How to Use an Air Fryer: Everything You Need to Know

Got a new air fryer and now you’re wondering how to use it? Don’t worry! I’m going to show you everything you need to know, from how to get started to the best foods to make in your air fryer; I’ll even give you some pointers for how to make the most of your air fryer recipes!

How to Use an Air Fryer

Watch my “Air Fryer 101” video if you are a visual learner and/or keep reading! I unbox a brand new Cosori Air Fryer and use it for the first time in this video (I also show you my beloved Philips XXL Air Fryer)

You can make so many different kinds of foods in the air fryer ranging from cakes to sides and even main dishes too! Some people buy them just because they want to try Healthy Air Fryer recipes.  There are also not so healthy air fryer recipes, like these air fryer desserts.

What is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer is not the same thing as a deep fryer. This is an important thing to note before purchasing an air fryer and hoping that the onion rings that come out of it will be the same as your favorite fast-food restaurant. Depending on the recipe you use and the prep, they’ll be close, but not exactly the same.

Air fryers are a healthier alternative to deep-frying and need much less (if any) oil than a deep fryer. Besides needing less oil, they are also way less messy than a deep fryer and without all the smells from deep-frying.

How Does an Air Fryer Work?

Air fryers are a lot like a mini-convection oven. Hot air is generated, then pushed thru the small chamber, via a fan, and it circulates all around the food. Rather than a deep fryer, which relies on hot oil for heat, it uses that hot air!

If you can bake it, grill it, or fry it, you can make it in an air fryer!

Unlike a traditional oven, air frying your food will give those vegetables that beautiful crispy flavor, that crispy skin on chicken wings, and even a light and flakey cake all in one appliance. In most cases, you don’t have to take the time to preheat your air fryer, like you do the oven. AND it simply takes less time than an oven… and you don’t have to worry about heating up your entire home as the oven would.

Understanding Different Types of Air Fryers

All air fryers are not created equal. Many of them have additional features and even function differently than others. This is important to note when watching tutorials or reading recipe instructions for the air fryer. I put together a complete air fryer buying guide and talk about different air fryers. You can check that out here.

I recommend sticking with a basket fryer. In my opinion, these air fryers are easier to work with because you can simply pull the basket out, rather than reach into a hot counter-top convection oven or pull a pot out of a deep air fryer.

The air fryer with a basket is the most common type of air fryer out there and only has one purpose: to fry things. If you’re not sure what they look like, they kind of remind you of a weird oversized coffee maker!

I have two air fryers in my home Cosori Air Fryer and Philips Air Fryer, and I love them!

The First Thing to Do With Your New Air Fryer

Well, the very first thing you need to do with your air fryer is take it out of the box (obviously – lol). If you’ve been too afraid to take it out of the box, it’s time my friend. I believe in you!

Not only will it help you get a little familiar with your new air fryer, unboxing it will also give you a chance to make sure nothing was damaged during shipping and that you have everything you need.

Read the instruction manual

Every air fryer is going to be slightly different. Some are dishwasher safe, have preheating settings, and some features that others won’t have. They usually have a quick start guide. So take a few moments to get to know your air fryer and how it works. Pay close attention to the cleaning instructions so that you don’t ruin your air fryer when trying to clean it!

Wash your air fryer

No matter where you purchased your air fryer, make sure that you take the time to wash it well. This will ensure you have a clean start to your new air fryer. Remember, it’s been in a factory and you just don’t know who’s been touching it. Remove the packaging and wash your air fryer in hot soapy water. You can let it air dry a bit, then I usually let it dry all the way, during the first test run.  

Make sure you have removed all the packaging! 

Make sure that you have removed EVERYTHING from your air fryer. This includes any tools that may be in the basket, labels, or tags. You don’t want to accidentally set anything on fire, so don’t skip this step!

Protect your counters

If your air fryer doesn’t come with tiny legs that help it stay off the counter, make sure that you put something underneath your air fryer to help it protect your counter! Air fryers run very hot, so don’t dismiss how hot it will heat up your counter!

The Test Run:

Now that you have your air fryer all cleaned and ready to go, it’s time to do a test run. Remember that if this is your first air fryer, it will be loud. This is normal. I would say that most air fryers are louder than a microwave but not louder than your average vacuum. 

