Countertop with KitchenAid® countertop oven with various fried foods

Air Frying Guide: How to Air Fry Your Favorite Foods

You’ve seen them, heard about them and now it’s time to try them out. Air fryers have been making a splash in homes for the past few years and considering their promise of shorter cooking times and crispy results without all the oil, it’s not difficult to see why. So, if you’re wondering, what is an air fryer and how does it work, this guide will walk you through the functionality of an air fryer and how to air fry different types of food, so that you can add this countertop appliance to your collection of kitchen tools.

What is an air fryer and how does it work?

In essence, an air fryer works a lot like a convection oven. With a heating element and fan located on the top section of the cooking chamber, the heating element heats up the surrounding air and the fan circulates the hot air rapidly through and around the food. This hot air is what crisps up the contents in your air fryer, and the perforated air fryer basket allows for more surface area of the food to come into contact with the hot air circulating in the chamber, for thorough cooking and even browning. 

While you can use an air fryer for a number of different things, including roasting and even some baking, you can’t actually fry in an air fryer. Deep-fried foods, which is the consistency and texture that air fryers try to replicate, get their golden, crispy layer by being submerged in hot oil. Air fryers use hot, rapidly circulating air in order to crisp up and brown food, using very little oil–one to two tablespoons is all you really need.

Different types of air fryers

Standalone Air Fryers
Standalone air fryers are usually oval-shaped, similar to that of an egg. They may come with different functions that give them more versatility for various cooking methods like dehydrating, broiling and roasting, among other features.

Countertop Ovens with Air Frying Capability
Countertop ovens are wonderful appliances that can offer a range of versatility for cooking. Depending on the model, countertop ovens come with different functionalities like steaming, proofing, toasting, dehydrating and yes, air frying as well. 

The KitchenAid® Countertop Oven with Air Fry opens up a world of culinary possibilities for even more creativity in the kitchen. You’ll be able to bake, toast, broil and air fry with this powerful countertop oven. The No-Flip Air Fry Basket also lets you set it and forget it, because you won’t have to worry about flipping your food halfway through. 

Ranges with Air Frying Capability
There are also an increasing number of ranges that now come equipped with their own air fry capabilities and air fry baskets. If you’re in the market for a new range and want to consolidate your kitchen gadgets, this could be a good option.

Is Air Fried Food Healthy?

There are several things that can make air frying a healthier alternative to deep frying. Fried foods go through what is essentially a dehydration process that caramelizes and browns food to a crispy perfection. When food is deep fried, this dehydration is caused by the hot oil that is removing moisture from the surface of the food (the bubbles you see in hot oil when food is submerged).

With air frying, food goes through the dehydration process using hot air and a fraction of the oil. The rapid circulation of air creates a fine mist of oil droplets that brown and crisps up food in the chamber. So, in comparison to the minimum of four to six cups of oil that you potentially use with deep frying, one to two tablespoons of oil should mean less fat and calories, which in turn could be seen as a healthy alternative. 

Air frying vs other cooking methods

Air frying vs baking

Because air frying is very similar to convection baking in a full size oven, you can accomplish a lot of similar results taste and texture-wise. However, the preheating time for an air fryer is typically shorter compared to a regular oven, so the overall preparation times may also be shorter using an air fryer.

However, there’s no arguing that in terms of capacity, an oven has a leg-up over an air fryer–even at their largest, air fryers cap out at around 6 quarts, so you’ll be able to cook larger capacities with your oven. So, although capacity differs, the benefits between baking and air frying are just about the same.

 

Air frying vs pan or deep frying

Since air frying isn’t actually frying, when it comes down to deep frying or pan frying, the biggest difference is the amount of oil used. Oil is also what makes deep frying the best cooking method for any recipe with a wet batter, like fried chicken or corn dogs, since the batter will drip through the perforated air fryer basket, turning it into a gooey mess before it even gets a chance to set. Air fryers work best with dry, crunchy exteriors like panko-crusted shrimp.

Maximize your air fryer

If you’re about to embark on a new air frying adventure, use the following tips to ensure that you get a delicious meal or treat every time. 

Don’t overcrowd the basket
Because the hot air that will crisp up your food needs to come into contact with as much surface area for even browning, position your items in the basket in a single layer with enough space for the air to circulate.  

