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How to Get the Most from Your Air Fryer

We love the hands-off ease of cooking in an air fryer, but we found that getting the best results involves slightly more than simply turning it on and walking away. The following tips and tricks will have big effects on the overall flavor and texture of your food.

How to Achieve More Even Cooking in an Air Fryer

Avoid overfilling: Air fryers work by circulating hot air around food, which can be limited if food is packed too tightly, causing it to steam instead of crisp, and cook unevenly. (That said, proteins shrink as they cook, so a snug fit with meat is OK.) We recommend taking a “jigsaw puzzle” approach to fitting foods, cutting larger proteins in half and skewering smaller pieces to make it easier to arrange more food in the basket without overcrowding.

Rotate and flip proteins: It may seem fussy to rotate and flip meats halfway through cooking, but it helps the air circulation reach every part of the food. We found it easy to do so with a pair of basic kitchen tongs for nimble control and so we weren’t reaching into a hot oven.

Toss vegetables in a bowl: Yes the air fryer basket does come with a handle, but shaking the basket to turn your food can give uneven results. We found it was worth it to toss French fries and other vegetables into a bowl partway through cooking, which redistributed them much more efficiently for perfectly even browning. (This also gives you the opportunity to add seasonings such as herbs and grated cheese partway through cooking.)

“Lincoln log” your skewers: Kebabs are not just fun to eat; they also provide an easy way to space out food in the air fryer basket. Four or more skewers, when stacked in a perpendicular arrangement—log cabin style—maximized exposure to air. We employed the same method with our Zucchini Fries.

How to Get Better Browning in an Air Fryer

Pat food dry: Removing excess moisture from the surface of meat and vegetables helps prevent steaming and ensures crisper results.

A little fat helps: Cooking without any oil whatsoever may sound appealing, but fat promotes browning and can help food to crisp up. In many recipes, adding just a small amount of oil gives optimal results.

Try a little honey: Fat isn’t the only way to boost browning. The sugar in honey also browns well in the intense heat of the air fryer and flavors the food as it cooks. (Fruit preserves work, too.)

Brush dough with egg wash: When cooking pastry dough in the air fryer, brushing the top with egg wash will give you even, glossy browning.

How to Get a Crunchier Coating in an Air Fryer

Pretoast your crumbs: We found that panko bread crumbs, with their coarse, craggy shape, provides the most satisfyingly crunchy coating to most of air-fried foods, from chicken nuggets to zucchini fries. But the circulated heat simply dried them out. A quick pretoast in the microwave with just a little oil ensured they turned an irresistible golden-brown.

Spray with vegetable oil spray: Lightly spraying the base of the air fryer basket with vegetable oil spray ensures any crust remains attached to the food.

How to Use an Air Fryer to Cook Juicy Steaks

Cut them down to size: Cutting larger steaks and halving pork tenderloins enables you to fit more meat into the air fryer without overcrowding.

Add a rub: Steaks and chops emerge wonderfully juicy and evenly cooked, but their surfaces sometimes needed a flavor boost. We recommend adding a potent spice rub (like our Sesame-Orange Spice Blend), which gives the meat better overall color as well as incredible flavor.

How to Cook Fish in an Air Fryer

Dial back the temperature: We like air fryers for their intense blast of heat, but some foods, such as fish, require lower temperatures and longer times to cook through. This cooks the food more gently and can also give the crust more time to brown.

Skewer it: For recipes like bacon-wrapped scallops, skewer the seafood to make the small, delicate pieces easier to remove from the air fryer after cooking.

Use a foil sling: Delicate fish is especially prone to sticking and breaking, so a foil sling facilitates easy removal.

Air fryer foil sling
Cheesy Potatoes in foil sling

How to Cook Chicken in an Air Fryer

Skin side up: Air fryers heat from above, so make sure your skin-on poultry always finishes cooking skin side up to crisp in the more direct heat. This means starting thicker bone-in breasts skin-side down and then flipping them, while thighs and split Cornish hens should cook skin-side up for well-burnished skin.

Give it a poke: When cooking fattier chicken thighs and drumsticks, poke a few holes in the skin with a skewer to help render the fat.

How to Use an Air Fryer to Prepare Complete Meals

Stack your dinner: How do you produce both a main and side in an air fryer’s compact space? Layer them! Placing our protein directly over vegetables not only yielded a full meal but allowed the meat’s juices to baste the veggies below.

Use time wisely: Air frying is so hands-off, it’s easy to focus on preparing a simple side or sauce while the main dish cooks.

Enlist the microwave: There’s no need to turn on the stove when air frying, but we do find the microwave incredibly helpful in parcooking certain foods, speeding up overall cook time. We also recommend using it prepare simple sauces to make many of your meals complete.