You can use the air fryer to crisp food without oil, but it has lots of other uses. In fact, you can actually roast a whole chicken or pork roast, reheat food quickly, and even dehydrate foods, like fruit and meats.
An air fryer can do anything that an oven can do, just in a smaller space, so it takes less time to cook the food and it will generally get more crispy on the outside and stay more moist on the inside. There are models for small spaces and larger models for larger families that need to cook more food at once.
Since this wonderful appliance is so helpful in the kitchen, we wanted to make sure you’re getting full use out of it, so we’re going to share all our favorite air fryer tips and tricks with you in this article.
Air Fryer Tips and Tricks You Need to Know
1. Preheating isn’t necessary
It’s not necessary to preheat the air fryer before cooking. If you do, it could change the cook time of your recipe. Only preheat if the recipe you’re following says to do so.
2. Use minimal oil
Don’t use too much oil. Foods in the air fryer don’t need much oil to crisp up. Excess oil will just drip from the food and pool in the bottom of the machine, which can produce smoke. Just lightly spray foods with a fine mist of oil.
3. Use a spray-on oil from a reusable bottle
Non-stick sprays like Pam leave a sticky residue on the air fryer basket and will ruin the non-stick coating, so we don’t recommend them. Purchasing a refillable spray bottle is best. Never use an aerosol spray in the air fryer.
4. Shake the basket halfway through
For best results, shake your food or turn over at least once during cooking to get it nice and crispy all around. Some air fryers have a “shake reminder” that beeps when the basket needs to be shaken. If you don’t have one, set your own timer.
5. Cooking times are not exact
As with any appliance, none of them are calibrated exactly the same or have the same wattage, etc. There is always a chance that you will need to cook for more or less time than a recipe calls for. Always keep an eye on the food. Expect a 2-5 minute differential in cooking time.
6. Don’t overcrowd the basket.
Even if you have an air fryer with a really large basket, not as much food can fit in the basket as you might think. Food needs space and air circulation in order to get crispy in the air fryer. If you throw in an entire bag of frozen fries, they won’t get as crispy as if you did half that amount. It will also take longer to cook.
7. Prevent sticking with parchment paper.
It’s not always necessary, but for times when the food you’re cooking is especially sticky or delicate, you can use parchment paper to keep it from sticking to the basket. I use them when cooking fish so it doesn’t crumble when I take it out of the basket.
You can get round or square parchment paper that’s pre-cut with air holes so it doesn’t affect the air circulation around your food.
8. You can use tin foil
If you’ve been wondering, you can use tin foil in the air fryer. It can be used to keep foods from sticking, or to make clean up easier. You can also wrap liquidy foods in it or steam food, as you would “en papillote” (wrapped in foil) in the oven.
You might also use an aluminum pan to cook in, which is also okay to use in the air fryer. Disposable foil pans can be a great way to reheat food in the air fryer, like lasagna or a casserole.
9. Be careful where you place the air fryer
I’ve been asked many times if it’s okay to set the air fryer directly on the kitchen counter. The answer to that is yes. You don’t need to place the air fryer on anything. However, you do want to be careful with what surrounds the air fryer. If you set it too close to a flammable or melt-able surface, the heat coming from the machine can cause damage to surrounding surfaces.
The basket of the air fryer is also very hot when you remove it from the base, so be sure not to set the basket directly on a countertop that might melt or warp.
10. Detach the basket before dumping
Most basket-style air fryers have two pieces. There’s the cradle or drawer and the basket that snaps into it. It’s tempting to take the whole cradle out of the air fryer and dump the food out, but doing so can cause all the oil in the bottom to pour out too. Always detach the basket before dumping out the food.
11. You can use other pans inside the air fryer
Any baking dish or cake pan that you would use in your oven is safe to use in the air fryer. You can use stainless steel pans, silicon pans, even oven-safe glass pans. Just make sure they don’t come in contact with the heating element.
12. Reheat leftovers in the air fryer
I used to go straight for the microwave to reheat foods, but then I realized the air fryer does it better, especially for foods that can benefit from a little extra crispiness. I now reheat pizza, rolls, hamburger buns, leftover chicken, ribs… It does a great job and it’s quick.
13. Soak the basket right away for easy cleanup
The easiest way to clean the basket after using it is to soak it immediately, while it’s still warm, in hot soapy water. If you transfer the basket right to the sink and soak it, any sticky or greasy food won’t have a chance to dry on and it will be super simple to clean it out.
14. Prevent smoking with water
The air fryer isn’t meant to blow off white smoke while cooking, but some models have a propensity for this more than others. If you find your air fryer smoking while cooking fatty foods, like pork belly or chicken wings, you can put a little bit of water in the bottom of the cradle, which will prevent it from smoking.
