I test appliances for a living — here are my top 5 air fryer tips

An air fryer sitting on a table next to some bread and oil
An air fryer sitting on a table next to some bread and oil (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As a Homes writer, I’ve tried and tested all kinds of small appliances over the years. From juicers and stand mixers to vacuum cleaners, I’ve reviewed my fair share — but my favorite appliance (so far) has got to be the air fryer.  

Air fryers have become the must-have appliance in recent years, known for rustling up crispy, delicious foods in no time. Not only can air fryers cook crunchy foods quickly using little or no oil, but they are also known to be slightly cheaper to run than a standard oven, saving you money on bills. 

After owning my small one for almost two years, I’ve learned all sorts of pros and cons when cooking with an air fryer. And while they are incredibly versatile in preparing tasty recipes, there are also 9 things you should never put in an air fryer to avoid a culinary disaster! 

So, before you rush out to buy one of the best air fryers for your home, here are my top air fryer tips to get the most out of it.  

Thinking about buying an air fryer? Check out 9 things to think about when buying an air fryer. Plus, our Homes content editor had her air fryer for years — but only use it for one thing.

1. Don’t overfill the basket  

A chicken with potatoes in an air fryer basket

A chicken with potatoes in an air fryer basket (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Although it’s tempting to throw everything in at once, don’t overcrowd the basket. Always distribute foods evenly in the base to allow the heat to evenly cook the foods. If your basket is overcrowded, this could block the hot air from circulating around the food properly, resulting in undercooked (or overcooked) foods. What’s more, if you fill it too much, the top of your food could end up pressing against the heating element, which can cause a potential fire hazard. 

Choose an air fryer with a suitable capacity for your needs, or purchase an air fryer with two baskets that will allow you to cook multiple things at once. Air fryers like this Ninja DZ201 Foodi 8 Quart 6-in-1 DualZone 2-Basket Air Fryer ($159, Amazon), are more suitable for big families. 

2. Adjust your recipe temperatures 

The temperature on an air fryer being adjusted

The temperature on an air fryer being adjusted (Image credit: Future)

Another thing I’ve learned is that air fryers heat up very quickly, and retain their hot temperature longer. Since this often speeds up the cooking process, it can also result in overcooked foods — even at the recommended cooking time on packaging. If you want to avoid dried-out overcooked foods, take note of timings, and adjust your recipe temperatures where necessary. In addition, try not to leave high-heat foods inside the fryer for too long, as this will essentially ‘cook’ your food even more if left for a long period.

Similarly, if you forget to preheat most air fryers, this may result in undercooked foods. In any case, each air fryer model/brand varies, so be sure to read the manual, and stick to what air fryer recipes they have suggested. 

3. Cooking requires less oil 

Oil being poured into a spoon

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Air fryers offer a low-fat alternative to deep or shallow frying, and need little to no oil. In fact, one mistake I made when I first bought mine was to use too much oil, which ended up with oily (and inedible) results! 

It’s worth noting that most deep-fried recipes need up to 3 cups (750 mL) of oil, air-fried foods would only need about 1 tablespoon (15 mL) in comparison. I would recommend using a spray bottle like this Oil Sprayer for Cooking ($12, Amazon), making it easier to lightly spray the oil, without oversaturating foods. 

And while there is much debate about whether air fryers are actually healthy, these handy appliances are certainly a ‘healthier’ alternative to deep frying.  

4. Turn your food halfway during cooking 

Crispy pork being picked up by a fork in an air fryer

Crispy pork being picked up by a fork in an air fryer (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Another useful tip to remember is to always check your food. Most recipes in an air fryer will need turning halfway through the cooking process to ensure foods are evenly cooked and crispy all over. The good thing about air fryers is that you can open the basket during the process without worrying about losing heat. This is because an air fryer is essentially a mini convection oven, and will heat itself continuously. 

When turning over or removing foods, always use a suitable utensil or heatproof tongs like these 2 Pack Black Kitchen Tongs, ($7, Amazon), as the basket gets very hot.

5. Always clean it after use

An air fryer basket being rinsed with water

An air fryer basket being rinsed with water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Compared to traditional frying, air fryers are a lot easier to clean than a grease-laden pan. Plus, who wants the task of disposing of cooking oil each time? However, it’s always a good idea to clean your air fryer thoroughly after each use. 

This is down to the fact that any oil residue or crumbs that fall through to the bottom of the basket can burn with continuous use. Not only will this affect the overall performance of the appliance, but might create smoke in your kitchen. To prevent this from happening, check out  how to clean an air fryer for best results.   

If you’re new to the world of air frying, check out how to use an air fryer, and avoid these common air fryer mistakes. More importantly, read about how to stop your air fryer from overheating since it could be a potential fire hazard, and here’s why our Homes Editor would buy an air fryer over a toaster oven any day. 

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!