Air fryers seem to be everywhere, and any store that sells small kitchen appliances is likely to have a selection. But, what is an air fryer? And, are they really worth the cost?

An air fryer’s price can vary, but they are generally a very useful and inexpensive addition to any family. They’re great for cooking a variety of foods, including leftovers, and they don’t take up too much counter space in the kitchen. They’re also lightweight, so easy to put away when they aren’t in use. Learn more about air fryers today to see why you need one.

How Do They Work?

The name is sort of a misnomer, as air fryers don’t actually fry foods as deep frying does. They do use oil, but it’s a little bit more like a convection oven. The air is heated inside the air fryer and then pushed through the appliance, heating the food from all sides. The food is suspended in an open-weave basket, so the air can get to all of the food as long as it’s not overpacked. This leads to a much faster way of cooking compared to the oven, especially since there’s no need to preheat the air fryer. Plus, they’re small, so they won’t heat up the home during the summer months like an oven will, and they don’t use as much power to operate.

Buying the Right Model

Before buying, there are a few things to consider. There are tons of different models, so it’s a good idea to think about what you’ll want to cook and which air fryers offer what you need. The most important characteristics to consider include the following.

How it Loads – Most air fryers have a front drawer to make loading and unloading easy, but there are some with a lid that opens on the top.

Controls – Some only have one temperature setting, while others have a way to adjust the temperature. Others may have preset buttons, so it’s easy to select the type of food and know it’ll be cooked at the right temperature.

Pausing – Some air fryers can be paused while the food is stirred. With others, you may have to reset the temperature and timer when you stop the air fryer to stir food.

Size – Air fryers are available in a wide variety of sizes. If there are only one or two people in your household, the smaller sizes might be perfect. If you’re cooking for a larger family, opt for a larger air fryer.

Taking it Out of the Box

Once you’ve purchased the air fryer and it’s at your home, it’s time to unpack. Sometimes, there will be packing materials inside the basket, so open everything and dispose of the packing materials before using. Then, you’ll want to do a test run. Most manufacturers will have information about how to do a test run in the product’s manual.

After the test run, follow an easy recipe to try out the air fryer and see how it works. French fries, vegetables, and other foods can also be used for a small test run to see how it works and to learn how to use the air fryer. You’ll want to place the food in the basket, in only a single layer, then spray a light coating of oil on the food. Then, turn on the air fryer to the temperature according to the recipe and let it cook. Stir as needed and when it’s done, enjoy.

What to Avoid When Using an Air Fryer

Using an air fryer is generally safe, but there are some things to avoid, including the following.

Using Too Much Oil – Too much oil can smoke, can build up, and can end up in the drawer under the basket, where it’s more difficult to clean.

Using Cooking Spray – Cooking spray can damage the finish on the baskets. Instead, toss the food in oil.

Using the Wrong Oil – Olive oil has a low smoke point, which can cause it to produce smoke or create a weird taste on the food. Instead, use vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.

Overcrowding the Basket – If there’s too much food in the basket, the air can’t reach all of it, so the food in the middle won’t cook. Stick with one layer.

Forgetting to Shake – Even with one layer, shake the basket at least once in the middle of cooking to make sure everything is cooked thoroughly.

Keeping the Air Fryer Clean

Over time, the oil will build up in the air fryer, which can cause smoke. It’s generally a good idea to clean the air fryer every time it’s used to help avoid this. For most air fryers, simply wiping the drawer and grate is enough. If there is any buildup or stuck-on food, hand wash the drawer or basket. A lot of the models available today do have dishwasher-safe parts, so check the manual to see if your air fryer’s components can go in the dishwasher. If they can’t, hand wash with a little bit of soap to get anything stuck on the drawer or basket off easily. Make sure the drawer and basket are completely dry before putting them back in the air fryer.

Best Foods to Cook in an Air Fryer

Air fryers are perfect for anything that’s normally cooked with dry heat, like roasting, frying, or baking. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to stick with proven recipes, so you learn what works well in the air fryer. If you’re looking for something easy to get started with, try pre-fried foods that are frozen. Chicken tenders, pizza rolls, and other frozen foods are perfect for an air fryer. Other things to try include vegetables, any potatoes you’d bake in the oven, chicken wings, and hot dogs. Air fryers are also perfect for reheating food, so use it for heating up yesterday’s dinner to have as lunch.

Air fryers are easy to use, safe, and provide a fantastic way to easily cook a large variety of foods. Once you’ve bought an air fryer, you’ll find even more uses for it and will love using it for cooking almost anything. In fact you will likely find it cooks the food tastier than you can do it on the grill, and in much less time.