Tips and Tricks for Cooking in an Air Fryer

Air fryers are incredibly popular because they cook food quickly, make it golden and crispy, and take up less space than other appliances. Their small size compared to traditional ovens means they can heat up and hold heat more evenly, cooking food faster. These efficient appliances also provide a healthier option for frying food, as they require less oil than traditional frying, and much of the fat will drip through the basket.

So, now that we have sold you on the prospect of cooking in an air fryer, here are some tips and tricks for using one!

Don’t Overcrowd the Air Fryer Basket
The idea behind the air fryer is that it circulates hot air around food to make it golden brown and crispy. As a result, we recommend leaving some space between each piece of food to allow air to flow through and prevent food from becoming soggy. Additionally, it is important that you do not stack food, as this will lead to it not cooking evenly.

In the case of fries or onion rings, you may want to fill the basket halfway and toss or shake the basket a few times during cooking to ensure the food cooks evenly. The air fryer cooks them so quickly that you can add another batch to cook while you and your family enjoy your first one!

Use Oil Spray to Help Breading Adhere to Foods
Air circulation of the air fryer can sometimes cause breading from foods to blow around the fryer, particularly if you breaded them yourself rather than using a breaded frozen product. If you are making something like homemade chicken nuggets, to ensure the breading sticks to the chicken and doesn’t blow around the air fryer, you should spray them with cooking oil. For example, if you are cooking chicken nuggets, for the first half of cooking, you should spritz the top of the chicken nuggets with cooking oil, and then, once you turn them over halfway through cooking, you can spray the other side and continue cooking them until they are cooked through and crisped up.

Don’t Use Aerosol Oil Spray
While oil spray can be a benefit to cooking in an air fryer, particularly in the case of getting breaded food lovely, golden, and crisp, it is ideal to avoid aerosol varieties as the harsh ingredients in it, such as propellant and various chemicals, may cause air fryer baskets to chip. Moreover, while experts often deem aerosol oil spray safe, one can only assume it is not ideal for people to consume with any regularity, especially when applied directly to food.

Rather than using aerosol spray, we suggest filling a spray bottle with a cooking oil of your choice, which you can lightly spray on top of foods like chicken fingers, spring rolls, or chicken wings before cooking. Or, if you don’t have a spray bottle on hand, you could lightly brush the food with oil rather than spray it on. There are even aerosol-free oil sprays coming onto the market that may be more appealing to you to use.

Yes, You Can Use Parchment Paper!
Air fryer baskets are often nonstick and very easy to clean, especially if you give them a good soak in hot, soapy water, and many air fryer baskets are even dishwasher-safe; however, there are times you may end up with a particularly messy recipe resulting in a unit that is difficult to wash. For that reason, lining the basket with parchment paper can be a great idea, saving you time and effort when you want to make a meal quickly and efficiently.

To use parchment paper in the air fryer, make sure you poke holes through the paper to ensure air circulation around the food. You can buy parchment paper with the holes already cut into it, but it is easy to poke holes in regular parchment paper at home as well. To do so, all you have to do is cut a sheet of parchment paper the size of the base of your basket, fold it in half horizontally and then vertically, and use a hole punch to punch holes all over it. Then, unfold it and place it in your basket.

Be Mindful of Where You Place Your Appliance
Since air fryers can emit lots of heat, it is integral that if you place it on a countertop, you know the counter will be able to withstand the heat from the appliance. If you aren’t sure, you can put the unit on a baking sheet to add a barrier between the unit and the countertop.

Only Use Foil When Crispiness is Not the Desired Outcome
While you can use foil in an air fryer to catch drips and make clean-up easier, manufacturers designed air fryer machines to do the catching, and you may compromise airflow because the foil would block the air from flowing around the food. Using foil may result in the food becoming less crispy, and therefore, if you do use foil, only do so when the recipe you are using calls for it and ensure that its size matches the base of the basket. You can also wrap food in foil to steam it, such as if you are making a sort of fish en papillote or fresh vegetables.

Use Your Air Fryer to Reheat Foods
The air fryer is excellent for reheating foods and superior to using a microwave, especially if the food is something traditionally crispy, such as chicken wings, fish fingers, or French fries. However, it is also great for returning leftover pizza to its fresh-from-the-box glory or heating meat like chicken or ribs.

We don’t recommend reheating anything saucy in the air fryer, as it would not only be quite messy, but the sauce could swirl around and effect the heating unit. The air fryer is best for items you would normally cook or reheat on a baking sheet in the oven.

Don’t Overdo the Oil
Don’t overdo using oil because the air fryer does a better job at browning up food with a light coating of oil rather than lots of it. Additionally, some foods that contain quite a bit of fat, such as burgers or chicken thighs, shouldn’t need any additional grease. You don’t want your food to sit in lots of oil as it may produce a soggy result.

Turn the Food for Even Cooking
For even cooking, it is ideal to turn the food halfway during cooking or to shake the air fryer basket if you are cooking fries, onion rings, or veggies. Turning the food is especially important for breaded foods where your aim is a crispy coating.

Don’t Use Metal Utensils
Don’t use metal utensils or utensils that comprise other abrasive materials when cooking in the air fryer, as they may damage the basket. Instead, silicone-based utensils are ideal, which will be much easier on the surface and hold up to high heat. We don’t recommend using plastic utensils, which may melt when they come in contact with high heat.

With the listed tips above, you can use all the best practices when cooking with your air fryer. The most important thing to remember is that the air fryer’s design is to cook food evenly, and as a result, we can help the process by turning the food, applying only as much oil as needed, and limiting obstructions to airflow.