn, healthier. Not to mention the cooking time is way less in air fryer compared to other cooking methods.
Think of them as small, powerful versions of the regular oven that get your favorite deep-fried foods (including French fries) nice and crispy with a small amount of oil.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
Your air fryer can be used to cook most foods from your favorite crispy foods or snacks like chicken wings and potato wedges to juicy meats and even light and fluffy cakes.
They are actually so much more than an appliance meant to replace all your deep frying efforts. They are very versatile and you can roast, bake, broil, crisp, and even reheat foods in the air fryer. They're really good at making frozen foods taste fresh and crispy too.
Different Types of Air Fryers
There are two different kinds of air fryers available commercially: the basket-style Air fryers and oven-type air fryer.
The basket-style air fryer is the most popular one and has a simple structure- a small, compact unit that has a basket that can be filled with the foods to be cooked. Although we're talking mainly about basket air fryers these tips will help you with all other types of air fryers as well. So stick around.
Oven-type Air fryers are similar to a toaster oven and have removable racks and trays. They can hold a large quantity of food but the main caveat is that it takes up precious counter space. More often these come packed with features that allow you to dehydrate, bake and toast your food.
Most air fryers perform just one function- air frying, and they do that best.
How Do Air Fryers Work
All air fryers have a heating element inside their structure similar to an oven. When the air fryer is turned on, it radiates heat, which is then circulated throughout the inside of the body with the help of a fan.
The food that is placed inside the air fryer basket then gets exposed to this hot air that's moving rapidly, gets cooked, and develops the nice crispy texture and caramelization that it is so well known for, using minimal or even zero fat.
One thing to note is, since they're fan operated most air fryers can be loud.
Before Using The Air Fryer For The First Time
If you are using an air fryer for the first time, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed or confused. Using an air fryer is actually quite easy. You’ll just need to keep a few tips in mind.
- Remove all the packaging including any plastic wrappers and cardboard ones.
- Wash the removable basket or tray before use.
- Turn in the Air fryer and let it run for a couple of minutes without any food inside. This has to be done only one time.
- Make sure you place the air fryer on a heat-resistant surface, a minimum of 8 inches away from any wall.
Air Fryer Safety Tips
While your air fryer’s manual will come with a list of safety precautions that you need to follow, here are a few handpicked safety tips you must keep in mind, regardless of the kind of air fryer you have purchased.
- The device just needs to be hooked onto an electric plug point to function. Always remember to unplug the air fryer when it is not in use.
- Placing your air fryer on a stove is a big no-no.
- While you can perform many functions with the air fryer, deep frying is not possible. Don't fill the basket with oil.
- If you are greasing your air fryer basket or foods with a little fat, make sure you use an oil or fat that has a high smoking point like avocado oil, and vegetable oils like canola oil or sunflower oil.
- Remember to air fry in a well-ventilated area.
- When removing the air fryer basket after it has been used, set it on a silicon mat or a hot pan instead of directly placing the hot basket on the countertop or any other surface.
Air Frying vs Deep Frying
The key difference between air frying and deep frying as cooking methods is in the amount of fat or oil used in each of the methods. Deep fryers cook food by bringing the oil up to extremely high heat. In contrast, air frying cooks food by rapidly circulating very hot air around the food in the basket.
Air frying is actually an incredibly healthier alternative to deep frying. The process also helps bring that nice caramelization and crunch factor that is often lost during baking.
Although air fried food is crispy and crunchy, it's important to keep in mind that it won't be 100% similar to the foods that come out of the deep fryer.
Air Fryer vs Convection Oven
Air fryers and convection ovens share more similarities than differences- both these methods use hot air to cook food. In general, convection ovens are meant to handle large batches of food, while the air fryer is perfect to cook smaller batches.
Another small difference between them lies in the fact that air-fried foods tend to be crispier than foods cooked in the oven. This is because the heating mechanism in the air fryer is much faster, which makes the food come out crispy and crunchy.
Air fryers are compact and small and heats up faster than the regular ovens, therefore the cook time is less in the air fryer.
Air fryers are similar to countertop convection ovens with a faster fan to circulate hot air rapidly.
Both these kitchen appliances fare well when it comes to the health aspect. They both require minimal use of oil and fat and are in general, considered to be used for healthy cooking.
Use our handy tool, Oven To Air Fryer Conversion Calculator to convert your favorite oven recipes to Air fryer.
How To Preheat Air Fryer
Some air fryer recipes may require you to preheat the air fryer before it is used. Unlike with an oven, preheating an air fryer does not take 20-30 minutes. Just a few minutes of preheating the device should be enough.
You can follow the specific instructions in the manual to get an idea about how to preheat your air fryer device. A lot of newer devices come with a preheat button, which makes it even easier.
If your air fryer does not have the option, you can preheat it by first setting the device on the temperature you wish to cook your food, clicking the on button, and letting the device stay on for 3-5 minutes, without adding the food in.
