Air Fryer Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about air fryers with comprehensive answers based on our experience and knowledge.

Understanding and Maintaining an Air Fryer

How does an air fryer work?

An air fryer works by circulating hot air around the food with the use of a fan. This circulating air rapidly cooks and crisps up the food. It works similarly to the “convection” setting in a conventional oven, but often faster. If you are interested, we have a whole article that covers how an air fryer works.

What are the main components of an air fryer?

The main components of an air fryer include the central base which houses the heating element, an electronic display for monitoring cooking time and temperature, and buttons and/or dials for setting cooking time and temperature. In basket-style air fryers, the air fryer basket with handle is removable and often includes a (non-stick) tray. Some larger, oven-style air fryers may come with wire racks, a round tumbler drum, or other accessories. All air fryers include a vent, often at the rear, where hot air is expelled during cooking. They are powered by an electrical cord.

What are the benefits of using an air fryer over a conventional oven or deep fryer?

The benefits of using an air fryer over a conventional oven or deep fryer are twofold. Air fryers are smaller in size, which means they often take less time to preheat and cook most food items more quickly than conventional ovens. This can save time. Unlike deep fryers that submerge food in oil, air fryers use hot air to cook and crisp your food. As a result, they require much less oil and reduce the amount of potential oil waste.

What are some drawbacks of using an air fryer?

Some drawbacks of using an air fryer are that you may not be able to cook large quantities of food for large groups and certain foods – such as dishes with runny batters – can’t or shouldn’t be cooked in an air fryer. That said, there are some larger capacity air fryers on the market now, some with dual cooking zones, which can help address the issue of food quantity.

How do I clean and maintain my air fryer and how often should I do it?

Cleaning and maintaining your air fryer is essential to ensure it works optimally. Use a paper towel or non-abrasive dishcloth to remove excess oil and food residue after each use. If needed, also clean the air fryer basket with water or a mild detergent. This should be done with the air fryer unplugged and cooled completely. To maintain your air fryer, avoid using harsh chemicals as they can damage non-stick surfaces. Periodically, wipe the heating element with a paper towel (when it’s cooled completely) and season the non-stick surfaces like the basket and air fryer tray to maintain their effectiveness. We have a whole guide on how to clean an air fryer if you’re interested. 

What are some accessories and attachments that can enhance the functionality of my air fryer?

Some popular accessories that enhance the functionality of the air fryer include silicone-tipped tongs or spatulas which make it easier to handle the food without damaging the non-stick coating. Silicone cups allow for cooking individual items – like ham and egg cups. Smaller “baking” pans fit various basket sizes and are ideal for baking small dishes or treats. Wire stands, racks, or skewers allow for versatile cooking, such as chicken kabobs, vegetable skewers, and more. To help with clean up, parchment paper inserts are popular and have been designed to fit various air fryer basket shapes (round, square, rectangle, etc.)

How do I keep track of the cooking time and temperature of my air fryer?

Keeping track of the cooking time and temperature is pretty easy, especially since most newer air fryers have a digital display. This makes it easy to see the exact cooking time remaining and the temperature at which the air fryer is set.

What are some safety precautions to take when using an air fryer and what are the potential risks or hazards?

Some safety precautions when using the air fryer include setting the air fryer on a solid, sturdy base – such as a kitchen counter – to prevent accidents. Be sure that there’s lots of room for hot air to vent out of the air fryer vent. Most vents are located at the back or top. Also, don’t leave your air fryer unattended when in use. Some risks or potential hazards include a fire risk if used improperly since the heating element is often unguarded in many air fryers. Keep all food items low in the basket, do not overfill the air fryer basket, and keep all flammable items (such as parchment paper) away from the top of the basket to prevent contact with the heating element. Always check the instruction manual for your specific air fryer.

Cooking with an Air Fryer

What are the best foods to cook in an air fryer?

The best foods to cook in an air fryer are frozen foods, such as spring rolls and mozzarella sticks, potato dishes, and chicken dishes, based on our experience. Potato recipes, such as French fries, hash browns, and potato wedges, cook nicely in the air fryer, and chicken, including wings, drumsticks, and chicken breast, can turn out very crispy or juicy and tender depending on the dish.

What are some tips for getting crispy and tender results?

For crispy, tender food, we recommend not overcrowding the air fryer, cooking at the correct temperature for the specific dish, lightly coating the food in a little bit of oil (depending on the dish), preheating the air fryer to help with even cooking and crisping and arranging the food evenly in the air fryer basket.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when using an air fryer?

