Air Fryer 101: How to Buy and Use an Air Fryer

Are you looking to satisfy your cravings for crispy, fried food without the frying? Look no further than the air fryer! This trendy kitchen appliance is a game-changer for those who are fried food lovers or simply want a quicker way to get dinner on the table.

It is no secret that I am OBSESSED with air fryer recipes. From Air Fryer Tuna Steaks to juicy Air Fryer Turkey Burgers and Air Fryer Eggplant on the side, I just can’t get enough of the ultra-fast cooking time and crispy results. Heck, I can even make a roast beef in the air fryer.

Whenever I share an air fryer recipe on instagram, I am flooded with DMs with questions and recommendation requests. Clearly, with so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.

Fear not, because I’ve got you covered. Read on to take your air frying game to the next level!

My favourite air fryer.

The Ninja Air Fryer.

Let me start off right out of the gate with my own air fryer, that I use daily. This is the 4th air fryer I’ve owned, so I feel like I can really offer my experience and wisdom.

I love my 4-quart Ninja. It is a great size, affordable for the quality with an effective output, and it doesn’t take up too much counter space.

Now I’ll dive into more of the nitty gritty, for those who want to dig deeper.

Raw ahi tuna steak in the air fryer basket with salt and pepper.

What should you look for when buying an air fryer?

The two most important considerations when looking for an air fryer are wattage and capacity, and the wattage-to-volume ratio is the most important factor affecting the overall quality. 

Air fryers with higher wattage per quart heat up faster and have a stronger fan for the surface area, resulting in quicker cooking times and crispier food. 

Lower wattage air fryers sometimes never manage to produce crunchy “fried”-like results. 

Often the cheaper models with price tags that seem too good to be true, ARE in fact too good to be true.

Ingredients for Frozen Salmon in Air Fryer

What are the must-have features?

If you’re in the market for an air fryer, most importantly, choose one with at least 1500 watts per 4 quarts for best results. 

Make sure you buy one with adjustable temperature settings that lets you tailor the heat to the dish at hand. Why settle for one-trick-pony when you can get an air fryer that offers multiple cooking functions like reheating, roasting, and air frying all in one?

Don’t be fooled by this unnecessary feature

Don’t be tempted by the two-basket air fryers. The wattage is split between the two baskets and I’ve found that neither drawer gets crispy. You’re opting for quantity at the expense of quality.

Air Fryer Turkey Burgers

What is the perfect size air fryer for a single person? 

I wouldn’t recommend getting anything smaller than 4 quarts for two reasons: 

  1. To achieve perfectly crisp portions of foods that contain quite a bit of moisture (like air fryer tuna steak or air fryer turkey burgers) it makes a huge difference if you can keep the food in a single layer to ensure maximum surface area. If the inner basket is too small, you’ll never be able to fit more than one piece without overlap. Even as a single person, there will be times when you’d like to cook two portions at once, or a protein and a side dish at the same time.

  2. Smaller capacities means that even in single-person quantities, smaller foods like french fries will be in a deeper pile. With less direct exposure to the fan, the pieces in the middle may get soggy before they crisp up.

What size air fryer for family of 4

A 4-quart machine is still great for a family of four. Larger air fryers start to sacrifice wattage for volume, meaning that although you can fit more in, nothing gets as crispy. 

Also, for things that you want to cook in a single layer (like turkey burgers or tuna steaks), the food will be too far from the heat source in a deeper basket to get that great sear. 

How do you go clean your air fryer basket? Can it be safely washed in the dishwasher?

When it comes to cleaning your air fryer basket, it’s best not to put it in the dishwasher (even if it’s deemed dishwasher safe) as it could damage the non-stick coating and reduce the lifespan of the parts.

To clean your air fryer basket safely and effectively, use warm water and mild detergent, then rinse off any excess soap and allow the basket to dry completely before using it again.

You can also buy disposable liners or just use parchment paper to make cleanup a breeze.

Putting salmon fillet in air fryer.

Here are some expert tips for getting the best results when cooking in an air fryer

1. Preheat the air fryer before adding your food. This will ensure that the temperature is consistent and your food cooks evenly.

2. Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket. Leave some space around each piece of food to allow for proper air circulation and to ensure that everything cooks evenly. You can always cook in batches if necessary.

3. Turn the food.  The top portion of the food always crisps more than the underside, so it’s super important to rotate everything in the basket part-way through cooking. To air fry small items (like crispy brussels sprouts) shake the basket periodically over the cooking time to help ensure even cooking and browning. For larger pieces, like when air frying turkey burgers, flip them halfway through so that the top and bottom both crisp up.

4. It’s not oil-free cooking. It’s just not as much oil as deep frying. Use a light mist of cooking spray or brush a small amount of oil onto your food to help it crisp up and prevent sticking.

5. Experiment with cooking times and temperatures to find the sweet spot for your favorite foods. Keep notes on what works well for you so you can replicate your successes in the future.

6. Clean your air fryer every time to prevent smoky buildup of grease and food particles. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific cleaning recommendations.

Pizza is cooked with toppings in an air fryer basket.

Easy Air Fryer Recipes to Try

Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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