Here's Everything You Need To Know About Your Air Fryer

So, you finally did it. You've been hearing your friends and family talk about air fryers for ages, and you've finally gone out and gotten one of your own. Congratulations! You must be so excited. And while air fryers are generally easy tools to use, you may still be trying to figure everything out. That's totally okay — every new kitchen appliance has a learning curve. And that's why we're here to help. Here at Mashed, we've decided to collect the intel on your air fryer so you know exactly what you're doing the next time you decide to fry up some chicken wings, broccoli, or french fries.

Once you have all the important info on your air fryer, you can feel free to get creative with whatever you decide to cook in it. Whether you're more interested in using it for pre-made, already-frozen items or you just want to take your from-scratch home cooking to a whole new level, we've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about your air fryer.

You can really cut down on the oil

Probably the main reason air fryers have gained in popularity so much in recent years is the fact that you can prepare traditionally fried food in a much healthier way in your air fryer. But you may be wondering what makes it so much healthier. Well, it all comes down to the amount of fat, generally oil, you have to use. In an air fryer, you can cut down on that oil a lot, if not entirely.

You usually have to deep fry your food if you want it to reach that desired crispness we all love. But to do that, you basically just have to soak whatever it is you're frying in oil for several minutes. But because air fryers cook food at a super-high temperature using a high-powered fan, you can use a lot less oil. Some foods, like meat, don't require any additional fat at all.

So, if you've been looking for a way to cut back on your oil intake without sacrificing taste, then your air fryer is definitely going to get the job done.

It's a lot less messy than deep-frying

Admittedly, we do love deep-fried food. Who doesn't? But there are some downsides to deep-fried food, especially if you're making it in your own kitchen. There are the health concerns, of course, but it's also just a super-messy process to fry anything in your own kitchen, per Tiny Kitchen Divas. Seemingly no matter what you do, it's impossible to prevent all oil splatters when you're deep-frying. And because oil is notoriously difficult to clean up, deep-frying can be a huge hassle even after you've eaten the food. Plus, you're not supposed to dump oil down the sink, so then you have to find a way to clean that up as well.

Here's another reason why people love their air fryers so much. Because you don't have to use a ton of oil in your air fryer, you're not going to have any of these issues. Therefore, not only can you get healthier fried food, but it's also a way easier and more mess-free process. In the end, that saves you time, and who doesn't want that?

They're getting more and more popular

It's not just you and your circle of friends: Air fryers really are getting more popular. The first modern commercial air fryer hit the market in 2010, but it didn't gain a ton of traction until recently. However, over the past few years, things have changed drastically. Go on any social media, and you will see countless photos of the food people have made with their air fryers. Go to any bookshop with a cookbook section, and you'll undoubtedly see entire volumes of air fryer recipes.

But you don't have to take our word for it: The proof is in the numbers. According to NPD Group, as of July 2020, almost 40% of American households own an air fryer. That's a huge percentage of people that are finding a way to use this appliance in their everyday lives.

If air fryers continue to rise in popularity, as seems to be the case, then we'll surely see more air fryer-friendly recipes hitting cookbooks and recipe blogs in the coming months and years.

You can use it to heat up your leftovers

Went out to a restaurant and brought your leftovers home with you? Or just want to heat up the meal you made last night that's been sitting in the fridge? If you're like most people, you probably think about using the microwave first. In the past, if you wanted to heat up your food quickly, that was just the way to do it. Sure, you could always use the oven, but considering that takes so much longer, many people just go with the quicker option.

However, you may not realize that you can actually use your air fryer to heat up your leftovers. You know how many fried foods or foods with breadcrumbs get sad, soggy, and moist when you put them in the microwave? Well, you're not going to have the same problem when you use your air fryer instead. And since your air fryer can cook food so quickly, you won't be waiting around forever like you would have to if you were to use an oven instead. Sounds like the best of both worlds to us.

It might take up counter space you don't have

There's plenty to love about air fryers, but that doesn't mean that they don't come without issues. One of the most notable drawbacks is the amount of space they take up in your kitchen. Some people opt for smaller air fryers, which obviously take up less room, but those aren't exactly ideal when it comes to a large family. If you have a larger kitchen or plenty of storage space where you can keep your air fryer when you're not actively using it, then you may not even see this as a problem.

However, for those who live in smaller spaces or don't have as much storage or countertop space to work with, you really have to consider the pros and cons of keeping your air fryer around. If you're really limited on space in your kitchen, you may want to find a closet or some other out-of-the-way storage space where you can keep it when you're not using it.

Your food may cook faster than you're expecting it to

Many people use an air fryer to replace deep-frying in their kitchens. However, it can also be used in place of an oven since an air fryer is basically just a powerful convection oven. However, if you're used to baking and roasting in your oven, you should be aware that you're dealing with something completely different when you turn on your air fryer.

Some new air fryer users are expecting their food to take a longer time to cook. But these appliances really can cut down on cook time significantly. Therefore, it's important to follow recipe directions closely. And if you're reading a recipe that tells you to use an oven, you're going to have to adjust the timing if you decide to use your air fryer instead.

Keep in mind that the less food you have in the basket of your air fryer, the quicker it will cook. If you add in more food, it will take longer.

It's important to shake the basket while your food is cooking

In general, air fryers don't require much hands-on work to get the job done. You pretty much just throw in the food, wait, and then eat. However, if you want to cook your food perfectly, there actually is a step that you should be taking every so often while your food cooks. About halfway through your cook time, you'll want to shake the basket of your air fryer a bit. This will ensure that your food won't stick to the basket.

