Evelyn Romans | 

Air Fryer Basics: 10 Mistakes Everyone Makes (and Tips to Avoid Them)

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Learning how to use an air fryer isn’t as hard as you think. Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s easy to clean, maintain, and cook tasty meals and treats with your air fryer.

So, how does an air fryer work? Well despite its name, an air fryer doesn’t actually FRY anything. Instead, it cooks the food by rapidly surrounding it with hot air. The result is crispy, air-fried excellence.

There are literally thousands of delicious air fryer recipes you can make with your machine, whether you’re looking for a healthy snack or a kid-friendly dinner.

We’re here to make your air fryer fun, easier, and breezier with tried-and-true tips to help you cook like a pro (and avoid all the common mistakes).


1. Don’t buy a cheap air fryer (it’s probably low quality).

When it comes to buying a new air fryer, don’t let your frugal impulses get the best of you. Buying an air fryer for super cheap means sacrificing its overall quality. Lower-quality air fryers won’t last as long or work as well, which can cost you even more in the end.

Finding the best air fryers

The Ninja AF101 Air Fryer is one of the highest-rated air fryers on Amazon with thousands of positive reviews. Other top-rated air fryer models include:

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Finding the best air fryer prices

Amazon and Walmart tend to have the best prices on a variety of air fryer models, but don’t spend too much time stressing about what to spend and where.

Instead, check out our air fryer deals to see the best offers out there. Our experts hunt for deals on air fryers in stores and across the web to get you the best possible price.

Related: How to Clean an Air Fryer


2. Buy the right size air fryer for your family.

The more people in your household, the bigger the air fryer you’ll need. Air fryers generally come in three sizes:

  • Small: 2-4 quarts
  • Large: 5-6 quarts
  • Extra Large: 8-16 quarts

Here’s a general guideline to help you pick the right size air fryer for the number of mouths you’ll feed:

  • A 2 quart air fryer is best for one person
  • A 3 quart air fryer is best for two people
  • A 6 quart air fryer is best for a family of four
  • A 7+ quart air fryer is best for big families and parties


3. Allow at least five inches of free space around your air fryer.

If you’re learning how to use an air fryer, this is the first thing you should know: Your air fryer needs enough countertop space around it to operate efficiently.

If you place your air fryer in a cluttered space, it can prevent airflow and result in overheating, which can lead to melting or worse, fires. Ensure your air fryer will work properly and safely by allowing five inches of free space around its exterior.

This is also why you should avoid placing any objects on top of your air fryer. If possible, set your air fryer machine on top of a heat-resistant pad for added safety.



4. Don’t forget to preheat your air fryer before cooking.

Preheating your air fryer is ideal for the best cooking results. It will allow your machine to get to the right temperature and ensure airflow is at the right levels.

Generally speaking, you only need to preheat your air fryer for about three minutes to get it to the right temperature. But if you’re following a specific air fryer recipe, use whichever preheating settings are provided in the instructions (if any).


5. Add a light layer of oil to your food before cooking it in your air fryer.

Most people think you don’t need to use oil with an air fryer, but without it, your food can end up soggy, dry, or chewy.

Unlike a deep fryer, you don’t need to put oil INTO your air fryer. But adding a light layer of oil onto your food before cooking is effective.

For most air fryer recipes, you only need to drizzle your food lightly with oil (about 1-2 teaspoons). Keep in mind: you may need to use slightly more oil on breaded food items.

Don’t overdo it with the oil — using too much can cause it to leak into the bottom tray and lead to burning or smoking.

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6. Air fryer vegetables don’t need to be cooked raw.

Yes, it’s true: you can cook frozen veggies in an air fryer, too!

In my experience, cooking frozen veggies in an air fryer produces much better results than raw veggies. They’ll typically turn out crispier and less soggy.

Some of the best frozen veggies to cook in an air fryer are broccoli, zucchini, brussels sprouts, squash, and mixed veggies. Try it out for yourself!

Tips for cooking frozen veggies in an air fryer

  • Never defrost — frozen veggies don’t need to be thawed before going into the air fryer.
  • Stir your frozen veggies with cooking oil and top them with your favorite seasoning.
  • Don’t overstuff your veggies in the air fryer basket — place them in a single layer to allow enough air to get through.

Did you know you can save on healthy food, too? Check out our produce coupons!



7. Don’t put too much food in the air fryer basket.

When you overcrowd the air fryer, it prevents the hot air from reaching all sides of your food, which can cause uneven or half-cooked results.

One way to avoid overcrowding your air fryer basket is to cut larger pieces of food into smaller pieces. While you’re cooking, give the air fryer basket a shake every now and then to create more room for air to get through.

Don’t forget to consult your owner’s manual for your air fryer’s specific capacity limits.


8. Clean your air fryer after every use (or it may start smoking).

Don’t let your air fryer sit dirty for days on end — the aftermath will NOT be fun.

Anytime you use your air fryer, crumbs or food remnants are left behind inside. If too much builds up, your air fryer will start smoking the next time you use it (and probably ruin the new meal you’re cooking).

To avoid a mess like this, be sure to clean your air fryer after every use.

Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer?

Yes, you can put foil in your air fryer basket to ease the cleanup process.

You should use as little foil as possible and avoid covering the basket’s holes (that’s how the hot air gets in to cook your food).

Also, never preheat your air fryer with foil in the basket. Your food should weigh the foil down so it doesn’t get blown around and lodge itself somewhere it shouldn’t. It could blow onto the heating mechanism and potentially start a fire.

So if you’re using foil in your air fryer, make sure it’s secure.

Can you put parchment paper in an air fryer?

Yes, you can use parchment paper in your air fryer. Parchment paper can withstand relatively high temperatures and is safe to use in the oven. It can also help prevent food items from sticking to your air fryer basket, making it easier to clean.

You can even buy parchment paper specifically for air fryers. It’s made with little circles so hot air can still get through, even if the paper covers the holes in your air fryer basket.

Save on aluminum foil and parchment paper with these Reynolds coupons.


9. If you’re breading food, follow the right steps to avoid a mess in your air fryer.

People have different thoughts about the “right way” to bread food, but this process will prevent bread crumbs from flying around inside your air fryer:

  • First, coat your food with flour.
  • Then, coat your food with egg.
  • Finally, dip your food in the bread crumbs.

Don’t forget to firmly press the bread crumbs onto your food so they really stick.

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10. Don’t assume your air fryer is dishwasher-safe.

The more recent air fryer models come with removable parts that pop in and out. For the most part, these removable parts (like the basket, divider, and pan) are safe to put in the dishwasher. However, not all air fryers have these removable parts, so always double-check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.

The air fryer machine itself should never be placed in the dishwasher and should only be hand washed.


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