A Guide to Air Fryers
I have introduced many of my friends to air frying by now, and they often come to me for technical advice and instructions about use, maintenance, extra gadgets, and for cooking tips and tricks. Here are some of the most common questions.
How Does One Heat Frozen, Prepared Foods?
There Aren’t Any Air Fryer Heating Times on the Package.
Some people buy air fryers simply because they don’t enjoy to (or have time to, or know how to) cook, and some people just want their fried treats to be less fatty. The only potentially intimidating part is that packaged foods do not help out with instructions for air fryer cooking.
Conversion is a scary term, but what’s needed is pretty simple. Air fryers will cook food faster than a conventional oven and sometimes require shaking (shrimp, fries) like a deep fryer does, or flipping and stirring, as oven instructions do. Here is a cooking chart from the Blue Jean Chef that is good guide for basic cooking times and temperatures.
For perfection, the prepared, coated food is sprayed with a little olive or canola oil, for maximum crispiness. Don’t spray a pizza, though!
Most prepared foods cook faster and at higher temperatures than are recommended for oven heating. Once you have converted and cooked a few, you will have the hang of it.
Here Are Some Tips:
- Do not use microwave heating directions with an air fryer.
- Do not use oven cooking directions as printed on the package.
- Do shake the baskets as in a deep fryer, or flip the foods as you would in an oven.
- Do spray the food with a little cooking oil to make sure it crisps.
- Or spritz it. You can fill a food safe spritz bottle with your favorite oil. This is said to be better for nonstick surfaces, as well.
Can I Reheat Foods in an Air Fryer?
I have recommended air fryers to many friends who have kids in college dorms or who live in cramped quarters, and of course reheating is an important issue. An air fryer could be the perfect multi-purpose tool for one of those notorious 200 square foot Manhattan apartments. Air frying is very popular in the UK, as well.
If you have leftover Chinese take out you should use a little air fryer common sense and add a touch of oil, and stir at least once while reheating. For leftover steak, potatoes, and veggies, put the potato in first, steak second, and veggies last, the latter with a spray of oil.
Check out Pinterest for some fun air fryer reheating ideas.
Reheating Will Work Well For:
- Anything crispy (wings, pizza, fried chicken, pastries)
- Air fryers are not good for reheating soups, stews, gravies, etc.
- Turn the temperature down. If you cooked the product at 400 degrees, reheat at 250.
- Thaw frozen leftovers before reheating.
- Once again, do not mistake an air fryer for a Microwave!
Common Cooking Questions:
Everyone knows that cooking requires some common sense, so let’s take a deeper look at how your new appliance works.
We know that air fryers work using the Maillard Effect, but what does this mean, exactly? (see Wikipedia’s article (Maillard Reaction). The Maillard effect is the browning of amino acids, while caramelization is the browning of sugars, but even professional Chefs use the terms interchangeably because most foods contain both proteins and sugars, and air fryers brown both ways.
Also, air fryers also work like a convection oven. So the air frying process isn’t such a mystery, after all.
An air fryer immerses fried food in hot air, instead of hot oil. Convection ovens immerse foods in hot air, too. People that use convection ovens for the first time notice that they cook food differently than conventional ovens do, faster and more evenly. (Yes, technically you could deep fry in an oven, but you never should put a pan of oil in any type of oven, including an air fryer, as it might ignite or explode!)
Why did my air fried wings come out soggy? Spray the wings with a little oil for crispiness, and check that you are using the correct temperature and timing.
Why do some of my recipes taste even better air fried? This is because of the even, circulating heat, and because no regular oven or microwave can imitate deep frying like an air fryer does. Also, deep fat frying is tricky at home and frequently leads to oil-soaked results.
Why can’t I cook a bacon and egg breakfast in an air fryer? Not all cooking responds well to even heat, and eggs are a great example of this. Add to this that there is some debate about bacon. It appears on the cooking charts, but it is also said that air fryer simply doesn’t have the ventilation to handle the smoke created by the drippings. Specially processed bacon (precooked, or turkey) should air fry just fine.
