Air fryers became incredibly popular kitchen appliances soon after they hit the market.
As countertop ovens, they are incredibly versatile machines that can reduce cooking time and give you a healthier version of all the crispy foods you love without the hassle of deep-frying.
However, it can take some practice to get your recipes right. Let’s delve into what air fryers are and how you use them.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers use a combination of a heating element and a fan to circulate hot air around the foods placed inside them. An occasional spritz of oil helps the air fryer crisp up your food, but many recipes don’t require this addition.
Since air fryers work almost exactly the same as convection ovens, you can make almost any foods you would like to. The smaller capacity will be a limitation for you, but the functionality is there.
How Do You Operate An Air Fryer?
Air fryers are really easy to operate in theory, but in practice, you may find yourself struggling to get foods to turn out the way you want them to. The basic operation of an air fryer can be broken down into a few key steps:
- Put your food in the air fryer basket
- Add a spray of oil into the air fryer body or add it directly to the food (Optional)
- Set the time and temperature
That’s it! The air fryer does most of the work for you. The tricky part is knowing what temperature and time to set, and being able to know when the food is done.
If you are brand new to air frying, we highly recommend that you start off following air fryer recipes to the letter.
They’ll tell you exactly how to prepare your food, what temperature it should be cooked at, and how long you should set the timer. Adjustments will always need to be made depending on your own preferences for doneness, but it is a great way to get started.
As you gain experience and learn how your air fryer cooks, you can start creating your own recipes or trying out new dishes all on your own.
Are There Different Types of Air Fryers?
Yes! There are three main types of air fryers, and each one will have its own uses, benefits, and disadvantages.
Basket air fryers are the most common type. They have a drawer style that you can pull out, and it contains the basket. The basket component can be separated from the drawer to make cleaning easier.
These air fryers are very easy to use and are most commonly used for foods like french fries, tater tots, onion rings, and other traditional ‘deep fryer’ foods.
They preheat very quickly and typically take up the least amount of space on the countertop. Since the food items do rest on the very bottom of the drawer and the design does not allow for air flow underneath the basket, you will need to manually flip/stir the items to ensure they cook evenly.
The second type of air fryer is called a paddle air fryer. It is fairly similar in design to basket air fryers, but it has the addition of a paddle inside.
The paddle is attached to the centre of the basket, and it turns throughout cooking to automatically flip your foods and ensure they cook evenly. These air fryers will be more expensive since the technology is a bit more advanced, but they are incredibly convenient and are the true ‘set it and leave it’ type of air fryer.
The third type of air fryer is the oven style air fryer. These models will take up the most amount of counter space, but they also have the largest cooking capacity.
They are the most versatile model as well, since they come with a variety of trays and racks to diversify the cooking methods. They can be used for grilling and baking, and even as toaster ovens that can toast and broil.
If you are looking for a new air fryer with variable cooking processes, this is the type to set your sights on. It can be used to cook veggies like zucchini and Brussels sprouts, DIY potato chips, chicken breast and other cuts of meat, pizza, toast, and more.
What Can Be Made In An Air Fryer?
In addition to reheating food really well, air fryers can cook a diverse range of foods. If deep-fried foods are your favourite, you’ll still be able to enjoy these appetizers/sides with an air fryer.
However, it will be a much healthier dish since air fryers use much less oil. Some traditional fried foods that cook wonderfully in air fryers include:
- Fish sticks
- French fries
- Sweet potato fries
- Onion rings
- Fried chicken
- Chicken wings
- Mozzarella sticks
- And more.
If you’re looking to use your air fryer more as an oven, you’ll enjoy its capabilities of cooking:
- Chicken tenders
- Chicken nuggets
- Chicken breasts
- Assorted vegetables like kale, zucchini, etc. (frozen or not)
- And more.
Air Frying Tips And Tricks
- Beginners should follow recipes to avoid accidental burning or drying of their food items the first time they cook them
- Use a nonstick cooking spray on the basket before placing your food inside to prevent sticking
- Coat your cuts of meat in olive oil for better cooking
- Never overfill the basket: a single layer is all you want to cook at a time
- Parchment paper and silicone liners can help keep your air fryer cleaner for longer
- Use silicon/rubber-tipped tongs to flip foods to avoid scratching the coating
- Add a little oil to all of your dishes to enhance the crispiness
- Preheat your air fryer on almost every occasion
Benefits of Preheating
Preheating your air fryer before adding your foods has a lot of benefits that you may not be aware of.
First of all, preheating will ensure that the air is at your target temperature before the food is placed inside: this means it will take less time to cook and you won’t have to second guess the timer settings.
Preheating also ensures your food starts to cook immediately, trapping in the moisture and guaranteeing a crispy exterior.
Preheating is not a requirement and you will still be able to successfully cook your meals without using this feature, but it is recommended for best results.
Almost every air fryer recipe you find will tell you to preheat, so it is a good habit to get into. Some air fryers will have a preheat button for you, but if yours doesn’t, simply turn your machine on to the target temperature and let it run for 5-7 minutes before putting any food inside.