The popularity of air fryers is showing no signs of slowing down with stores like Kmart and ALDI even jumping on the bandwagon with their own versions. The air fryer revolution has also brought many cooking marvels like choc brownie cookies, mac and cheese nuggets, and twisted bacon, so it’s safe to say Aussies aren’t going back to traditional boring cooking anytime soon.
While air fryers provide the versatility of low-fat cooking without supervision and with crispy results in no time, there are some common air fryer no-nos to be aware of. Here are nine common air fryer mistakes and how to avoid them:
- Not cleaning your air fryer properly
- Overfilling the air fryer basket
- Not preheating your air fryer
- Putting foods with too much moisture (i.e. batters)
- Not rotating foods
- Using too much or too little oil
- Letting fatty foods drip into the basket
- Putting things in that you shouldn’t
- Not giving the air fryer enough space
Common air fryer mistakes to AVOID
1. Not cleaning your air fryer properly
Most people use their air fryer on the regular without thinking about all of the debris that’s being collected at the bottom of the basket, much like when toasting bread in the toaster. Those crumbs can burn, cause baked-on build-up (in both appliances actually), and impact the flavour of the foods you’re cooking, as well as the performance of the air fryer over time.
That’s why you should aim to give your air fryer basket and tray a wipe-over after each use. You should also give them a proper wash with hot, soapy water at least once a week if you’re using the appliance regularly or after a long air-frying session, or if you’ve cooked something particularly messy like chicken wings or fatty like bacon. Most removable parts of the air fryer are dishwasher safe, so it can be a fairly painless process. Just double check the manufacturer’s instructions first.
2. Overfilling the air fryer basket
It may be tempting to shove all your ingredients in the air fryer basket and hope for the best, but we’re here to tell you the results are likely to be disappointing. Overfilling the air fryer basket will cause your food to not cook evenly or take twice as long with subpar results. Think fries with a crispy outside but frosted cold centre. Not ideal. This is because air fryers work by circulating hot air around the basket, so if your food is all squished together, the air can’t efficiently circulate around all sides to give you even, crispy results. There needs to be sufficient room between your ingredients for the air fryer to cook foods evenly.
3. Not preheating your air fryer
If you’re not preheating your air fryer, you could be setting yourself up for disaster aka undercooked food. It’s the same if you don’t preheat your oven. Be sure to preheat your appliance before adding the food in – the internal temperature needs to be hot enough to cook immediately. This will also help you better follow recipes since suggesting cook times often don’t include heat-up times. Preheating your air fryer will also allow your food to cook evenly at the perfect temperature to give you the crispiest chips or best results possible. It doesn’t take very long either so there’s really no excuse. Most modern air fryers come with a built-in preheat function that automatically turns on before you can start cooking.
4. Putting foods with too much moisture
Unlike a deep fryer, air fryers don’t have the ability to get rid of the moisture in things like batters or wet veggies. Instead, air fryers are specially designed for crisping up breaded, solid, or crunchy foods. Dry foods brown more quickly because moisture on the surface will evaporate quickly. To avoid soggy situations, pat dry anything that is not breaded like meat, seafood, or vegetables for the best results. A Canstar Blue survey of air fryer owners found that nearly of third (28%) have tried to air fryer random foods to see what they would taste like. We suggest sticking to what the instructions manual says or you risk voiding any applicable warranties.
5. Not rotating foods
Much like cooking on a bbq, flipping your proteins halfway through the cook makes for a more even final result, so giving your food in the air fryer – like chips – a shake every once in a while is a good idea. And don’t worry about opening the basket while cooking, it’s a small space, so won’t take long to heat back up!
6. Using too much or too little oil
The correct amount of oil is crucial for a great end result. Too much could result in drippage, which could potentially damage the heating elements (or at least making a huge mess). On the other hand, using too little can cause the food to stick or not crisp up to its full potential. Most recipes only need about 1-2 teaspoons of oil.
7. Letting fatty foods drip into the basket
Cooking fatty foods such as burgers or bacon in the air fryer may lead to the grease dripping onto the hot, metal surface where it will burn, smoke and smell, impacting not only the taste of the food currently in the basket, but also future cooks can be impacted by the lingering smell. The best way to avoid this, is to put a little bit of water below the basket, that way the fat will hit water instead.
8. Putting things in that you shouldn’t
While there are a number of weird and wacky things that can go in an air fryer, not everything should. Because an air fryer primarily uses air, anything that is light enough to fly around is not suitable, mostly because these particles could get stuck to the heating system and burn but also just because the results won’t be as good. This includes things like herbs, seasonings and leafy greens. Anything that is too big should also not be attempted in an air fryer, such as a whole chicken. If it doesn’t fit comfortably, with room around the outside, then there’s a good chance that you won’t get the best tasting results.
Read more: What foods can you cook in an air fryer?
9. Not giving the air fryer space
Airflow is crucial to the whole air frying process as it relies on convection currents (mass motion of air) to heat up and cook foods. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that your air fryer has at least 10cm of space on all sides to let it do its mighty work. If you store your air fryer in a cupboard or the corner of your bench, just make sure to get it out into the open when it’s in use.