So you just bought an air fryer or you’re looking to up your air fryer game and wondering how to use an air fryer. You’ve come to the right place! In this post, I am breaking down the basics for you. By the end of reading this you will be armed with all the information you need to get started cooking in your air fryer today! I’ll teach you how to set it up, the best foods to cook in it, the different kinds of cooking you can use it for, answers to some commonly asked questions, safety precautions, and how to clean your air fryer.
Pretty soon you’ll be using your new favorite cooking appliance for everything and impressing your family or friends with your new cooking skills! And it’s really not hard to use…you just need to get the basics down!
My new air fryer
So I might be a little behind on the air fryer trend, but it’s better late than never, right? I have a ton of friends who love cooking with their air fryers. I went back and forth about whether I should buy one because I have limited counter space and kitchen storage.
But I figure if so many people are raving about a thing, it MUST be worth the hype.
So I took advantage of the random Amazon Prime Big Deal Days in October and I am now the proud owner of a brand new Ninja AF101. But now I find myself asking…how do I use it? So I thought what better way to learn than to teach you as I go? This post will be about the Ninja AF101 but a lot of the same principles apply for other air fryers, too.
Let’s get into it!
What is an Air Fryer?
First things first, what even is an air fryer? It’s a versatile kitchen appliance that can air fry, broil, bake, roast, reheat, and dehydrate foods. It’s basically an all-purpose cooking device. Pretty much if you can cook it in the oven or microwave or on the stove or grill, you can cook it in the air fryer!
There are 2 types of air fryers: basket air fryers and air fryer ovens. I am going to be talking about how to use the basket air fryer since that’s what I have. But the air fryer oven works similarly.
Benefits of Using an Air Fryer
Once we answer the question of how to use an air fryer, you'll realize there are several benefits to using it! I personally do a lot of small batch cooking and there are a few particular benefits I love.
For one, it’s a time saver! It preheats quicker than the oven and cooks faster, too.
Secondly, it makes for super easy clean up. You literally just have to wash the basket after using it and wipe the main unit down it every now and then. No baking sheets or pots and pans to run through the dishwasher.
It also helps me make easy healthy meals. Since it requires less oil than a deep fryer and it’s so versatile, I can make healthy meals in a flash with it.
On busy days, I appreciate having a cooking appliance that lets me get a healthy dinner on the table in less time with minimal clean up. That’s a total win in my book and well worth the money to get an air fryer and finding the space to store it!
Some other benefits are that it doesn’t get your house as hot as heating the oven does. I can definitely appreciate that in the hot summer months in Texas where I live.
You can also customize how well done or crispy you want your food by checking it and adjusting cooking times. All you have to do is pull out the basket, peek at the food, and decide if it’s done enough for you!
Lastly, unlike an oven it’s portable and all you need is an electric outlet to use it.
How an Air Fryer Works
The name can be a little deceiving if it brings about visions of immersing foods in oil like is done with deep frying. Instead, air fryers actually require very little oil.
An air fryer is basically a mini convection oven. It cooks food by circulating air around the food which removes moisture from the food and gives it a crispy finish similar to regular frying without all the added fat.
Air Fryer Parts
Heating element + fan: the heating element is found above the basket and there is a fan above that helps to circulate the hot air around the food to heat it evenly.
Basket: the basket holds the food you are frying. You can get different sized baskets depending on how big of recipes you want to make. I personally got the 4 quart option. There’s also a smaller 2.6 quart option or larger 7, 8, and 10 options. There are single basket air fryers or double basket options so you can cook 2 different foods at the same time! Super convenient, especially if you are feeding a family. Get the protein going in one basket and the side or veggie in another and have dinner on the table in no time!
Crisper Tray: the crisper tray holds up the food and has holes in it and allows hot air to circulate around the food.
What to do When you First Open Your Air Fryer
Well the first step is pretty obvious… take it out of the box! Isn’t the sight of a brand new appliance so exciting? The world of possibilities just opened for all kinds of new recipes.
Each air fryer is a bit different so be sure you read the instruction manual for yours to figure out how to set it up.
I suggest to get familiar with yours first. You can play with the control panel where you’ll find the function buttons that allow you to select your cooking method, and set the cooking temperature and cook time.
After making sure to get rid of all the packaging and stickers, the instruction manual for my new Ninja AF101 said to wash the basket and crisper plate with hot soapy water, rinse and dry it. You’ll want to be sure to clean the basket inside of the air fryer to get off factory oils so preheat it to 400 degrees F and let it run for about 5 minutes before using it for any food in it.
How do You Use an Air Fryer for Cooking?
So now your air fryer is clean and ready to use, you’ve familiarized yourself with the buttons on the control panel, and you’re finally ready to know how to use it for your cooking!
Using an air fryer is pretty straightforward! You basically prepare the food you are cooking (this part will depend on the recipe you’re using), set the temperature, let the it preheat for a couple minutes, and set the timer.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions and some extra tips to help you master how to use an air fryer:
How do I get an evenly crispy end product?
It’s a great idea to open the basket at least one time halfway through cooking in your air dryer to shake the food in the basket. This will help the food to cook evenly and make everything that nice and crispy brown you are looking for!
Also, when you’re loading up your air fryer basket, be sure to space everything out so it cooks more evenly. Don’t layer or stack a bunch of food on top of each other. The hot air that circulates needs to be able to get around the food to cook it!
