Air Fryer Guide for Beginners – everything you need to know to take your new air fryer out of the box and get cooking! Learn what it is, how it works, what to cook first, and how to keep it clean.
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Maybe you received the air fryer as a gift or maybe you decided to join the trend and bought one for yourself. Either way, you are probably looking at the box wondering how to start.
I know there are air fryer owners who had it for months and it is still in the box.
Today, I am sharing everything I’ve learned about using my air fryer since I got it. I am so in love with it and I hope this guide will show you that this appliance can be a huge time saver in the kitchen.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a small electric convection oven, a countertop appliance that has gained a huge following in the last few years, even though they have been around for a while.
The main brand are Philips (Viva and Avance collections), Power Air Fryer, Farberware, and GoWise.
These days they are widely available from retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart. Keep an eye out for specials as the prices can vary a lot.
While air fryers are essentially the same as a convection oven, they have a few features that let you do so much more than just fry. You can broil, bake, and roast!
Also, the timer function allows you to cook without having to stand right there keeping an eye on everything. Once you know what you are doing you can just set and forget, and get on with something else.
I have the Philips Viva TurboStar Airfryer* in white.
How do air fryers work?
An air fryer cooks food by circulating hot air around using a mechanical fan to circulate the heat around the food at high speed. This crisps food up in a similar way to traditional frying, but without the oil or with less oil than you would normally use.
They are sometimes referred to as a hot air fryer, an oil-less fryer, or a low-fat fryer for this reason.
Inside an air fryer the food sits in a metal basket, and the air fryer circulates hot air over and around the food to cook it through and crisp it up. During cooking any excess fat in the food is able to drain off and will collect in the pan below the basket.
Hot air frying has quickly become a very popular way to cook food, because it is quick, almost mess-free, reduces cooking smells, is much healthier than regular frying and uses way less power to operate
How to cook with an air fryer
To cook with an air fryer, you place the food into the basket, put the basket in the air fryer, set the temperature, and set the timer.
Depending on what you are cooking it is recommended to shake the food in the basket halfway through the cooking time – this helps any food that is piled up (e.g. French fries) to cook more evenly.
Most air fryers come with a guide to cooking times, the Philips airfryers have one printed on the top of the unit.
Think of this as a rough guide, as you will need to refine the cooking times based on the size, shape and starting temperature of the food you are cooking.
I have written a more in-depth guide to cooking times for common foods and for frozen foods which will hopefully help you out while you are getting started.
Air fryer accessories
There are loads of options when it comes to air fryer accessories. There are a ton of dishes you can cook just using the air fryer basket (which is included with all air fryers).
Depending on what you plan to cook you may only ever need to use the basket.
However, to expand the number and type of dishes you can cook in your air fryer I would recommend getting a couple of small pans as a minimum. It allows you to cook foods that are too soft or wet prior to cooking to be placed directly in the basket (e.g. quiche, cookies, lasagna).
Here are some recommended items you can use with your air fryer:
- Oil sprayer – this is absolutely essential for air fryer cooking. Oil sprays allow you to just apply a very thin layer of oil to the food you are cooking, so that crispy food can be achieved with the minimum of oil.
- Ramekins – great for cooking small individual portions. Before you buy check that they are oven-safe to withstand the high heat of the air fryer.
- Meat thermometer – useful for checking the internal temperature of meat to ensure it is cooked correctly.
- A large pan that will fit in the air fryer basket is essential for making baked dishes like lasagna or macaroni cheese, or cakes and quiches. Check the dimensions of your air fryer before you buy!.
For more, see my post on the best accessories to get great results from your air fryer.
What can you cook in an air fryer?
I recommend starting with an easy recipe when you first cook with your new air fryer. Do not start with a recipe that requires adding different types of food to the basket at different times like a whole roast dinner, or steak and fries.
Start with something simple like hand cut French fries, or even frozen French fries because they are so easy it will change your life! Check out the recipes linked below.
Easy air fryer recipes for beginners
How do you clean an air fryer?
Cleaning the basket/pan
How to clean the basket and pan all depends on the model you bought. Some can go in the dishwasher, some cannot.
My Philips Viva air fryer basket and pan are dishwasher safe. The basket comes apart, and you remove the handle, and it is easy to slot into my dishwasher.
Other brands are not dishwasher safe, but apparently tend to be easy to handwash as they are designed to be non-stick.
Check the specifications before you buy if being able to clean it is the dishwasher is important to you (it was to me!).
Cleaning the air fryer unit
To clean the outside and inside of the air fryer clean, wait for it to completely cool (at least 30 minutes after cooking), unplug it, and wipe it down with a damp cloth.
If food has got stuck to the heating element it may produce smoke while it is operating.
If this happens, wait until the air fryer has completely cooled, unplug it, and gently wipe the heating element with a damp cloth or cleaning brush to remove any food residues.
Allow the air fryer to completely dry before using it to cook.
Air fryer FAQ and Tips
Air frying is a method of cooking that uses a convection oven and a fan to circulate hot air around and over the food to cook it.
An air fryer is a small bench-top appliance that acts like a mini fan oven. It uses a fan to blow hot air over and around the food, crisping it up without needing as much oil as a regular fryer.
Air fryers are also called oil-less fryers. This is because they can be used without oil, and just use hot air to cook the food.
This is a very healthy way to cook, however you will likely find that using just a little oil gives much tastier, crisper results.
Note you have to mix oil with your ingredients before putting them in the fryer, or spray or brush the food with a cooking oil once in the basket. You cannot add oil to the air fryer pan as you would with a regular fryer.
This depends on the brand and model you have. Many brands have dishwasher safe pans, so check your manual.
I have a Philips Viva Airfryer, which has a dishwater safe basket and pan (you need to remove the basket from the pan and remove the handle). The Philips Avance series Airfryers also have dishwasher safe baskets and pans.
If your air fryer basket is not dishwasher safe then wash it in warm soapy water.
If the basket is really dirty with baked on grease, you can fill the pan with warm water and dish soap and soak it for a few minutes before washing. Just a word of caution – be sure to let it cool first as putting cool water into a hot pan can damage the non-stick coating.
You can use any kind of cooking oil in your air fryer that is suitable for frying grilling or roasting. Do not use cold-pressed oils as they will burn at the high temperatures created inside the air fryer.
My oil of choice for air fryer cooking is an olive oil spray.
Preheating an air fryer is easy, just place the empty basket in the air fryer and turn it on for 3-4 minutes. You will want to time it so that the food is ready to cook soon after it has finished preheating as (unlike a conventional oven which stays on) the air fryer will start to cool after it switches off. It cools slowly, but you don’t want to leave it for more than a few minutes while you finish prepping your dish.
Note: some air fryers do not need preheating, so check your manual if you are unsure.
The question of are air fryers healthy all depends on what you are cooking and how you are cooking it.
Cooking anything in an air fryer will be healthier than cooking the same food in a deep-fat fryer. Cooking oil-less with an air fryer is probably going to be healthier than other cooking methods that use oil.
Cooking any high fat food that will lose fat during cooking will be healthier in an air fryer as that fat can drain away, instead of coating to the food and reabsorbing while it cooks.
This is often caused because you are cooking food with a high fat content. If this is the reason, you should stop cooking and drain the excess fat out of the bottom of the pan (or use a handful of paper towels to soak up the excess oil on the bottom of the pan). Then you can continue cooking.
Thinking of buying an air fryer?
If you are thinking of buying an air fryer, but haven’t yet made a purchase, check out my post on my recommendation for the best air fryer to buy.
*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a cent more – thanks in advance for your support!