Got a New Air Fryer? Here Are 8 Things You Need to Know.

updated Jan 6, 2021
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It took me a while to jump on the air fryer bandwagon. I’m often skeptical of fads, and usually prefer to do my cooking the old-fashioned way. That’s why, when I received an air fryer as a birthday gift last year, I let it sit in the box for months. I only took it out when the sheer boredom of pandemic lockdown had me looking to try new things. I was surprised to find out how much it could do.  

Don’t let the word “fryer” fool you: An air fryer is capable of much more than making french fries and chicken nuggets. It’s faster than an oven, healthier than a deep fryer, and can do things that will make your microwave jealous. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not a foolproof appliance. I also made several mistakes while putting my air fryer to the test. Here are eight things I wish I knew when I first got my air fryer.

1. You can use it to bake bread.

If you’re anything like me and Oprah, you love bread. You can use your air fryer to make delicious, mini loaves. It’s a great baking project to do on breaks while working from home. You’ll still need small pans and will have to wait for the dough to rise, but your air fryer can get the job done. Who knew?

2. Dry seasoning can be a recipe for disaster.

The air fryer is essentially a convection oven that cooks your food by using a high-speed fan to circulate very hot air. If you’re sprinkling dry seasoning on before cooking, it’s going to get blown all over the insides of the machine. Learn from my mistakes and apply a little oil to the seasoning mixture so it’ll stick to your food while it cooks. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3. It’s a marvel with steaks.

Making a perfect steak is an art. Using an air fryer almost feels like cheating. Steaks cook fast and evenly, without all the smoke and mess. I was worried about ruining a nice cut of meat, but the results made the air fryer my go-to appliance for making a great steak.

4. Big birds aren’t gonna fly.

Even if you’ve got an air fryer with a large basket, you’re going to have a difficult time successfully cooking a whole chicken. Don’t even think about a turkey. A large bird simply takes up too much space for the air to circulate properly. By the time it’s fully cooked, the outside will be hard, dry, and disappointing.  

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

5. It’s perfect for small-batch cookies.

Being home all the time means I’ve got the itch to bake, but since I’m not going to any big parties and have no crowd to share my sweets with, I turn to my air fryer. I can make a few cookies at a time instead of a batch big enough for a bake sale.  

6. You don’t have to go oil-free — and shouldn’t.

Air fryers are often touted as a healthier alternative to a deep fryer. Because of that, people often make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to use oil when cooking with one. You should use a bit of oil on most of the food you air-fry to make your dish crispy and delicious.  Apply it before cooking by tossing in oil or using a spray or mist.  

6. Say goodbye to frozen pizza.

Pizza is my go-to comfort food when I want something tasty that doesn’t require much effort. Because of that, I have always kept a few frozen pizzas on hand. I’m proud to say I broke up with frozen pizzas when I discovered my air fryer can quickly make pizza that tastes even better. I prep the dough in advance and freeze it, then make a quick pizza in my air fryer whenever the mood strikes! Pro tip: Place an air fryer rack over the toppings so they don’t fly around.

7. Cleanup is easy — and necessary!

I hate to sound like a nagging parent here, but you need to clean your air fryer. Food debris can accumulate quickly in your basket, and fly around onto your next dish, causing some unsavory flavor combinations. Luckily most air fryer baskets are nonstick and clean up easily with soap and warm water. It only takes a minute. Just do it. Your taste buds will thank you.

8. Hard-boiled eggs are a breeze.

You know what they say — a watched pot never boils. Hard-boiled eggs are a great, quick snack, but I hate making them. Waiting for the water to boil always feels tedious to me.  Now, with my air fryer, I can just set them in and go about my business while I wait for them to cook. You don’t even need water! 

Did you get a new air fryer over the holidays? What’s your favorite new thing to make in it?