Can I use oil in an air fryer?
The way you use oil in an air fryer is very different from the way you use it with deep frying. Since with an air fryer, the heat is circulating around the food to cook it, it does help to add some oil to the food before you cook it to get that desired crispy and browning of the food and to keep it moist. But you don’t need much! Follow the recipe you are using, but in general tossing the food in just a couple of teaspoons before throwing it in your air fryer does the trick!
An easy rule of thumb is that if you would add oil when cooking the food in the oven, add a little oil when cooking it in your air fryer. Foods like vegetables will need some oil, while meats and some frozen foods won’t.
An important thing to note is that you shouldn’t use oil sprays like Pam in your air fryer. This is because an ingredient called soy lecithin in oil sprays can damage non-stick surfaces like the surface of the basket in your air fryer. You can spray the food in the basket with an oil spray, but make sure you don’t spray the basket itself.
Another option is to buy an oil mister and add your oil to it to spray your food! This works perfectly and the great part is you can use your favorite oil and don’t have to worry about buying a separate can of cooking spray.
To recap on oil and your air fryer:
- Don’t put oil directly on your air fryer basket. Instead, coat the food itself in a little oil before adding it to your air fryer. Amounts will vary depending on your recipe and what you’re cooking.
- Don’t spray the air fryer basket with a spray like Pam. If you want to use an oil spray to evenly disperse oil, get yourself an oil mister and use pure oil in it!
- Some frozen foods with oil as an ingredient won’t require any extra oil, but most other things will require some.
- A little bit of oil can go a long way for making foods more moist and crispy in your air fryer!
Is using an air fryer healthy?
The air fryer is a healthier alternative to a deep fryer. You can absolutely make many healthy recipes in your air fryer! Of course, you can also make less healthy recipes in your air fryer too. I like a balance but I mostly use it for healthy cooking.
Do I need to preheat my air fryer?
Whether you need to preheat your air fryer or not depends on the air fryer you get so be sure you read the manual for yours! For most air fryers, it’s a good idea to let it preheat for about 3 minutes and add your food after that. If you’re in a hurry, you absolutely don’t have to preheat your air fryer, but it does help for cooking foods evenly.
Air fryer to oven conversion
You can use the air fryer for oven recipes by using the “roast” function and decreasing the temperature by 25 degrees. You’ll then cut the cook time by 20%. So if a recipe would bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes, you’ll want to set your air fryer to 375 degrees F and cook it for 32 minutes. Every recipe will be a bit different so be sure to check it frequently for doneness!
Other Air Fryer Tips
Dry your food before you add it to the air fryer. Otherwise you’ll end up steaming your food rather than frying it for the crispy outcome.
Check your food frequently while it’s cooking so it doesn’t get burned! And be sure to shake it halfway through, too.
Use a meat thermometer to make sure meats are done when using an air fryer.
What are the Best Foods to Cook in an Air Fryer?
Honestly, you can cook pretty much anything in an air fryer! It’s best for foods that you want to turn out browned or crunchy and it turns out juicy meats, too.
My favorite thing to use it for is vegetables because I love how much less time it takes to cook them in the air fryer rather than roasting them in the oven. You can roast brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, or carrots. It takes way less time to do squash or potatoes in the air fryer too. And you can cook things like frozen french fries in the air fryer quickly!
Another example of how to use an air fryer is for cooking proteins. You can cook animal proteins like chicken, turkey, seafood, pork or steak. Or use you air fryer for some plant proteins too! For example, tofu tempeh, and beans can all be cooked using your air fryer!
Another great way to use your air fryer is to make baked goods or dehydrate foods. Suffice it to say, an air fryer can be used to cook pretty much anything your heart desires.
Be sure to read the instruction manual for all the safety precautions for your air fryer but here are some of the basics:
- If your air fryer doesn’t have some kind of little legs or ledges to keep it lifted, be sure to put a wood board or platform to put under the air fryer so it doesn’t get your countertops hot!
- The heat comes out from the back of the air fryer. So be sure to move the air fryer away from the wall (at least 5 inches) to allow circulation.
- Give your air fryer plenty of space on the counter.
- Unplug your air fryer when you aren’t using it.
- Don’t overcrowd the basket and go easy on the oil.
- Don’t leave your air fryer running when you aren’t near it
How to Clean Your Air Fryer
Cleaning your air fryer is so easy! But one thing to note off the bat is never submerge the main unit of your air fryer in water. This is where the electric part of the air fryer is.
Again here, every air fryer will be a little bit different, but the idea is generally the same. When you are done using your air fryer, remove the basket from the main unit and the crisper tray from the basket. Wash the basket and crisper tray with warm soapy water. For stubborn messes, soak the basket and crisper tray in soapy water. Wipe out the bottom chamber of the air fryer to clean any drippings from foods. You can do this with a paper towel or dishcloth.
Are Air Fryer Baskets Dishwasher Safe?
Be sure to check the user manual for your air fryer to see if the basket is dishwasher safe. Personally, I just wash mine by hand with soap and water. That way it’ll last longer and plus, it’s super easy to clean that way.
You can also use aluminum foil or parchment paper underneath your food to save on the mess after cooking. There’s even parchment paper made specifically for use in an air fryer but you can also use the regular stuff!
So there you go! I hope that after reading this you feel confident to start using your air fryer. If there are any questions or anything I’m missing, please let me know. Otherwise, happy air frying! 🙂