Air fryers are great appliances to have in your kitchen. They allow you to cook healthier alternatives to deep-fried food by employing convection cooking. Air fryers use far less oil than deep frying, and they also have quick cooking times and are easy to use.
Since air fryers consume less oil compared to typical fry cooking, it is considered more nutritional and has less fat. According to WebMD, using air fryers will cut down calories by 10%.
You can use an air fryer for cooking anything from roast chicken and chips to roast vegetables and finger food. In this guide, we look at how to use an air fryer, including cooking and cleaning.
Understanding an Air Fryer – The Basic Components
Before we delve into the step-by-step guide, let us look at the design of an air fryer. Regardless of the manufacturer, convection ovens generally share similar features. The main components of a convection oven include the fan, heating element, control panel, body, and food drawer.
Fan and Heating Element
Air fryers work based on convection cooking. This is achieved via the internal fan and heating element. The fan circulates air around the internal chamber and into the cooking partition. Simultaneously, the heating element heats the air to temperatures above 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is this circulation of hot air that cooks the food evenly.
An air fryer typically has an LCD or LED control panel on the top section of the main body. This is where you control the timing and temperature of the cooking. The complexity of the control panel will vary depending on the model. For example, some fryers will have only basic controls to set the time or temperature.
Alternatively, others may have advanced controls and allow you to select pre-programmed settings for various foods.
Food Drawer and Fryer Basket
At the bottom of the fryer, there is the food drawer. The food drawer is removable and often has an attachable handle. Inside the food drawer, you can find an air fryer basket. The basket is typically made of metal. This aids the cooking process and helps with heat conduction. Also, the basket usually has a grid configuration so that the hot air can effectively reach the underside of the food.
The food drawer and basket are the two components that get the dirtiest. This is because they are in direct contact with food and oil.
The body or main unit is the housing of the air fryer. Many air fryers are slightly larger than a double toaster but smaller than a microwave. They take up a decent amount of counter space, so this is something to consider when buying a new air fryer. There is a fan, heating element, control panel, and food drawer within the main body.
How to Use an Air Fryer – A Step-by-Step Guide
Luckily, air fryers are some of the easier kitchen appliances to use. If you read the instruction manual, the process should become clear. However, we have provided a simple step-by-step guide for you to follow. This includes using the air fryer and keeping it clean to make sure it continues to function optimally for a long time.
Step 1: Prepare Your Food
Before even preparing your food, there is something else to do. The first time you use your air fryer, you must read the air fryer instructions. The instructions will explain how the control panel works, how to access the food drawer, and the maximum capacity of the fryer, for example.
If you do not read the instructions properly, you may not cook your food properly, leading to health issues. Once you are clear on the operation, you can prepare your food. This could include peeling potatoes, or adding herbs to meat, for example. This is also the time to separate your food if you need to cook in more than one batch.
Step 2: Add Food and Oil to the Fryer Basket
With the food prepared, you can add the food to the heat-proof food drawer. Make sure that you spread the food evenly on the frying basket. If you don’t do this, the circulated air may not reach all of the items properly. This could result in the central covered items remaining uncooked.
With the food in place, you can then add the oil. Check with the manufacturer, but you should only use oil and not cooking spray in most circumstances. Many cooking sprays contain agents that can damage the non-stick coating of the food drawer.
The amount of oil should be minimum. This is one of the main benefits of an air fryer – it uses a reduced amount of oil compared to deep-frying.
Step 3: Set the Time And/or Temperature and Start the Cooking Process
Once the food and oil are in the drawer, close it and turn your attention to the control panel. You should already have an idea of cooking times. If not, check the instructions. Often the manual will also contain basic information on cooking times for a variety of foods.
You can now set the time and/or temperature. If you have an advanced air fryer with pre-programmed cooking options, you can select the corresponding food you are cooking.
Step 4: Remove the Food and Enjoy!
The food should now cook as planned. Depending on the food, you may wish to stop the cooking process mid-way and turn the food over. This will ensure even cooking and that you get an even crispy coating on things like chips.
When the cooking is done, you can remove the food and enjoy it! Make sure to turn the air fryer off and unplug it after use. Also, follow our cleaning guide below after each use.
