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How to get the most out of your air fryer

Ten tips and tricks every air fryer owner should know.

bowl of fries cooked in air fryer LEAD
Last updated: 27 November 2019

We've tested a lot of air fryers over the years and what we've discovered is despite their tantalising name, they don't actually 'fry' at all. 

An air fryer functions exactly like a small fan-forced oven, circulating hot, dry air to cook crispy food. While most people are better off saving their money and using their standard kitchen oven instead, some of us simply can't resist the appeal of an exciting new benchtop appliance. 

So if you've treated yourself to an air fryer (or had one gifted to you) here's some expert tips on how to get the best out of it.

1. Add an extra shake

Most air fryer models will advise you to remove the cooking basket and give it a shake once or twice during the cooking process. But CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair says you should always add an extra shake. 

"Definitely shake it more than advised if you want crispy, evenly browned results," she says. 

2. Lay down foil for crumbed foods

If your air fryer has a wire rack rather than a solid base, Fiona advises laying down a layer of foil before cooking crumbed or sticky foods. This will ensure the coating isn't rubbed off during the shaking process and it makes cleaning easier, too. 

3. Skip the preheat (except for meat)

One of the main advantages of an air fryer is that you don't need to wait for it to preheat before placing your food inside, making the cooking process more streamlined. 

Fiona advises skipping the preheating process for items like crumbed foods and chips, but she says you'll get better results on cuts of uncrumbed meat if you let your air fryer heat up for five minutes or so before adding them to the cooking tray.

chicken wings in an air fryer

If you're cooking uncrumbed meats letting your air fryer preheat for five minutes will give better results

4. Add water to the drawer when cooking fatty foods

"When you're cooking high-fat foods like chicken wings or bacon, grease can drip down into the tray causing mess and smells," says Fiona. 

She suggests adding a small amount of water to the base of the drawer before cooking to stop the fat from smoking. 

5. Avoid the dishwasher

Most air fryers claim to be dishwasher-friendly, but according to Fiona, you're better off washing them by hand. 

"Putting them in the dishwasher will end up damaging the non-stick surface quite quickly, and hand washing is quick and easy anyway."

reheated pizza in an air fryer

Tip: use your air fryer rather than your microwave to reheat pizza to avoid soggy slices.

6. Use it to reheat leftovers

Ditch the microwave and use your air fryer to quickly reheat small portions while retaining texture and flavour. One CHOICE Community member uses an air fryer to reheat roast vegies, while Fiona recommends using it for pizza slices.

"A microwave will leave your leftover pizza soggy and unappetising – an air fryer will give you crispy, fresh-tasting leftovers in just a few minutes."

7. Make healthy vegie chips

Your air fryer can make more than just standard frozen fries. Fiona says you can also use it to make your own vegie chips from scratch.

Cut a zucchini (or another vegetable like pumpkin) into wedges, coat it with a mix of flour, egg, parmesan and breadcrumbs and place in a foil-lined air fryer for crisp, homemade vegie chips

8. Roast nuts or chickpeas

According to Fiona, an air fryer is ideal for roasting nuts or chickpeas. 

"Nuts require frequent shaking and constant monitoring to avoid overcooking so they're much easier to cook in an air fryer than an oven," she says.

Over on CHOICE Community, one member recommends using an air fryer to freshen up nuts that are past their best, adding olive oil and salt or herbs for flavour.

roasted chickpeas fried in an air fryer

An air fryer is ideal for roasting nuts or chickpeas.

9. Don't overfill

Although they can look big on the outside, Fiona says air fryers often have a surprisingly small internal capacity. 

"Follow the guidelines on cooking capacity, because if you overfill it you won't get good results." 

She recommends buying a larger, family-sized model if you're planning to cook for more than one or two people.

10. Wipe it out every time

Cleaning up after a meal is always a bit of a pain, but it's worth taking an extra minute to wipe down the internal cavity of your air fryer after every use. 

"If you don't clean it regularly unpleasant odours and extra smoking can occur when you cook," says Fiona. "Just wait until it's cooled down and give it a quick wipe with a damp cloth."

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