Common mistakes to avoid when using the air fryer include overfilling the air fryer basket (which can increase the cooking time and cause uneven cooking), and using too much oil when cooking. An air fryer is not a deep fryer. Food does not need to be swimming in oil to achieve a nice crisp. Additionally, battered items – like homemade battered onion rings or battered fish – are not ideal for air frying since the batter can run off, burn in the basket, and create a mess. Opt for non-battered alternatives instead.

How do I preheat my air fryer?

If your air fryer does not preheat automatically, you can preheat it manually. Simply set it to the required temperature and let it run for a few minutes before adding the food. The time it takes to preheat can vary depending on the temperature and how quickly your air fryer heats up, but 3 to 5 minutes is usually a good guideline. If your air fryer does preheat automatically, just turn it on, set it to the correct temperature, and wait until it tells you that it is done preheating.

Do I need to preheat my air fryer?

You do not need to preheat your air fryer, but it can have some benefits. Preheating allows you to have more accurate cooking times, especially when following a recipe that uses a different air fryer model or brand (some air fryers heat up faster than others). Placing food in a preheated air fryer can also improve the crispiness of the food since it is exposed to high heat right away. Finally, it can also help with even and consistent cooking because the food is cooked at the same temperature while in the air fryer. However, preheating requires some extra time and energy so it is up to you whether you want to preheat your air fryer or not.

How do I avoid splattering or dripping oil from the air fryer?

To avoid excess splattering and dripping of oil from the air fryer, there are a few things you could do. 1. Use less oil when cooking. 2. While air frying, using a slightly lower temperature can help minimize splattering caused by high heat. 3. Lining the air fryer basket with a piece of parchment paper can catch any drips or splatters, making cleanup easier. 4. Avoid overcrowding the air fryer since it can lead to uneven cooking and increased splattering. However, also keep in mind that some foods, such as bacon, contain lots of fat so some splattering and oil are inevitable.

How do I adjust the time and temperature settings of my air fryer for different recipes?

To adjust the time and temperature settings on the air fryer for different recipes, you can use the digital display and buttons (often arrows or a + and – symbol) to increase or decrease both time and temperature as needed. Some air fryers have a dial to turn the time and the temperature up or down.

How do I make sure my food is cooked evenly and thoroughly in the air fryer?

To ensure food is cooked evenly and thoroughly in the air fryer, you can use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food, especially for meat such as chicken breast. To ensure even cooking, you can flip or rotate larger food items during the cooking time. For smaller, loose items such as fries or broccoli, you can shake the air fryer basket every few minutes to move the food around. This allows you to assess the level of doneness while ensuring even cooking.

Can I cook multiple foods at once in an air fryer?

Yes, you can cook multiple foods in an air fryer at once, depending on the air fryer’s design and the compatibility of the foods. If you have an air fryer with dual zones – like the Ninja® Foodi™ XL Dual Zone – then this is very easy to do. If you have one air fryer with one basket, some foods (such as carrots and potatoes) can be cooked together since they have a similar cooking time and are cut to similar sizes. Sausage and potatoes is another one that works well. Other foods with very different cooking times, however, will not cook well together in the same air fryer basket.

How can I prevent food from sticking or burning in my air fryer basket or tray?

To help prevent food from sticking in the air fryer basket or tray, you can lightly coat the air fryer tray or the food with oil. Lining the basket or tray with parchment paper will also help combat food sticking. To prevent burning, cook your food at an appropriate temperature, use the timer correctly, and follow the cooking times specified in recipes. Most importantly, don’t leave the air fryer unattended when using it. Keeping an eye on it and regularly checking the food for doneness is the best way to prevent mishaps.

How do I reduce the smoke and smell from the air fryer?

You can reduce the smoke and smell from the air fryer by making sure you are air frying foods that are less likely to produce smoke or strong odors, reducing the cooking temperature, and using just a little bit of oil in the air fryer. Cleaning the air fryer after each use will help to reduce grime and food build-up, which can produce smoke and unpleasant smells in later usage. You can also try placing a slice of bread at the bottom of the air fryer basket to catch drippings and help drain excess oil, especially when cooking fatty foods.

How do I prevent food from drying out or losing moisture in the air fryer?

You can prevent food from drying out or losing moisture in the air fryer in a few ways. For example, you can marinate food like chicken, fish, or tofu beforehand. You should also be mindful of the correct cooking temperature since overly high heat can cause the food to lose moisture. Overcooking can also result in dry food, so monitor your food for doneness, especially when cooking something in the air fryer for the first time.

How can I season and marinate my food before cooking it in an air fryer for optimal taste?

