How To Use Air Fryer

Welcome to the world of air frying! This comprehensive post will show you everything you need to know about how to use air fryer, what to cook in your air fryer, and how to clean it when you are done. This guide is chock full of valuable information, recipes and handy tips to help you get the most out of your air fryer.

top down view of the frozen chicken nuggets inside the air fryer basket

If you already own an air fryer or plan to purchase one soon, you probably have many questions. Air fryers are all the rage when it comes to cooking food, but using one properly can help you get the most out of this versatile appliance, so it doesn’t gather dust in the corner of your kitchen. 

This post will show you how to use air fryer, talk about the differences between air frying and deep frying and prevent you from being overwhelmed when you first open your new fryer. And if you haven’t selected an air fryer yet, we’re here to help with that too. Let’s dive in!

top down view of the frozen corn on the cob in air fryer basket

What Is An Air Fryer?

Surprise! An air fryer is actually an oven! The name air fryer is misleading because you aren’t frying food. Air fryers use hot air that is moved with a fan to cook food. Because the air is moving, food cooks up faster and crispier than with traditional methods such as baking.

When you add small amounts of oil, you can often get results similar to frying, which is one of the most attractive features of an air fryer. 

Types of Air Fryers

The two most common types of air fryers are the basket type and the countertop convection oven type, which look similar to a toaster oven. Both are similar but have different properties, and the oven type of air fryers can often do additional tasks such as broiling, toasting, and convection baking. 

Basket-type air fryers are the most common, and this post will focus primarily on single-function, basket air fryers like this Cosori Air Fryer, which is the one I personally use. Don’t let the term “single function” fool you because air fryers can do soooooo much. It really is the perfect kitchen appliance for home cooks. 

Image courtesy of Cosori

Another type of air fryer is the air fryer lid attachment that can be added to your Instant Pot. For the most part, this functions similarly to the basket style, although cooking times seem to be a bit longer. 

Choosing The Right Size Air Fryer

Air fryers come in various sizes, and you want to select the best size for your family’s needs.

When air frying, the number one rule is: Don’t Crowd The Basket. Food needs space so that air can circulate and cook evenly. If you aren’t interested in cooking multiple batches, you will want to select a large air fryer with a larger basket. 

Air Frying vs. Deep Frying

As we mentioned above, air fryers don’t fry food, but you can get very similar results by coating food with bread crumbs or using a spritz or two of oil. This means that air frying is a healthier cooking method than a deep fryer which requires dunking food in hot oil.

Air frying requires little to no oil, whereas deep-fried food is not only cooked in oil but absorbs large amounts of oil during the cooking process. Air frying can be a healthier way to get crispy, crunchy food.

Should you put oil in an air fryer? The answer depends on what you are cooking, but there are some guidelines regarding the types of oil to use, how much and when.

Learn More: check out this post, Do You Put Oil In An Air Fryer, to learn everything you need to know.

However do not ever try to use your air fryer as a deep fryer.

What To Expect The First Time You Air Fry

Before using your air fryer for the first time, you should clean all the removable parts with warm, soapy water and dry them before reassembling.

Run your air fryer for about 10 minutes to make sure everything is in working order. The air fryer may be coated with oils from the manufacturer, and you may smell these during the initial heating. 

While the air fryer heats, look over the owner’s manual for your specific model. It’s a wealth of information and probably includes some tasty recipes. If you have a question regarding your air fryer model, it’s probably answered in the manual. 

cooked air fryer chicken strips inside the air fryer basket

Preheating Your Air Fryer

When preheating your air fryer, it’s best to start with the manufacturer’s directions. Most air fryer manufacturers recommend preheating, but not all do; sometimes, it can depend on the recipe. Fortunately, preheating an air fryer only takes a few minutes, not 20-30 minutes like you would need for an oven. 

Preheating can help food cook quicker and more evenly, so it’s a good practice. It will also ensure that your cooking times align with the recipes you select.

Learn more: This post will give you all the necessary info about how to preheat your air fryer

close up view of the air fryer panel set to preheat

What Does An Air Fryer Do?

The air fryer does so much that the better question is what doesn’t an air fryer do. There are a few things, so we’ll get those out of the way before covering all of the great things you can do with an air fryer. 

4 Things You Shouldn’t Do With An Air Fryer

  1. Cook foods with wet batter. The batter will splatter.
  2. Cook leafy greens. The greens will fly around and burn.
  3. Make toast. There are people on both sides of this debate, but you’ll end up with a lot of crumbs that will need to be cleaned out before you can cook anything else. 
  4. Cook rice and pasta. While you can crisp rice and make delicious air fryer pasta chips, the pasta or rice should be cooked separately.  
top down view of the pasta chips in air fryer basket

Things You Can Do With An Air Fryer

Reheating Food. The air fryer is a game-changer when it comes to leftovers. No more sad, soggy leftovers. They will taste just as good as they did the first time.

