Do you have an air fryer and aren’t sure where to start? These beginner tips will help you get to know your air fryer and start cooking like a pro!
What is an air fryer?
You may be wondering what all the hype is about when it comes to air fryers! I mean what are they exactly? They are an excellent alternative to a deep fryer because they result in crispy food without having to deal with the oil and clean up. They work by circulating hot air around your food a lot like a convection oven which speeds up the cooking process and results in a nice crunch exterior. They cook quickly so they are great for quick meals or heating up leftovers.
Because they are smaller appliance they don’t heat up your whole kitchen like a regular oven which makes them great for cooking in the summer time.
How to choose the best air fryer –
You might be overwhelmed when it comes to what type of air fryer to buy or what size you’ll need! There are a lot of options out there and a few things to consider.
First consider what you’ll be cooking and who you’ll be cooking for. If you have a large family you’ll want to make sure to get an air fryer that can hold a good amount of food. One of the main advantages of an air fryer is that they cook fast but that is negated if you have to cook in several batches. If you’re only cooking for one or two people or just plan to use it for quick snacks a small air fryer may be all that you need.
If you are cooking for a lot of people you’ll want to check out a large compacity air fryer like this one–Or if you’re only cooking for one or two people you might want to just get a small air fryer like this one–
The next thing to consider is style of air fryer. There are two main kinds basket-style air fryers and toaster oven style.
Basket style air fryers are by far the most popular style. They come in a lot of different sizes and at various price points so they are the best way to try an air fryer and see if you like it. The air fryer basket makes it easier to toss the food to stir it up while cooking, and they take up less space than the toaster oven style. They also preheat in just a couple of minutes which is super. The cons to basket air fryers is that they tend to be louder, they aren’t as high compacity, and they are a single function appliance.
The main advantage of the toaster oven style is that most of them have have several other functions too like baking, toasting and rotisserie. So if you are looking for an appliance that has multiple uses they are a great option. They also tend to be quieter than the basket style fryers, have a clear door to watch your food cook, and they are usually higher compacity. The cons are that they are usually more expensive, take up more counter space, and take longer to pre-heat.
If you’re looking for a toaster oven style this one has great reviews on Amazon!
Another option you might have see is the air fryer lid for your Instant pot or appliances like the Ninja Foodi that are a two in one appliance. These can be a great way to upgrade what you already have. The pros with these type of air fryers is that you have a dual purpose appliance, the lids, like this one, are much smaller to store than a full air fryer, and they are easy to use. The cons are that the baskets tend to be small (they fit in the Instant pot) and so you are limited to how much you can cook at once. Also because the hot air comes from the lid it doesn’t circulate around the food quite as well as with a traditional air fryer.
Make sure if you’re getting an air fryer lid for your Instant pot that you get the right size!
What can you cook in an air fryer?
This is a question with so many answers! Pretty much anything that can be cooked in a conventional oven, can be cooked in an air fryer (as long as it fits of course!)
You can do a ton of main dishes like burgers, steaks, pork chops, even whole roast chicken. Frozen foods are great in the air fryer things like mozzarella sticks, french fries, pizza rolls etc. Frozen foods are pretty fool proof and a great way to get to know your air fryer and how it cooks things. They are also great for roasting vegetables like broccoli or brussels sprouts! Don’t be afraid to look for recipes for your favorite foods and discover how to cook them in the air fryer.
Do I need to preheat my air fryer?
This is one of those questions that the answer will vary depending on who you ask. But I say yes! It is worth the few minutes it takes to get the air fryer warmed up so that the cooking time of your food isn’t extended. It won’t make or break your recipe, but I find I get the best results if I preheat first. A few exceptions I make to preheating is if I’m heating up something like leftover french fries, I just toss them in and heat them. But if I’m cooking something from raw or frozen I like to have it heated up first. Some air fryers have a preheat button that you can simply press, with others you’ll just want to turn them on and let them run for a few minutes before adding the food.