You can season food before cooking it in the air fryer by using a simple combination of oil and common spices (e.g. salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika). These pantry staples can be used to add depth and taste to dishes like fresh chicken thighs and breakfast potatoes. Simply toss the food items in the oil and seasoning mix before placing it in the air fryer. For certain foods, marinating is a good way to infuse them with flavors. For example, for Air fryer honey garlic salmon, you can marinate the salmon and then remove it from the marinade to cook in the air fryer. For some foods, you can also consider applying extra marinade while the food is in the air fryer. This adds more flavor and also helps maintain moisture.

Can I use aluminum foil in my air fryer?

Yes, you can use aluminum foil in the air fryer but you need to be careful. Any foil should be used sparingly and be tightly wrapped around the food or air fryer tray with no loose ends or edges flapping in the hot air. The foil must also be low in the air fryer basket and away from the heating element to prevent a potential hazard. Also keep in mind that using aluminum in the air fryer can reduce the air circulation, potentially increasing the cooking time.

Can I use parchment paper in the air fryer?

Yes, you can use parchment paper in the air fryer. However, similar to aluminum foil, parchment paper should be used sparingly and weighted down sufficiently to not lift in the hot air and move around in the air fryer. It also needs to be placed far away from the internal heating element to avoid a fire hazard. Using parchment paper can reduce air circulation in the air fryer, potentially increasing the cooking time. Parchment paper can sometimes make for easier clean-up, but we don’t regularly use it when air frying.

How do I make perfect French fries or potato wedges in the air fryer?

To make the perfect French fries or potato wedges in the air fryer, choose the right potatoes (preferably starchy potatoes like Russet), soak the potatoes in water before air frying to remove excess starch, and use the right oil and spice blend. It’s also important to not overcrowd the air fryer basket so that the fries or wedges can cook and crisp evenly. We have recipes with step-by-step instructions for homemade crispy French fries and homemade potato wedges – two very popular air-fried items that we love making again and again!

Buying an Air Fryer

What are some popular brands of air fryers?

Some popular brands of air fryers include Instant, Ninja, T-Fal, Philips, Gourmia, Cuisinart, Breville, and Cosori. It’s worth noting that while Cosori is a popular brand, they had a significant air fryer recall due to a fire hazard and offer free replacements for affected air fryers. In general, always check the latest information and safety updates from the manufacturers.

What are the different types of air fryers?

Air fryers come in various styles, but the two main types of air fryers are basket-style air fryers and oven-style air fryers. Basket-style air fryers come with a removable basket(s) and tray that you insert and remove from the air fryer. They are compact and well-suited for smaller kitchens. Oven-style air fryers have a design similar to a traditional oven with a door you can open and close. They often have more cooking space and versatility, making them suitable for larger meals and a wider range of dishes. Some oven-style air fryers come with a rotisserie spit or drum basket. There are also less popular versions of air fryers, such as paddle air fryers which have a paddle inside the cooking chamber that stirs the food automatically, and multi-purpose appliances with an air fryer setting, such as pressure cookers with an air fryer lid. Depending on the brand and model, some conventional ovens now also have an air fry setting. Keep in mind that the cooking times and results can vary greatly between these appliances.

What are the different sizes of air fryers?

The different sizes of air fryers currently range from about as small as 1.7 quarts (1.6 liters) to as large as 12.7 quarts (12 liters) capacity. Many air fryers fall within the range of 4 to 6 quarts (3.8-5.7 liters) and offer a medium capacity that is suitable for a small family. We use a 6 quart (5.7 liters) Instant Vortex air fryer and it’s perfect for two adults. Some air fryers also have two independent baskets, each with a 5-quart zone.

How do I choose the right air fryer for my needs?

Choosing the right air fryer size for you and/or your family will depend on a few factors, such as how many people you’ll be cooking for regularly, how much food each individual consumes, how much counter space you have, and the types of foods you plan to prepare in the air fryer. For example, if you plan on making rotisserie chickens often, a larger 9-liter oven-style would be better suited than a compact 2-liter basket-style air fryer.

How can I compare the performance and features of different brands and models of air fryers?

To compare the performance and features of different brands and models of air fryers, you can look at reputable online resources with comprehensive testing and comparison tables like Good Housekeeping’s Air Fryer Reviews. You can also read user reviews and ratings on websites and forums to gain insight into the real-world experiences of individuals who have used the air fryers. Look for common pros and cons. Take into account evidence of first-hand experience using the air fryers. For example, we reviewed our Instant Vortex and compared it to another popular model we own, the Ninja 3.8L, using tables and cooking tests. If possible, conduct your own tests and reviews. Compare the air fryers you own or have access to (such as a family member’s or friend’s air fryer), taking into account cooking results, ease of use, and specific features that matter to you.