How Do I Use an Air Fryer?
Written by Chef Kenzie Osborne.
Before we dive into our top 10 favorite ways to use an air fryer, we’ll first look at… “What is an air fryer?”.
Air fryers are a unique kitchen tool that uses the power of air to quickly cook your food – all while “drying” the exterior of the food to make for an incredibly crispy bite. Air fryers are basically super convection ovens – meaning, they use heat in combination with strong air flow to cook food. The strong air flow allows heat to be distributed more quickly and efficiently than in a regular oven; thus, your food cooks faster and browns more easily. This is why most air-fryer recipes require shorter cooking times and result in crispier foods. The good news? We can enjoy delicious meals prepared in-a-flash. The bad news? We’ll have to make a few adjustments (as follows) to do so successfully…
Chef Kenzie’s Using an Air Fryer – Top 5 “Dos” and “Don’ts”
- Spray oil on your food and air fryer basket or pan. DON’T use cooking spray (see tip #1 under “DON’T Do This…”)
- Flip or toss your food half way through cooking.
- Reheat your leftovers i the air fryer for a crispy (not soggy) texture. NOTE: Don’t put foods that are already tossed in sauce into the air fryer – the sauce will have too much moisture to become crispy, but will dry out in the air fryer.
- Spread your food i an even layer, without overcrowding. Overcrowding will prevent air flow from reaching the exterior of your food, thus sacrificing the crispy texture we’re all looking for!
- Use foods with larger surface areas for crispier bites. For example, chop your chicken into small 1-inch pieces for “chicken nuggets”. Or, use cauliflower florets tossed in olive oil and spices for a yummy vegetarian “chicken nugget” look-alike.
DON’T Do This…
- Don’t use cooking spray with chemicals. The chemicals in most store-bought cooking sprays may damage the material of your air fryer. Instead, pour cooking oil (such as avocado oil or olive oil) into a spray bottle to use on your air-fried foods.
- Don’t add dried herbs or spices to your air fryer. Instead, mix them with oil BEFORE spraying onto your food. This will prevent the dried herbs or spices from blowing around in your air fryer.
- Don’t cook for the same amount of time as what is recommended for a regular oven. Keep in mind that a regular oven does NOT have the same air force – therefore, a regular oven will cook food slower than an air fryer. I recommend reducing the cooking time by 20% AND reducing the temperature by about 30°F.
- Don’t cook in an unventilated area (or directly underneath a set of shelves). The steam from the air fryer may damage the shelves if placed too close. Plan to have extra space on the sides and top of your air fryer.
- Don’t put extremely light ingredients (or very small ingredients) in your air fryer. The light-weight ingredients (such as spinach) will likely blow all around your air fryer, while the small ingredients (like peas or corn) may fall through the cracks onto the heating element. Stick to using match-stick sized foods (as a minimum size) and ingredients heavier than kale or spinach.
Chef Kenzie’s Top 10 Tasty Ways to Use an Air Fryer
Now that we’ve covered the basics of using an air fryer, let’s dive into some specific recipes and foods to take your air-fryer game to the next level. Below are some of my favorite ways to use an air fryer – from breakfast to proteins to side dishes – and even dessert! What are your favorite ways to use your air fryer? Share your tips with us in the comments below or share on social media via our Facebook Group or on your own page with the hashtag #AlwaysHungryBook – we always love to see what you’ve been making! (TIP: If you want Chef Dawn Ludwig or Chef Kenzie Osborne to comment on your posts, tag us @chefkenzieosborne and @chefdawnludwig on Facebook and Instagram).
1: Frittata – Yes, you read that right! You can prepare your single-serving OR multi-serving frittata in the air fryer! Trying making our Crustless Quiche Muffins in your air fryer by setting the temperature to 325°F and reducing the cooking time to about 12 minutes. Alternatively, try preparing Dr. Ludwig’s Favorite Frittata (Always Hungry? pg. 225) in your air fryer by setting the temperature to 375°F. Cook for about 7 minutes without the kale, and 5 minutes with the kale (the kale will crisp up VERY quickly in the air fryer – but you will still need a bit more time for the eggs to cook through, hence why the initial cooking time is longer than suggested in the book).
2: Tofu Scramble – Crumble (or chop) firm tofu (that has been pressed dry with a paper towel) and toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, and turmeric (or other spices/herbs of choice). Mix with chopped vegetables, if desired. Cook at 375°F for 10-15 minutes, until tofu is warmed though and lightly browned, and the vegetables (if using) are tender to-the-bite. Enjoy!
3: Crispy Tofu OR Chicken Bites – Toss 1-inch cubes of chicken or tofu in our Chickpea Flour “Breading” (as used in our Fried Fish recipe). Spray in a bit of olive oil, then cook at 375°F in an air fryer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tofu is crispy and the chicken is fully cooked through.
4: Air Fryer Shrimp – Toss raw, shelled shrimp in a mix of unsweetened shredded coconut, salt, pepper, and chickpea flour. Spray (or drizzle) with a bit of melted coconut oil. Cook at 375°F in an air fryer for about 5-10 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through and the coconut is crispy.
5: Air Fryer Salmon – Drizzle salmon with a bit of lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Cook at 375°F in an air fryer for about 7-10 minutes (for a 1 1/2 inch thick piece of salmon), until cooked through. Leave the skin ON for a crispy exterior (if desired) – otherwise, remove before or after cooking.
6: Air Fried Cauliflower and Broccoli – Whisk olive oil with your favorite spices, salt, and pepper. Toss with cauliflower or broccoli (chopped into small, bite-sized pieces). Air fry at 425°F for about 15 minutes (for cauliflower) or 10 minutes (for broccoli). Specific cooking times may vary depending on the size of each vegetable.
7: Air Fried Chickpeas – Toss chickpeas, black beans, or white beans (pre-cooked OR canned, drained, and rinsed) with olive oil, salt, and pepper (add optional spices or dried herbs, if desired). Cook in the air fryer at 425°F for about 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. Cook for longer, if needed, until beans are cooked to your liking.
8: Air Fried Cheesy Mushrooms – Toss sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and shredded parmesan cheese. Place in the air fryer at 425°F for about 7-10 minutes, until mushrooms are softened and parmesan cheese is crispy. OPTIONAL: Add a small drizzle of soy sauce in place of the salt to the olive oil, pepper, and parmesan cheese mix.
9: Air Fryer Candied Nuts – Try preparing our Candied Nuts (Always Delicious pg. 324) in your air fryer by setting the temperature to 325°F and cooking for about 12 minutes – until crispy and cooked through.
10: Air Fryer Apple “Fries” – Toss your apple slices in a mix of coconut flour and cinnamon. Spray or drizzle with a bit of coconut oil or avocado oil. Fry at 425°F for about 3 minutes – until the exterior is crispy but the apples are not yet soft/mushy. Serve with an extra dust of cinnamon OR with a side of melted nut butter.