How to Use an Air Fryer

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The air fryer is one of the most versatile appliances in today’s kitchen! Learn how to use an air fryer to cook, reheat, and achieve that “fried” texture without frying in oil. Once you cook in the air fryer you will never look back!

Feel confident using your air fryer with this beginner’s guide! I can’t wait for you to try some of my tried and true air fryer recipes like this perfectly juicy chicken, these wings, or my brown sugar salmon.

Close view of an air fryer with the basket open.

Reasons to LOVE the Air Fryer

  • Fast and Easy: Reduce the cooking time on recipes with the touch of a button!
  • A Healthy Alternative: No more deep-frying food in oil! The air fryer eliminates using oil and cuts the fat content.
  • Crispy Results: The air fryer achieves that golden crispy texture on your favorite recipes!

How Does an Air Fryer Work?

What is an air fryer and how does it work? Air fryers are essentially small convection ovens. This means they work via the use of a heating element and a fan that circulates the hot air, which is why you don’t need to use very much oil when frying foods. The advantage it has over a traditional convection oven is the size! Since it’s much smaller, it takes a fraction of the time to come up to the temperature and cook your food. Check out my guide for choosing the right one to buy!

This appliance is a game-changer! It’s a huge time saver and acts like a second oven. I have so many easy and convenient recipes on the blog that use this incredible appliance! Check out my Best Air Fryer Recipe Roundup and this Healthy Recipes Roundup. I use the basket style, but I have also used the toaster oven style. The toaster oven style will have several settings in addition to the air fry mode, but both work great! 

Close view of a toaster oven air fryer with the door open.Close view of a toaster oven air fryer with the door open.

What to Cook in an Air Fryer?

The possibilities with an air fryer are endless! From making an entire meal to cooking frozen foods to simply reheating leftovers. You will find it to be one of your most used appliances!

Dinners, Sides, and Desserts

Frozen Foods and Snacks

  • Frozen Foods: Using it to cook frozen food is a must, and it’s even better than an oven! Use it to cook frozen meatballs, frozen French fries, or frozen corn dogs. It’s even easy for my kids to use when I don’t have time to help them.
  • Easy Snacks: It can do anything a microwave or oven can do! Use it to make easy snacks like quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nachos!
  • Extras: I love using it for things you wouldn’t even think of! Did you know you can hard-boil eggs in the air fryer? You totally can! I also love it for making homemade tortilla chips, potato chips, and croutons for my salads! The possibilities are endless!

Safety Tips

The first thing you want to do when you purchase an air fryer is go through the user manual. There will be specific information about your particular model as well as safety information. Here are some more safety tips to keep in mind when using this appliance.

  • Well-Ventilated Area: When using your air fryer, always place it in a well-ventilated area, away from walls. Whether you store it in a cabinet or on the counter, always pull it out into an open area so the ventilation system in the air fryer can work properly.
  • Less Oil, the Better: Although air fryers are meant for frying, it’s not frying in the traditional sense. Never fill an air fryer basket with oil! Foods are meant to be lightly coated in oil and cooked in the air fryer, never submerged. 
  • Use Hot Pads: Use heat-safe gear when using an air fryer. Oven mitts and hot pads are a must with an air fryer! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned myself on my air fryer being a little careless reaching into a hot basket!
  • Store it Unplugged: I like to keep my air fryer unplugged when it’s not in use just to be sure I never leave it running by mistake. 
  • Remove Crumbs: Always empty the basket after each use. Avoid leaving any crumbs or leftover pieces in the bottom because the residue can burn during the next use.

Cooking Temperatures and Times

What temperature should you cook food in the air fryer? A good rule of thumb is to set your air fryer 25 degrees Fahrenheit lower than you would if you were cooking in an oven. It’s best to follow recipes when learning how to cook your food. But once you become familiar with it, you will have a good idea of what temperature to set the air fryer to. Here are general cooking temperatures and times for common foods:

  • Leftovers: 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 4-8 minutes.
  • Frozen Foods: 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-15 minutes.
  • Bacon: 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Vegetables: 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes.
  • Chicken: 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
  • Steak: 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-15 minutes.
  • Seafood: 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

Food-Safe Temperatures

It’s important to cook your meat to safe temperatures when using the air fryer!

  • Chicken: Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  • Beef: Cook to an internal temperature of 140-160°F (60-71°C).
  • Pork: Cook to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
  • Fish and Shellfish: Cook to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
  • Reheating Leftovers: Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Top view of a whole chicken cooked in an air fryer.Top view of a whole chicken cooked in an air fryer.

Tips For Cooking in the Air Fryer

Once you get the hang of using the air fryer, these tips will help you achieve perfect results every time!

  • Is Preheating Necessary? Not necessarily, because air fryers generally work just fine without preheating. Some manuals will suggest preheating before cooking, but I don’t ever preheat mine.
  • Spacing: Avoid crowding your air fryer basket! Always leave space between the items in the air fryer for the hot air to move between. You never want to stack food in the basket. This will ensure your food is fully cooked through and has the desired texture on the outside.
  • Shake and Flip: Most recipes will have you shake the food or flip items halfway through the cooking time. Flipping is essential to certain recipes getting evenly cooked and crispy on both sides.
  • Take a Peek: Don’t be afraid to open your air fryer basket to check on the food! Because of how it works, you never disrupt the cooking process by opening the appliance. It’s like pushing “pause.” Simply pull open the basket then push it back into place to continue the cooking process.
  • Parchment Paper Inserts: One of my favorite cleaning hacks doesn’t involve any cleaning at all! Use a parchment paper insert made specifically to fit any style of air fryer like here or here. These disposable liners will cut down on the cleaning. Simply place a liner into the basket, add the food, and then cook like normal!

Cleaning the Air Fryer

When it comes to cleaning your air fryer be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions first for any safety information involved with cleaning. But here are a few methods I recommend:

  1. Remove Any Crumbs: Always remove any crumbs that have fallen to the bottom of the basket. With the toaster oven style, there should be a pull-out mechanism for the bottom of the basket that catches crumbs, which you can remove and empty. 
  2. Hot Water and Soap: The most straightforward way to clean the basket and inserts is with hot soapy water and a dish scrubber. Avoid using anything too abrasive to avoid stripping the non-stick coating. Rinse with warm water and dry before replacing the basket.
  3. Vinegar and Lemon Juice Steam: In a small heat-safe dish, add ¼ cup white vinegar and the juice of 1 lemon. Place the dish inside the basket, set it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then air fry for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, let the basket sit undisturbed for 30 minutes to allow the steam to penetrate the grease and grime. Remove the dish, dispose of any leftover liquid, then rinse or wipe down all the surfaces with a clean rag.
  4. Lemon and Baking Soda: Another great method for cutting through tough grease is lemon and baking soda. Make a paste by combining the juice of 1 lemon and about 3-4 tablespoons of baking soda. Use a dish scrubber to apply the paste to the basket and scrub. Again, don’t use a brush that is too abrasive. Scrub and rinse with hot water. Allow the pieces to fully dry before using.
Items labeled to use when cleaning an air fryer.Items labeled to use when cleaning an air fryer.

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