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What is an Air Fryer?
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If you love fried food like I do — and really, who doesn’t? — it can be really hard to give it up whenever you go on a diet or vow to live a healthier lifestyle.
French fries and all those little appetizers taste so good, but when they’re made in a traditional deep fryer, they’re loaded down with excess fat and grease.
That makes it tasty, but it’s also pretty bad for you.
But what if there was a way to get crisp, delicious, fried food flavor without dunking your food into a vat of oil? Well, that would be a Nobel prize-winning invention, right?
I’d be willing to trade up for that miracle kitchen appliance in an instant!
Luckily, the holy grail I’ve been seeking has already arrived. It’s an air fryer, and it’s pretty great. You can make all kinds of yummy snacks for movie night, game night or any kind of night with the family.
It even makes regular old dinner veggies into a crispy treat that’s a nice change of pace when you’re
tired of trying to get everyone on board with broccoli and other green stuff.
So, I thought I would share some tips, tricks and help for anyone who might be asking themselves how to work this wonderful machine. I wrote this Ultimate Guide to the Instant Pot awhile back, and I’m hoping you enjoy this one as much as that!
I will be publishing new and delicious Air Fryer recipes in the near future. Make sure you click here or signup below to make sure you get those recipes when they become available!
Which Air Fryer Should You Get?
There are a whole bunch of different air fryers out there, and knowing which one to pick can take some serious research. The right one for you depends on the size of your family, how much you like fried food and the features that are most important to you.
Before you choose, be sure to consider these features and compare them
- Overall Size: To get the most use out of your air fryer, you’ll want to keep it out on the counter where you have easy access to it. Look for one that has a compact footprint and convenient features like a retractable cord so it’s close at hand when you need it, but easy to hide
away when you don’t.
- Capacity: The exterior size of an air fryer doesn’t have much to do with how much food you can make in it. If you’re feeding a family, I recommend getting the largest cooking capacity you can — while still fitting nicely on your counter — so you aren’t tempted to crowd food in and end up with underdone pieces (more on this later).
- Materials: Plastic interiors are somewhat porous and can trap odors over time. Look for models with a stainless steel interior that are easy to clean and stay fresh-smelling even under heavy use. It’s also a good idea to look for dishwasher-safe accessories and fittings to make cleanup a snap.
- Bells and Whistles: if you’re a gadget-lover, you’ll be happy with lots of buttons and presets to help you get just the right amount of “doneness” on your dishes. If you’re a minimalist, you’ll be happy with a more streamlined interface to get the job done.
I was sent the Avalon Bay Digital Air Fryer AB-Airfryer230B, and it works really well for me. It’s got a good amount of presets that made the learning curve on air frying a lot easier, and the stainless steel interior is really easy to clean. I also like the way it looks and fits in my kitchen!
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Getting Started With the Air Fryer
Air fryers are basically the same in that they use convection heating to blow hot air around your food and make it nice and crispy, imitating the way fried food feels in your mouth. They’re all a little different, so you should refer to your manual for specifics, but here are the very first steps to take to set yours up:
- Unpack and inspect your air fryer. Make sure you have all the parts listed in your manual and that everything is in good shape. If not, it’s time to call the manufacturer for help!
- Wash your accessories. Start with a clean slate any time you’re using something that will touch your food — warm water and a bit of dish soap will work fine. There’s no need to wash the main housing, but do wash accessories like baking dishes, grilling grates and the air fryer basket.
- Set up the air fryer. Find a level spot on your counter and plug it in to make sure it works. Open the hatch to the cooking space, insert your cooking basket and close it up. Now you’re ready to cook!
You Might Not Know the Air Fryer Could . . .
Obviously, your air fryer can make some killer French fries, but it can also
make a whole bunch of other genius snacks and goodies. Bet you weren’t
Air Fryer Hacks and Tips
Always Preheat Your Air Fryer
Just like the regular oven, it’s a good idea to bring your air fryer up to temperature before you add the food. This ensures quicker cooking a perfect crisping.
Use a Spray Bottle for Oil
Technically, you don’t need any oil at all for spray frying, but a light misting of olive oil will really boost flavor. It also helps veggies and other items brown up more quickly. It’s much easier to get an even coating with a spray than a drizzle, so this is a great, inexpensive investment in happy frying.
Don’t Stuff the Basket!
This is probably the number one skill involved in air frying. You can’t just pack food into the basket and expect the items trapped in the middle to get done.
Fill the cooking area loosely, and shake or flip items at least once to ensure even browning.
Add Water for Meats
If you’re going all in on air frying chicken wings, bacon or anything else with natural fat, that fat’s going to drip. Add a bit of water to the tray under the basket when cooking high-fat foods so that the grease doesn’t create excess smoke in the high temps of the air fryer. This will also make it easier to clean
Wipe Out the Inside Regularly
You’re obviously going to clean your basket and cooking accessories after each use, but don’t forget to wipe down the interior walls of your air fryer, too.
