air fryer food hacks

Move over, microwaves and toaster ovens! As countertop appliances go, air fryers are among the easiest to use. The handy kitchen appliances have exploded in popularity simply because after a short preheat time and a quick cook-and-toss of prepped food, a meal can be ready in mere minutes. It’s so easy, in fact, you might overlook how it could get even easier by using some air fryer hacks.

It’s time to make the most of these miniature convection ovens. From streamlining the cooking process by using commonplace kitchen items to opening up your air fryer to new avenues of textures, techniques, and recipes, these tips and tricks are here to help you cut down even further on cooking time, keep the kitchen neat and tidy, and expand your air frying horizons. Consider the following to be your essential hacks for upping your air frying game in the kitchen (and maybe impress a few fellow air fryer aficionados along the way).

Air fryers can be used for more than just frying

air fryer steak

The name, in fact, doesn’t say it all. Air fryers are known as a healthier alternative to frying food in oil while still giving food a nice brown and crispy exterior, and that makes them a go-to for cooking up frozen French fries and chicken wings. These handy kitchen devices have a few more cooking methods up their sleeve than simply frying.

An air fryer’s use of superheated air circulated inside of the device by a fan lets it cook quickly and evenly, and that makes them just as good for simulating deep-frying as it is for baking and sautéing. Vegetables can be roasted, steaks can seared and — believe it or not — true believers swear by air fryers’ capability to make dishes like pizza and roast beef. Even if an air fryer can’t easily cook up as many portions as a conventional oven, they can also make a great companion to cooking main dishes on other appliances in the kitchen, from baking croutons for Caesar salads to toasting nuts for some à la minute garnish.

You can convert any oven-based recipe for air frying

Air fryers may be able to perform the same tasks that an oven can, but if you want to replicate one of your favorite oven-based recipes, it isn’t as easy as throwing in food and cooking it at the same temperature. This is primarily due to the difference in cooking methods of the two appliances. By the same measure, you don’t need to make what you want in a way that’s especially designed for an air fryer; some recipes simply won’t taste the same if they’re tweaked excessively.

That’s where author and YouTuber Candice Hutchings — aka TheEdgyVeg — comes in. She’s detailed her own air fryer hack that’s as simple as lowering the cooking temperature by approximately 25 degrees Fahrenheit while reducing cooking time by 20percent. "For example, if the oven recipe states 400°F for 20 mins, cook in the air fryer at 375°F for 16 minutes, opening halfway to shake the basket and flip the food," she writes.

Use an air fryer instead of a microwave for crispier leftovers

Microwaves have been around for so long that they’re usually relied on as the solution to quickly reheating leftovers. Some foods, however, you shouldn’t reheat in the microwave when you want to enjoy some leftovers. Because microwaves heat the water inside of food, microwaves are often machines of extremes; they can either dry out what they cook without giving it a delicious crispy texture or can turn something into hot mush.

That’s what makes an air fryer so helpful. We won’t say that air fryers can completely replace microwaves, but there are some things they can beat microwaves at every time. Pizza can be reheated with melty cheese and without drying out the crust (not to mention being more energy-efficient than using an oven for one or two slices), leftover steamed vegetables can take on new flavors with a golden brown color and crunch, and breaded food like fried chicken or popcorn shrimp can be re-crisped with little more than a simple fry-flip-fry treatment.

Add water to an air fryer drip pan to revive food

Pastries like croissants, chocolatines, scones, and biscuits as well as breads can be rendered inedible if not stored properly (nobody wants to eat a biscuit that tastes like a hockey puck). We get it, mistakes happen, but don’t throw any of it out the next day if you’ve got an air fryer. Similar to how adding a glass of water to a microwave can help with reheating certain leftovers, air fryers can be just the thing baked goods need to get a second life after drying out. By adding a few tablespoons of water to an empty drip pan, any baked good in your basket will be good as new in minutes.

If you’re on a budget? Just imagine how cheap your next trip to the bakery can be with this hack as you buy up a bunch of their day-old inventory and bring it all back to life at home. As an added bonus, your kitchen will smell wonderful.

You can use an air fryer to dehydrate foods

While air fryers can be just the thing to rehydrate foods, their ability to circulate heated air can make them effective dehydrators as well for small to moderate amounts of vegetables, fruits, and meats. Several models come with a built-in dehydration option, but even if you don’t have an all-in-one air fryer that has that feature, it’s still possible to preserve foods.

