9 Basic Rules For Using Your Air Fryer To The Fullest

Air fryers are an indispensable kitchen tool if you know how to wring the most benefit out of them.

Air fryers are miniature convection ovens that live on your countertop, making them one of the most versatile tools in your kitchen. We're big fair fryer fans at The Takeout, and when you know how to use them, you've got a machine uniquely capable of cranking out some pretty delicious stuff.

Still, if you want to get the most use out of your air fryer, and get the most delicious results every time, there are some basic rules to live by. Learn these best practices and you'll be able to navigate yours like a pro. Here are the tips and tricks I've picked up from years of using my trusty air fryer.

Always preheat your air fryer

Ignore the word "fryer" in "air fryer." It's not a damn fryer. You've got a small, powerful convection oven sitting on your kitchen counter. And just like with any oven, it needs to be preheated. Most air fryers come equipped with a preheat button, but if yours doesn't, just crank the temp up to the max and let that bad boy rip for five minutes before putting any food inside of it.


Yes, air fryers come up to temp quickly (hence a five-minute preheating time). You risk cooking your food unevenly if you just dump shit in the basket and run it from a cold temp, even though your air fryer will come up to temp quickly. Let's just stick to best practices, shall we? Preheat that sucker. You'll be glad you did.

Oil up your veggies

Always add a thin layer of oil on your vegetables before you roast them in the air fryer. You don't roast your veggies dry in your oven, do you? If you don't add oil, your final result will amount to shriveled, bone-dry, wrinkly little pieces of food. Thankfully, you don't need much oil at all; if you invest in a refillable pumping oil sprayer (no aerosol needed), a thin, even layer is all you need to get perfectly roasted veggies with appealing crisp bits all over them.


Use bread to your advantage

Let's face it: Certain types of meat are pretty full of fat that will render out during cooking. If you've got a basket-style air fryer, your burgers, whole chickens, or bacon will be sweating grease into the bottom of the basket as it cooks. This is an absolute pain in the ass to clean out later.


A cool trick is to put a piece of squishy white sandwich bread between the inner basket and the removable air fryer bin. The bread will soak up the majority of the hot oil, and when you're done, you can simply toss it. (Don't eat it, it'll be gross.) Later, all you'll need to do is use soap, water, and a sponge to clean it out, and within minutes, the cleaning's done.

Ignore the presets

Aside from the preheat button, those preset buttons are pretty useless. Not all frozen french fries are the same. You're probably never going to use that defrost button. And, wait a second, there's a button for... shrimp?


Just trust yourself. It's relatively difficult to screw up food in an air fryer—that's one of its best assets. Besides, if you really need to check on your meal, you can always peek into it with very little consequence, since unlike a conventional oven it comes back up to temp almost immediately.

Flip it and reverse it

Some air fryers have a handy notification beep halfway through your cooking cycle to remind you to flip or shake your food. Flipping is crucial. Though my air fryer's heating element is located on top, above the food, the bottom of whatever I'm cooking seems to cook faster, especially chicken wings for some reason.


If you're cooking any larger items, from a chicken wing on up, your best bet is to flip the food with a pair of tongs halfway through the cooking time. Shaking the basket doesn't necessarily ensure every piece will be flipped. But if you've got an air fryer full of veggies or fries, then a hearty flick of the wrist to flip that food will do just fine. Just make sure you do it at least once or twice throughout.

Grease that basket

Almost all air fryers come with nonstick lining, but there's no guarantee that food won't stick in some fashion. So don't forget to grease the basket just a tiny bit. You can use a refillable pumping oil sprayer, or my method, which is to pour a little oil onto a paper towel and swipe the inside of the basket once the air fryer is preheated (don't burn yourself!).


Aerosol sprays like PAM can degrade the nonstick lining of your pan (supposedly the propellant is bad for the nonstick surface). I used nonstick spray for a while before I learned this, but for what it's worth, I haven't had any problems in the air fryer since then—though I did switch to the paper towel method just to be safe.

Don’t overcrowd the basket

Air fryers are notorious for not having a large capacity (despite the fact some of them take up a lot of space on your countertop). Still, don't make up for that lack of fryer basket volume by cramming too much food in there. You only want to place items than can fit in a single layer inside the basket. Ideally there's enough space for a little gap between everything so hot air can flow all around your food, ensuring even cooking. Plus, if items are touching while they cook, they might fuse together, and you'll have to rip them apart later. No stacking anything, got it?


You can save any animal fat for later

When you're done crisping up something like bacon, you're undoubtedly going to be left with a lot of grease in the bottom of your air fryer. Guess what? You can keep it for other cooking projects! It's super easy to pour out, even easier than a frying pan, since all you have to do is tip the basket over while the oil is still warm. Just make sure to filter the grease properly before you store it for future use.


Transform your leftovers

Not a fan of cold fried chicken? Just pop it in your air fryer for a few minutes, and it'll be back to fighting form in no time at all. Pizza also reheats excellently in an air fryer, along with leftover fried foods like french fries. Sure, it won't be the same as anything right out of a vat of oil, but, it'll be so close you won't mind. An air fryer will challenge the notion that leftovers are less exciting than the original meal.