How To Clean Your Air Fryer
The presence of nonstick coating in most air fryers is what makes cleaning them truly a breeze. Here’s how you can clean your air fryer in a few simple steps.
- Take apart the inner and the outer air fryer basket, and wash it with warm, soapy water.
- Make sure you use a non-abrasive scrubber or a soft sponge to scrub the surface of the air fryer basket and remove any possible debris.
- Some air fryer models are also dishwasher safe- you can check the instruction manual to get a better idea.
- Any other parts of the air fryer unit can be wiped with a damp cloth or a paper towel.
- To make cleaning up the basket easier, clean it right after you’re done cooking in it.
- You can also place a layer of parchment paper or aluminum foil inside the air fryer basket to keep the food from sticking to its surface, and to keep the basket clean.
- Check Can you put aluminum foil in your air fryer? to read all about using foil in your air fryer.
Do You Need Oil To Cook In An Air Fryer?
Technically, you don't need oil to cook your food in an air fryer. However, to get a crispy exterior, you need about a tablespoon of oil on the food. You can use a healthy oil like olive oil or avocado oil. Remember never to fill the air fryer basket with oil.
You can lightly grease the surface of the food and the inside of the air fryer basket with a little oil or cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to its edges. Remember not to use aerosol cooking sprays like PAM to grease your Air fryer. This will damage the non-stick coating. You can get a spray bottle and fill it with cooking oil to spray.
I wrote a detailed post on using oil in your air fryer with the best oils to use and how to use them. Check it out.
Tips For Cooking In An Air Fryer
- Preheat the air fryer if the recipe calls for it. This means letting the air fryer run for 3 to 5 minutes at the cooking temperature mentioned in the recipe.
- Grease the Air fryer basket or tray with a light coating of oil or line the with air fryer parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Place the food in a single layer so they cook evenly.
- Cook in small batches for best results. Don't stack food and overcrowd the basket preventing the airflow.
- Shake the basket halfway through. Some foods like fries and wedges need to be tossed so they cook evenly.
- It's okay to take a peek. You can open the air fryer or remove the air fryer basket while cooking to check on the food. When you place it back on, it'll resume cooking from where it left off.
- An instant-read thermometer or a meat thermometer is your best friend when it comes to cooking meat, chicken or even fish.
- Food cooks fast in the air fryer and as you get used to the appliance it's handy to have a cooking chart with temperatures to make it easier for you.
Air Fryer Mistakes To Avoid
- Don't fill the air fryer basket with oil.
- Don't use metal utensils that can scratch the nonstick surface.
- Don't line the air fryer and start the appliance without any food on. They'll fly and get stuck in the heating element.
- The outer part of the air fryer will be hot, specially the back. Take care only to touch the handles. Use oven mitts or utensil holders.
Recommended Accessories for Air Fryers
If you have purchased an air fryer recently, gearing up with some bakeware and accessories is a must! They’ll make cooking a breeze, and your experience with the air fryer so much better.
Any baking dish or baking pan that can be used in the oven can be used in the air fryer too. Also make sure the pan fits in your air fryer. A baking pan of 6" fill most basket type air fryers. So ceramic, pyrex and silicone pans or muffin liners can be used in the air fryer.
Some other tools that's nice to have are listed below:
- Silicone loaf pans: Is baking your thing? These silicone loaf pans can be really handy- whether it is meatloaf on the dinner menu or banana bread for breakfast.
- Air Fryer liners: These little guys are another must-have. They are perfect for enjoying mess-free cooking and help keep your food from sticking to the air fryer basket.
- Heat-resistant tongs: These are an absolute must for anyone looking to put their air fryer to use! You’ll be able to handle your hot foods much easier with these, and maneuvering things inside and outside the air fryer basket gets so effortless too.
- Skewers: Perfect for all those kabob lovers out there, having your air-fryer-friendly skewers can be a big plus! You can also use them to make your favorite grilled fish and meats.
- Mini hole pan: Whether you want to try out some donut holes or meatballs in your air fryer, this little pan can be a pretty useful add-on. Plus, it is dishwasher safe too!
Air Fryer Recipes For Beginners
Now comes the best part, the cooking. If you're wondering what to cook in your new air fryer, I have this list of 20 beginner air fryer recipes for you to try.
You can cook pretty much anything in the air fryer and here are some of my favorites you can make today:
- Pre-cooked frozen food - French fries, sweet potato fries, frozen pizza, tater tots
- Vegetables - cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, roast potatoes and roasted vegetables
- Chicken - chicken wings, drumsticks, chicken nuggets, chicken thighs, chicken breast or even whole chicken
- Meat - roast beef, steak bites, rib-eye steak
- Seafood - salmon, shrimp
- Desserts - brownies, apple crisp
IRIS S MARION says
Loved learning about the air fryer as I have one and seem to burn everything. recipes sound great and will try them. I have the one that is toaster, air fry, and bake.
Thanks Iris. It might seem intimidating at first but it's actually pretty easy to use. I recommend using the air fry option for the recipes here but you can experiment with other functions too.