Top 10 tips you should know when using an air fryer

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 30 July 2021

Air fryers are all the rage these days, and it’s easy to see why. With fast cooking times and the ability to crisp up your favourite foods with a lot less fat, Aussie home chefs are flocking to nab one for their kitchens. Chances are, you’ve got one too, but how do you actually use an air fryer?

Whether you’re using your new fryer for the first time, or you just want some extra tips under your belt to up your air fryer cooking game, then keep these tips in mind when you’re using your home appliance.

An air fryer with potato and sweet potato chips covered in seasoning in the basket.

1. Give your air fryer some personal space

Air fryers need ventilation, so they require a bit of breathing room. As a rule of thumb, allow at least 10cm of clearance on all sides of the air fryer - this includes behind and above it, so don’t push it against a wall or use it in a kitchen cavity.

These kitchen appliances should also be placed on a stable, heat-proof surface. If you’re unsure whether your kitchen counter is up to the task, you may want to consider buying a heatproof mat or board for your fryer to sit on.

2. Mix your spices and seasonings with oil before adding them to your fryer

Mixing your oil and your seasonings together may seem like an annoying extra step and one more bowl to clean up, but there’s a good reason for this - it stops your seasonings from blowing around the air fryer.

Air fryers don’t technically fry food. Instead, they use a fan to circulate hot air around food to cook it, which means any loose spices you put into your fryer will likely just blow around.

Blending your ingredients and coating your food in the mixture will help ensure that you can enjoy well-seasoned, delicious (faux-)fried food.

3. Preheat your air fryer before you start cooking

Air fryers can usually do with a preheat to work their magic - just like an oven.

If your fryer doesn’t have a preheat setting, simply turn the air fryer on and adjust it to the temperature that you want to cook at. This will help ensure that the ingredients in your basket - particularly meats - start cooking and crisping up on the outside straight away, rather than slowly steaming and turning into a soggy mess.

Different air fryers may require different preheat times, but most need somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes to get up to the right heat level.

Some air fryers on sale are advertised as not needing a preheat, but you should try both and see for yourself whether there’s a difference in the crispiness of your food. You can use the time it takes to preheat to chop your veggies, gather the seasonings you need from the pantry, and finish prepping your food.

4. Don't overfill the basket

As much as we wish it were the case, you can’t fill your fryer’s basket to the brim for quicker cooking and have beautifully crisped food, as overcrowding your fryer will hinder the air circulation that’s necessary for even browning.

This is particularly important if you’re cooking small items that you want extra crispy, such as fries and chopped veggies.

If you’re working with a small air fryer and want to make a larger amount of food than your basket can handle, cook items in small batches. If you find yourself doing this often, then you might find that the best air fryer for you is a large air fryer that’s better suited to your household size - it may be a huge time-saver.

5. Shake the basket halfway through frying

When you’re preparing larger amounts of food, or if the food in your basket touches each other, then shake the basket about halfway through the cooking process. For even more consistent results, shake the basket 2 or 3 times during cooking.

If you’re worried about this slowing down cooking times, don’t - you don’t need to turn your air fryer off when you do this.

A black air fryer with a rotisserie chicken inside it surrounded by air fried foods.

6. Use a small amount of oil

Do you put oil in an air fryer? There are plenty of claims floating around that air fryers don’t require any oil to work, but yes, you still do need oil to cook your food.

When it comes to oil, less is usually more when it comes to air fryers - that’s good news if you’ve bought yours to make healthier dishes. Too much oil can make your food soggy rather than crispy when you air fry it.

There is an exception to this rule though: you can generally skip the oil for many frozen foods, as these are already often coated in oil.

Which oil should I use in my air fryer?

That depends on what temperature you’re cooking at. Look for oils with a smoke point that suits your cooking; this is the temperature at which an oil will start to burn and smoke, leaving your food tasting a bit burnt.

Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 210°C, so it’s suitable for most types of cooking. If your air fryer has a higher maximum temperature that you want to cook at, go for a more refined oil like light olive oil - this has a smoke point of 240°C.

7. Add water to the drawer when you cook fatty foods

Adding a small amount of water to the drawer before you start to cook fatty foods like bacon and chicken wings helps prevent the fat that collects in the pan from smoking - the water stops the grease from getting too hot in the first place. If you don’t do this, you might find that you have to turn off your fryer, drain the grease, and then start cooking again.

8. Then save the drippings from the drawer for your next meal

The fat that collects in the pan doesn’t have to go to waste; you can save it for future cooking, even if it’s mixed with a bit of water. It’s packed with flavour, and can be put away in a Tupperware container to later use for gravies and stir fry sauces - delicious!

If you’ve received an air fryer cookbook with your new appliance, then you can utilise drippings in some of these recipes.

9. Use alfoil to speed up the clean up

Good news: you can use aluminium foil in an air fryer (provided you’re putting it on a wire rack rather than a flat base), which means you can make a mess and not have to spend precious time putting elbow grease into cleaning oil and sticky sauces off your fryer.

Using alfoil or parchment paper means you can enjoy sticky wings and sauce-drenched foods without having to dread your post-feed clean up, and will help protect your fryer’s non-stick coating when you shake it.

Tip: ensure that the foil doesn’t cover the entirety of the basket’s base, as you still want to allow enough airflow to cook your food well.

10. Clean your air fryer every time you use it

Not cleaning your fryer regularly can result in some nasty odours, and a buildup of oil may cause smoke when you’re cooking.

Make sure your air fryer has completely cooled down before you start the clean up. Wipe down the internal cavity, and use soap and water to clean the basket and the drawer that collects drippings.

Are air fryers dishwasher-safe?

There are plenty of air fryers whose parts are advertised as safe to stick in the dishwasher (more cheap air fryers are less likely to be marked as dishwasher-safe), but doing so may wear away the fryer’s non-stick surfaces more quickly. If you have the time, washing by hand can help you prolong your fryer’s lifespan.

You can read more about air fryers and see some of the best-rated ones on our site here.