air fryer

How To Use An Air Fryer (Tips and Tricks)

How To Use An Air Fryer Image

Are you new to air fryer cooking? I’m talking all about How To Use An Air Fryer! Your air fryer circulates hot air to make your food crispy and lower in fat and calories without heating up your kitchen! Whether you’re looking to buy an air fryer or have some simple questions about using your air fryer, I’m hitting all the hot topics!

How To Use An Air Fryer ImageHow To Use An Air Fryer Image

Let’s Talk About How To Use An Air Fryer!

So I am sure by this point everyone has heard of, or owns an air fryer. You might have even had one and gotten rid of it because you just didn’t use it. Trust me, I understand! Air Fryers are everywhere now and a great option for beginners, as well as seasoned cooks! I want to break down the basics if you’re still on the fence! 

What Is An Air Fryer?

An air fryer is essentially a small convection oven that doesn’t actually “fry” your food. It’s a small kitchen appliance that will fit right on your countertop with a heating element along with a fan. It does basically everything that your oven does, but quicker and with almost no oil. Air fryers’ promise is to produce crispy food like a deep fryer without the fat and extra calories. Air fryers are generally compact and convenient, and take up as much space as a toaster oven. There are multiple style of air fryers, and are a nice option for small batch cooking, healthy options, and quick meals without turning on your oven. 

Breville Oven Style AirfryerBreville Oven Style Airfryer

Is An Air Fryer the Same As A Convection Oven?

The answer here is yes and no. Yes, because the science of convection cooking is exactly what air fryers use. And no, because air fryers are much smaller, more compact, making the cooking process quicker, with rapid air circulation. They cook food very evenly due to the size and the use of the basket in the air fryerThe basket allows air to circulate, which is key, and not be blocked like in an oven making the heat even on all sides of the food producing a crispy exterior. Most air fryers require no extra preheating time, which again, makes the process quick!

Basket Style Air FryerBasket Style Air Fryer

Different Types of Air Fryers 

There are multiple styles of air fryers, most commonly the basket style and the oven/rack style. I have had both styles are prefer the rack/shelf style, which is similar to a toaster oven. BUT let me break down what each has to offer, so you can choose what would work best for you and your lifestyle.

Basket Style Air Fryers:

Basket style air fryers are the most common style. They are generally the more inexpensive style of air fryer and are perfect for small households. They have a heating element on the top, with a basket/drawer you can pull out and load. 

Basket Style Pros:

  • Less Counter footprint. Basket style air fryers are built vertically meaning they take up less space on your counter. 
  • The basket style is great to cook meals for smaller families, or simply reheating fried foods like fries and wings. Shaking that basket is pretty great! 
  • Easy to clean! The air fryer basket is very simple to clean. They are made nonstick, so the wipe-off is easy, but also when things get a little messy you can fill up the basket with some water and soap and turn it on to cook for a few minutes, loosening everything up!
  • Basket style tends to cook food a little faster, just based on the fact that it’s a little smaller!
  • Preheats faster!
  • Overall lower cost.

Basket Style Cons:

  • The size is limiting and if you have a larger family (greater than 4 in my opinion) you will have to do multiple batches of certain food items. When I had my basket style air fryer, making chicken breasts required at least 2 rounds, as I could only fit 3 – 4 breasts in the bottom of the basket. 
  • You have to stir food at a regular intervals if you’re loading the basket for items like french fries or chicken wings. The fries won’t be in a single layer, so to ensure even cooking you will need to shake the basket to make sure even heat distribution. 
  • If you do have to make multiple batches of food air frying actually takes longer than in a traditional oven.
  • You need to clean you air fryer after every use. This seems like a no brainer, but in the oven you cook on a baking sheet, that a lot of times can be lined with parchment paper for even easier clean up. Food in the air fryer will drip through the basket, causing you to have to clean it every time you cook. It’s generally an easy clean up, and like I said above, easier to clean than deep frying, but not quite as easy as washing a baking sheet.
  • You can’t see your food while cooking.
  • Louder than your oven.

