How to Use an Air Fryer: Guide For First Timers

Last modified on September 4th, 2021 at 12:16 am

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Air fryers are a total game changer. Now, you can make rotisserie-style dishes and guilt-free alternatives to deep fried favorites with just one appliance. The only thing standing between you and your fancy new menu now is learning how to use an air fryer for the first time.

What’s great is that air fryers were designed with convenience in mind, so they’re quite user-friendly. The trick is understanding how they work and familiarizing yourself with your unit’s unique features.

Parts Of An Air Fryer

There are a variety of air fryers in the market now, but they all have similar basic components: the air fryer base, the basket, and the drip tray.

The air fryer base houses the heating element and the control panel. The basket is where you place your ingredients, and the drip tray catches the excess oils.

air fryer tray

The design is intuitive, so it’s not difficult to figure out that the basket and drip tray can be taken out for cleaning.

Other air fryers will have additional features such as an advanced control panel with programmed settings, alarms, automatic shut-off features, and additional accessories.

So, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the air fryer instructions and manuals that come with your unit to better understand how yours works.

You might also like to read our reviews and buyer’s guide on the best air fryers available in the market right now.

Precautions To Take When Using An Air Fryer

The Fryer Basket Is Usually Nonstick.

The biggest perk of an air fryer is that you can use oil sparingly. Know that there’s no need to grease the basket too, because it’s nonstick. Try not to use metal utensils, abrasive sponges, or wired brushes with it, too, as they may damage the nonstick coating on your unit’s fryer basket.

Food Cooks Faster In An Air Fryer Compared To A Turbo Broiler And A Convection Oven.

Air fryers have small and insulated cooking chambers. This helps speed up the cooking or frying process. That said, you may want to use a slightly lower temperature than advised by a recipe, unless it’s written specifically with an air fryer in mind.

Man Using Air Fryer

Air Fryers Can Get Really Hot!

Place your air fryer on top of a heat resistant surface. Keep it away from the wall as well. Though fryer baskets are insulated, the exterior of air fryers still tend to get hot. Different models emit different levels of heat, so you should test yours out and handle it accordingly. 

If your countertops have a laminated surface, disperse heat by placing your unit over a wooden board or a sheet pan.

The Fryer Basket Isn’t Meant To Be Filled To Its Brim.

The heating element and fan are positioned right on top of an air fryer’s cooking chamber. If you fill your basket to the brim, your food won’t cook evenly as heat may not circulate properly. Also, the top layer may get burned.

Cook in batches instead of overfilling our basket. Things cook fast in an air fryer anyway, so you won’t have to wait too long even when you do.

How To Preheat An Air Fryer

An air fryer doesn’t really need to be preheated, because it already heats up quickly on its own. Its chamber is smaller than a traditional oven’s. Also, it’s equipped with a high speed fan, so the heat produced by the heating element circulates even faster.

Using Air Fryer

For most cases, preheating your air fryer may lead to overcooking your food. However, if you own a relatively bigger unit and wish to cook steak or heat frozen goods and left overs, you’re welcome to preheat it.

Do not preheat your fryer when you’re heating delicate foods, pastries, or thick raw foods. You could end up burning them. Thick foods may also cook unevenly as their insides may remain raw despite having a cooked or burned surface.

Steps

  1. Finish ingredient preparation. Avoid letting your air fryer wait for you. Some models also shut off automatically after long periods of inactivity, so it’s better to prepare ingredients beforehand.
  2. Turn your air fryer on. Set it to the appropriate heat setting or to the temperature required by the recipe you’re following. 
  3. Keep it on for two minutes. If you own a fryer with a three-liter capacity or more,  leave it on for three to five minutes.

How To Cook With An Air Fryer

Some things are easier to learn as you do them as opposed to just reading about them. The same can be said about cooking with an air fryer. So, we’ll be demonstrating how to use one with an all-time favorite sans the guilt — air-fried french fries!

air-fried-french-fries

This recipe only requires one teaspoon of oil, so it’s definitely healthier than the deep-fried classic! It makes two servings and only needs about 40 minutes to an hour to prepare. Follow through and you’ll learn how to use an air fryer for fries in no time.

What You Need

  • Air fryer
  • Oil brush
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 1 medium potato (about 180 g), unpeeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions For Using An Air Fryer For Fries

  1. If you’ve only just unboxed your air fryer, disassemble the removable parts so you can wash and dry them.
  2. Place the basket and grate back in the air fryer base. Close the drawer shut.
  3. Wash the potato. Peeling is optional. Cut it into two lengthwise halves, then slice them into even ¼ inch-thick sticks.
  4. Place the fries in a bowl and rinse them in cold water. If you’re willing to wait, you can soak them for 30 minutes too. Drain and pat the fries dry with a paper towel after.
  5. Toss the fries in oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Add in the pepper as you see fit.
  6. Turn your unit on and set it at 193 °C (380 °F) to preheat the chamber (other recipes may advise preheating at 200 °C, but we’ve lowered the temperature for smaller units).
  7. Place the fries inside the basket in an organized layer. Make sure they don’t overlap, so they cook evenly. If not all the fries fit, cook them in batches.
  8. Leave them in the basket for about 7 to 8 minutes or until the top has turned golden and crisp. Turn them over to cook the bottom as well. Total cooking time per batch may take 14 to 16 minutes.
  9. Serve the fries in a clean bowl and season them with your chosen flavors or more salt.
  10. Once your air fryer has cooled down, take the time to clean it.