Here is a group of four very basic air fryer recipes, turkey and mushroom patties, meatloaf slices, roasted potatoes, and a veggie curry, all with instructions, to give you a feel for your machine. link here
Some Additional Tips for Air Fryer Cooking:
- Cooking times will differ in an air fryer, and not always in ways you would expect Here again is the handy cooking chart.
- If you are preparing your own fried foods, don’t use a wet batter, like beer batter or tempura. Https://tasteofhome.com/recipes/ has a neat British recipe that converts the beer batter into a crumb crust.
- Even heat is not appropriate for every dish. Sunny side up eggs is a good example.
- Very wet food or oily foods are not appropriate for an air fryer.
- Air fryers do not work like pressure cookers. They do not cook with steam.
- You shouldn’t ever use a lid with an air fryer. Recipes that require a lid won’t work well and may explode.
- You must turn, shake, or stir many air fried foods because if you do not, the air will be blocked from heating them evenly. This does not apply to baked goods.
- Air fryers always must be preheated. The rule of thumb is simple; always preheat, even for dishes that would not normally require it. (example recipe)
- Adding oil: you have probably noted by now that air fried does not mean fat-free. Here is an example of a tasty recipe that uses a little oil. Delicious and she leads in with a nice little blog on air-frying.
How Do I Clean My Air Fryer?
Will a Dishwasher Hurt It? What if I See Steam or Smoke?
One of the joys of air frying is the easy cleanup, which will be apparent immediately if you ever deep fry at home. All air fryers models have parts are covered with an oven-safe nonstick coating, which can, technically, be washed in the sink, in the dishwasher, or simply wiped clean. Be a wise shopper, though. Cheaper models may have a flimsier coating that scratches and peels more easily. Most of the complaints about air fryers have to do with peeling coating.
Non-stick coating has its own special demands. Here are a few links about the care of nonstick cookware, but bear in mind that air fryers usually coated in a way that tolerates heat. http://www.thekitchn.com/tips-for-taking-better-care-of-your-nonstick-cookware-198670 and https://www.thespruce.com/nonstick-cookware-bakeware-care-4071576
Non-Stick Surface Care:
- Never use a scouring pad, steel wool, or other abrasive pad to clean nonstick surfaces.
- Don’t use steel utensils to flip or stir. Use plastic or coated ones. Wooden tools work also, but they tend to harbor germs, and really shouldn’t be used for anything but decoration.
- If food is stuck to the pan or tray, soak it for a little while, and then wash. Sometimes putting water in the pan and gently heating it does the trick even better.
- Dishwashers should be on a gentle cycle with a gentle detergent. I have read that dishwashers are too hot for most non-stick surfaces, but I do not think that that applies to bakeware, which is designed for high heat.
- Don’t use nonstick spray on the air fryer pans themselves. Coat the food with oil, instead.
- Do keep the whole air fryer clean. This is important! Leftover oil or crumbs can ignite.
- Do replace a pan if the non-stick surface scratches.
- Oily and wet foods are inappropriate for air fryers and may produce smoke or steam. So might electrical failure! Unplug immediately, and call the manufacturer. See below for some tips on what foods shouldn’t be air-fried.
- If an air fryer won’t turn on, call the manufacturer.
What About Useful Accessories?
You can purchase many fun gadgets for your air fryer. One of the most popular is a rotisserie/kebab rack, which is usually double racked on the bottom to maximize space. Amazon has a large selection, and you can find sets on Ebay and other sites as well.
There is also a large, upright rotisserie attachment that fits larger air fryers, which is suitable for a whole chicken.
You can buy a special grill ‘pan’, which is perforated on both sides for air flow and stimulates grilling meats outdoors, or a sheet pan if you like to bake.
There are also sets of space maximizing accessories, which are very popular. Most of these accessories fit most models of air fryer, but you want to check compatibility. Extra baskets are available as well. Many accessories are intended to maximize space, and some are specialty items geared to the type foods you like to cook the most. Square and loaf shaped pans are handy for avid bakers.
If you happen to own a rack or oven dish that fits into your air fryer, you can probably use it, but avoid cast iron, aluminum, and coated items not intended for air frying.
Experimenting with your air fryer can be a lot of fun, so bon appetit, and enjoy your air frying!