Getting started and using your air fryer for the first time might seem a bit daunting. The big questions are always: What can you actually cook in it and what should you try out first?
Your air fryer is basically a very powerful convection oven which cooks things by blasting them on all sides with a dry, high heat. Once you get your head around the idea of it working through dry heat, figuring out what foods will come out best in your new appliance becomes far easier.
Cooking methods which use dry heat include roasting, baking, grilling, broiling, searing and some kinds of frying (particularly air frying and sauteing). If you would like to know more about dry heat cooking, you can read more here.
Cooking methods which use wet heat include poaching, braising, boiling, steaming and simmering.
So if you think of foods that you would cook with a dry heat, the chances are that they will turn out well in an air fryer. Here are a few to try out:
Pre-Fried Frozen Foods
So many frozen food staples like fish fingers, hash browns, chicken tenders and pizzas cook perfectly when you air fry them.
You’ll find preparing these kinds of foods is easy and quick. Many of them also have sufficient oil in them that you don’t need to add any for them to crisp up beautifully.
This is also one of the many reasons why an air fryer is a great appliance for students living away from home or anyone living alone who doesn’t want to spend hours slaving over a hot cooktop every evening. They are fast, convenient and surprisingly versatile once you know what you are doing.
Foods Similar To Pre-Fried Frozen Foods
By this, I mean your own version of those freezer aisle favourites.
Yummy things like crumbed chicken drumsticks, homemade arancini balls and sweet potato fries. All you need to do is to make sure that those breadcrumbs are safely stuck to your drumsticks or arancini, pop a little bit of oil in your machine and you’ll have dinner ready in next to no time.
Roasted or Grilled Vegetables
Wash and prep your favourite veggies then throw them in the air fryer with a little oil and some seasoning. They will come out deliciously crispy and golden. This is particularly true of root veg like carrots, beetroot and sweet potatoes. You can also get great results with higher water content veggies like zucchini, squash and pumpkin, but be a little more gentle with the heat and cooking time as they fry pretty quickly and you don’t want them to shrivel.
And don’t just go for the obvious vegetables. Spiced cauliflower and miso broccoli florets are divine from the fryer. And then there is the addictive crunch of air fried brussel sprouts!
Yes. I know they are a vegetable, but they really do deserve their own mention.
Anything that you would usually do with a potato and oil is awesome in an air fryer. Hot chips, shoestring fries and rostis all come out crisp, golden and irresistible. And as for roast potatoes…Wow! Par boil your spuds, coat them in a smidge of duck fat, salt and pepper and air fry them. You will get crunchy, golden perfection and I guarantee you will never do your roasties in the oven again.
If you want to try making your own potato chips in your air fryer, you can read more here.
As I’ve said before, this is a mega-charged convection oven and it can be used like one. So it makes sense that if this device is ideal for crisping up pre-cooked frozen foods, it’s equally good at breathing new life into last night’s take away. And this doubly the case if that take away or convenience meal was fried.
But you can heat things like that up in the microwave, right?
Sure you can, but the advantage of doing it in the air fryer is that you’ll revive the crunch. One of the biggest disappointments of reheating in a microwave is that things get hot, but also get soggy. Think of pizza or a slice of pie from the microwave – warm, but soft. Give those same foods a quick air fry and they will be hot and crisp, just as they were when you first ate them.
If you are OK with cooking chicken pieces with the skin-on, this is the appliance for you.
Chicken thighs and wings could have been made for air frying, they come out that good. It’s all to do with the layer of fat that lies just under the skin. The heat of the air fryer melts that fat and crisps the skin up so that it has a fantastic crunch.
And remember that if you don’t want to eat that gloriously crispy skin (How could you resist it?!), you can always cook your chicken with it on and then remove it before you eat.
Please see here for our Best Air Fryer Fried Chicken Recipe.
Other Things to Try
This really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using an air fryer. I’ve not even mentioned any of the tempting things that you can bake in one of these devices.
The best advice is to experiment. Remember which types of food go with dry cooking and give them a go. You may need to tweak the odd recipe here and there, but once you get the hang of your machine, you’ll know what works best in it and how to prepare it.
Before you know it, you’ll be making healthier versions of old favourites in your air fryer rather than in the oven. And you’ll be cooking them much faster too!