Whether you’re an air fryer noob or a long-time devotee, there’s no denying the popularity of this much-loved kitchen appliance. Convenient, speedy and with none of the deep-frying faff, it’s become a must in many people’s kitchen toolkit. But how to use an air fryer in the BEST way? There’s a knack to it, for sure.
Read on for handy air frying tips and tricks you need to get the best out of your new BFF, as well as all your often-asked questions.
Firstly, the name is a little confusing because air fryers don’t actually ‘fry’ your food in the conventional sense. The bulky top part of the appliance contains a heating mechanism and a fan, which pushes the heat down and around the food sitting in the basket. The hot air circulating around the food is what cooks it and makes it crisp, without the oil. So basically it’s like a super-charged, compact convection oven that sits on your kitchen benchtop.
Air frying has had a huge surge in popularity over the last few years, and it can seem like a bit of an internet craze. But there’s some serious substance behind the benefits.
These devices have been designed to make things crispy without needing to deep-fry with a whole lot of oil. Using less oil (although we do recommend spraying your basket and food with a small amount of oil) obviously makes dinner a little more virtuous. It’s also less messy (say goodbye to benchtop splatter), plus there’s no worries about wondering how to dispose of your cooking oil.
Using the relatively small basket instead of large baking or roasting trays is great for reducing the cleanup, too. However, for the best results, you’ll want to avoid overcrowding, so you may need to cook your food in batches.
Honestly, a better question would be what CAN’T you – almost everything you could put in a standard oven can be chucked in the air fryer instead. Think ultra-crispy spuds, broccolini, zucchini, even asparagus – the world is your oyster. Meat works well too, as do plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh. You can even hard boil an egg in there (yes, seriously!) and bake – the general rule of thumb is that if your cake tin fits, you can bake a cake in there, too. Versatile, right?
In terms of things not recommended, anything with wet batter won’t fare too well. Whole roasts CAN be done but it will require some extra TLC (see tip #7 below for some meat-cooking tips). Check out my Cheeseburger Spring Rolls and Lemon Chicken to get you started…
We’ve come up with the best tips, tricks and hacks.
The beauty of air frying is that you get deep-fried crispiness minus all the excess oil. While you do still need to use a small amount of oil to get maximum crispiness, it really is a less-is-more situation. The other thing to be aware of is to use an oil with a higher smoke point – try to steer clear of olive oil and stick to vegetable, canola, rice bran or even peanut for best results.
If crispy is what you’re looking for, you can lightly spray the contents of your air fryer halfway through the cooking time for that extra crunch!
No-one wants to be prying their food off the bottom of their air-fryer basket, so greasing your basket – especially for foods prone to sticking – is super important.
This one is vital if you’re after signature crispiness. Avoid overcrowding food, as it prevents the circulation of hot air. Instead, try to leave lots of room around the ingredients so that the hot air can circulate evenly and things get golden and crunchy.
One of the best tips I can offer you for how to use an air fryer is to periodically shake the basket during its cooking time. I’m not talking anything crazy – just a couple of good shakes during cooking to really move the food around and get that even, crispy coating on every single bite. Remove the basket before shaking – just shake the basket, not the whole machine! You could also try turning your food over halfway through the cook to promote more even browning.
Another blessing is that these mini marvels are super easy to clean – and c’mon, who doesn’t love that? For best results though, you want to make sure you’re cleaning it after every use. A quick wipe out to rid the basket of any extra debris and oil is enough. It’ll save you time and extend the life of your appliance in the long run.
Cooking times can vary pretty drastically, and things that may take 15-20 minutes in the oven take far less time in the air fryer. In order to not burn your dinner, I recommend always checking on your contents sooner rather than later.
Removing the basket has no impact on crunch, nor cooking time, so don’t forget to have a peek to ensure things are cooking evenly and not too quickly.
If you’re going to be using your air fryer to cook meat, testing the internal temperature is vital. Because of the air fryer’s super-speedy nature, meat can look perfectly crispy on the outside and still be undercooked on the inside. Save yourself from cutting into your meat every time you need to check if it’s done and invest in a meat thermometer. You wont regret it – promise! Here’s our handy guide to internal temperatures of meat to aim for.
If you’re a leftover lover, an air fryer is ideal to heat things through thoroughly and quickly without having to use your large standard oven, so it’s a more cost- and time-effective appliance. That next-day pizza will be ultra crispy and tasting just as delish as the day you ordered it in no time.