Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Tips: Cooking with an Air Fryer

Posted in air fryer, baking, cooking, tips by commorancy on January 18, 2023

air-fryer-2You recently got a new air fryer as a holiday gift and now you’re wondering, “What can I do with this?” Or, maybe you have one sitting on a shelf that’s been there for months? Wonder no more. Let’s explore various cooking tips for that air fryer.

What Exactly is an Air Fryer?

Simply put, it’s a forced air broiler. It’s like a convection oven, but the forced air is much, much stronger. Not all air fryers are necessarily the same. While many offer touch controls, some offer only simple timer knobs (see Bella air fryer just below). Some also heat from the top, while some heat from the side. All cook pretty much in the same way. How does it work?

These small cooking appliances are designed with a fan which forces high speed air through heated coils vertically down onto the food. Some may force it across the food horizontally. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Even though the concept is simple, the speed of it is fairly amazing for cooking. However, there are some cautions to go with that cooking speed.air-fryer-knobs

Cooking times are dramatically reduced as a result of this forced air cooking method. Because of the high speed air flow, many foods can be cooked in about the same time as using a microwave. Unlike a microwave, an air fryer makes and keeps foods crispy and brown rather than mushy or rubbery.

Here are some cautions. Because the velocity of the air fryer is quite high, an air fryer is also quite drying for all food. This can make certain foods dry out if cooking precautions aren’t taken, such as wrapping the food in foil to keep the moisture in. Wrapping with foil doesn’t allow for crisping up the food. This means you’ll want to wrap the food for long duration cooking times and then unwrap for the last 8-10 minutes at the end of the cooking time to crisp the food.

Cooking Times

Air fryer cooking times are dramatically reduced from a standard oven. It’s way faster than even a convection oven. A pizza might cook in 18 minutes in a regular oven, but may be done in 8-10 minutes in an air fryer. Speaking of…

Pizza

Cooking Pizza in an air fryer might seem natural, but it’s not. If you intend to cook pizza in an air fryer, you’ll need to know how to do it correctly or it’ll burn and get overly dry.

When cooking pizza in a conventional oven, 400ºF / 204ºC temperature is exactly that. However, in an air fryer, that same temperature is actually quite a bit hotter because of the forced air. This means you have to reduce the heat level when cooking in an air fryer by at least 50ºF / 10ºC to compensate, maybe more. Otherwise, your food will become blackened and hard.

Pizza is no exception. When cooking pizza in an air fryer, you’ll want to cook no higher than 280-300ºF / 138-149ºC and monitor it closely. Cheese easily burns in an air fryer and, yes, it’ll also burn quickly, within 6-8 minutes. Pizza can be tricky to cook in an air fryer. If you’re really wanting the best pizza, I always suggest using a real oven. For reheating pizza, an air fryer is perfect when set to 200ºF to 250ºF / 93ºC to 121ºC.

If you like and prefer a charred, blackened taste on pizza, then an air fryer is perfect for getting that result. I prefer my pizza cheese melted, a tiny bit crispy, but mostly still stringy and fresh. Getting the latter result in an air fryer requires careful lower temperature cooking.

Veggies

Vegetables can be cooked in an air fryer, but I’d suggest wrapping them in foil, adding a tablespoon of water in the foil to keep them moist and steamy. If you want more of a grilled texture to your vegetables, then steam them in foil for about 8-10 minutes, then unwrap the foil and cook for the remaining 3-5 minutes on 380-400ºF / 193-204ºC to crisp them up.

Hamburgers

A hamburger patty is easily cooked in an air fryer. However, air fryers are messy beasts and need cleaning frequently. With foods that tend to produce spatter, like beef, poultry and pork, you’ll want to be sure to clean the interior of your air fryer after cooking such foods.

Hamburger patties cook in about 8-10 minutes at 400ºF / 204ºC. Though, you’ll need to flip the food if you cook without foil. If you’re cooking in foil, there’s no need to flip as the steam will cook both sides evenly. I recommend steaming the hamburger patty for half of the cooking time, then unwrap and cook the remaining time open, being sure to flip it half way through the open cooking time.

Hamburger patties can be placed into the air fryer completely frozen and will still be cooked in that 8 to 10 minutes. Fresh, thawed hamburger patties will cook slightly faster, so check them more frequently.