By cooking thinly slicing food in single layers, a standard air fryer set to its lowest temperature setting — which can range anywhere from 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit — for 15-minute intervals can deliver dehydrated results. Just be sure to check in on your food as you go with a couple shakes of the basket now and then. The whole process may not replace a dedicated dehydrator, but if you only plan on dehydrating food on occasion, an air fryer’s better than buying a whole other single-purpose machine.

It’s important to note that if you’re dehydrating with a standard air fryer that doesn’t have a built-in option, dehydrating meats is not recommended.

From cake to churros, air fryers can make desserts

Air fryers get looked to for their ability cook up a wide range of savory food, but they’re just as capable of cooking up a lot of stuff on the sweeter side. We’re talking all kinds of recipes for donuts, cookies, fritters, pies, and churros. Even baking a cake is possible if you’re using a larger air fryer that can fit a baking tin inside of it. The smaller baskets of air fryers suited for personal use may not be able to pull off something so grandiose, but making a few cookies at a time is doable.

The only thing to keep in mind while using an air fryer as opposed to an oven for baking or frying sugary treats is that you’ll likely need to flip your food halfway through the cooking process. So be sure to follow the recipe.

Boil eggs in an air fryer without any water

If you’re the type to feel like you’ve got little to no time to prep a proper breakfast — we’re talking no time to even boil water or sit down for cereal — or have something ready to grab and go when you wake up in the morning, you’ll find a friend in your air fryer. Eggs can be both hard or soft-boiled, depending on how long you cook them for, and that means breakfast can be ready before you’ve finished washing up and getting dressed.

Keep things simple by simply putting eggs in your basket preheated to 270 degrees Fahrenheit. Soft-boiled eggs require ten minutes, medium-boiled eggs need 12 minutes, and hard-boiled eggs come from 15 minutes of cooking. However long you plan on cooking them, be sure to peel them after they’ve cooled off first, and make sure you’ve got some salt and pepper wherever you’re heading so you can season your brekkie properly.

Line your basket with aluminum foil or parchment paper

Find that using your air fryer can get a bit messy? Want to avoid your air fryer racks and drip pans from being scored by hot grease or juice from whatever you’re cooking? It seems like basic common sense, but it’s something that can often go overlooked in the course of using an air fryer. Lining your drip tray or your basket with aluminum foil can help with keeping things tidy. Because the foil isn’t included with your device, it won’t always be recommended by manufacturers, but it works and is especially helpful if you use your air fryer on a regular basis and want to keep things as clean as possible.

If it’s safe for cooking in an oven, it’s safe for cooking in an air fryer, so the same goes for parchment paper. It may better to use, as it has more nonstick properties than aluminum foil does, and it may be better for your health as well: A risk assessment study by the International Journal of Electrochemical Science found that small amounts of aluminum may leach into food while cooking is underway.

Use aluminium foil to keep food from moving around

There’s a great deal of food that requires a quick shake of your air fryer basket as you cook, but what if you want whatever you’re cooking to remain stable as you pull the basket out to check on your food’s progress? Whether you’re cooking with loose ramekins filled with something liquid like scrambled eggs, or baked shellfish dishes like Oysters Rockefeller and Coquille Saint-Jacques, using crumpled aluminum foil as a support structure can help to keep food from moving around and avoid unnecessary spillage.

Using foil like this can help in a pinch, and tends to be the more cost-effective option as well, helping you to avoid going out and buying from the growing number of air fryer-specific gadgets and accessories like cooking molds or racks. Depending on what you cook and provided there isn’t too much spillage in the process, you should be able to reuse the aluminum foil structure you create as well.

Prevent smoke by adding water to your air fryer’s drip pan

Air fryers can be effective when it comes to cooking fatty foods like slices of bacon or hamburger patties. That said, unless you’re regularly emptying out the drip pan as you go — and that’s hard to do while an air fryer’s in motion — you might find a lot of smoke coming out of your countertop cooker. If you find this is a common air fryer problem, try pre-emptively adding a tablespoon or two of water to your drip pan in order to prevent the grease from getting too hot and smoking. It’s a simple tip that makes all the difference.

It’s probably best for your health that you’re cutting down on smoking grease as well. According to Serious Eats, fat starts to break down once it passes its smoke point, and that means the release of both free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage your cells) and acrolein, the chemical that gives burnt foods an unpleasant flavor and aroma.

