It’s no surprise that ubiquitous air fryers now rival the popularity of microwaves. The beloved appliance seemingly does it all: bake, roast and fry ingredients to golden perfection, all without the excess oil and its accompanying saturated fats.
But not all air fryer owners are using their appliances to their fullest potential. In fact, some users are making air fryer mistakes that limit the possibilities for some lip-smacking cuisine.
We’ve rounded up seven of the most common air fryer mistakes so that you can avoid them and focus on the reasons you bought one in the first place: convenience, ease of use and efficiency.
1. Forgetting to Preheat
Not many air fryer models will beep or chime once they reach your desired temperature. It’s important to give the appliance about five minutes or so to heat up before placing your food on shelves or in a basket. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up with a soggy, undercooked meal.
2. Overfilling the Basket or Shelves
This isn’t Coachella for french fries — there is no need to crowd your food like patrons at a rock concert because the result will be uneven cooking. Separate larger meals into batches (it doesn’t take as long as an oven to preheat and cook) or simply invest in a larger model that will accommodate your particular cooking and meal-prep needs.
3. Using the Wrong Oil
A light coating of oil will help to crisp up any food, but some options fare better than others. You’ll want to opt for a variety with a higher smoke point, like avocado oil, so that it doesn’t emit too much smoke into your machine and impart unappetizing tastes and smells. Avoid canola or coconut if you can, or prepare in advance by lowering the temperature and extending the cooking time.
4. Failing to Properly Clean
An unfortunate byproduct of frequent air fryer use is crumbs and grease. You’ll want to get into the nooks and crannies to remove any accumulation of food, or it could pose a fire risk. Be sure to hand wash the larger pieces with soap and water. If you want to clean inside the unit, unplug it, allow it to cool and wipe it down with a damp rag. Avoid any openings like the fan and allow it to air dry before using.
5. Mismanaging Proteins
You’re likely using your air fryer to cook chicken, beef, pork or fish. But before tossing filets, thighs and tenderloins into the machine, you’ll want to ensure that they’re patted dry, especially before adding an oil or coating. You’ll also want to give the meat a flip halfway through the cooking time to ensure even doneness. Be sure to use a thermometer, as you would with an oven, to guarantee that your meats are fully cooked before consumption.
6. Picking the Wrong Foods
While an air fryer can seemingly cook it all, there are some foods to stay away from. The first is anything overly hydrated (unless it is well-coated to create a crispy crust). You could end up with a mushy mess that is far from appetizing. The second is anything light that can be blown around the machine by the fan. This means you’ll want to avoid kale chips or similar foods that aren’t sturdy.
7. Buying a Model That Doesn’t Suit Your Needs
Shelves? Baskets? Multi-purpose? Big? Small? There are many elements to consider before making an air fryer investment. Many times customers arbitrarily buy a high-rated model without doing a deep dive into its specifications. Be sure to do your research in advance so that you can find something that works for your individual cooking needs.