How to use an Air Fryer: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re new to air frying, this article will help you get started. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know—from how an air fryer works to the best foods to cook in one, how to clean an air fryer, and other helpful hints for getting the most out of your air fryer!

Congratulations! You must be the owner of a new air fryer or be on the verge of purchasing one. Everybody’s talking about these things, and now you can find out for yourself what the big deal is.

How do they function? Is it, in fact, frying? What foods can you prepare with your new air fryer? Everything you need to know about an essential basket-style air fryer is included in this guide.

What do you need to know about an air fryer?

How to use an air fryer

How to use an air fryer

To begin, a dissatisfaction: Air fryers are not deep fryers.

Air fryers produce a lot of hot air, which is one of their advantages. They are essentially small, powerful ovens, and ovens generate heat through perspective, whereas deep-frying generates heat through the use of fat.

Since air fryers are ovens, not fryers, the food that comes out of them will not be identical to the onion rings at Cone-n-Shake or the calamari rings at your favorite bar and grill.

As a result, air fryers are significantly less messy and oil-intensive than deep fryers. Even better, these diminutive ovens are capable of much more than producing faux fried food. Air fryers make it possible to prepare beautifully browned vegetables, crackly-skinned chicken wings, and even light and airy cakes.

The Various Types of Air Fryer

Air fryers come in various shapes and sizes, but the most common is a basket-type model that looks like a weird coffee maker. This air fryer can only be used for air frying, which is its only function. Air fryers with baskets are covered in this guide.

The Beville Smart-Oven, the Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven, and the June Oven are all examples of boxy multi-function air fryers. Air frying isn’t the only thing these appliances can do (among slow cooking, dehydrating, and toasting). Additionally, they can hold more food than basket-style air fryers.

Don’t give up just yet if you have a countertop oven with an air fryer setting because this guide still has some helpful advice for you!

How Air Fryers Work

Like an excellent convection oven, your air fryer does all the work. While it’s small, this appliance packs a powerful punch. It’s inedible for frying in a deep fryer.

When cooking in a conventional oven, the top rack is always the hottest, causing uneven browning. Many cookie recipes instruct you to rotate your baking sheets halfway through cooking to ensure that all of the cookies are baked evenly.

Fans circulate hot air in a convection oven, on the other hand, ensuring an even temperature distribution.

Air fryers aren’t exactly convection ovens; their airflow is designed to replicate the heat distribution of deep-frying in hot oil more closely. However, for our purposes, the convection oven analogy suffices.

Read more: Best air fryer toaster oven consumer reports in 2021

What to Expect When Using an Air Fryer for the First Time

Take apart all of the components that can be removed after you open the box. A removable basket and a grate or perforated tray in the basket’s bottom are likely to be included. Rinse and dry them.

Place the air fryer at least eight inches away from the wall on a heat-resistant surface. Replace the grate and the baskets.

It’s a good idea to let your air fryer cool down for 10 minutes before you start cooking with it. Vents or open windows may be necessary to avoid a chemical odor (one manual referred to it as “new appliance smell”). It shouldn’t happen more than once.

Now you’re ready to start preparing meals! What about some fries? Isn’t that what makes these products so appealing? The price of potatoes is low, and we’ve got a delicious recipe for you.

Important Points to Remember When Using Air Fryers

  • Keep the grate in the basket at all times. This allows for the circulation of hot air around the food and prevents the food from becoming saturated with excess oil.
  • Air fryers are pretty audible. When it is operating, you will hear the sound of whirring fans.
  • It’s a hands-on experience. Even browning requires periodically removing the basket and rearranging the food.
  • It is acceptable to remove the basket for a peek. This step can be taken at any point during the cooking process. There is no need to turn off the machine; it automatically shuts down when the basket is removed.
  • As such, ensure that the drawer is fully inserted; otherwise, it will not turn back on. You’ll notice this because the air fryer will suddenly become silent.
  • Food cooks quickly, much faster than you are accustomed to! It’s one of the air fryer’s best features. Almost certainly, the manual for your air fryer includes a handy table of cooking times and temperatures for familiar foods. The less food in the basket, the faster the cooking time; the more food, the slower the cooking time.
  • A slightly lower temperature may be required. Numerous recipes for air fryers call for lower temperature settings than those for conventional fryers. This may appear suspicious but bear with it. Again, because air fryers heat quickly and circulate the hot air, a slightly lower temperature helps prevent food from becoming too dark or crispy on the outside while remaining properly cooked on the inside.

Which Air Fryer Size Do You Need?

The catch is that basket-style air fryers do not accommodate a large amount of food. Accept this, and you and your air fryer will have a much better relationship.

An air fryer with a capacity of 1.75 to 3 quarts is ideal for preparing meals for one or two people. Also, do not anticipate leftovers.

Even a large air fryer (about four to five quarts) frequently requires batch cooking. If a recipe serves more than two people, you will likely need to cook it in multiple batches.

Consumer Reports discovered that some air fryers had a slightly smaller capacity than manufacturers claimed. This may seem tedious but bear in mind that air fryers cook food quickly.

Should I Preheat or Not Preheat?

That is the issue.

Compared to the large oven on your range, an air fryer does not require a full half-hour to heat up. It should take no more than a few minutes to preheat. Some models of air fryers include a light that indicates when the unit has been preheated.

Manufacturers recommend preheating, but you can omit it entirely if you wish. If you begin cooking food in a cold air fryer, your cook time may be extended by three or four minutes—no big deal! Experiment with both methods and determine which produces the best results. It may vary according to the recipe.

Avoid These Ten Air Fryer Mistakes

While engaging in any of the following activities will not instantly melt your face, it is best to avoid them.

Avoid being excessively generous with the oil.

Use caution when applying that oil! Excess oil collects in the drawer beneath the grate, but it may smoke if it accumulates too much. In general, if the food already contains fat (such as skin-on chicken or frozen fried food), you may not need to oil it at all. On the other hand, vegetables benefit from a light coating of oil because it helps them brown nicely.

Cooking spray should not be used to grease the drawer.

That appears to be a good idea, correct? However, the baskets are nonstick coated, and cooking spray can cause the finish to deteriorate over time. (Indeed, it is stated in the manual!) What, you didn’t read it?)

Instead of using cooking spray, toss your food in oil—which you’re probably already doing—or wipe it down with an oil-saturated paper towel. I discovered that pre-fried frozen foods did not require additional grease.

Avoid using low-smoke-point oils.

Olive oil is not recommended for air frying due to its low smoke point. It will not only smoke at high temperatures, but it may also develop an odd aftertaste. The best oils to use are vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and other high smoke point oils.

Avoid overcrowding the drawer.

For all the space they take up on a countertop, air fryers do not have a large capacity. Avoid stuffing the drawer with food for the best results (the image used in marketing air fryers is quite misleading). While it’s tempting to add another handful of potato sticks or shaved beets, you’ll quickly learn that working in small batches results in crispier food and faster cooking.

Shake the basket frequently.

Shaking the basket periodically throughout the cooking process ensures that the food is exposed to the heat evenly, resulting in better browning. Numerous recipes specify shaking the basket every five minutes—flip more oversized items, such as breaded fish fillets. If you omit to shake or flip from a recipe, it will not harm you, but it will prevent you from achieving that lucrative, oh-so-similar-to-fried-food result.

Do not simply dump the drawer’s hot contents into a bowl.

Remove cooked food with tongs or a spoon. Excess oil collects beneath the basket’s removable grate, and when you yank it out and tip it onto a platter, the oil will spill out along with the grate. This can result in burns, a sloppy mess, and greasy food.

Never completely rely on the timer.

Numerous basket-style air fryers feature a dial similar to an old-fashioned kitchen timer or the children’s game Perfection. When the timer expires, it emits a PING! and the machine comes to a halt.