When you run your air fryer, make sure that you pull it about five inches from the wall. Most air fryers have a vent on the backside and hot air blows out of it. Protect your walls by simply pulling the air fryer away from the wall (every time you use it).  

How to Cook in the Air Fryer

Now that you know your air fryer works properly and that you’ve tested it, it’s time to cook something! 

Remember, if you can bake it, grill it, or fry it… you can most likely cook it up in your air fryer! Here are a few different rules of thumb to consider when you’re using your air fryer.

To Preheat or Not to Preheat

Some air fryers have a preheat button (like my Cosori air fryer). Other air fryers do not have a preheat button (like my Philips Air Fryer). Some recipes tell you to preheat your air fryer, and if that’s the case, go for it! But honestly, I rarely preheat my air fryer. If you want to, and your air fryer doesn’t have a pre-heat button, just set the temp to 350 and run it for about 3-5 minutes. 

Reheating Food

One of my favorite things aobut the air fryer is how great it is at reheating leftover foods! The microwave would rarely reheat foods in a way that made them taste as good as fresh (soggy fries anyone?). Reheating in my oven always took forever (preheating to 350 when you’re starving, isn’t fun) and often the food would get dried out.

Reheating foods in the air fryer is a great way to rejuvenate leftover foods… they are hot and crispy, without losing any moisture or flavor. Play with your air fryer and see how it goes! I usually start with about 3 minutes at 350˚. 

Cooking in the Air Fryer is Versatile!

Cooking in the air fryer is so much more than cooking a bag of frozen fries or reheating leftovers! If you’re looking for more air fryer inspiration, check out some of my favorite air fryer recipes. You may also love my YouTube channel, where I share easy air fryer recipes that my family loves!

Tip and Tricks When Cooking With an Air Fryer

Here are some must-know tips and hacks for your new air fryer!

Dry your food well

If your food is wet or contains a lot of water, it will steam rather than fry and won’t end up crispy. Make sure that you pat down things like fish or tofu well before frying.

Easy Cleanup and Handling Hack

For some recipes that are a little more messy, or that require some careful lifting, I LOVE using a foil sling (as seen above)… this allows me to easily lift them out of the basket and keep the food from sticking to the bottom.

For messy foods, like this air fryer “grilled’ cheese sandwiches or these air fryer pizza bagel bites, I love using air fryer parchment paper.  Remember that the air fryer works by circulating the air, so make sure whatever you put in your air fryer will allow for that. 

Also, NEVER put WAX PAPER in your air fryer (it will melt/burn). ALSO do not put paper towels in your air fryer! They are lightweight and the fan could blow them up into the heating element and possibly start a fire.

When it comes to cooking time, less is more

Many air fryer recipes cook a lot faster than the traditional baking times on the packaging, this is because you’re cooking in a much more compact space and the heat is moving around thanks to the powerful fan.

So I find that it’s best to start with less time (usually I start with half the time the regular instructions call for) and then add more as needed based on how your food is cooking. I also usually cook about 10-25 degrees lower. If you’re cooking meats, an instant read thermometer is KEY to make sure you don’t undercook or overcook your protein!

And if you have a recipe like french fries that need to be rotated, set a timer for the halfway point on your air fryer. That way your food won’t overcook without being turned.

Be Careful About the Oils You Spray In Your Air Fryer

To help keep food from sticking and to make them crispy, you will likely need to add a small amount of oil to both your food and your air fryer. This will help any seasoning adhere to your food and give your air fried recipes that crispy flavor.

However, the aerosol spray cans of oil found in most grocery stores (like Pam) contain harsh propellants that can actually remove the coating on your air fryer and cause chipping.

Instead, buy an oil spray bottle and fill it with your favorite oil (it’s better to use one with a high smoke point). I find that avocado oil works best for me, it has a high smoke point and is tasteless! I use it to spray the basket first, and sometimes I’ll add a spray or two to the food if I want it crispy.

Final Thoughts

The air fryer is one of the best tools to use to help you get crispy, healthy, and delicious food at home without making a mess! If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to get an air fryer, or you’re new to air frying, I hope this guide has helped you better understand this appliance so you can use it properly!

Do you have an Air Fryer? What is your favorite thing to make in it? What brand did you get? Let me know in the comments below!

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Meal Type: Tips, #StayHome, Christmas, Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, Super Bowl Party
Categories: Healthy, Air Fryer

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