Hot Dogs

You don’t really need to cook hot dogs in an air fryer. Instead, you’ll simply want to reheat them. Many air fryers offer a reheat setting. Use only the reheat setting for hot dogs. In about 5 minutes, you’ll have hot dogs cooked to perfection. For air fryers with knob settings, reheat is 6 minutes at 200-250ºF / 93-121ºC.

Choosing the air fry option, which typically runs at 400ºF / 204ºC for about 15 minutes, you’re sure to burn the hot dogs, and most anything else except french fries and other potato side dishes. If choosing the 400ºF / 204ºC option, be sure to check your food often and shake the basket about every 3-5 minutes.

Hot dogs cooked at 400ºF / 204ºC will begin to blacken within about 2-3 minutes. If you like your hot dogs blackened, then this is the option to choose. If you prefer your hot dogs warmed with a slightly crispy bite, then reheat is the choice for cooking.

Cooking Side by Side

It’s easy to cook foods side by side in an air fryer basket. For example, you can place hot dogs and fries into the basket together and have a full meal ready go to at the end of the cooking time. However, note that fries take longer to cook than hot dogs. A soon as the hot dogs are warmed, remove the dogs, then raise the temperature to cook the fries at 400ºF / 204ºC for the remainder of the time, around 6-8 minutes.

Alternatively, cook the fries until there’s about 3 minutes left, then lower the temperature to 200-250ºF / 93-121ºC to reheat the hot dogs for 5 minutes, which will also keep the fries hot.

Tortilla Chips / Dehydrating

Many air fryers offer a dehydrate setting. This cooking method cuts the fan speed down dramatically and runs at a temperature around 100-150º / 38-66ºC . This is perfect for drying foods, such as making your own baked corn tortilla chips.

For baked tortilla chips, cut fresh corn tortillas into quarters. Place the quarters flat into the basket. The chips can be overlapping without issues. I typically cut up about 4-5 tortillas and layer them on the bottom of the cooking tray. Then, set the cooking method to dehydrate for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

These chips come out quite crispy, but not the same as you can buy at the store. If you’re wanting to make nachos, it’s a reasonably quick way to make chips without running to the store.

One trick here to soften the chips a bit is to place the chips in a paper bag and let them sit overnight. The next day, the chips will have a softer crunch and be more like chips you can buy in the store.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that air frying these tortillas at 400ºF / 204ºC will do you any favors. It won’t. The chips will blacken and taste burnt. You don’t want this for tortilla chips. If you want to heat the chips, use the dehydrate method described above to keep them crispy, yet looking and tasting like tortilla chips. You can use reheat on the chips for 1-3 minutes to warm them up, too.

Frozen Fried Foods

Here’s where the air fryer shines. For frozen foods like Totinos Pizza Rolls, corn dogs, mini tacos, taquitos or even simply fried chicken (fresh or frozen) or french fries, the air fryer setting works perfect to reheat and cook these.

All of the above foods cook using the air fry option. The air fry option typically runs 380-400ºF / 193-204ºC for about 12 minutes, shaking the basket several times while cooking to even out the cooking. No need to thaw, just place them straight into the basket frozen and 12 minutes later you’ll have piping hot and crispy foods. Some of the above foods may cook in around 8 minutes. Always begin checking your foods for doneness around 8 minutes while shaking the basket.

The air fry setting is perfect to cook fried chicken or other fried and battered foods to perfection. That’s why they call it an air fryer.

Cookies and Cakes

While it is possible to use an air fryer to bake such foods, I don’t recommend it. These baked food types don’t bake well in an air fryer. There are three reasons for this:

  1. The forced air ensures the top of the baked good is overcooked and dry
  2. The forced air will flatten cookies out and make them too flat
  3. The forced heat will overcook the top of cookies, but leave the underside undercooked (same for cake)

Instead, for a more even bake, I recommend using a regular or toaster oven for baking cookies, cakes and brownies. If you want your cookies a little more crispy, you can throw them into the air fryer for 1-3 minutes at around 350ºF / 177ºC after they’ve been baked in a regular oven.

Baked Pasta

If you’ve ever bought a baked personal pan pasta from Pizza Hut or any other Italian restaurant, then you may be wondering how to get that crispy cheese texture on the top of hot steaming pasta. The air fryer is perfect for making this. However, you’ll need to invest in some cooking pans that fit into your air fryer.

