Air fryers took the cooking market by a storm when they were first introduced in 2010. They substantially reduced cook time and slashed oil use for those interested in finding healthier alternatives to some of their favorite fried foods. Air fryers remain popular for many of the same reasons—and as they’ve developed over the years, users have found a greater variety of ways to use them.
There are several air fryers on the market today; it’s always best to check the instructions for the specific model you own. But here are some general tips to help you get the most out of your air fryer.
1. Don’t overcrowd the air fryer’s basket.
Overcrowding the air fryer basket is an easy thing to do—but making this mistake usually blocks airflow, preventing the air fryer from evenly cooking your food. For the best results, spread your food in a single layer across the basket.
2. Be wary of preheating your air fryer.
There’s a lot of mixed advice about preheating your air fryer. Some sources claim you have to preheat the fryer to get a crispy outer layer on your meat. But most air fryer cook times include preheating, which means preheating before cooking can result in overdone food. Unless a recipe specifies otherwise, you likely won’t need to preheat your air fryer.
3. Skip the aerosol.
It’s easy to gravitate toward convenient aerosol sprays when greasing up your cooking gear. But once you start using them on your air fryer, it’ll be almost impossible to clean the residue from it (and there’s a good chance the aerosol sprays will damage the air fryer’s coating). Your best bet is to coat your food with oil prior to placing it in the fryer.
4. Line your air fryer with parchment paper.
You don’t have to worry about thin lining, like parchment paper, blocking the airflow around your food and preventing it from cooking; using it on the tray allows your fryer to cook your food while reducing mess (and therefore cleanup time).
5. Place a piece of bread at the bottom of your air fryer.
If you don’t have parchment paper handy, place a piece of bread in the drawer to soak up any grease and oil. Then, instead of scrubbing the drawer to remove food debris, you can simply toss the bread in the trash.
6. Add water to the air fryer’s drawer to prevent smoke.
Greasy foods tend to cause air fryers to smoke because they drop debris in the drawer that then burns as the food cooks. Those who struggle with this can add a small amount of water to the drawer of most air fryers to reduce smoking.
7. Clean your air fryer between every use.
Air fryers are known for soaking up the flavor of the foods they cook; without regular maintenance, your fresh foods will start to taste like meals you cooked weeks ago. That’s why it’s essential to use a liner or clean your fryer between every single use. Regular cleaning will also prevent gunky layers of grease and grime from building up.
8. Don’t forget to flip your food.
In the same way that you would flip your french fries or chicken nuggets while cooking them in the oven, you should apply this strategy to air fried foods. This provides more even and thorough cooking and results in better textures and tastes.
9. Avoid cooking goopy foods in your air fryer.
Air fryers can easily cook most foods—but sometimes, the cleanup just isn’t worth the reward. Many battered foods, for example, are not particularly compatible with air fryers because they end up losing their sticky coating when placed in the tray. If you want a quick and easy cleanup, it’s better to stick to foods without a wet or goopy exterior.
10. Use an air fryer to heat leftovers.
No microwave? No problem. Air fryers are so fast and efficient that they make warming up most foods a breeze. You can easily place a slice of pizza in the tray for three or four minutes at 350° F to heat it up.
11. You can make “hardboiled” eggs in your air fryer.
One lesser-known air fryer function is to use it as an egg “boiler.” Place eggs into a 3.5-quart fryer set to 270° F, and let them cook for 15 minutes (the time and temperature will vary depending on the size of your device).
12. Use your air fryer to cook frozen meals.
Air fryers can be used to cook various frozen vegetables, meat, and meals. It will be faster than your oven and yield crispier results than a microwave.