3 Air Fryer Hacks That Actually Work (and One That Doesn’t)

updated Jun 24, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you, like us, have hopped on the air-fryer train, you’ve experienced firsthand just how delicious it can make certain foods (I’m looking at you, donuts and orange chicken!), and how much faster and easier it is than traditional cooking methods.

You’re also probably intrigued by some of the things the internet claims the small appliance can do. The trick is figuring out which air fryer hacks are actually useful and which ones just don’t work. To help with that, we put some to the test in our own kitchens. Here are three that absolutely delivered on their promise — plus one that’s simply not worth your time.

3 Air Fryer Hacks That Actually Work

1. It’s the secret to roasting a head of garlic in as little as 15 minutes.

While oven-roasted garlic doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort, it does take a fair amount of time (a minimum of 40 minutes, to be exact). The air fryer produces the same deep golden, velvety smooth, rich-tasting cloves perfect for spreading on bread or blitzing into a sauce in as little as 15 minutes, without turning on the oven and heating up the kitchen.

Our verdict: This works! Read more here.

2. It’s the best cooking vessel for many frozen foods (including Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken).

The next time you’re cooking up a bag of TJ’s Mandarin Orange Chicken, tater tots, fries, chicken nuggets, or pizza pockets, it’s in your best interest to disregard the package instructions and turn to the air fryer. It leaves these popular foods with an ultra-crispy outer layer you just can’t get with oven-baking.

Our verdict: This works! Read more here.

3. It’s great for baked goods.

The air fryer isn’t just for frying — you can also use this small appliance for baking. With the exception of bagels, which bake directly in the air fryer, the key to baking in this small appliance is using the pot-in-pot cooking method (just as you would with the Instant Pot or slow cooker). Using an oven-safe pan (which often comes with the air fryer), you can bake everything from cake and brownies to muffins and egg casseroles.

Our verdict: This works!

A Hack That Didn’t Quite Cut It

1. It’s not great for making popcorn.

Based on so many air fryer successes, you’d think the air fryer would be able to make a really great batch of popcorn. Associate Food Editor Meghan gave it a try, and just like with the Instant Pot, she reported that it was a total disaster. “You’re supposedly able to pop popcorn if you cover it with an aluminum pan or foil, but that doesn’t really work, and instead you end up with corn kernels hitting the fan of the air fryer and making the worst noise! It sounds like a rock hitting a lawn mower blade.”

Our verdict: Skip this and stick with the foolproof stovetop method!