Rack/Oven Style Air Fryers:

I have this style air fryer and really enjoy it. I have had the basket style, but I tend to get frustrated with one function appliances, and I enjoy the fact that with the oven style you can do more than just air fry. Also I have a larger family and the smaller capacity basket style was great for wings and fries, but since I don’t really make wings and fries that much, it would take multiple batches to make dinner!

Rack/Oven Style Pros:

  • The capacity is larger. You can make more food in most rack/oven style air fryers than you can in a basket style, which is great for larger families. I prefer the rack style as I can make 6 chicken breasts easily on the air fryer rack.
  • A lot of this style usually has multi-function uses. You can toast, bake, reheat, dehydrate, etc. It can easily replace your toaster on your counter.
  • Can be extra handy for entertaining, as you have lots of options to cook, bake, air fry etc.
  • You can purchase more mesh racks to fit in your oven (they usually come with one) so you can air fry multiple trays of food at a time.
  • You can see your food as it cooks.
  • Adjustable racks so food can be closer or further from heating element.
  • Can accommodate more baking dishes

Rack/Oven Style Cons:

  • They take up more counter space than the vertical/basket style air fryer.
  • You don’t get the satisfaction of shaking the basket! Mine comes with a shallow mesh rack which works great, but you have to manually turn the food if it requires flipping.
  • Weight. The oven style will weigh a little more than the basket style because it’s a large piece of equipment generally not made of plastic. If you don’t plan on keeping this on your counter full time, moving it from place to place can get annoying.
  • Cost of the oven style is usually a little higher than the basket style. This makes more sense because it is an appliance that isn’t a single purpose, you can use it for many things. 
  • Louder than your oven, but not as loud as the basket style (at least in the units I’ve tested). 
Toaster Oven Style Air FryerToaster Oven Style Air Fryer

What Air Fryer Is Right For You?

This is a tough question for me to answer for you, but I think the simple answer is to ask yourself how many people you cook for on a regular basis, and what you plan on using your air fryer for:

  1. Small Family? Basket style
  2. Large Family? Oven/Rack style
  3. Making full dinners? Oven/Rack style
  4. Reheating food? Basket Style
  5. The occasional use? Basket style
  6. Not a lot of counter space? Basket Style
  7. Want a multi-function appliance? Oven/Rack style
  8. Eat lots of frozen foods to reheat? Basket style
  9. Price Point? Basket Style
  10. What I have? Oven/Rack style
Cooking wings in an air fryerCooking wings in an air fryer

Do You Use Oil In An Air Fryer?

Only a small amount! Literally less than a teaspoon will do. Buying a mister like THIS ONE is perfect for coating anything you’re making. It will help make your breaded food a little extra crispy, mimicking the crispiness of deep frying. You can also brush it on lightly as well. If you add too much oil it will drip off the food creating a mess. It can also drip and get on the fan, which is not fun to clean. I do recommend when using a mesh basket in the oven style that you coat the basket with cooking spray very lightly so things don’t stick!

Benefits Of Using An Air Fryer

  • The main advantage with air fryer cooking is the crispiness you can achieve without deep frying! This saves calories and fat, as well as being far less messy!
  • Versatility. While the appliance is called an “air fryer“, it can do just about anything your oven can do with a few limitations (like size). You can bake, roast, and reheat to name a few.
  • Size. This can be a con just as much as a pro. Counter space is prime real estate in a kitchen, so if you’re going to have an appliance out, you need to be using it a lot. Luckily the air fryer (especially the basket style) is small enough that it doesn’t take up much more space than a coffee maker!
  • Perfect for small families. If you are feeding 4 or less, an air fryer is a great tool. 
  • Healthy cooking. You use far less oil than pan frying, deep frying, or even skillet cooking. Drizzling on olive oil over veggies to roast uses 1 – 2 tablespoons on average, but in an air fryer you won’t need nearly as much! Plus, you really shouldn’t use more oil in an air fryer, as it drips, or can blow around and coat the fan and heating element!
Cleaning a basket style air fryer with soap and waterCleaning a basket style air fryer with soap and water

