Operating an air fryer does not require much skill. However, you do need to know at least the basics on how to use this in cooking or reheating food properly. Some people just want to dive in and try this out immediately, but such enthusiasm can lead to ruined dinner or, worse, a broken air fryer.
You cannot just turn on the machine and expect it to do its thing. There are certain tips and tricks on how you could achieve the perfectly cooked and healthier meal that you are expecting.
Knowing what to avoid is one thing, but you must also learn how to correct these bad practices for the success of your next run. There are cases too that would still allow you to salvage the food that you have been trying to cook. To guide you through this, here is a list of the common mistakes that first-timers make, and how you can avoid or correct them:
Blocking off the vents for hot air and steam
Any equipment that produces and releases heat needs adequate space for ventilation. It is perfectly alright to store an air fryer in a cabinet, or to place a cover over the top while you are not using it. However, during the cooking process, you must always observe the recommended clearance space of about five inches away from the wall or other objects for all sides.
By giving it room to suck in and vent air, the air fryer would be able to function better and faster. It would also prevent the occurrence of fire due to overheating.
Not preheating the air fryer before cooking the food
Unlike microwave ovens, air fryer cannot be used right away to cook, bake, or reheat food. Skipping the preheating process would always result to a greasy and soggy mess that you would not want to eat.
According to experts, preheating the air fryer for at least ten minutes before putting in the food is enough to get the perfect color and crisp that you want to achieve. By letting the air fryer achieve a certain temperature first, the heat inside would make the cooking process more effective and efficient. This means that the outer surface would become golden brown and crispy, while the inside is cooked well and tender.
Using Traditional Types of Batter
There are certain recipes that call for a wet and loose batter, such as corndogs and churros. Cooking such dishes is best done through either pan frying or deep frying. Attempting to do so with an air fryer would be a disaster since the batter would drip down or get blown by the hot air to the bottom of the basket.
The best types of coating for air-fried food are those made of breadcrumbs or dough. Many suggest following the three-step breading procedure:
- Coat the food with flour and seasoning.
- Dip flour-coated food into a whole beaten egg.
- Coat food with breadcrumbs.
You should spray oil onto your breaded food to ensure its crispiness and golden brown appearance. Avoid using the same amount of oil that you normally use for regular frying since this would end up ruining the quality of the food instead.
Applying dry seasoning to the food
Due to the technology used for air fryers, using dry seasoning to flavor your food is not advisable. The hot air circulating inside the air fryer would only blow away the seasoning, which would result to bland food and a dirty air fryer basket.
To prevent this, make sure that there is something to adhere the seasoning to the surface of the food. For example, you can sprinkle salt and pepper on your vegetables after you have given them a spray or two of cooking oil. For breaded dishes, dip each piece into beaten eggs before frying.
Using the air fryer to cook fresh vegetables
Most people buy an air fryer to make their meals healthier while still retaining the delicious texture and taste of fried food. Many beginners, however, are disappointed when their attempts to cook fresh vegetables using the air fryer result to charred, dry meals instead.
If you want fried vegetables cooked with your air fryer, then go for the frozen variants instead of fresh ones. The extra moisture inside the frozen vegetables turn into steam during the cooking process, ensuring that the food is cooked all the way through. Do not be afraid of using frozen vegetables since they still have almost the same quality and nutrients as those contained by their fresh counterparts.
Putting too many items in the basket at one time
Much like a regular frying pan, it is not a good idea to overcrowd the basket of an air fryer. If there are too many pieces being fried at the same time, the results would be uneven—half would likely be burnt, while the rest would end up undercooked.
To correct this practice, try putting your food into manageable batches. For an air fryer, you should not fill up more than half the basket in one go. If you need to cook a large amount of food—in case you’re having a dinner party or if you have a huge family to feed—it is best to plan ahead the schedule of your preparation and cooking time. Keep in mind as well that larger models of air fryers mean that you can cook more per batch.
