How to Preheat an Air Fryer

by Véronique Raymond
Preheat An Air Fryer

Preheating an air fryer is an essential step when cooking with this type of appliance since hot air is the bread and butter of air frying.

For most recipes, this is an essential step, so you’ll want to do it right. Let’s take a look at how to do this properly, when it is and isn’t necessary, and why you do it.

  Preheat An Air Fryer

How Air Fryers Work

Air fryers cook your food by circulating hot air around your food. It does this by forcing hot air down using a fan. The basket that holds your food is perforated so that all sides of your food are cooked evenly. Air fryers cook similarly to a convection oven, since the hot air blows around with enough force to mimic your oven.

This way, you can achieve the browned, fried look and texture without using unhealthy amounts of oil and saving on cooking time.

Air fryers are a simpler kitchen appliance to use compared to a conventional oven since there are removable parts for easy clean-up, they sit on your countertop for easier accessibility, and they’re faster.

Why Do You Need to Preheat an Air Fryer?

Most recipes and air fryer manuals recommend preheating before cooking anything from French fries to chicken breasts to veggies and most other food items.

There’s an excellent reason for this. Preheating ensures that hot air is circulating around your food the instant it is put into the basket. This allows the food to start cooking immediately.

It also sucks the moisture out of your food better so that you can achieve that crispy golden crust you’re striving for.

When To Preheat an Air Fryer

Preheating is a must when air frying any type of fried food like fried chicken, fries, pork chops, fish sticks, and most raw foods like vegetables. We also recommend preheating when you want a nice sear on your food, since the immediate blast of hot air achieves this easily. Preheating cooks your food in less time, so it is ideal for busy parents and tired career people. When in doubt, it’s better to preheat just to be sure your food will turn out right.

Preheat An Air Fryer

When Not to Preheat Air Fryers

Not all air fryer recipes will recommend that you preheat before cooking. In fact, some will advise against it. Some manuals may also advise against preheating, but it really depends on the specific model and type of air fryer you’re using.

The most common reason you won’t preheat before using your air fryer is if you’re reheating leftovers. Since you’re not trying for that nice fried crust, preheating isn’t necessary in 99% of cases.

What Happens if You Don’t Preheat Your Air Fryer

Without preheating before cooking using your air fryer, it’s less likely that your food will turn out as crispy as you’d like it to be.

There are certainly some circumstances in which not preheating will not affect the outcome of your meal, but it is usually recommended so that your recipe turns out how you’re expecting it to.

Though your recipe won’t fail entirely if you forget to preheat, you will need to add some extra time to the recipe to ensure your food cooks fully all the way through.

How to Preheat an Air Fryer Properly

The preheating process on an air fryer is incredibly simple. Most models have a very user-friendly preheating function that requires you to push just a couple of buttons.

Usually, all you have to do is set your temperature according to your recipe, select your preheat time, and push start.

Before you preheat, you should take a look at your user manual or instruction manual as it will tell you the proper steps for preheating your air fryer. There are three different methods that you may use to preheat your air fryer depending on the model you have:

  • A preheat setting on your air fryer
  • An automatic preheat built into the operation of the air fryer when it is started
  • Manual preheat using the air fry setting

No matter which method you use, your air fryer will be properly preheated for cooking. When preheating, you should make sure there are no hazards like a wet basket, cooking gadgets, or leftover aluminum foil in the air fryer.

How Long Should You Preheat an Air Fryer

The preheat time for your air fryer will depend on the temperature you set your air fryer to. Since most foods require high heat of at least 350 degrees for proper cooking, it can take about 3 minutes or so to preheat up to your desired temperature.

All air fryer models have different heating elements that will affect your preheat time, but a few minutes is usually sufficient no matter which type you have.

Preheat An Air Fryer

How to Know What Temperature to Preheat To

When preheating an air fryer, you’ll be heating it to a set temperature. To know what temperature to preheat your air fryer to, you should double check the recipe you’re following as it will tell you how hot the appliance should be.

If you’re not following a recipe, the manual for the air fryer should tell you what temperature to cook to for the most popular foods.

Do I Need to Preheat Between Batches of Food?

If you’re cooking for a large group of people and are making a large batch of chicken wings, chicken tenders, fries, or anything else to satisfy a hungry hoard of guests, you’re probably wondering if you need to preheat between each batch. The answer is no.

Since your air fryer is already hot from cooking the first batch, you can simply restart the cook time and add in your next layer of food to the air fryer basket.

We recommend using parchment paper to make the process faster so that your air fryer doesn’t lose too much heat while you’re making the transition between batches of cooked and uncooked food. Speed at this stage of the process ensures all your food is cooked evenly and has that yummy crispy exterior.

Things to Remember Before Preheating an Air Fryer

Before preheating your air fryer, remember to make sure that your nonstick basket is dry, that your air fryer is plugged in, and that you know the steps you’ll be taking before you start the cooking process.

Also remember that fried food requires very hot temperatures, and since you’re not deep frying, you’ll need to be cooking at at least 350 or 400 degrees for properly fried food. If your air fryer has a preheat button, that’s great, but if not, you can easily do it manually.

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