5 Tips for Better Air Frying

It takes a little know-how to get the most out of these popular appliances. 

Published Jan. 6, 2023.

Air fryers—small, self-contained convection ovens—are having a moment. And it’s well deserved, as they are versatile and simulate the crisp exterior of fried foods with just a fraction of the oil of deep frying. 

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But you can’t just throw a steak or a bunch of potatoes into the basket, hit “go,” and expect good results. Throughout our testing of these appliances and the writing of two books on air-fryer cooking, we’ve learned a thing or two. 

75 Recipes

From crispy fries and juicy steaks to perfect vegetables, we show you what to cook and how to get the best results.

Top 5 Tips for Cooking with Air Fryers

1. Start Dry

Even though air fryers excel at “dry” cooking, the best, most crisp and brown results are achieved when you pat foods dry (with paper towels or clean dish towels) before adding them to the air-fryer basket.

Air-Fryer Top Sirloin Steak with Roasted Zucchini and Shiitakes

We paired steak with zucchini and shiitakes flavored with umami-rich miso, garlic, and scallions.
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2. Add Fat

Tossing or brushing foods with a little oil or butter before cooking ensures good browning and crisping. 

PRO TIP: A little honey or sugar can also help encourage foods to brown in an air fryer. 

Product Review

The Best Supermarket Olive Oil

There have been lots of changes in the olive oil world since we last tested supermarket olive oil—our previous winner swapped its source due to shortages, some brands have addressed quality in a new way, and a new trend of robust oils has hit the shelves. We’ll help you navigate the supermarket aisles.
Read Our Review

3. Fill Judiciously

While it may be tempting to fill the air-fryer basket to the brim, it’s best to not overfill; since air fryers work by convection (circulating hot air), you need to make sure that air has space to flow. Overfilling the basket leads to poor browning and unevenly cooked food. 

Air-Fryer Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges

These sweet potato wedges are as indulgent to eat as restaurant sweet potato fries but healthy because you made them at home with only a little oil and no deep frying.
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4. Flip Food

Most foods need a single flip or stir halfway through cooking to make sure that all sides are evenly exposed to the circulating hot air. So make sure to have your tongs at the ready. 

Air-Fryer Buffalo Chicken Drumsticks

An air fryer produces great Buffalo chicken with the crunch that typically comes from deep frying.
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5. Start Even

Evenly shaped pieces of food work best in air fryers. Take care to cut vegetables evenly, and trim or tuck thin tails of meats to create pieces of even thickness when possible. 

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