Not using oil at all, or not using enough oil
One of the primary selling points of an air fryer is its promise of oil-free cooking. Technically, yes, you may cook food in it without using oil. However, the outcome will not be what you are probably envisioning—crispy and golden brown. Instead, you will likely end up with soggy and pale, albeit a bit healthier, food.
To achieve the right balance of taste, texture, and quality, use at least a couple teaspoons of vegetable oil or any other high quality oil. If you are keen on cooking without oil, then you may try using a non-stick cooking spray instead.
You must brush or spray oil onto the food items that you would be cooking before arranging them in the basket. This would keep the interiors of the air fryer relatively clean and free from excessive grease.
Using too much oil
Though you have to use oil to achieve the best results using an air fryer, you should be careful not to overdo it. If you do not use spray or brush to apply oil, you might end up using the same amount of cooking oil that you typically use for traditional means of frying.
Unlike regular frying, adding more oil will not result to crispiness. Instead, you are likely going to get a burnt, greasy mess. Do not give in to the temptation of adding more oil to improve the quality of the food you are cooking. One or two teaspoons would do, most of the time. If you are still not getting the quality that you are expecting, then this might be due to another air fryer issue.
Not using the air fryer accessories
Most recipes only require you to arrange the food onto the air fryer basket. However, to get the most out of your fryers, consider using the accessories available for the model you have purchased.
For example, to get better results when you use the air fryer for baking, there are baking accessories that are designed specially to fit inside the air fryer basket. In relation to that, making muffins using the air fryer is best done by using a silicon mold for each.
There are also accessories that can make the cleaning process more efficient. Wax paper liners and oil sprayers are used to prevent food particles from sticking to the sides and bottom of the basket.
Forgetting to flip the food halfway through the cooking or baking time
Many buy an air fryer since it is being marketed as the healthier and more convenient way of frying food. This is accurate, but it does not mean that you can just throw in the food at the start and get the perfect meal without further effort on your part.
If you are following a recipe, follow the directions carefully since almost every recipe requires for the food to be flipped over at a certain point. This would ensure that both sides would be browned well and turn crispy outside while staying tender inside.
You may pull out the air fryer basket in the middle of cooking to check the status of your food. You can even spray a bit more oil if the color of the food is not up to your expectation. Just be careful not to burn yourself with the hot surface of the air fryer and the even hotter steam that would emanate from the basket.
Not using the air fryer to bake breads and pastries
The name itself might cause new users to overlook the other functionalities of an air fryer. However, if you have done your research carefully, then you would certainly come across recipes for breads and pastries that are baked using the air fryer. This is made possible since the technology used for air fryer is similar to the one used for conventional ovens.
To use an air fryer for baking, simply follow the recipe that you have found, even the prescribed baking time. The main limiting factor for this, however, is the size of the air fryer basket that you have. Since this equipment is designed to be portable, the space available is smaller compared to traditional ovens.
Experienced users use silicon molds and ramekins to made individual-sized portions. If not, they divide their dough or mixtures into smaller batches and then bake them accordingly. If there is no mold or container to hold the item inside the air fryer, you must use a pan or liner to prevent the food from being melted through the holes of the basket.
Not cleaning it properly after each use
Since the air fryer does not leave as much oil and grease as a regular frying pan after each use, you might begin to think that it is perfectly alright to leave it in that state. Worse, you might even believe that it is okay to use it again without cleaning it first.
By leaving the grease and crumbs inside the air fryer, you are running the risk of burning the next food item that you would cook in it. Also, as the leftover food particles become charred, they would begin to emit dark and smelly streams of smoke. You would end up ruining both your meal and the ambiance of your kitchen.
Rather than storing away the air fryer right after each use, you must wash each part of it using warm water and dishwashing liquid. The air fryer cannot be washed and dried through a machine, so you have to hand wash every part and wipe everything dry using a clean towel.
To keep you from making these mistakes, always read the manual first before attempting to use the air fryer. If you are not sure if a recipe or method would work, refer to the various air frying blogs and articles found in the Internet. It is best to leave out the experiments to experienced users for now so that you would not waste food or even damage your air fryer. Once you get the hang of it, you are free to try out new techniques and recipes to get the most out of your air fryer.