Learn how to use an air fryer, so you can make the most of this handy kitchen appliance! This guide includes videos and answers frequently asked questions.
I'm obsessed with my air fryer. It's one of the kitchen tools that I use on a daily basis. From cooking full meals to veggie sides and snacks, it takes a lot of the time and effort out of cooking.
Let's dive into the most common air fryer questions I've been getting from readers.
Looking for recipes? I have dozens of vegan air fryer recipes for you to choose from!
Air fryers 101 video
The video below was sponsored by ZenChef. All opinions are 100% my own. I loved my ZenChef Pro XXL, but that air fryer has been discontinued. The DASH one that I have now is very similar.
Getting started with your air fryer
When you first get your air fryer, unbox it, and make sure any plastic and paper packaging/instructions are removed. You don't want to cook the instruction manual!
Next, I recommend cleaning the basket with warm, soapy water and letting it dry. Then, it's ready to use!
To use your air fryer, simply arrange the food in the basket, and cook according to directions. I definitely suggest that you follow good air fryer recipes as you get the hang of how to cook with it.
The FAQ and below answers common questions that I have gotten about how to use an air fryer, from how to cook frozen food to how to keep it clean.
If you have a question that I don't address below, let me know! I want this guide to be as comprehensive as possible.
Frequently asked questions
If a recipe is telling you to shake the basket, it's referring to a basket-style air fryer. To shake, you just move the basket quickly back and forth a handful of times to move the food around and prevent sticking.
You can stir instead of shaking, if you have an air fryer oven. If your oven tray is nonstick, make sure that you use a wooden, plastic, or rubber utensil. Metal and nonstick do not get along!
Paddle style air fryers don't need to be shaken, since the paddle moves the food around the whole time.
I get this question often, and the answer really depends. Some air fryer recipes do call for oil, some use no oil, and some have optional oil.
When I do use oil in an air fryer recipe, it's to add either flavor, moisture, or texture. If it's possible to skip the oil in a recipe, I include oil-free options. It's really up to you!
One important note about oil: Often, a recipe will just call for a spritz of spray oil. Do not use aerosol spray on the basket! Aerosol spray can damage your basket's nonstick coating.
Instead of an aerosol can of oil, invest in a non-aerosol spray bottle. The cool thing about these is that they're refillable, and you can fill them with any liquid oil you like! You can also brush on oil, if you don't want to pony up for a spray bottle.
This is a question I get a lot, because some air fryer recipes specify a three minute preheat.
Unless a recipe specifies preheating, I always skip it. Part of an air fryer's beauty is that it's small, so it heats up super quickly. You can always add a few minutes on the back end, if your food doesn't seem like it's cooked to your liking.
Think of the air fryer as a super hot, super fast oven. It's even faster than a convection oven, and you use it for dry cooking. Think things like roasted vegetables, baking cookies, or making crispy okra or tofu.
What you can't cook in an air fryer are things that I think of as "wet" dishes. Soups, stews, etc can't be cooked in an air fryer. For that, I recommend using your Instant Pot.
My absolute favorite way to use my air fryer is to cook tofu or potatoes. They both cook up so much more quickly and get delightfully crispy in there!
My air fryer journey has been long and meandering, so I'm just going to cut to the chase here.
My current brand of choice is this one from DASH. It is hands-down my favorite, from a function and size perspective, and the price is right.
I have tested many, many brands. Seriously, I have purchased, returned, and exchanged over a dozen air fryers on my quest to find a favorite one. This is the one.
If you're cooking for one or two, a two quart basket, should do the trick for you. The downside to the two quart is that most generic air fryer accessories are made for three quarts and larger, so if you're an accessories person, you might want to get a larger one, just for that.
For up to about three people, a three or four quart model will work fine. For my family of three, I was good with my old 3.7 quart fryer, but I have enjoyed the larger, six quart basket on my newer one. It means I can cook with leftovers in mind!
If you have a family of four to six people, I'd definitely suggest opting for a fryer with a 5-6 quart basket.
Most air fryers are very easy to clean. Though, of course, this depends on the model.
Make sure that you choose an air fryer with a basket that comes apart for easy cleaning (if it has a basket). With most conventional, basket-style air fryers, you can pop the inner basket away from the outer basket, so you can easily wipe away anything that falls through the holes and clean the bottom of the inner basket.