If a piece of your air fryer breaks, consider replacement parts

Let’s say you bought an air fryer model that you like, but a part of it breaks down over time and constant usage, and your warranty is null and void. Fan blades get chipped and cracked, the basket could break from being dropped one too many times, or the drip pan could become scored black by hot grease. There’s a number of things that could break, wear down, or go wrong with a machine you use often and your first instinct is to get frustrated.

While it’s understandable to consider either replacing your air fryer or buying an entirely new model when something isn’t working, consider contacting the manufacturer for replacement parts. Depending on the model you purchased, there may be parts for sale or an option to have a repair person service your machine. This means one less appliance in the landfill and the results will probably be cheaper than buying a whole new machine outright.

Use your air fryer to thaw frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables in a freezer

Frozen veggies sometimes get a bad rep, but the reality is that they have almost the same nutritional value as fresh ones do, according to a 2017 research published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. When you’re low on fresh produce, frozen alternatives can be a quick and easy way to whip up a healthy side dish. Unfortunately, simply popping your frozen broccoli, carrots, and other veggies in the microwave often leaves them soggy, mushy, and less than appetizing.

Your trusty air fryer is the perfect solution. Cooking your store-bought frozen veggies or fresh vegetables that you’ve frozen yourself in the air fryer is a guaranteed way to get tasty, crispy results every time. Start by spraying your air fryer basket with your choice of oil spray. Then, dump your frozen veggies in the basket and give them another spritz. Add any spices or salt and pepper you’d like — garlic powder and onion powder are great options — then shake the basket to distribute the spices and oil. Air fry for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then serve.

Swap your oven for your air fryer for a quick frozen pizza

frozen pizza on a table

Americans spend more than $11 billion on pizza deliveries each year. If you love stuffed crust, breadsticks, and other pizza shop classics, and tend to rely on ordering pizza on nights when you need a quick and easy dinner, the cost can add up fast. It’s a no-brainer that cooking a frozen pizza at home can help you save a bit of cash. All the same, when you’re hungry and in a hurry, waiting for your pizza to cook in the oven might be enough to make you reach for the phone or your favorite delivery app.

Instead, reach for your air fryer. Whether you’re hungry and in a hurry or love extra-crispy crusts, cooking your favorite frozen pizza in your air fryer rather than your oven is a great choice. For starters, you’ll need to make sure to choose a frozen pizza that fits in your air fryer. For smaller models, this might mean opting for individual-sized pizzas, French bread pizzas, or even pizza bites. Once you’ve got your pizza, preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees. Place the pizza in the basket, and cook it for six to eight minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is crisp.

Create a restaurant copycat meal

Nashville hot chicken

Delivery pizza isn’t the only area where American families tend to overspend. The average household in the US spends around $3,000 each year dining out at restaurants. When you’re craving your favorite meal or appetizer but want to keep your budget in check, your air fryer might be useful. With a quick search online, you can find tons of copycat recipes that allow you to recreate popular restaurant dishes at home, at a fraction of the price.

Love KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken? Chicken tenderloins and a handful of other ingredients make it easy to cook up this spicy dish for your family. This dish would pair well with some air-fried pickles, a popular restaurant appetizer. For a sweet dessert, use your air fryer to recreate Subway’s always-soft oatmeal cookies. Don’t see your favorite restaurant dish here? Do a quick Google search, and odds are that someone out there has created a recipe designed to recreate the dish quickly — and cheaply — with the help of an air fryer.

Shake the basket when cooking smaller items like fries and wings

air fryer basket with French fries

The reason why air fryers are so quick and are often touted as a healthier way of cooking lies in the way they cook food. Your air fryer blows a continuous stream of hot air from a fan located in the top part of the appliance. That air is circulated down into the basket where you’ve placed your food. This means that very little oil is needed to keep foods from sticking, and food is cooked evenly.

However, when your air fryer basket is loaded with French fries, vegetables, or other bite-sized ingredients, the circulating air may not make its way to the food in the middle. To make sure that everything is cooked through and perfectly crispy, Philips recommends shaking your air fryer basket partway through cooking. For best results, only use this trick when cooking foods that aren’t fragile. Softer foods may fall apart if you shake the basket and should be placed in a single layer to ensure they are evenly cooked and remain intact.