15. Don’t stack food for even browning
If you want a nice browned crispy look to your food, especially for things like pork chops or chicken thighs, don’t stack the food on top of each other. You might have to cook in batches, but your food will come out better for it. Some foods that you can rotate easier, like French fries or chicken wings, don’t need to be in a single layer.
16. Bake a cake
You can bake anything in the air fryer. The only stipulation is that it fits in the basket. If you have a silicon cake pan that fits in the air fryer basket, go ahead and bake your cake in it. You’ll be surprised how great it turns out and in less time than in the oven.
17. Avoid cooking light foods
What I mean by “light” is that they are nearly weightless. The first time I tried to put a slice of cheese on a burger in the air fryer, I learned this lesson as it flew off and melted into the bottom of the cradle. You can make popcorn in the air fryer, but it’s difficult to keep it from flying up into the heating element and burning. I’ve made pumpkin seeds and croutons in the air fryer too, but you have to watch them closely so they don’t fly up and burn.
18. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the air fryer
You are likely cleaning the basket of the air fryer after every use. That’s a given. But are you cleaning the inside of the air fryer too? It can get caked with grease and grime, which will cause smoking and can damage the heating element, not to mention possibly cause a fire. You need to clean out the inside at least once a week or month, depending on how often you use the air fryer.
19. Keep cooking times handy
The more you use your air fryer, the more you’ll know by instinct how long and what temp to cook your regular foods on, but until then use this handy cooking times cheat sheet that you can easily pin to the fridge so you can just reference it whenever you need to.
20. Make hardboiled eggs
Okay so they aren’t actually boiled at all, but you can cook eggs in the air fryer and have them turn out just as good as boiled ones. It takes slightly longer than on the stove top, but you don’t have to fuss with the water and open flame on your gas stove.
21. Make breading with breadcrumbs, not just flour
You can make all kinds of breaded food in the air fryer and it turns out nice and golden crispy. However, you need to bread the food using breadcrumbs and make sure you spray the food evenly with oil in order to get that golden crisp. Breading with just egg and flour, like you might do with fried chicken when deep frying it, will lead to a less desirable crust in the air fryer.
22. Check the internal temp of meats with a digital thermometer
The only way to know for sure if meats are cooked thoroughly is to test the internal temperature with a digital thermometer. You can open the basket any time near the end of cooking and take the temp quickly to see if it’s done. It’s better to trust the thermometer than the recipe cooking times, since all air fryer cook differently.
23. Use a toothpick to hold down cheese slices
If you’re cooking burgers in the air fryer and want to add a cheese slice to melt on top, stake it down with a toothpick so it doesn’t fly away. Otherwise, it might not be there when you check on it again. You can secure a slice of bread this way too, by sticking a toothpick through the bread and into one of the holes in the basket.
24. Turn off the beeping
I don’t know about you, but my air fryer beep is really loud and it goes off 5 times. You might actually be able to turn off that beeping, depending on the type of machine you have. In most cases, it’s done by pressing the minus keys down for about three seconds. If that doesn’t work for you, you might have to remove the casing to locate where the beeping mechanism is and remove it.
25. Egg bites mold
You can use the egg bites mold to make all kinds of different snacks, muffins, and appetizers. If you have an egg bites mold, even if it came with your Instant Pot, you can use it to bake all kinds of fun treats. Try making corn bread muffins, mini cake balls, donut holes, mini cheesecakes, meatballs, cinnamon rolls bites, mini pancakes, etc.
Super Useful Air Fryer Accessories
Once you’ve started using your air fryer more regularly, you’ll find there are so many other ways you *could* be using it, if you had a few extra useful accessories. Here are a few favorites that we use almost every day.
- 12-piece accessories kit for 3.7-5.8 quart air fryers – includes silicone cake pan, cake barrel, pizza pan, toasting/warming rack, skewer rack, silicone mat, bread rack and more
- Thermopen instant read thermometer for checking the internal temp of your meats
- Evo Oil Sprayer Bottle – BPA, latex, and dehp-free plastic, won’t clog or shatter, reusable, refillable, recyclable
🥧 If you’re interested in more great recipes, I share all my favorite recipes over at A Food Lover’s Kitchen, and you’ll find Instant Pot recipes at A Pressure Cooker Kitchen, and cocktails and drinks at Savored Sips. Check it out today!
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Laura spends a lot of her time cooking and creating recipes to share. She loves traveling and learning about new foods around the world to bring into her own recipes at home.