If you have a combo oven, the tray should come out completely, and you can wash it with the soft side of a sponge. I do find that oil sticks onto the lower tray of my combo oven, so if you do use oil in your air fryer, this is something to consider. I like to line that bottom tray with foil for easy cleaning. Don't cover the mesh tray in foil, since this can hinder airflow.
If something is stuck on, just soak your basket or try in warm, soapy water until it softens enough to wipe away with a sponge.
DO NOT use an abrasive cleaner or abrasive sponge to clean the nonstick basket, because you don't want to damage the nonstick surface. Regular dish soap and a regular sponge are all you should need to clean your air fryer.
Is the body of your air fryer getting stinky? It's possible to clean this, too! Just unplug it, let it cool completely, then use a damp sponge to gently wipe down the inside, paying special attention to the vent on the back. Food can get stuck in the vent. Gently dislodge it to remove it.
I have soaked my potatoes exactly one time, the first time I made air fried French fries. It's supposed to help get rid of some of the starch, and technically you're supposed to do the same thing for oven fries.
I honestly don't feel like it makes enough of a difference in the finished fry, considering the added time. If you want to soak, go for it; if not, don't!
Looking for how to make perfect air fryer fries? I lay out all the dos and don'ts in this detailed post.
The air fryer is my preferred method for cooking the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger.
Just place the patties into the basket, making sure they don't overlap, and cook at 400° F for 12-15 minutes, until they're done to your liking.
Do not add anything else, like fries or tots, to the basket. Your burgers won't cook properly if there is other food piled on top of them.
Think of an air fryer as a speedy veggie roaster plus a deep "fryer" that doesn’t use cups and cups of oil.
Instead of boiling in oil, like a deep fryer, an air fryer uses hot, circulating air to cook food to crispy perfection.
Some air fryer recipes are completely oil free. Others use just a little bit of oil to prevent sticking and get that extra crispiness.
Between my air fryer and Instant Pot, I sometimes cook for weeks while barely touching the stove or oven. That’s especially great in the summer when you don’t want to heat up the house.
An air fryer also cooks food considerably faster than an oven, usually about half the time. That's faster than a convection oven, which cooks in 75% of the time of a conventional oven.
There are three kinds of countertop air fryers:
1. basket air fryers -- These are vaguely egg-shaped and have a removable basket.
2. air fryer ovens -- These look like a toaster oven and often include other functions in addition to air frying.
3. paddle air fryers -- This style has a rotating paddle that stirs the food as it cooks.
I don't have an lot of experience with paddle air fryers but have cooked extensively with both basket and ovens-style ones.
I prefer the basket style, as I find those are most consistent when it comes to cooking times and temperatures.
I've used a couple of different air fryer combo ovens and had very different experiences. My first combo oven was a Cuisinart, and I currently have a Kitchen Aid Digital Countertop Oven that includes an air fryer function.
I found the air fryer function a little bit inconsistent on the Cuisinart, and both are harder to clean than my basket air fryers. That said, it's not a bad option, especially if you're trying to conserve space.
The thing to keep in mind is that combo ovens tend to cook differently than conventional air fryers. My Cuisinart was much faster, and the Kitchen Aid is slightly slower than the basket-style units I've used.
If your combo oven cooks things quickly, just make sure you check in more often to ensure your food doesn't burn. If it's slower, you may need to add to the cooking time to get your food cooked properly.
Sometimes, you aren't looking for a full recipe, and you just want to make something frozen and fast. I've got you!
Your air fryer is great for cooking up frozen tater tots and frozen French fries. It's also perfect for warming up frozen veggie burgers or nuggets. There are two ways you can go about this:
1. If the bag has oven directions, just cook that frozen item at the same temperature (or as close as you can get) for half the time. This is a starting point, so you may need to add a few minutes to your cooking time at the end.
2. No oven directions? No problem! Most frozen items, like spring rolls or vegan nuggets, cook in 8-12 minutes at 400° F. Again, that's a starting point. You may need to add a few minutes to the end of that range, especially if you're cooking something that's on the larger side, like a frozen vegan roast.
Cooking frozen food (video)
Want more info on cooking frozen food in the air fryer? I created the video below, which I think you'll find helpful!
Do you have more questions that I didn't answer? I want this FAQ to continue to be a helpful resource, so feel free to ask away.