Add oil partway through cooking

Spraying cooking oil in an air fryer basket

Shaking your air fryer basket partway through cooking isn’t the only trick you can use to ensure your food comes out perfectly cooked and deliciously crispy. While in most cases air fryers require very little oil, certain dishes will benefit from a little extra. When you shake your basket while cooking fries, mini corndogs, veggies, and other small foods, check to see if the food looks dry. If so, Everyday Family Cooking recommends another quick spray of oil for best results.

Keep in mind that not all oils are suited for your air fryer. Air Frying Foodie suggests using either butter, olive, coconut, avocado, vegetable, or peanut oil. Meanwhile, My Forking Life warns against using oil that comes in an aerosol spray can, since it may contain ingredients that can damage your air fryer. Be sure to check the smoke point of the oils you’re considering and compare it to the cooking heat to make the right choice.

Use your air fryer to make perfectly crispy bacon

Crispy bacon

If your knowledge of air fryer recipes begins and ends with fried snack foods, you might be surprised to learn that you can whip up a delicious breakfast in your countertop appliance. You’ll need to use an air-fryer pan or create an approximation with aluminum foil for fried eggs, according to Cooking Light. As for toast, you might want to stick to making it in a toaster. However, one breakfast dish that’s made simple with the help of an air fryer is bacon.

You already know that your air fryer can be used to make crispy French fries and frozen vegetables. But in under 10 minutes, it can also help you make crispy bacon with no splashing grease or big mess to clean up. To make your bacon, A Southern Soul recommends preheating your air fryer to 360 degrees. Lay the slices of bacon along the bottom of your air fryer basket and avoid overlapping them. The thicker your bacon, the longer you’ll need to cook it; thin slices will cook in 8 to 10 minutes, while thicker ones will take 10 to 13 minutes.

Save the juices left behind in the air fryer to make gravy

saucer of gravy

If you have a large enough air fryer, you can make Thanksgiving or any regular weeknight family meal even easier by roasting a whole turkey. And if you normally like to make your own gravy after roasting a bird in the oven, this is another task that your air fryer will simplify.

After roasting your turkey, remove it with the tray from your air fryer. The fat drippings and juice will have collected in the bottom of the bucket, which you can use to make your own homemade gravy, as described by Noshing with the Nolands. Pour the drippings and juice into a saucepan and heat them up until they begin to sizzle. When they start to brown, add the flour and stir until the whole mixture turns a golden brown color. From there, you’ll add other ingredients to taste such as broth, black pepper, butter, and sugar. Pair it with some air-fried mashed potatoes (per Fork to Spoon) and you have a quick and easy Thanksgiving dinner any night of the year!

"Bake" a casserole in your air fryer

bowl of broccoli casserole

Casseroles are the ultimate all-American family dish. From broccoli to taco to tuna casseroles, every family seems to have their favorite pan-baked meal. But while casseroles are convenient for cooking up a big, filling, and cheap meal for your family, they aren’t always fast. Luckily, your favorite casserole recipe likely has an air fryer alternative.

In most cases, you’ll prepare your casserole much the same as you would if you were going to bake it in the oven. Scoop the contents into your air fryer basket and bake. For some recipes, you’ll need to cook them in several steps. For instance, Airfried.com recommends first cooking the base of a broccoli casserole. Then, pull out the air fryer basket to add the cracker crumb topping and bake the whole concoction again. This will ensure that the top gets nice and crispy and that the layer underneath is also well cooked.

Toast nuts for a crunchy, healthy snack

bowl of mixed nuts

Air fryers are great for heating up frozen snacks like mozzarella sticks, French fries, and even pizza bites. But there are also plenty of healthier alternatives that you can make. Toasted nuts are the perfect snack when you’re craving a crunch without the unhealthy calories.

Most kinds of nuts can be toasted using an air fryer including almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts. For larger nuts, you can toast them directly in your air fryer basket. When toasting smaller nuts, you’ll likely need to place them in a small baking dish to prevent them from falling through the holes in the bottom of the basket.

Depending on the type of nut, your tasty snack will be ready in as little as three to five minutes, according to the Food Network. If you’re using nuts with skins, you’ll need to remove them after you’ve roasted them. Once your nuts are finished toasting, spread them on a cutting board or plate to cool down before you dig in. While toasted nuts are a tasty snack on their own, they’re also perfect for adding to salads and other dishes.