How To Clean An Air Fryer:

Depending on the style of air fryer you have clean up is usually pretty easy. You do need to clean the inside of your air fryer every time you use it to avoid burning, or smells. Here’s how:

  • A warm, damp sponge or cloth with a little soap will do the trick most times! Just discard any debris, and wipe clean.
  • Cooked on debris or fatty drips takes a little more effort to clean. You can soak the drawer and basket in soapy water and clean using a nonabrasive sponge. 
  • Make sure to wipe the heating element clean from any dirt or debris.
  • You can also fill the drawer with the rack inside with about an inch of water and a little dish soap. Turn it on for 3 – 5 minutes and discard the water and wipe clean!
  • For rack style air fryers, you can soak them in warm, soapy water, or even pop the rack in the dishwasher, as long as they are dishwasher safe! 
  • Use simple dish soap to clean your air fryer with non abrasive tools. You can also make a paste using baking soda and water for very hard to remove debris.

Basket Style:

  • Air fryer baskets are nonstick, so they are easy to wipe clean using a paper towel, or a warm soapy sponge. If you have a mess of drips from cooking you remove the basket and wipe clean the same way. 
  • Don’t use an abrasive sponge or Brillo pad on your air fryer. You will scratch the If you have a mess that is baked on, or really difficult to clean a warm soapy sponge should do the trick. 
  • You could even use a soft brush to get the tough mess.
  • You can even fill your air fryer up with a little water and soap, turn it on and let it heat up (cook) loosening all the difficult mess.

Rack/ Oven Style:

  • Remove the rack from the air fryer and wash it in the sink with warm, soapy water.
  • Oven style air fryers have a drip tray that is easily removed. Anything that drips onto the bottom of the unit can be washed off easily with a soapy sponge. 
  • If your air fryer has burners on the bottom of the unit as opposed to the top make sure it’s cooled completely and wipe off any mess with a warm, non-abrasive, soapy sponge. 
  • Make sure to get all the debris out of the unit. 

Do You Have To Preheat An Air Fryer

This is a hot topic. And I have found after tons of research and testing that it really just depends on the unit you have. Some recipes call for preheating, while others don’t, but I have found that you should refer back to the manufacturers recommendation on this one. My current oven style air fryer does not require preheating. It preheats as part of the cooking process. 

Don’t Over Fill Your Air Fryer!

One of the most common mistakes in cooking in an air fryer is over crowding your basket. Air frying requires the circulation of hot air, and if you over-fill your basket air fryer the air just simply won’t be distributed evenly. 

Temperatures and Times:

I couldn’t possibly list all the foods here and how long they take to cook. There are a few items you need to remember when cooking in your air fryer, especially if you’re converting it from the oven. Convection cooking/air frying cooks faster and hotter than a standard oven, so typically you will reduce the temperature by 25°F. FOR EXAMPLE: So if you reheat a slice of pizza in your oven at 400°F for 7 minutes, reheat it in the air fryer at 375°F for 5 minutes. There is no blanket conversion, and it does take a period of time to truly get to know your air fryer, but when you do, it will become second nature! Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Asparagus – 400°F / 8 minutes
  • Cauliflower – 390°F / 15 minutes
  • Frozen French Fries – 400°F / 15 minutes, shaking the basket to evenly distribute heat every 5 minutes
  • Frozen Chicken Nuggets – 400°F / 12 minutes
  • Chicken Wings – 400°F / 18 – 20 minutes
  • Hard Boiled Eggs – 275°F / 15 minutes
  • Shrimp – 400°F / 5 minutes
  • Frozen Pizza Rolls – 375°F / 8 minutes
  • Frozen Tater Tots – 400°F / 17 minutes
  • Boneless Chicken Breasts – 370°F / 8 minutes on each side (or until they reach 165°F internal temp)
  • Baked Potatoes – 400°F / 30 – 40 minutes (flip halfway through)

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