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15 Air Fryer Tricks You Should Know About

Everything you need to know about using your air fryer — from cooking perfectly crisp veggies to how often you should actually be cleaning it.

If you've never used an air fryer before, they can seem intimidating. How long does it take to cook things? Do you need to clean it? It can feel overwhelming.

So we went ahead and rounded up 15 helpful cooking tips so you can get the most out of your air fryer.

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1. Preheat your air fryer before adding your food.

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Just like an oven, an air fryer benefits from a few minutes of preheating. To do so, just turn it on before adding your food to the basket. It's a simple step that many people overlook but can help shed a few minutes off your cooking time.

2. Make sure to grease your air fryer basket with oil so nothing sticks...

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Even though most air fryer baskets have nonstick coatings, you'll still want to grease the basket to make sure nothing sticks. Oils with high smoking points (such as safflower or soybean oil) are ideal for using in air fryers, as the temperatures within the machine can get very hot.

Pro tip: If you want to use olive oil in your air fryer, avoid extra-virgin varieties, which have smoke points between 350⁰ and 410⁰ F, and go with regular (or light-tasting) varieties which have smoke points between 390⁰ and 470⁰ F.

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3. But don't use nonstick aerosol cooking sprays as they can cause damage to your air fryer.

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Many nonstick cooking sprays contain additives that can "damage the nonstick coatings on some air fryer baskets," so you'll want to avoid using them. An easy alternative is to purchase a spray bottle and fill it up with your own oil.

4. Add water to the air fryer drawer when cooking fatty foods (like chicken thighs or bacon) to prevent smoking...

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Items that render off a lot of fat (such as burgers, bacon, or meatballs) might cause your air fryer to start smoking, because of the fat that collects in the air fryer pan and heats up. If this happens, you can turn off the machine, drain the fat, and start cooking again — or you can add water to the tray before you start cooking to prevent it from happening. The water will prevent the grease from getting too hot and smoking.

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5. And utilize the drippings that collect in the drawer (like bacon fat!) to make pan sauces and gravies.

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That fat that's in that pan (even if it's mixed with a bit of water), is perfectly useable and filled with flavor. You can stash it in a Tupperware or a jar for later use and make gravies, pan sauces, and other recipes with it — so don't let it go to waste!

Learn more: Check out 15 delicious ways to cook with bacon fat.

6. Shake the basket a few times during cooking to make sure everything is browning evenly.

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To make sure your items are cooking evenly, give the basket a few shakes during cooking. You can keep the air fryer running and just remove the basket without any problems. This is especially useful for small items that you want to crisp all over, like fries or small roasted veggies. A few shakes should be enough, and it'll help ensure everything turns out crisp and consistent.

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7. Make sure you don't overcrowd your air fryer basket...

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If you add too many items to your air fryer basket, the air won't be able to circulate properly and your food won't get crispy. If you're making a large amount of something, cook items in batches instead of all at once. This advice is especially important for fries, diced veggies, and other small items you want to get super crispy.

8. And for larger items (like whole chicken cutlets or pork chops) cook them in a single layer and don't stack them.

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Things like steaks, pork chops, fish fillets, and burgers need to be cooked in a single layer in the air fryer. If you try to stack them, the sides that are touching will end up colorless and soggy. If you can only fit three steaks at a time in the bottom of your air fryer basket and want to cook more, you'll need to cook them in batches.

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9. Use foil or parchment paper to make clean up easier.

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For super messy items (like wings coated in a sticky sauce) you can place them on a sheet of tin foil or parchment paper on top of the air fryer basket to make clean up easier. The force of the hot air circulating can cause the sheets to fly around, so just make sure the food is heavy enough to weight it down.

Learn more: Check out some helpful tips for using tin foil or baking paper in your Air Fryer.

10. Make sure there's at least five inches of space around your air fryer.

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Air fryers rely on hot air circulation to crisp up food, so it's important that you give your machine enough space on all sides to account for proper air flow. A good rule of thumb is to allow five inches of clearance on all sides, and make sure your surfaces are heat-proof. You don't want to cook with an air fryer that's pushed against a wall.

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11. Ditch the oven and toast nuts in your air fryer.

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The air fryer's hot circulating air is the perfect thing to quickly toast up a batch of nuts. Just throw them in the basket with whatever seasoning you'd like and let them toast until they're golden and start making popping noises. Just remember to pull them out when they're still a tad lighter than you'd like — the nuts continue cooking after you remove them.

Learn more: Get a recipe for garlicky roasted almonds made in the air fryer.

12. Mix your seasonings with oil before adding them to your foods to prevent them from blowing around.

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Because the air circulation within an air fryer is so strong, lightweight spices have a tendency to be blown off of food. One way to avoid this is to mix your spices with oil, and then coat your items in that mixture. The oil helps weight them down and glue them to the food.

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13. Clean your air fryer after every use — but not in a dishwasher.

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After using your air fryer, you'll want to let it cool and clean it. You'll need to clean the basket, the drawer that collects any oil/drippings, and the machine itself. If you notice smoke start coming out of your machine as you use it, this is a sign that you're air fryer has oil buildup and needs to be cleaned. Cleaning the machine is fairly straightforward and can be done with regular soap and water, just avoid sticking the pieces in a dishwasher.

Learn more: See how to properly clean your air fryer.

14. Don't limit yourself to savory things. "Baking" in an air fryer is not only possible, but super practical...

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Some air fryers come with a special pan you can use for baking — and even if yours doesn't, you can just use a standard oven-safe pan to bake all kinds of things. Cakes, brownies, and doughnuts are all perfect examples of desserts you can "bake" in an air fryer. Just think of your machine as a super strong convection oven. The fan is stronger than a typical one, so keep an eye on your baked goods so they don't brown too quickly. And even if they do, just cover them with foil and keep "baking."

Learn more: Get a recipe for brownies "baked" in an air fryer.

15. And you can "hard-boil" eggs in an air fryer, too.

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Just place your eggs directly in your air fryer basket or on top of the wire rack that comes with some models and cook for 12 to 16 minutes at 250° F — 12 minutes if cooking on a rack, 16 minutes if cooking directly in the basket. As soon as they're done cooking, place them in an ice water bath to quickly cool down. (Note: You may want to test this method using just one egg at first. Cook times may vary depending on your air fryer model.)

Learn more: Get step-by-step instructions for making "hard-boiled" eggs in an air fryer.

Looking for more helpful cooking tips? Check out these posts:

12 Expert Slow Cooker Tips You'll Wish You Knew About Sooner

14 Instant Pot Tips For Beginners

17 Things You Can Make In A KitchenAid Mixer

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