Learn how to go from novice cook to air fryer professional with these easy tips.

By Rachel Mulcahy
January 25, 2020
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If your mother-in-law just gifted you the air fryer you’ve always dreamed of, chances are it’s still sitting in your pantry collecting dust because you don’t know how to properly use it. While the air fryer sounds intimidating, this appliance is actually easier to use than your oven, and the recipes are certainly tastier.  Air fryers are essentially portable convection ovens that cook food with circulated dry air. The end result: Your food is crispy, tender, and done in half the time. If you find yourself puzzled with where to even start with your air fryer, don’t fret: We created an easy step-by-step guide to make the most use out of your appliance from start to finish. We listed out easy tips on how to cook meats and vegetables and how to effectively clean your fryer. By the time you’re done, you’ll feel like an air fryer professional—you might even get carried away and start air frying every meal.

How to Regulate Cooking Temperature With An Air Fryer

It’s important to preheat your air fryer 5 minutes prior to use—just like you would preheat your oven. Since it’s a smaller space than a large convection oven and the air is constantly circulating, the temperature does not need to be quite as hot. If your recipe isn’t made for an air fryer, a great rule of thumb is to deduct 25° from the stated temperature. So if your food should cook at 375°, knock it down to 350°.

Always Use Cooking Spray or Oil

Whether you like to use canola oil, cooking spray, or olive oil—it is important to lightly coat your dish with oil. Chicken, pork chops, and vegetables should be lightly covered with oil and seasoning before being placed in the air fryer. Lightly spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray before use. This light-oil method ensures that your food will turn out crispy and golden brown.

Ensure Even Cooking Temperature

Although air fryers praise the hands-off approach, it is important to check your food throughout the cooking process to make sure the temperature is evenly distributed throughout the food.

  • For meats: Grab a pair of tongs and flip them halfway through cooking.
  • For vegetables: As tempting as it is to shake the basket to turn your veggies, it’s the least effective way to distribute heat. Halfway through cooking, take the veggies out of the air fryer and place them in a bowl and add more seasonings (such as salt and herbs if desired). Then place the vegetables back into the fryer.

How to Achieve a Crispy Finish

Oil does wonders in browning meats and vegetables. If you want crispier results, try adding breadcrumbs such as panko on top of the lightly oiled food.

How to Achieve Mess-Free Results

If you’re cooking with delicate foods such as fish, it’s important to line your air fryer with a sheet of aluminum foil. Fold the foil in half and line the basket from the bottom of the basket up to the sides to resemble a makeshift sling. When the fish is done you can easily pull the foil out of the fryer.

How to Clean Your Air Fryer

After your delicious meal is finished, it’s time to clean your air fryer. We recommend cleaning your air fryer every time you use it, but the process of cleaning is not as daunting as you think.

  1. Unplug air fryer and take out the basket and the pan.
  2. Take a microfiber cloth and dampen it with hot water to clean the exterior of the appliance. Then, to clean the interior take a non-abrasive sponge and scrub the interior of the fryer.
  3. Next, clean the heating element by turning your air fryer upside-down and gently scrub it with a sponge.
  4. Most of the baskets and pans are dishwasher-safe, so load them into your dishwasher and let the dishwasher do the work. If you want to clean it yourself—hot water, dish soap, and a non-abrasive sponge will do the trick.
  5. If there’s tough residue on your baskets and pans, soak them in hot water for about 10 minutes. Then scrub the residue away with a non-abrasive sponge.
  6. All that’s left to do is to dry your appliance. We recommend to air dry the individual parts, but you can also take a cloth to dry the appliance. After it’s all dry, put it back together and you’ll be ready to tackle your next tasty air fryer recipe.