Five minutes flew by suspiciously quickly on one of the models I used. As a result, I set the timer on my phone when I set the timer on the air fryer, and guess what—the appliance was off by a few minutes. This is not a problem; you simply reset the timer until the food is cooked to your desired doneness with air fryers. However, keep in mind that not all timers are accurate.

Some models work best when the timer is set to 10 or 20 minutes and then reset to the desired cooking time.

Place the hot drawer away from the countertop.

Consider the drawer to be a hot pan. When you remove it from the unit, the bottom will be particularly hot. Take the drawer by the handle, not the other parts, and be prepared to set it on a trivet or potholder if the heat will cause damage to your countertop.

Avoid becoming overly sentimental about the air fryer.

Assume that the exterior of the air fryer is not evenly cool. Nope—portions of it (most likely the back) become hot. When I attempted to insert and remove the drawer from one model, the machine became slightly wonky, and I had the best luck stabilizing the device with one hand while pushing/pulling the drawer with the other. Although the air fryer did not become red-hot to the touch, it is still not a good idea to get all grabby with it.

Listen to no podcasts while operating an air fryer.

Air fryers are pretty audible. Put the podcast on hold, as you will be unable to follow along at all. Additionally, forego jamming to your favorite tunes. I suppose you could do that while you’re preparing.

Cleaning Your Air Fryer

It is critical to clean your air fryer after each use, as an accumulation of oil can cause the unit to smoke. Occasionally, you can simply wipe the drawer and grate clean with a paper towel. If they are gunky, wash them by hand. Dishwasher-safe parts are included in the majority of models; consult your manual for specifics.

Cooking the Best Foods in an Air Fryer

Because air fryers operate on dry heat, consider foods that cook on dry heat (roasting, baking, and frying) rather than those that cook on wet heat (boiling, braising, and steaming). Don’t be afraid to experiment with crispy shallots, frozen puff pastry “donuts,” dehydrated tomato slices, perplexingly low-carb bagels, and reheated leftover pizza.

We’ve discovered that certain foods perform exceptionally well in an air fryer. Please begin with the drum roll:

Pre-fried frozen foods: Air fryer-friendly versions of chicken tenders, fish sticks, tater tots, and pizza rolls are available. In general, portion-sized frozen foods or those cut into bite-size pieces heat quickly and crisp up nicely in an air fryer. They could rename this thing the Dinner Machine for College Students/Single Dudes.

Recipes from scratch that resemble pre-fried frozen foods: Consider air-fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, and crab cakes, to name a few.

Now is the time to consider alternatives to the deep fryer! Additionally, I adore using the air fryer for the following:

  • Cubed winter or summer squash, root vegetables, broccoli or cauliflower florets, and Brussels sprouts are all vegetables that would be roasted or grilled. These are incredible when fried in the air fryer!
  • Potatoes: Whenever you bake a potato (or cut-up potatoes) in a conventional oven, your air fryer easily outperforms the traditional oven.
  • Wings of chicken: Crispy skin and much more convenient than roasting them in the oven. This is not ideal for parties, as air fryers are insufficiently large to hold large quantities of wings (unless you have a party of people who eat only one hot wing each!).
  • Cook hot dogs in your air fryer if you enjoy franks with snappy casings and plump interiors. You’re never going to look back. I don’t need to eat more hot dogs, but they were a surprise hit in our air fryer.
  • Reheated food: Keep in mind that this device is similar to a sexy turbo toaster oven. It’s ideal for reheating food, and unlike a microwave, it won’t turn once-crisp foods mushy.


The air fryer functions similarly to a convection oven. They are compact but highly efficient in cooking food. Apart from frying, you can also broil, roast, or bake meals. You cannot, however, use it to prepare deep-fried meals. This is because deep-frying food takes a large amount of oil.

The air fryer cooks with a negligible amount of oil. As a result, air fryers cannot be used to create deep-fried foods. Proceed to generate some guacamole fries with your new air fryer!

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