Planning & Prep

How To Use an Air Fryer in 5 Easy Steps



Last Updated: Jun 22, 2022

An air fryer is a wonderful addition to any kitchen and a healthy substitute for deep frying. Also great for roasted vegetables and cooking quick appetizers, an air fryer works like a convection oven but without the size and energy consumption. You can use the air fryer to roast, broil, and even bake food using only a tiny amount of oil.

If you’re new to the workings of an air fryer and are wondering how to use it, what foods to cook, and how to look after it, we have you covered with this handy guide.

How to use your air fryer

Before you start your new air fryer, set it up on a stable and heat-resistant surface. Place it away from other objects that may get damaged from steam or heat emanating from the air fryer.

Remove the inner and outer baskets/drawers of the air fryer and wash them thoroughly with detergent and water. Remember to use a non-abrasive sponge. Wipe inside and outside the baskets and let them air dry for a while. Then put the baskets back into the air fryer. Now you are ready to cook with the air fryer.

Here are the basic step-by-step instructions on how to use an air fryer:

1. Preheating

Unlike an oven, air fryers take only a few minutes to pre-heat. However, there is quite a debate whether air fryers need pre-heating at all.

Some air fryer connoisseurs recommend pre-heating only for particular recipes, such as frozen precooked foods, reheating leftovers, cooking thinner meats like chicken tenders, or when cooking steaks.

Multi-function air fryers usually have a preheat button, but if yours doesn’t, then you will have to pre-heat manually at 400°F for 5 minutes. If you choose not to preheat, cooking time should only take 3 to 4 minutes longer.

2. Put the food in

Once preheated, carefully fill the grated basket with the food that you plan to cook. Make sure you don’t overload the basket, as the food may not cook properly.

3. Start cooking

Return the basket and drawer to the fryer and set the appropriate time and temperature. Some air fryers also come with pre-set temperature and time menu options for different foods. For example, if you’re cooking chicken drumsticks, you just press the menu option for cooking chicken, and it will automatically set the air fryer at the recommended temperature and time. You can also change the temperature and time at any point during the cooking process.

Grilled herb marinated pork in air fryer machine,

4. Shake the basket

Many food recipes call for you to shake the basket in the middle of the cooking process. Do this at least once. For crumbed chicken tenders or breaded fish fillets, flip the food so that it cooks evenly on both sides. Although, if you forget to shake the basket or flip the food, it will not mess up the cooking.

5. Remove the food

Once the air fryer stops, carefully remove the basket. Be aware of any hot steam when you open the air fryer. Separate the inner basket from the outer basket, and serve the food on a plate.

What to cook in an air fryer:

There are some foods that cook well in an air fryer, but not all. Air fryers work on dry heat, which means that any kind of food that requires boiling, steaming, or braising won’t cook properly in an air fryer.

Some of the food you can cook in an air fryer are:

  • Precooked pre-fried foods like chicken tenders, crumbed fish, fish fingers, tempura shrimp, and pizza rolls will cook well in an air fryer.
  • Cut-up potatoes, potato wedges, or French fries turn out the best in an air fryer.
  • You can air fry all kinds of chicken, whether you make it with fresh chicken or use the frozen pre-cooked ones. Try crispy skin chicken wings, crumbed chicken burgers, or chicken breasts.
  • You can also cook appetizers that mimic fried food such as egg rolls, crab cakes, mini calzones, or samosas.
  • Make both fresh and frozen steak in an air fryer.
  • Some vegetables cook well in an air fryer. These are the ones you would normally roast in an oven such as sweet potato, summer or winter squash, broccoli florets, or other root vegetables.
  • You can make some quick and delicious cinnamon rolls and donuts. Other sweet recipes to make in an air fryer are cookies, lava cakes, apple fritters, and cake.

Avoid putting these types of food in the air fryer:

  • Over-seasoned foods
  • Leafy greens
  • Wet battered food
  • Cheese
  • Large roasts or whole chickens

How to clean the air fryer

It’s important to clean the air fryer after every use, or the oil build-up can cause the air fryer to smoke. But make sure the baskets have cooled down completely.

Simply wipe down the basket and drawer with a paper towel to remove oil and food particles. If the basket is too messy, hand wash it.

Most air fryer models will have a dishwasher-safe basket and drawer, so check the manual.

An electric Air Fry on table with blue background showing assembled parts

Important tips for using an air fryer

Cooking with an air fryer is easy and convenient. But there are a few important tips to keep in mind:

  • Always keep the grate in the basket. This way, the air circulates around the food and the food does not have to sit in the excess oil that drips down to the bottom.
  • Most food will require a slightly lower temperature than what you would use in a conventional oven. Air fryers heat and cook quickly, and a low temperature will ensure your food is cooked and nicely brown or crispy on the outside.
  • Remove the basket and shuffle the food in the middle of the cooking process to ensure the food is crispy on all sides. It is also OK to pull out the basket to check on your food during the cooking process.
  • Keep the food spaced out so hot air can circulate.
  • If cooking marinated food, don’t use excess marinade to avoid splattering and excess smoke.
  • Using an oil spray bottle, lightly spray food like veggies with vegetable oil before you start cooking and then halfway. You do not have to add oil to foods that already have oil in them like skin-on-chicken or precooked frozen fried foods.
  • You might be wondering—can you put foil in an air fryer to reduce cleanup? In most cases, yes, but always check with your model’s instruction manual.
  • Another important question—can you put parchment paper in an air fryer? Usually, you can. Most popular brands of parchment paper are safe up to 425°F in the oven, so they shouldn’t ignite in an air fryer.

Use an air fryer today

Now that you can confidently use an air fryer, all you need are some ingredients. Order everything you need online through Instacart, and have your groceries and necessities delivered right to your home, hotel, vacation rental, or Airbnb. Just fill you cart and choose same-day delivery or pick up at check out.



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