Air fryer ovens have surged in popularity in recent years as an easy way to cook crispy, delicious “fried” foods in a healthier manner. By using rapid air circulation technology, air fryers can produce similar results to deep frying without all the oil. However, there are some common mistakes people make when using air fryer ovens that can lead to mediocre results. Follow this guide to avoid the most common mistakes and get the most out of your air fryer!
What is an Air Fryer Oven?
First, let’s review what exactly an air fryer oven is. Air fryers are small countertop convection ovens that circulate hot air rapidly around food to cook it crispy on the outside and tender inside. The technology uses a heating element and powerful fan to move air up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit around the food, mimicking the results of deep frying. The integrated basket design allows the superheated air to circulate completely around the food for quick, even cooking. By requiring little to no oil, air fried foods contain up to 80% less fat than traditional fried items.
The Common Mistakes to Aviod When Using Air Fryer Oven
Overcrowding the Basket
Now that we know the basics, let’s cover the prime mistakes to steer clear of when using your air fryer oven. The number one culprit for poor results is overfilling the air fryer basket. Each model has a recommended capacity for the amount of food it can handle per batch. Exceeding this load prevents air from flowing freely around the food items. Without ample space between food, you end up with uneven cooking, soggy interiors and exteriors that just won’t get crispy.
To avoid overcrowding, refer to your owner’s manual for the proper basket capacity. As a general rule, never fill the basket more than 2/3 full for most models. Cut large items like chicken breasts in half or quarters to allow air to get to all surfaces. Cook foods in smaller batches to give them room. Rotate items halfway through if needed to ensure even browning. With the proper amount of food, your air fryer will crisp up those french fries, nuggets and veggies to perfection.
Forgetting to Preheat
Another mistake is neglecting to preheat your air fryer oven. Most models recommend preheating the unit before adding your food, usually for around 3-5 minutes. Skipping this step means the air fryer needs extra time to come up to temperature, delaying cooking and decreasing crispiness. Starting with an already hot air fryer eliminates this lag time so food starts browning immediately.
Be sure to consult your owner’s manual on the proper preheat time. Set a timer so you don’t forget this essential first step. While a few simpler models allow you to skip preheating, it’s best practice to preheat unless otherwise noted. A properly preheated air fryer allows the superheated air to work its crispy magic right from the start.
Failing to Use Any Oil or Fat
While air fryers cook with little to no oil compared to deep frying, using no oil at all can lead to dried out, lackluster results. A small amount of oil or other cooking fat helps transfer heat efficiently and aids browning. The minimal oil also ensures a layer of crunch you just can’t achieve completely oil-free.
Before air frying foods like french fries, chicken wings, fish fillets or tofu, toss or spray them lightly with oil. Use just a teaspoon or two of olive, avocado, coconut or vegetable oil or non-stick spray. As food cooks, oil will drip down for even coverage. You can also brush or mist oil onto food halfway through cooking. Just a small amount of fat takes air fried dishes from dull to delectable.
Incorrect Time and Temperature Settings
Dialing in the wrong cooking time or temperature is another common stumbling block. Air fryers work differently than ovens in that the intense air circulation can cook foods very quickly. Each type of food requires a specific combination of time and temp to reach the ideal interior doneness and crispy exterior.
Refer to your air fryer’s manual for recommended settings based on the amount and type of food you’re cooking. Be prepared to experiment to find the perfect combo for your tastes. Start with less time than you think, check food frequently, and add minutes as needed to avoid overcooking. Use an instant-read thermometer for foods like meats and fish to ensure they reach safe internal temperatures. Taking notes on which settings work best will help streamline future air frying sessions.
Forgetting to Flip or Shake
To achieve evenly browned and crisped food, you need to flip or shake items midway during cooking. The intense air circulation can lead to burning on one side if foods aren’t rotated. Set a timer to remind yourself to pause halfway and turn food over using tongs. You can also gently shake the basket to toss items like fries or vegetables.
Flipping or shaking ensures all sides are exposed to the circulating air flow. This prevents burning as well as undercooking on areas that don’t face the heat source. Don’t just set it and forget it—periodically rotating creates perfect results.
Improper Basket Placement
Finally, many users unwittingly slide the basket into the air fryer incorrectly. The basket must sit completely flat and evenly in the heating chamber. If the basket is off-center, air can’t flow properly around the food. You may end up with uneven cooking or have to increase cook time.
Before inserting the basket, check that nothing is obstructing the slide rails. Push the basket slowly all the way to the back of the air fryer, ensuring it sits flush. Don’t force it if you meet resistance. When removing the hot basket after cooking, pull it out slowly and evenly again to prevent tipping. Following proper basket placement procedures keeps air circulating perfectly for crunchy, evenly cooked bites.
Get the Most from Your Air Fryer
Air fryer ovens provide a healthier cooking alternative to produce crispy fried results with minimal oil and fat. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can maximize the potential of your air fryer. Follow capacity limits, preheat properly, use a small amount of oil, adjust time and temperature to food type, flip food midway, and insert the basket correctly. Armed with the right techniques, you’ll be whipping up restaurant-worthy air fried meals in no time!