Wait until it cools and use a damp sponge — I like the kind with a scouring pad on one side for a little extra oomph, but it’s rarely necessary since there’s so little oil to stick to the sides.
What Setting Do You Use?
Your mileage may vary depending on your favorite foods and the setting available on your machine. In general, there are two different ways to use an air fryer: presets and manual settings.
My air fryer has a nice menu of presets that are the right temperature and timing for a variety of foods.
It’s a no-brainer to select the right icon for fish, meat, baking, fries and more. This is by far the easiest way to get started with the air fryer without worrying about messing up a batch of treats.
Once I felt comfortable using the air fryer for a variety of dishes, I was ready to branch out. There are tons of great air fryer recipes on the internet — Pinterest, as always, is a great source! — and almost all of them come with traditional temperatures and cooking times.
With a recipe in hand, it’s as easy to set your air fryer as it is to use your conventional oven, and I probably use the manual setting more than anything else now that I know what I’m doing.
Air Fryer Accessories
My air fryer came with the standard basket as well as a grilling tray and a baking dish. These are designed to fit exactly in the cooking cavity, and I’m not sure that accessories made for other fryers would work in it.
Depending on your air fryer model, you may already have or be interested in investing in the following:
- Grill racks (with varying distance between bars for different foods)
- Racks with kebab skewers
- Baking dishes (available in varying depths)
- Oil atomizer or spray bottles
- Silicone pads
How to Clean the Air Fryer
The less oil you use, the easier your air fryer is to keep clean. Still, any time you use a cooking spray, breading or make naturally fatty food like fried chicken wings, you’re bound to have a bit of clean up to do.
To clean your fryer, start with the accessories. These get washed just like ordinary dishes. If they’re dishwasher safe, pop them in with everything else — though I do recommend putting any plastic pieces on the top shelf, away from the heating element.
If accessories aren’t dishwasher safe — or if they have a non-stick coating, like your baking pan might — you can hand wash these with warm to hot water and regular dish detergent.
As for the inside of your fryer, you will occasionally need to wipe this clean as well. To do that, unplug your fryer to avoid a shock, and wait until the machine is completely cool to get started so you don’t burn yourself.
Use a damp sponge at first to see if spills come up easily. If not, a bit of grease-cutting dish detergent and a scouring pad should do the trick.
A word of warning: Never submerge your air fryer in water to wash it. You could easily short out all the electrical wiring inside — especially if you have a digital fryer with computerized settings!
Air Fryer Terminology
An air fryer is a pretty straightforward appliance, and it doesn’t have its own lingo the way something like an Instant Pot does. Still, there are definitely some terms to understand so that you get what your machine is doing:
- Convection: This is the heating method used by an air fryer. It’s not really “frying” at all, because you’re not fully or partially submerging your food in hot oil to cook it. Instead, convection works by circulating hot air around food. Like a convection oven, this method is faster than a
conventional, “passive” oven where the warm air just sits there.
- Single Layer Cooking: For the crispiest, fastest cooking, many air frying recipes will call for a single layer only. If you come across this direction, be sure to follow it! It may take longer to make all of your appetizers this way, but they’ll be better — and you won’t have to go back and redo ones that aren’t nice and golden brown.
- Breading: Lots of air-fryer cooking calls for breading food before you cook it. Make sure you do it properly, dipping the item in flour first, then egg and finally breadcrumbs. Press breadcrumbs into the surface of the food as much as possible so your coating doesn’t blow away with the rapid air technology and interior fans.
- Maillard Effect: This is the crisp, golden brown surface of meats, breads and other foods that happens when the exterior is cooked quickly at a high temperature. This is what your air fryer does so well!
My Favorite Air Fryer Uses
There are so many great ways to use an air fryer, but here are some of my
- Frozen Fries: In a regular oven these are limp, soggy pieces of sadness, but pop them in an air fryer, and it’s like you went to your favorite fast food place (but so much healthier).
- Tiger Shrimp: Gordon Ramsey designed this recipe specifically for the air fryer, and it’s delicious! Tiger shrimp are nice and big, but if you can’t find them, regular shrimp will taste just as good. Just keep an eye on them because they’ll cook up fast.
- Fried Chicken: You can prepare this exactly as you would before deep frying or pan frying, but then put it in the air fryer instead. I like to add a healthy dose of cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt to my breadcrumbs for extra flavor. This is a great use of the preset to make sure the meat gets done well, but check it frequently the first time you try it, especially since wings will be done faster than breasts.
- Salmon: Admittedly, I don’t love salmon, but I try to make it for our family for health purposes. Because I don’t love eating it, I don’t love making it. Making it in the Air Fryer is SO much more convenient!