Use oil, but a little goes a long way
You will not need to use a ton of oil to use your air fryer, and if reheating frozen fried foods, you can probably forgo it altogether. But if roasting veggies or cooking protein, coat them in a little oil before placing them in the basket.

Cooking times may be shorter 
One of the biggest selling points of the air fryer is the shorter cooking and heating times (compared to baking in a full-sized oven), so while the amount of time will depend on the recipe, keep a close eye on the timer. With traditional baking, opening the oven to check for doneness lets the heat out and can increase cooking time or lead to poor baking results.

Shake your basket for even crisping
Periodically shake your basket for even browning and crisping, making sure that your food stays in a single layer.

Skip this step with the KitchenAid® Digital Countertop Oven with Air Fry. The included No-Flip Air Fry Basket helps make air frying easy without the need to flip ingredients halfway through the recipe.

What can you cook in an air fryer?

Even though air fryers are often positioned as champions of fried foods, they are very versatile, allowing you to do more than just reheat or crisp up frozen food. The process may vary based on your specific appliance, but these are some recipe ideas and types of foods that will work well in your air fryer.

Plate of chicken wings and celery

Air fryer chicken wings

For crispy and delicious chicken wings, pat the wings dry before adding seasoning to them–a dry rub of salt, pepper and some garlic powder will suffice to get a nice and golden crisp. Cook in your air fryer and flip them once halfway through, unless you have a model with a no-flip basket. To add sauce, once your wings are done cooking, toss them in a coat of sauce and add them back to the air fryer for another few minutes.

Whole roast chicken in an air fryer basket

AIR FRYER WHOLE ROAST CHICKEN

Another meal that comes out scrumptious in the air fryer is whole roast chicken. So long as the chicken isn’t too large and you have enough space in your air fryer (remember that you don’t want to overcrowd), your chicken will come out with a satisfying outer layer and juicy and tender inside reminiscent of rotisserie chicken. Pat your chicken before applying a dry rub, and place the chicken breast-side down in the air fryer flipping once toward the end.

Plate of roasted potatoes

Air Fryer Vegetables

Vegetables are also stars when it comes to the air fryer. You can achieve crispy sweet potato fries, roasted potatoes (and french fries), broccoli, zucchini and even brussels sprouts using your air fryer. Depending on the recipe you’re trying out, you’ll want some seasoning or breading and a little oil before tossing them in the basket for a few minutes at their adequate temperature for a truly quick, easy and delicious veggie side.

Plate of salmon with veggies

Air Fryer Salmon

Don’t limit your creativity–your air fryer is capable of doing many great things, including cooking a flaky and tender air fryer salmon packed with zest and bright, flavorful notes of chili and orange. Enjoy a delightful salmon with a side of brussels sprouts that comes together in less than 30 minutes for a quick and satisfyingly delicious weeknight meal. 

Two steak strips cooked on an air fryer basket

AIR FRYER STEAK

While it may be surprising that you can use your air fryer to cook a steak, this method can help you get tender and juicy results. You will get a steak that is tender and juicy. A little salt, pepper and butter brushed on the steaks will add great flavor while also preventing the surface from drying out too much.

Air fryer cooking time & temperature tips

Although exact details will depend on your recipe and which air fryer you are using, you’ll always have the cooking temperatures and times of your favorite foods on hand with this downloadable guide.

How do you clean an air fryer?

Cooking with an air fryer is a breeze, and cleaning your air fryer isn’t too hard, either. Most air fryers just consist of a basket and drawer, so there aren't too many parts that you’ll have to clean. The basket and drawer you can hand wash with some warm, soapy water, though keep in mind that to avoid greasy messes, you should clean your air fryer after every use, and not just your basket and drawer. 

Wipe the inside chamber and heating element with a damp cloth, so that grease doesn’t build up over time, since that can compromise your air fryer’s functionality. Do not wait to clean your air fryer, since it may make it harder to clean once it’s cooled down.

For the KitchenAid® Digital Countertop Oven with Air Fry, cleaning is just as easy. Once cool, empty the crumb tray and wash in warm, sudsy water. Dry with a soft cloth and open the door to slide it back into place. Additionaly, a soft bristle brush can be used to clean the mesh on the air fry basket.

 

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