Some of the best foods to reheat in an air fryer are;

Learn everything you need to know about how to reheat food in air fryer

Frozen Food. Frozen foods are convenient and cooking them in the air fryer is such a great option. Frozen foods cook faster and crispier in air fryer than in a conventional oven. You can cook snacks, vegetables, meat, sides and main dishes from frozen in just minutes.

Some of my favorite frozen foods to cook in the air fryer are;


Be sure to check out my complete round-up of all the amazing Air Fryer Frozen Foods recipes.

Beef. Your air fryer is great for cooking meat like steak. You will get a beautiful sear outside, and the meat will be tender and juicy. 

close of up of air fryer steak sliced on a plate with herb butter

Chicken. We eat a lot of chicken because it’s affordable and versatile. It’s easy to cook chicken like juicy chicken thighs and crispy chicken wings in just a few minutes.

Trust me, you will looooove all of the easy chicken recipes you can cook in your air fryer. 

top down view of the cooked air fryer stuffed chicken breast inside the air fryer basket

Fish. Fish used to be something we only ordered at a restaurant, but it’s easy to make crispy golden air fryer fish. From reheating fried fish to fail-proof air fryer salmon, and this delicious air fryer cod and best ever air fryer tilapia. the air fryer is a valuable tool for enjoying fish at home. 

Check out this awesome list of Air Fryer Fish Recipes.

top down view showing how to reheat fried fish in air fryer

Vegetables. From frozen vegetables like frozen corn on the cob and frozen broccoli to fresh vegetables like green beans and brussels sprouts, the air fryer is one of the best ways to cook up flavorful veggies with almost no effort at all!

Learn more: Check out this collection of Amazing Air Fryer Vegetables Recipes.

close up view of the frozen broccoli in air fryer basket

Desserts. Yep, you can use it to whip up delectable baked goods, desserts, and sweet treats. From bake cupcakes, cookies and banana bread, to S’mores dip, churros or even bake a pie, the air fryer has got you covered.

Learn more: This collection of air fryer desserts are all so delicious and so easy to make, you just may never cook dessert any other way! 


Cleaning Your Air Fryer

Basket-style air fryers must be cleaned after every use. If you use it frequently, perform a light cleaning every time you use it, paying special attention to the basket and drawer.

You should deep clean every few weeks or more with frequent use. The basket may be dishwasher safe, but I recommend hand washing.

Learn more: this post shows you exactly How to Clean Your Air Fryer in 7 Easy Steps

Expert Tips 

  • The noise from the fan is normal. 
  • Food will usually cook at lower temperatures and for shorter times than in an oven. 
  • All air fryers cook differently, so you will want to use cooking times as a guide. Begin checking your food on the lower end of cooking time ranges to avoid overcooking. 
  • Use an oven mitt or tongs to remove food
  • The outside of the air fryer can become hot. 
  • Leave plenty of space around your air fryer. 
  • Cook food in a single layer unless the recipe states otherwise. 
  • It’s okay to pull out the basket and check the progress of your food. 
  • Shake the basket periodically or flip food halfway through cooking. 
  • When using spray oil, use an oil mister rather than PAM or other aerosol cooking spray, which can damage your air fryer. 
  • Don’t use an oil with a low smoke point
  • Don’t spray oil directly in the basket of the air fryer, as it has a nonstick coating that can be damaged by oil. 
  • Don’t use too much oil. You just need a spritz and excess oil won’t improve browning. 
  • Unplug when not in use
  • Always place your hot removable basket on a heat-resistant surface
  • Air fryers often have a pre-determined setting that you can select with a button. I prefer to use the manual setting to control the time and temperature. 
  • Always use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of meats. 


Is An Air Fryer the Same As A Convection Oven?

Convection ovens and air fryers are very similar. Air fryers function based on convection technology but can cook quicker and more evenly than a convection oven due to their compact size and the use of moving air. 

Do You Use Oil In An Air Fryer?

One of the benefits of air frying is that you can achieve results similar to deep frying without a lot of oil. A spritz of oil can keep food from drying out and help you to get beautiful golden results, but you can usually skip it if you prefer oil-free cooking.  This post covers how to do you put oil in an air fryer.

Can You Use Parchment Paper in Air Fryer?

Parchment paper can be helpful when cooking certain foods that may drip through the basket. The problem with parchment is that it blocks the airflow, which means foods won’t get crispy on all sides, so I only use it when absolutely necessary.

Can You Use Foil in Air Fryer?

You can also use aluminum foil in an air fryer. It is great for wrapping up big pieces of meat that you need to cook thoroughly on the inside without burning on the outside like this air fryer ham.

More Air Fryer Recipes You May Like

Thank you for reading my How To Air Fry post. And please come visit again as I continue to slice, dice, and dream up affordable Air Fryer recipes, Instant Pot Recipes, Southern Recipes, and more. Thanks for supporting Recipes from a Pantry, food blog. 

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