Air fryers have been a hot kitchen item over the past few years, beating out classic small appliances like the toaster oven and even the slow cooker. As with any new hot commodity (remember the pressure cooker boom), there's always a lot to learn, especially since innovations are still being made.
Now a kitchen staple, air fryers are the next best thing to add to your cooking tool kit. Easy to use with delicious results, it's no wonder that they've soared in popularity.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
When craving those perfect fast food french fries or crispy chicken tenders — only found in restaurants — you can turn to the air fryer for a taste of your favorite fried foods.
Their name can be misleading — air fryers don't "fry" food. Often frying food draws up memories of hot pots filled with oil and a grease smell that lingers in the kitchen just a little too long. The air fryer, however, is mess-free. All you have to do is add your food to the basket, start the timer, and voila! Perfectly fried food.
Once you start the timer, the appliance begins to blow hot air on the food, which creates convection. The convection cooks the food thoroughly. This process is also makes the food crispy, just like something fried in a traditional fryer. Unfortunately, since it's not equipped to "fry" food as we're used to, making fried okra with a delicious homemade batter won't work in the air fryer. Purchasing pre-fried foods or focusing on dry rubs is the way to go with an air fryer.
What Can I Make in an Air Fryer?
Making food in an air fryer is quick and easy, not to mention delicious.
Chicken and Fries
Open up your frozen fries and frozen chicken into the basket, set the timer, and have an easy, no-mess dinner in just 15-20 minutes.
Upgrade your chicken by using the appliance to make unbeatable chicken wings.
Leftover and Frozen Pizza
Leftover pizza is never as good as fresh pizza. It's hard to get the crispy crust and melty cheese combo perfect in a microwave or standard oven.
With an air fryer, you'll be excited to eat pizza the next day — it might even be better!
The Wide Open Eats air fryer reheat method is sure to please and only takes 10 minutes.
Struggling to enjoy your frozen pizza? Instead of cooking it in the oven, try the air fryer! It's especially good for personal frozen pizzas when you don't want to use the whole oven.
There's nothing like the infamous chain restaurant chocolate lava cake. It deserves its notoriety, too, because it's that good.
Instead of ordering out, just make your own!
How do I clean an air fryer?
Although it may seem daunting, cleaning an air fryer doesn't have to be hard! All air fryer users should make sure to clean their appliances regularly — or else you may have to deal with grease, oil, and crumb build-up in the bottom of your basket.
Focus on cleaning the basket, grate, and the heating element. Always be sure to unplug the appliance before cleaning.
Here are some tips for cleaning your air fryer:
- Hand wash with warm, soapy water! When cleaning appliances like air fryers, the dishwasher can be a dangerous gamble. Take your time with a soft sponge or dishcloth.
- Target stuck food with a good soak. Soaking a dish is always a stuck-on food problem solver, and it works with air fryers too. Fill the basket with warm, soapy water (sound familiar?) and let it sit for a few hours before washing it off.
- Wipe down the exterior and heating element with a damp rag. Don't let the outside or the heating element go unnoticed. Take your time to clean up any grease or food particles.
Also, always be sure to look at the cleaning directions that came with your air fryer. Some appliances are dishwasher safe, but not all. Different models may have different cleaning guidelines.
Best for Beginners
Instant Pot quickly became a household name with their pressure cookers, but their air fryer is just another success. At an affordable $170, the 6 quart model is perfect for anyone looking to make the air fryer a kitchen staple and Instant Pot enthusiasts looking to expand their small appliance repertoire.
Just like with the Instant Pot pressure cooker, the appliance is multi-functional and the interface is easy to use.
If you're an air fryer superuser — or have a large family — try out the 8 quart model that features two separate frying baskets. At only $220, it's definitely worth the upgrade.
At only $100, the Ninja Af101 Air Fryer is one of the most affordable options. Best for air fryer beginners and college students, this small appliance is a powerhouse.
Although it doesn't hold as much as the Instant Pot model, the 4 quart size is perfect for "set it and forget it" single serve meals. This model also boasts easy clean-up, so you can stick it in the dishwasher once it's time to clean.
Best Combination Appliance
Not ready to give up your toaster or convection oven but can't fit that and an air fryer in your kitchen? The Williams-Sonoma Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer is an unparalleled dual device.
The appliance isn't huge, but it comes with tons of features and functionalities — not only can you fry, toast, and bake, but the oven can also slow cook and roast.
This device would also be a great option for frequent home cooks looking to have more versatility in the kitchen.