Up until now, I’ve not discussed the size of the baskets on an air fryer. Here’s where you’ll need to get your tape measure out and determine the dimensions of your air fryer basket. Mine is about 8″ across. With that sizing in hand, head over to Amazon and search for air fryer accessories that will fit inside your basket. It’s possible your air fryer came with small pans that fit inside of your basket. Mine did not. You’ll want to obtain either a square or round baking pan that fits inside your air fryer basket.

For baked pasta:

  • Layer your cooked pasta on the bottom of a round or square pan (not in the basket directly)
  • Layer mozzarella on top of the pasta
  • Layer cooked pasta sauce on top of the cheese
  • Place various toppings like beef, pork, veggies and pepperoni
  • Top with a layer of cheese

Cook in the air fryer at 350ºF / 177ºC for about 6-8 minutes, checking for cheese browning at around the 5 minute mark.

Note that if you’re using a basket type fryer, be sure sure to buy a pan accessory kit which also includes a pan grabber. This grabber grabs hold of the lip of the pan which allows you to easily lift and extract the pan from the basket without using your hands and without spilling. Though, you can use oven mitts if you prefer… a pan grabber is much easier to prevent food spillage.

Cooking Other Foods?

There are plenty of other foods you can try cooking in an air fryer. For example, if you buy a frozen food from the store and there are not air fryer cooking instructions on the package, subtract 50% of the cooking time from regular oven cooking and that is usually what’s needed for an air fryer. You may also want to reduce the cooking temperature by at least 30-50ºF / 8-20ºC to avoid overcooking or burning.

As I said above, if it’s cookies, cakes or other baked goods, you should opt for baking in a regular or toaster oven. Even such foods as pot pies or sweet pies may cook better in a conventional oven. Some foods are easy to over bake in an air fryer.

When cooking meats, many cooks want to save the drippings to make gravy. If you’re wanting to make gravy, don’t use an air fryer. Air fryers force evaporate almost all liquids produced by foods. This means, no gravy. If you’re wanting to make gravy, then you’ll want to braise your chicken, pork and beef in a regular oven to retain those juices. Don’t use an air fryer.

If you don’t care about gravy, then cooking your food in an air fryer is an option. Just don’t be fooled into thinking you can make gravy from cooking meats in an air fryer. It doesn’t work.

Pre-heating an Air Fryer

Some air fryers have a preheat setting. However, it’s really unnecessary. You can throw your food straight into the basket and begin the cooking instantly. It might add 1 extra minute to the cook time, but it’s faster than waiting 2 minutes for a preheat. To be fair, it only takes about 1 minute for an air fryer to preheat… which is why it’s mostly unnecessary to preheat your air fryer unless you want the grill surface to be hot so it will add grill marks to your food.

Basket vs Trays vs Cleaning

Some air fryers are more like toaster ovens with trays. If you have this kind of air fryer, you’ll need to use an oven mitt to pull out the trays to shake them. If you have the basket type fryer with a handle, these are more convenient because the handle stays completely cool on the basket. I recommend the basket variety because it’s much easier to clean and the handle remains cool.

If you have the basket variety of air fryer, there are lots of “keep it clean” options, including basket inserts made of paper, parchment and even silicone. These inserts allow for cooking and removal to keep your basket clean. There are also pans, as mentioned above, which can be used to help bake foods while keeping the interior clean.

Still, spatter from foods can get into the heating elements and surrounding areas. You’ll need to periodically wipe and clean the interior of the air fryer after it has completely cooled. You may need to use a little Easy Off oven cleaner to fully clean this spatter. Be sure to clean your basket every so often to make sure you’ve cleaned off food smells from previous uses.

ninja-air-fryerFinal note. Some air fryer images show a basket filled to capacity, like this Ninja to the left. Don’t do this. The maximum you should ever fill your basket is about half to 3/4 full. Never fill your basket entirely to the top with food. The reason? The top most food is too close to the heating element and will burn. You want to keep your food far enough away from that heating element to keep it from burning. Such images are strictly for marketing purposes, not for functionality. Do not replicate these marketing images when cooking.

Happy Air Frying!

↩︎

Comments are encouraged under these rules: 1. No personal attacks allowed. 2. Comments with personal attacks will not be posted. 3. Please keep your words civil. Thank you for contributing!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: