While air fryers are a relatively new product on the market, their technology, ease of use, and health benefits have taken the world by storm.
With people becoming more health-conscious and realizing the drawbacks of oily, deep-fried foods, now everyone wants an air fryer in their kitchen.
Compared to conventional ovens, air fryers are small, lightweight kitchen appliances that are incredibly easy to use and let you enjoy French fries and crispy fried chicken without the guilt and remorse. It surely doesn’t get better than that!
Although there’s no debate about the benefits of air fryers and how they’re so user-friendly, there is a bit of confusion when it comes to preheating them. To preheat or not to preheat, that is the question.
With so many styles and sizes of air fryers available in the market, there is no definite answer. It depends on the type of model you are using and, more importantly, the kind of food you are making in it.
So, how do you preheat an air fryer? If you have a preheating function in your air fryer, all you have to do is press the button and let it take care of the rest. Alternatively, you can also preheat it manually by setting the temperature and time on the machine to let it get ready for cooking.
Read on for detailed step-by-step instructions on how to preheat an air fryer, when you should and shouldn’t preheat it, common mistakes to avoid, and so much more.
Should You Preheat An Air Fryer?
Depending on the type of air fryer you are using and the food you are preparing in it, it may be important to preheat your air fryer before using it.
You basically preheat an air fryer for all the same reasons you preheat an oven. It allows you to get the air fryer hot before you place your food in it, which reduces the total cooking time since the cooking process starts immediately.
Also, although the crispiness of your food depends on many factors, preheating may be one of them. By not preheating your air fryer, you risk making the food soggy or not as crisp as you would like it to be.
The food may cook unevenly, and if you are cooking in batches, the first batch will take longer to cook than the subsequent batches. If you’re not careful enough and aren’t paying close attention, you may risk burning your food.
When To Preheat An Air Fryer
Some of the best times to preheat an air fryer are when you:
- Reheat leftovers, thinner frozen foods, and smaller food items since it can help make the foods crispy very quickly.
- Want a good, crispy crust and a nice sear, especially on thinner meats such as chicken tenders or pork chops.
- Cook steaks since it will help cook the outside of the steak and give it a nice sear while leaving a nice medium-rare texture on the inside.
- Fry frozen foods such as French fries or fish sticks since these foods are already cooked and only need to be heated and get crispy on the outside.
When To Not Preheat An Air Fryer?
Some of the worst times to preheat an air fryer are when you:
- Cook thick raw foods since they need to be cooked through and preheating will cook the outsides way too quickly before the insides get a chance to cook.
- Cook delicate foods that you do not want to turn crispy, such as small cut vegetables, since it might burn the outside before the inside of the food is tender.
- Baking quick breads or small cakes since, again, it will result in the crust turning hard and the insides becoming doughy and raw.
- Use parchment paper since it may move around during the preheating process and hit the heating element, causing it to burn. You may use parchment paper after you are done preheating.
How To Preheat An Air fryer?
Preheating an air fryer is an easy process that takes hardly a few steps. Depending on the type of air fryer you are using, you may either have a preheating setting on the appliance or may have to preheat it manually.
Here are step-by-step detailed instructions on how to preheat your air fryer to make the most out of it and get the best results:
1. Check The Instruction Manual
The first step that you need to do, especially if you are preheating your air fryer for the first time, is to read the instruction manual that came with it.
Not only will you know how to operate it smoothly, but it will also be much safer and more efficient.
Different manufacturers may have different preheating methods, and while some may have a specific button for the task, others may require you to follow different steps.
2. Make Sure The Air Fryer Is Clean
If you want your air fryer to work problem-free, you need to keep it clean. Although air fryers generally don’t get that messy, you must always clean them after every use.
The remnants and smell from the foods you previously prepared might ruin your next meal. Also, they may cause your air fryer to smoke due to the food deposits burning.
3. Plug It In And Turn It On
After you’ve made sure that the air fryer is clean, plug it in and turn it on by clicking the power button. Make sure to follow these steps in the correct order.
Before switching it on, check the voltage that the air fryer requires and your house’s electric supply to check if they are compatible.
4. Set The Timer For Preheating
Now that the air fryer is on, you have to set the timer for the duration you want the appliance to preheat for.
There is no fixed time and it varies from one model to another, therefore, it is best to check the instruction manual. The usual time lies somewhere between 2-5 minutes. We’ll discuss more on this in a bit.
5. Set The Temperature For Reheating
As with the duration for preheating, there is no consistent temperature ideal for preheating and most manufacturers come up with their own temperatures.
If yours doesn’t specify any, you can set it to 400°F to make your food crispier and perfectly cooked.
How Long To Preheat Air Fryer
The duration for which you need to preheat your air fryer depends on two things: the temperature you are setting and the size of the air fryer.
The total time varies between 2-5 minutes, and while 2 minutes should suffice, it is best to leave it on for 5 minutes so that both the surface and the air inside the air fryer get hot.
As mentioned earlier, most manufacturers have their own specified preheating times, so be sure to check that as well.
The temperature is another crucial factor and may be specified in the user’s manual. For a 3/4th filled air fryer basket, the ideal temperature ranges between 350°F and 400°F to ensure crunchy, crispy, and perfectly cooked food.
Anything below 350°F may result in undercooked food, whereas anything above 400°F may burn it.
Mistakes To Avoid While Using An Air Fryer
While preheating an air fryer might be a crucial step in certain circumstances to make sure your foods turn out perfectly cooked and crispy, there are some common mistakes that we are all guilty of making when using this relatively new kitchen appliance.
Do Not Overcrowd The Air Fryer
We understand that most of us are used to cooking in larger batches on stoves and in the oven, but given the size of most air fryers, you must cook in smaller batches.
It might seem tedious at first, but if you wish to make crispy items such as French fries and fried chicken, you need to space out the food to allow hot air to move freely and cook the food from all sides.
Remove Excess Moisture From Foods
A big reason why most of your foods, especially meat items such as baked chicken, end up soggy may be because you are not properly drying the meat before cooking it.
You must always remove extra moisture from your foods, both meats and vegetables, since a dry surface will allow them to cook faster and give them a crispy, brown exterior.
Wet food also delays the total cooking time, so keep that in mind as well. Simply use paper towels to remove the excess moisture to prevent this issue from arising.
Rotate And Cook
When we cook in a pan, we constantly move our food around and flip it occasionally to let it cook evenly from all sides, don’t we? Well, you need to do the same for air-fried food as well.
Simply open the air fryer at regular intervals and use a tong to gently flip or rotate your food so that it gets heated from all sides and is perfectly cooked.
Regularly Clean The Air Fryer
We’re all guilty of not cleaning our kitchen appliances as properly and as frequently as we should.
Although an air fryer doesn’t get as messy, it still needs to be properly cleaned after every use.
The leftovers from previous meals may affect the other foods you cook in the air fryer, which is why it is always a good idea to gently wipe the insides of the air fryer after every use.
This will also prevent any bacteria or mold from developing inside which, as we all know, can be detrimental to your health.
Now that we’ve discussed how to preheat air fryers, and whether you should, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:
Can You Put Aluminum Foil In An Air Fryer?
Yes, you can, but it may not always be the best option. We actually have a whole article explaining how to use aluminum foil in an air fryer safely that we recommend checking out for the best results.
If you want to do this, make sure to only put it in the basket. If it is placed in the bottom, it could get blown away onto the heating element, overheat, and potentially start a fire.
Also, make sure to never preheat the air fryer with a foil-lined basket. Make sure that it is weighed down by food or it may blow around and turn into a fire hazard.
How To Clean An Air Fryer
While some air fryer models are easier to clean than others, the fact of the matter is that they all need to be cleaned after each use.
The first thing to remember is to never delay cleaning and do it as soon as possible after you’re done using the air fryer. The longer the crumbs and foods sit in it, the more difficult they will be to clean later on.
Clean the removable parts of the machine with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge or cloth, or put them in the dishwasher if they are dishwasher-safe. For food that may be stuck in the basket, use a toothpick or a wooden skewer to pick it out.
Clean the insides of the air fryer with a damp, soapy cloth, checking the heating element for any food residue and debris. Wipe the exterior of the air fryer using a damp cloth and dry it.
How To Deal With Lingering Odors In An Air Fryer?
When you cook strong-smelling foods in the air fryer, the smell may linger in the machine even after you clean it properly.
To deal with such lingering odors, you can try soaking the basket in warm, soapy water for 30-60 minutes before attempting to clean it again.
If that doesn’t work, you can cut a lemon in half and rub it on the air fryer’s basket and drawer, let it sit for 30-60 minutes, and then rewash it.
Should You Put Oil In An Air Fryer?
Although air fryers do not require oil, adding a small amount to your foods can help bring out the flavor and crispiness.
Also, you need to keep in mind that using a little oil for cooking does not increase health risks, especially when comparing it to deep frying.
Instead of putting oil directly in the air fryer, you must apply oil on your food using an oil mister or basting brush. That’ll give your food a brown, crispy exterior and a juicy interior.
Use very little oil, around a teaspoon to 2-3 tablespoons, depending on the type and size of the food you are cooking. Just make sure the oil doesn’t drip from the food because if it does, it might damage the machine and its internal circuits.
Although, for effortless cooking, you can grease your air fryer basket so that the food doesn’t stick to it. If your air fryer model has racks and grates, make sure to grease them as well.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers are small, portable kitchen appliances that allow you to cook your favorite foods without having to use excess oil.
They work a bit like a convection oven where a fan pushes hot air inside the air fryer. The circulating air allows the food to cook crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just like deep-fried foods.
Not only can you make your favorite fried foods healthy in an air fryer, but you can also bake your favorite desserts and pastas in it, reheat your leftovers, and cook raw steak in it as well!