How To Clean An Air Fryer In 4 Easy Steps

Air fryers are meant to be cleaned after each use. This is because oil and grease build up around the cooking chamber’s surfaces. The fan blows around the hot air and takes with it the oil and grease in the process.

Cleaning Materials

What You Need

  • Dish soap
  • Clean, dry cloth
  • Non-abrasive sponge
  • Damp microfiber towel

Directions For Cleaning

  1. After cooking, unplug your air fryer and allow it to cool down.
  2. Disassemble the removable parts: basket, pan, grate, and tray.
  3. Wash them in hot soapy water while using a non-abrasive sponge. Wipe the interiors of your unit, including the heating element, with the damp microfiber towel to remove grease buildup. Use a bit of soap if necessary, but wipe it clean after. Wipe the exterior to keep it clean and looking new too.
  4. Dry the wet components and use the clean, dry cloth to give the entire unit a final wipe. Assemble once done.

5 Tips For Using Your Air Fryer

Skip Preheating Unless It’s Necessary.

Not all foods will require preheating. Avoid it especially if your ingredients cook quickly and are delicate. Only preheat as instructed or when you’re cooking frozen goods.

Use Cooking Oils With High Smoking Points.

Oils with low smoking points can cause smoke despite using low heat and may impart an odd taste on the food you’re cooking. If you want to avoid this, use vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or coconut oil. Olive oil is a healthy favorite, but it has a low smoking point and isn’t the best for air fryers.

Fishcake In Air Fryer

Use A Grate.

Some models come with a grate. If yours doesn’t, use one anyway! Grates allow hot air to circulate over and under your food so it cooks more evenly. They also keep your food from sitting in pools of excess oils.

Don’t Be Afraid To Peek Inside The Drawer While Cooking.

You don’t have to take the entire basket out when you do. Unlike turbo broilers, most air fryers do not come with glass chambers. They’re difficult to monitor. So, you’re welcome to open the drawer once in a while instead, to see how your food is coming along.

If You Must Shake Your Air Fryer While Cooking, Shake Sideways.

Some recipes may advise you to shake your fryer basket in order to cook your food more evenly. If you wish to heed these instructions, shake sideways. Shaking it up and down will bring the excess oils back up to the food you’re cooking. After cooking, don’t dump all the contents into a bowl either. This’ll turn your finished product into a hot, oily mess.

Easy Air Fryer Recipes

You can plan an entire day’s meals with a single air fryer. You can even include snacks and dessert in between! Read on for our take on the healthy green bean casserole and the classic air-fried chicken.

Healthy Green Bean Casserole

Green beans make for a great side or starter course, because it’s a hearty dish on its own. This particular recipe serves eight and needs only 25 minutes to prepare and cook.

Vegetables In Air Fryer

What You Need

  • 700 g (1 and ½ lbs ) of green beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup (8 oz) of button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Toss the green beans, mushrooms, and garlic in the oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Preheat your air fryer at 200 °C (400 °F).
  3. Place the tossed beans and mushrooms into the fryer basket and place it back for cooking.
  4. Leave it for 7 minutes and quickly toss the contents before cooking it for another 7 minutes.
  5. Check to see if they’re the perfect balance of crispy and tender. Once you’re satisfied, serve them on a plate.

Classic Air-fried Chicken

You can never go wrong with air-fried chicken. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and so is a staple recipe for every air fryer owner. This recipe yields 4 to 6 servings and takes about 2 hours to make.

Whole Chicken Cooked In Air Fryer

What You Need

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Marinate the chicken in a bowl of buttermilk for at least an hour.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in the list to prepare the breading mixture.
  3. Dip each chicken piece in the breading mixture. Make sure it’s coated well. Place all of them onto a clean plate.
  4. Place the parts in the fryer basket and spray them with oil. If you don’t own a cooking spray, brush over the parts instead. Make sure all the parts with flour have a touch of oil.
  5. Pop the basket back in and set your air fryer to 180 °C (350 °F).
  6. Cook them for 12 minutes or until the surface turns golden brown.
  7. Flip the parts and spray or brush them lightly with oil again.
  8. Leave them in the fryer for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the meat reaches 73 to 80 °C (165 to 175 °F).
  9. Serve once cooked! You can even pair it with the green beans.

BONUS: Read our recipe for air-fried pizza rolls here! They make for a very fulfilling snack!

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