5 Essential Things You Should Know About Using Your Air Fryer

It’s a miracle appliance if you know how to use it.

chicken parm in a air fryer

Air fryers were first introduced to the public in 2010, and while some people may still associate them with 3 a.m. infomercials, after more than a decade they are here to stay. Now, with many models, sizes, and brands available, the air fryer has become a valuable piece of multi-purpose kitchen equipment that can do much of what microwaves, deep fat fryers, and convection ovens do.

However, if you are new to the world of air fryers, there are a few things you should know about them.

First, how does an air fryer work? 

Perhaps the most important feature of the air fryer is a high-powered fan that circulates air efficiently within the cooking chamber, resulting in evenly cooked food that is beautifully crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Because of the proximity of the food to the circulating fan, food cooks faster and closer to the texture of deep frying, without having to use a significant amount of oil.  

How much less oil? If you’re cooking food with a smooth surface like a filet of salmon, you need only 1-2 teaspoons of oil per serving. For cooking breaded chicken, shrimp, or vegetables, you’ll only need 1-2 tablespoons of oil per serving. Practically nothing compared traditional frying!

Not only are air fryers excellent for preparing quick and flavorful meals, they are also great for reheating leftovers. So next time you have some extra slices of pizza, fried chicken, or vegetables left over from the night before, skip the microwave and rejuvenate them in the air fryer to achieve a new level of crispness. 


 The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

What can I cook in my air fryer? 

Most air fryer manufacturers will provide some basic recipes to inspire you to get started, but here are some additional suggestions:

salmon fillets in the air fryer basket
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

5 essential things to know about using your air fryer

To get the most out of your air fryer, follow these 5 essential rules:

Know when to preheat. Preheating works particularly well if you are looking for a quick sear on smaller or thinner pieces of meat. Also, if you are cooking leftovers or breaded frozen food, preheating can reduce the risk of over-cooking. You can bypass preheating, however, if you are cooking larger pieces of food such as steak or chicken.

Mix seasonings with oil before adding them to the food. As a good practice, toss your food with oil, salt, herbs, and spices in a bowl first before adding to the air fryer. Otherwise, seasonings might be blown right off the food by the air fryer’s robust fan. 

Avoid overcrowding by arranging the food in a single layer, and by cooking in batches if necessary. Given the size limitations of most air fryers, it is particularly tempting to overcrowd them. However, it is the food's exposure to the circulating hot air that creates that crispy texture and appropriate browning.

Shake the basket or rotate larger pieces during cooking. In contrast to the popular sentiment of "set it and forget it," you do need to shake or turn the contents of the air fryer at least once during cooking to ensure the food is cooked evenly.

Spray with oil halfway through cooking. Spray an additional spritz of oil halfway through cooking if the food starts to look dry. This will deliver the best, most even crisp on dry-battered, coated food, and ensure even browning. Spray bottles or misters are preferable to commercially available cooking sprays, some of which contain ingredients that can damage the non-stick coating of the air fryer basket.