If you are new to the air frying world, you may be wondering what kind of deep-fried foods and other foods can be cooked in an air fryer.
Air fryers are incredibly versatile machines in their own right, but many models are made to be even more multi-functional with a variety of settings types for toasting, baking, and more.
Honestly, the options for air fryer cooking are almost limitless. We’ll talk about the limits too, though.
How Air Frying Works
Air frying uses very small quantities of oil in combination with hot air flow to cook your food. The air flow works very similarly to a convection oven, which is why they are often called countertop ovens.
The addition of the oil helps make foods crispy like a deep fryer would. Since you don’t need to dunk your foods in boiling oil in order to cook them, these foods are a lot healthier to eat and the air fryer is much safer to use as well.
Air fryers can be used for breakfast foods, appetizer foods, and entree dishes, so they’re a great addition to every household for essentially every occasion.
Whether you need an easy meal for a weeknight to avoid takeout or you want to shorten the cook time and mess from a traditionally oven-made or stovetop meal, an air fryer can be your best option.
Do You Always Need to Preheat?
Preheating is not always necessary when you are using an air fryer, especially if you are using it for reheating leftovers.
However, most recipes will suggest that you preheat the air fryer to the ideal temperature, as this will improve cooking performance. Preheating has three main benefits for your dishes: it will cook faster, it will cook more evenly, and it will end up more crispy.
Since we are sure all of these sound as appealing to you as they do to us, we recommend always preheating your air fryer for cooking.
Many air fryer models also function as toaster ovens, so if you are using them as a toaster or warmer, preheating is not necessary as your items will still turn out perfectly with a cold start.
Many air fryers will have a preheat button ready to go, but some won’t.
If you find yourself lacking the preheat button, just start the machine and set it to the temperature you’ll need for your dish and let it run for 5-10 minutes before you add your food to the basket.
Smaller air fryers can be preheated for a shorter amount of time.
What Foods Are Safe to Cook in An Air Fryer?
There is a wide range of foods that can be cooked well in an air fryer. Almost all the typical deep fryer foods are also great in an air fryer, but the list doesn’t end there.
Well-done hamburger patties, hot dogs, and meatballs are a few of the less common items made in an air fryer, but they are absolutely delicious. Check out the list below for a fairly well-rounded list of foods made for the air fryer.
- Fried chicken
- Veggies like brussels sprouts, zucchini, and squash
- Homemade potato chips
- Tortillas and hard shells for tacos (warm up only)
- Baked potatoes
- Chicken tenders and nuggets
- Egg rolls
- Fish fillets
- Mozzarella sticks
- Onion rings
- Tater tots
- Frozen pizza
- And more!
What Foods Should You Never Put In An Air Fryer?
Although air fryers are incredibly versatile machines, they can’t cook everything. Below, you’ll find a list of all the items you should not put in an air fryer. Most of them are probably intuitive, but it’s good to have a reference point just in case.
- Wet Battered Food. If you plan on making fresh corn dogs or any other type of food that requires wet batter, your air fryer is likely not the best appliance to get the job done. Not only will the batter get absolutely everywhere and make clean up a real challenge, but it won’t set properly either. Most of the batter will end up dripping off the food before it has time to set and get crispy, so it really just isn’t a good idea. If you’re trying for the crispy air fryer experience, we recommend using breadcrumbs instead.
- Fresh Greens. While kale chips and other fresh green veggies may sound like great items for the air fryer, they often end up cooking unevenly or getting burnt. This is because the speed of the hot air isn’t very compatible with such lightweight food items. Coating in oil quite heavily or using frozen greens is a better alternative.
- Large Cuts of Meat Like Roasts. While you may have the desire to cook your roast in your air fryer, it likely won’t turn out as you expect. The difficulty here is all down to the basket capacity. The hot air needs room to circulate, and with such a large hunk of meat in the way, the side closest to the heating element will likely end up burnt before the far side is safe to eat.
Easy Air Fryer Recipes
With the amount of content on the internet, it can be difficult to find easy recipes for cooking with an air fryer. Below, we’ve compiled simple instructions for achieving great results with all the most popular air fryer foods.
Whether you want to add dipping sauce or additional sides to your meal is all up to you, but you’ll find the best air fryer recipes for individual dishes below.
Most of them only need a spritz of olive oil (or any other cooking oil) for crispy perfection.
Air Fryer Chicken Breast
Ingredients: Skinless chicken breast, olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine chicken, olive oil, and spices in a bowl. Cook smooth side down for 6 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for additional 2-10 minutes depending on thickness.
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
Ingredients: Chicken thighs, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat the chicken thighs dry. Combine seasonings and sprinkle on chicken thighs.
Place chicken thighs skin down in the air fryer basket and drizzle with oil. Cook for 8 minutes. Flip the chicken thighs and cook for an additional 6-10 minutes.
Air Fryer Chicken Wings
Ingredients: Chicken wings, olive oil, garlic salt, lemon pepper
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat chicken wings dry. Toss in oil and seasonings. Cook for 16 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Air Fryer Steak
Ingredients: Room temperature sirloin steaks, olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine spices. Spray steak with olive oil and coat with spice blend. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through. Adjust cooking time for steak thickness and target doneness. Let steak rest in tented foil for 5 minutes.
Air Fryer Turkey Breast
Ingredients: Turkey breast, olive oil, dry poultry seasoning, salt
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub turkey breast with half the oil. Season both sides with poultry seasoning and salt. Rub with the remaining olive oil. Cook skin side down for 20 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.
Air Fryer Salmon
Ingredients: Salmon fillets, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, olive oil
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Season fillets with seasoning blend and drizzle with olive oil. Cook for 7-9 minutes.
Air Fryer Bacon
Instructions: Turn air fryer on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not preheat. Cook bacon for 7-9 minutes (regular cut) or 9-12 minutes (thick cut).
Air Fryer Pork Chops
Ingredients: Boneless pork chops, olive oil, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat both sides of the pork chops in oil. Season the pork chops with the dry rub seasoning blend. Cook for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel potatoes and cut off the ends. Cut into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch sticks (smaller=crispier). Toss in oil and seasonings. Cook for approximately 12 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Air Fryer French Fries
Ingredients: Potatoes, olive oil, salt
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch sticks. Toss in olive oil and salt. Cook for 12-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Air Fryer Jalapeño Poppers
Ingredients: Bacon, cream cheese, and jalapeños
Instructions: Preheat the air fryer to 390 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the jalapeños in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside. Fill with cream cheese and wrap with bacon. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until bacon is cooked, and cream cheese is golden brown on top.