When you do this, you may think that it's a good time to add some cooking spray to the basket. But that's something you'll actually want to avoid. If you spray oil into the basket while it's actually in the machine, you're going to get a sticky residue on the surface of your air fryer. That can be difficult to clean, so it's best just to avoid it altogether.

Your air fryer can get noisy

Sure, you could argue that air fryers are perfect in some ways. They can help you prepare healthier food, they're easier and cleaner to use than a deep-fryer, and they cook the crispy fried food you crave. But nothing is totally perfect — not even your air fryer. And the first time you turn it on, you'll understand why. As Air Fryer Bro points out, air fryers can, in fact, get quite loud. That's because they use high-powered fans that move heat around to cook your food. Because that fan is moving so fast, it makes a loud whirring.

Is this sound so loud that your neighbors will be knocking at your door telling you to turn it down? No. But could it wake up a sleeping baby? Quite possibly. Overall, we think that the slightly annoying sound is worth it. Plus, some brands are louder than others, so just do your research if you want to make sure you avoid that.

You might use a lower temperature than you would with your oven

You're following a delicious-looking recipe when suddenly, you notice that it's designed for the oven, not for an air fryer. Oh well, you think. Why not just follow the same recipe but use the air fryer instead? Generally, you can do this, but you may ultimately need to adjust the temperature. Air fryers usually don't need to be turned up to such a high temperature to cook your food properly. And if you're used to cooking in an oven, it can take some time to get used to the difference.

Therefore, if you see a suspiciously low temperature when you're following an air fryer recipe, don't worry — it's probably right. And if you're adapting a recipe from an oven for use with an air fryer, remember that you're not going to want to crank up the heat like you would in an oven. With a bit of practice and patience, you'll get a handle on how hot your air fryer cooks, so you can adjust accordingly.

Your air fryer can essentially replace your oven

Some people have endlessly decked-out kitchens that contain all the appliances anyone could ever wish for. However, not everyone is that lucky. Maybe you live in a big city in a small space, or maybe you don't have central air conditioning and the thought of turning on your oven in the middle of the summer sounds laughable. Whatever the case may be, using an oven on a regular basis may just not work for you. And if that's the case, you may be happy to learn that an air fryer can essentially replace an oven in your kitchen.

Of course, an air fryer can't do absolutely everything an oven can do. Cooking a massive turkey for a Thanksgiving party probably isn't going to happen. But when it comes to everyday cooking, an air fryer can do most of the jobs an oven would normally take care of. So, if you don't have an oven or just don't want to worry about turning yours on, turn to your air fryer instead. It may just save you some time and energy in the kitchen.

Adding oil halfway through cooking can make your food crispier

You already know that you shouldn't mist your food with cooking spray while the basket is actually in the air fryer — that's just asking for a huge mess. However, that doesn't mean you should be afraid to add more oil during the cooking process at all. While we all love air fryers because we can use less oil while we're cooking our favorite foods, just a small amount of oil can make a huge difference when it comes to using your air fryer. Try adding more oil to your food halfway through the cook time.

Of course, this isn't necessary if you're cooking foods that are already quite moist. Most meats, for example, aren't going to need any additional oil. Other foods, though, like vegetables, tofu, or tempeh may benefit from an extra drizzle of whatever oil you're using. Give it a try, and see how much more crispy your food ends up.

It's important to clean your air fryer regularly

So, what happens if you start smelling smoke while you're using your air fryer. Well, first, you should probably turn it off. The next step is simple: Clean your air fryer! Most problems with smoking ultimately came down to a dirty air fryer. America's Test Kitchen suggests cleaning the area around the air fryer's heating element, as any residual oil there could be causing the smell.

If that doesn't work, you may want to clean the whole appliance. Some of the removable parts of air fryers are dishwasher safe, but don't place yours in the dishwasher until you're sure that they are. You should also clean the outside of your air fryer. Using a bit of detergent along with water will ensure that you can clean up any leftover oil.

You won't have to do this deep clean every time you use your air fryer, but try to do it on a regular basis so you don't have any issues.

It's possible to cook an entire chicken in your air fryer

One of the best parts of using an air fryer is the fact that you can cook a ton of unexpected foods that generally are much more difficult to prepare. Of course, you probably already know that you can cook chicken wings, drumsticks, or even breasts, in some cases, in your air fryer. But you probably didn't realize that you can cook an entire chicken.

Yes, you read that right. Meghan Splawn wrote for The Kitchn about her air fryer experience, and she actually managed to cook an entire chicken in her air fryer. She said that she had an air fryer that was on the smaller side. Even so, she managed to fit a three-pound chicken in it. If you have a bigger air fryer, you can go larger. She even said that the end result was the "platonic ideal of rotisserie chicken," so it's definitely something you should try out.

You should use a thermometer if you're cooking meat in your air fryer

If you've been cooking for a while, then you probably feel pretty confident about cooking chicken in the oven and shrimp in a pan. But if you're new to using an air fryer, you may not have that same familiarity you've come to depend on for other cooking methods. This can make it difficult to ensure that you're cooking your food all the way through. For foods like fries or veggies, this isn't a big deal — just try it and keep cooking it if it's still too crunchy. But with meat, you really want to make sure you're cooking it thoroughly before you try any.

That's why we recommend using a meat thermometer when you cook meat in your air fryer. That way, you don't have to rely on any guesswork when it comes to making sure your meat is cooked all the way through. Otherwise, you could end up with under- or over-cooked meat, and nobody wants that.