Preparing to air-fry
- Find the right place for your air fryer in your kitchen. Always keep your air fryer on a level, heat-resistant countertop and make sure there are at least five inches of space behind the air fryer where the exhaust vent is located.
- Pre-heat your air fryer before adding your food. This is easy – just turn the air fryer on to the temperature that you need and set the timer for 2 or 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, the air fryer has pre-heated and is ready for food.
- Get the right accessories. Once you start air frying, you may want to invest in some accessories for your new favorite appliance. Truth is, you may already have some! Any baking dishes or cake pans that are oven-safe should be air fryer-safe as well, as long as they don’t come in contact with the heating element. The only stipulation, of course, is that the accessory pan has to be able to fit inside the air fryer basket.
- Invest in a kitchen spray bottle. Spraying oil on the food is easier than drizzling or brushing, and allows you to use less oil overall. While you can buy oil sprays in cans, sometimes there are aerosol agents in those cans that can break down the non-stick surface on your air fryer basket. So, if you want to spray foods directly in the basket, invest in a hand-pumped kitchen spray bottle. It will be worth it!
- Use an aluminum foil sling. Getting accessory pieces into and out of the air fryer basket can be tricky. To make it easier, fold a piece of aluminum foil into a strip about 2-inches wide by 24-inches long. Place the cake pan or baking dish on the foil and by holding the ends of the foil, you’ll be able to lift the pan or dish and lower it into the air fryer basket. Fold or tuck the ends of the aluminum foil into the air fryer basket, and then return the basket to the air fryer. When you’re ready to remove the pan, unfold and hold onto the ends of the aluminum foil to lift the pan out of the air fryer basket.
- Use the proper breading technique. Breading is an important step in many air fryer recipes. Don’t skip a step! It is important to coat foods with flour first, then egg and then the breadcrumbs. Be diligent about the breadcrumbs and press them onto the food with your hands. Because the air fryer has a powerful fan as part of its mechanism, breading can sometimes blow off the food. Pressing those crumbs on firmly will help the breading adhere. You can learn all about the proper dredging and breading technique here.
While you are air-frying
- Add water to the air fryer drawer when cooking fatty foods. Adding water to the drawer underneath the basket helps prevent grease from getting too hot and smoking. Do this when cooking bacon, sausage, even burgers if they are particularly fatty.
- Don’t overcrowd the basket. I can’t stress this enough. It’s tempting to try to cook more at one time, but over-crowding the basket will prevent foods from crisping and browning evenly and take more time over all.
- Flip foods over halfway through the cooking time. Just as you would if you were cooking on a grill or in a skillet, you need to turn foods over so that they brown evenly.
- Open the air fryer as often as you like to check for doneness. This is one of the best parts of air fryers – you can open that drawer as often as you like (within reason) to check to see how the cooking process is coming along. This will not interrupt the timing of most air fryers – the fryer will either continue heating and timing as you pull the basket out, or pick up where it left off when you return the basket to the fryer.
- Use toothpicks to hold foods down. Every once in a while, the fan from the air fryer will pick up light foods and blow them around. So, secure foods (like the top slice of bread on a sandwich) with toothpicks.
- Shake the basket. Shaking the basket a couple of times during the cooking process will re-distribute the ingredients and help them to brown and crisp more evenly.
- Spray with oil part way through. If you are trying to get the food to brown and crisp more, try spritzing it with oil part way through the cooking process. This will also help the food to brown more evenly.
After you air-fry
- Remove the air fryer basket from the drawer before turning out foods. This is very important and it’s a mistake you’ll only make once. If you invert the basket while it is still locked into the air fryer drawer, you will end up dumping all the rendered fat or excess grease onto your plate along with the food you just air-fried.
- Don’t pour away the juices from the drawer too soon. The drawer below the air fryer basket collects a lot of juices from the cooked foods above and catches any marinades that you pour over the food. If the drippings are not too greasy, you can use this flavorful liquid as a sauce to pour over the food. You can also de-grease this liquid and reduce it in a small saucepan on the stovetop for a few minutes to concentrate the flavor.
- Clean the drawer as well as the basket after every use. The drawer of the air fryer is very easy to clean, so don’t put it off. If you leave it unwashed, you’ll run the risk of food contamination and your kitchen won’t smell very nice in a day or so!
- Use the air fryer to dry itself. After washing the air fryer basket and drawer, just pop them back into the air fryer and turn it on for 2 or 3 minutes. That dries both parts better than any drying towel.
Re-heating Foods in the air-fryer
There’s no hard and fast rule for time and temperature when re-heating leftovers because leftovers vary so significantly. I suggest re-heating in the air fryer at 350ºF and doing so for as long as it takes for the food to be re-heated to a food safety temperature of 165ºF. This is especially important for any potentially hazardous foods like chicken, pork and beef.
- Food is not getting crispy enough. Make sure you are not over-crowding the air fryer basket and make sure you are using just a little oil. This is especially true for French fries.
- There is white smoke coming from the air fryer. Add some water to the air fryer drawer underneath the basket. The white smoke is probably because grease has drained into the drawer and is burning. Adding water will prevent this.
- There is black smoke coming from the air fryer. Turn the machine off and look up towards the heating element inside the fryer. Some food might have blown up and attached to the heating element, burning and causing the black smoke.
- The air fryer won’t turn off. Many air fryers are designed to have a delay in their shutting down process. Once you press the power button off, the fan will continue to blow the hot air out of the unit for about 20 seconds. Don’t press the power button again, or you will have just turned the machine back on. Be patient and wait, and the air fryer will turn off.