Air Fryer Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t crowd the air fryer- It is important that while your food is cooking there is plenty of space for the hot air to circulate around it. For most foods you’ll want to place them in a single layer in the bottom of the basket leaving space in between them. For some foods like french fries or tater tots you can layer them in and just make sure to toss or stir them half way through cooking. But you don’t want to overfill it with too much food because then your food won’t cook as well.
Don’t use cooking spray- While spraying the basket of your air fryer with non stick spray might seem like a good idea it really isn’t! Air fryers are coated to have a non-stick surface and using cooking spray can eat away at it over time. If you want to oil your basket or food a bit I recommend using an oil sprayer like this one and using olive or avocado oil.
DO use a little oil – Of course one of the main attractions to air fryers is that they are a healthier way to cook, but that doesn’t mean you want to avoid oil completely. Tossing your food in a bit of oil before cooking or lightly spraying it can help it crisp up nicely and not stick. Don’t overdo it, a little goes a long way and you don’t want to end up with greasy food!
Keep things from smoking– When you start looking for air fryer recipes you’ll likely come across things like bacon, sausage, and burgers. These are all delicious in the air fryer, but because they are greasy they can cause a bit of smoke. Thankfully there is a couple of easy ways to prevent that from happening. With a basket style air fryer you can simply put a couple of tablespoons of water or a slice of bread under the basket. This helps absorb excess grease and is the easiest way to keep your air fryer from smoking.
Don’t dump the contents- While you may be tempted to just dump the basket onto a plate or into a bowl it is best not too. Because often a little excess oil, grease, or juices land in the bottom of the basket you can end up dumping it out with your food. So it is best to use tongs to lift your food out when it is done air frying.
Check your food- Don’t be afraid to peek in at your food mid way through cooking to check on it! If you are cooking meat you can use a meat thermometer to check it’s temperature and make sure it is cooking well. You’ll also want to turn your food, toss it in the basket, or stir it while cooking so don’t worry about opening your air fryer to do those things! It will heat back up quickly.
Clean up when finished– Just like most cooking appliances or utensils it is best to clean up your air fryer when you are finished using it. Let it cool off completely first so you don’t burn yourself! Don’t use anything abrasive to scrub it, you don’t want to scratch the nonstick coating. I like to wipe out any grease and crumbs with a paper towel and then just use a sponge and dish soap to clean it out. Make sure you know how to disassemble everything before cleaning so you only clean parts that are meant to get wet, and you can get everything thoroughly cleaned.
Air fryer safety tips-
Give the air fryer room – Make sure to leave space around your air fryer while it is running. They can get hot on the outside, especially in the back where the heating element is. Make sure they aren’t up against anything or there is anything too close that could get overheated.
Unplug when not in use– Just like all small appliances it is a good idea to unplug your air fryer when it is not in use.
Don’t sit the basket on anything– When you pull out the basket you may be tempted to sit it on the counter, DON’T! Treat the air fryer basket like a hot pan and only sit it on a heat-resistant surface.
Must Have Air fryer Accessories-
Silicone Tongs– A great pair of tongs is a must have for your air fryer. Silicone tongs are best because they won’t scratch the non stick surface.
Baking Pan– If you want to prepare baked goods in your air fryer you’ll need the perfect pan, thankfully they make them just for the air fryer!
Liners – If you want to make your clean up easier then you can invest in some air fryer liners. They are great for catching crumbs and keeping your air fryer clean!
Oil Sprayer– Since non stick aerosol spray is a bad idea in your air fryer an oil sprayer is a great tool to have. With these you can fill it with your favorite oil (I use olive oil) and mist your food with a small amount of oil easily.
Meat thermometer– A meat thermometer is a great kitchen tool to have in general, but it comes in super handy when air frying. It is a great way to test your meat and see if it is the desired temperature without having to cut into it.