How to Clean Your Air Fryer
Aside from using your air fryer, another important process you must understand is cleaning. These appliances can get incredibly dirty and greasy if not cleaned regularly. This is because you are using oil, and like an oven, the interior of the air fryer can quickly get coated in grease. You must therefore understand how to clean your air fryer effectively.
The Basic Cleaning Process
The cleaning process is relatively simple. In most cases, you will need some dish soap, a scrub brush, and warm water. You can see the basic process below:
- Unplug the air fryer from the mains outlet
- Remove the air fryer basket and food drawer
- Wash the air fryer basket and drawer in warm soapy water
- Use a baking soda paste to remove any stubborn stains
- Wipe the exterior of the air fryer
- Dry the components and the exterior thoroughly
As you can see, this is a relatively simple process. You can make it even easier by using a dishwasher to wash the basket and drawer if they are made from dishwasher-safe materials. Step 4 is also optional and should mainly be reserved for a deep clean. A mixture of baking soda and a few teaspoons of water creates a paste. This paste can be worked into the components and remove any grime. The paste should also not damage the non-stick surface of the food drawer.
Before using the air fryer again to cook food, make sure that all the components are dry completely to avoid any electrical issues.
How Often to Clean Air Fryers
There are two types of cleaning for your air fryer, as mentioned above – the basic clean and the deep clean. As a rule of thumb, you should perform a basic clean each time you use your air fryer. If you do not do this, the grease and food debris can quickly build up. This could create nasty odours but also reduce the effectiveness of the cooking process. Also, you should perform a deep clean approximately once per month.
Although we recommend a deep clean once per month, also look at your circumstance. For example, if you only use your air fryer once or twice per month, a deep clean this frequently is not required. Use your common sense and deep clean your air fryer when you feel it is appropriate or when you can visibly see a light coating of grime and grease.
What Can You Cook in an Air Fryer?
Now that we have looked at the basics, we can discuss what food you can cook via air frying. These are surprisingly versatile appliances. Many people think they can only be used to make french fries. However, you can use them for many frozen foods, finger foods, and various types of meat and desserts. We look at some of the main categories and air fryer recipes below.
One of the main things you can use air fryers is to cook potatoes. Air fryers make delicious french fries/chips. They are less fatty than deep-fried foods and less greasy. This is due to the smaller amount of oil used. Also, the excess oil helps give the chips a wonderful golden crispy skin whilst still keeping the potato soft inside.
You can also use most air fryer models to make things like tater tots, potato wedges, and even roast potatoes for a Sunday roast.
Roasting vegetables offers a different way to present your greens. However, one of the main issues is that when cooking them in an oven, you often get excess grease, and you have to use a lot of oil. This can ultimately make them less healthy.
However, you can use a convection oven to make roast vegetables! They cook fantastically in this type of oven. Also, you use far less oil, so the vegetables retain most of their goodness and fresh taste. You cannot, however, use an air fryer to boil vegetables traditionally.
Meat and Fish
Using an air fryer, you can cook a variety of meat and fish. Chicken is one of the most popular meats to cook in an air fryer. For example, you can cook chicken nuggets, chicken wings, chicken breasts, and even a whole chicken for a roast dinner. Air-fried chicken has a great taste as it keeps most of its moisture. Also, the skin or breadcrumbs are usually crispy.
An air fryer can also be used for cooking bacon, pork chops, steaks, lamb chops, and more. The relative cooking time compared to an oven is also quicker due to the compact cooking bay.
If you want to include more fish in your diet, air fryers are great for cooking seafood. For example, you can cook most types of fish fillets like haddock, cod, and salmon. Also, you can cook smaller seafood items like fish sticks and fish fingers.
Some Baked Desserts
Aside from snacks and main meals, most air fryers can also cook some desserts. You cannot cook any fatty foods or desserts made from liquid batter, however. You can bake things like apple fritters, scones, brownies, sponge cakes, muffins, and cupcakes. There is a huge range of recipes available for air fryer desserts that people have developed for these appliances.
Start Air Frying!
We hope you have found this guide on how to use an air fryer beneficial. Air fryers are great kitchen appliances that allow you to cook quick and healthy meals. Luckily, they are also relatively easy to use and use less oil than a traditional deep fryer. Providing that you prepare your food properly, use only a small amount of oil, and set the time and temperature, you should be able to cook food like a pro!