If you haven’t yet purchased an air fryer and are curious about how they work, you’re in the right spot. So, how do you use an air fryer?…
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know before buying an air fryer unit or before you start cooking. Whether you have a basket style air fryer or an air fryer oven, learning how to use an air fryer will be a similar process.
How to Use an Air Fryer
After becoming the proud owner of three different types of air fryers, we quickly learned that one area many models fall short is with a user manual. I don’t know if some companies were just in a rush to meet demand and get the popular air fryer out the door or what, but two out of the three we purchased didn’t cover enough of the basics on how to use an air fryer and we had to search for more info on their websites and in air fryer Facebook groups.
From covering basic safety precautions with air frying, to doing your first test run, and how do you actually cook in the dang thing, we got you covered!
Safety Precautions Before You Start
- Remove all of the packaging that came with the unit – be on the lookout for tiny hidden stickers and plastic bits that might be easy to miss.
- Just like your oven, air fryers can get very HOT. To avoid damaging walls or cupboards it’s important to pull the air fryer away from the wall at least 5-6″, making sure to leave plenty of room on all sides.
- Placing the air fryer model on a stable, flat surface like the counter is best.
- You’ll want to remove the air frying basket and wash it before the first use. Many air fryers have a non-stick basket, so you’ll want to treat it just like you would a non-stick pan…meaning only use gentle cleaners, keep it out of the dishwasher, and only use non-stick utensils to remove the food.
- Never put anything on top of the air fryer, this can restrict airflow.
- An air fryer does not need oil like a deep fat fryer, don’t ever pour oil into the air fryer.
Before you get started cooking for the first time in your device, doing a test run is essential. Not only does it teach you the basics of how the air fryer works, but it burns off the plastic smell that’s common with new appliances.
For many air fryer models, you’ll do a test run for 10-15 minutes on 400F. Be sure to check the owner’s manual of the exact model you’re purchasing to walk through the steps on how to do this.
Important Tip – A common complaint from new air fryer users is that after doing a test run they still smell a chemical plastic smell. This happened to us also with all three of our air fryers. We suggest opening up the kitchen windows for ventilation and doing the air fryer test run over and over again until the odor goes away, which could even take 3-4 times.
Using the Air Fryer
So how do you actually use the dang thing? The basic steps on how to use an air fryer include preheating the unit, spreading the food in an even layer in the basket, and then flipping the food halfway during cooking.
Some models have simple knobs that have you turn a temperature dial and time dial just like an oven, other models have digital controls and use preset buttons that already include the cooking time and temperature for common foods like a preheat button, chicken, vegetables, or steak. Note: the presets are rarely accurate and we almost always use manual settings.
Regardless of the type of air fryer you’re looking to buy or have purchased, the first step to air frying is to preheat the unit before you start cooking. Just like with your oven, you want to preheat the fryer or otherwise the food might not cook evenly and the recipe you’re following might not turn out.
To preheat an air fryer, run the machine for 5 minutes at 400F. For some units, you’ll have to manually set this with the dials and for others, they come with a preheat button.
Make sure to evenly space the food in the air fryer basket, leaving room on all sides to cook the food as evenly as possible.
Most recipes will have you flip the food half way. Let the food rest for 5 minutes after cooking to let it cool slightly.
Shaking the Basket
You’ve probably seen the photos on the internet of overflowing air fryer baskets of french fries packed to the top. Many air fryer models make it seem like the food can be packed in the air fryer and all you have to do is periodically give the basket a shake to make perfectly cooked and crispy french fries.
We’re sorry to burst that impression, but overcrowded air fryers do not make crispy food and your french fries will not cook evenly.
While you can stack a smaller amount of food in the air fryer basket and periodically shake it every 4-5 minutes until cooked through, the food still won’t turn out as good as cooking it all in a single layer.
When at all possible, spread the food in a single layer with room on all sides and flip halfway through cooking. This will honestly give you the BEST results. For us that meant with only two adults in the household (since our two kids flew the coop), we purchased an air fryer that would still hold enough food for 4-5 people.
To keep your air fryer basket in good shape and to keep the non-stick interior from getting scratched, you’ll want to take care of it just like you would if it were a non-stick skillet.
This means to use a gentle cleaner like Bon Ami powder or biodegradable dish soap like Dawn, use a gentle sponge, and always wash the basket by hand.
If you have an aluminum air fryer basket, which is more common in the air fryer ovens, after gently removing stuck on food, it can be washed in a dishwasher.
Never soak the air fryer in water, then clean the outside of the air fryer, wash it down with a damp cloth or sponge.
We hope our overview on how to use an air fryer was helpful! Be sure to comment below if you have additional questions.
Need More Air Fryer Help?
If you’re needing more help beyond asking the question how do you use an air fryer and you’re ready to either purchase one or want to learn all the tips and tricks, check out our other air frying resources.
- The Best Types of Air Fryers to Buy
- Best Air Fryer Accessories
- 15 Must Know Air Fryer Tips
- Air Fryer Cook Times Printable
- Air Fryer Recipes for Beginners