Air frying is a unique cooking process that boasts the crispy results of a deep fryer, the efficiency of a toaster oven, and the powerful air circulation of a convection oven. It’s arguably the best of convenience and technology from multiple countertop appliances, all rolled into one.
Air frying is simple, but there are a few make-or-break techniques to follow when cooking. If you use it right, you’ll be rewarded with food that is crunchy on the outside and tender and perfectly cooked on the inside, using little to no oil at all. Whether you’re using one for the first time (read air fryer 101) or you rely on it daily, follow the Hamilton Beach air frying do’s and don’ts for successful meals.
✓ Do ditch your microwave
Microwaves are probably your go-to for reheating foods, but hear us out: the air fryer is going to do a way better job of reviving last night’s pizza or your extra fries from lunch than a microwave could ever do. It gives food that bit of crunch, meltiness and texture back that you just won’t be able to achieve in the microwave.
✗ Don’t bother preheating
Because of their compact size and powerful heat circulation, Hamilton Beach air fryers are quick to get to temperature—as in, around a minute or less. That means unless specifically instructed, there’s no need to bring the air fryer up to temperature before adding your food, cutting down on overall cook time. Not having to wait ten to fifteen minutes for your oven to preheat is a huge advantage of air frying over cooking in your oven.
✓ Do shake the basket once or twice during cooking
Once you start cooking, you might feel the urge to remove the basket, give it a shake, and return it to the base. Go ahead! In fact, we recommend a few good jostles to ensure the heat is reaching all sides of the food evenly.
When cooking foods that are stacked on top of each other in the basket (such as French fries), shaking the contents of the basket is necessary to ensure even cooking and to prevent the pieces from sticking together. It’s a good idea to shake the basket periodically when cooking most foods to prevent it from sticking to the basket.
✗ Don’t block airflow
Lining the bottom of the cooking basket with foil or parchment paper will block the airflow necessary for air frying and result in undercooked or unevenly cooked food. It’s best to cook directly on the bottom of the nonstick basket whenever possible. You’ll have no problems cleaning up with a little soap and water afterwards. (If you’re dealing with a very sticky food, you can always soak the basket in warm soapy water for a bit to make the clean-up process easier.)
One exception: sometimes putting parchment paper under certain foods can make them easier to remove, like a flaky fish or delicate cookie. If that’s the goal, cut the paper to the size of your food to allow as much air to circulate around it as possible.
✓ Do keep an eye on your food while it cooks
The air fryer is a great replacement for conventional ovens, toaster ovens and microwaves. But not many food companies are labeling their packages with an air fryer cook time, which means sometimes cooking new foods can be a guessing game.
Don’t assume that the conventional oven cook time and temperature is the same for an air fryer. Cooking time in an air fryer depends on the amount of food in the basket and the size of the air fryer. To ensure you don’t burn anything, make sure to keep an eye on food as it cooks and adjust your recipe accordingly. As noted earlier, air fryers will cook most foods faster than a traditional oven.
✗ Don’t use batter—stick to breading
If you want to make foods with a crunchy coating, like chicken strips, you’d be better off dredging them in a breading of flour, egg and breadcrumbs (or panko). Liquid batter will drip right off the food before it has a chance to firm up. Refrigerating foods after you bread them for several minutes will help the breading to stick better once they’re placed in the air fryer.
✗ Don’t douse your food in oil
The beauty of the air fryer is that it only needs a little bit of cooking oil, if any, to get foods nice and crispy. Pay attention to the food’s fat content. Fattier foods, like steak, will require less oil than something like an ear of corn. Frozen foods that are battered or breaded, like onion rings or chicken nuggets, also typically don’t need any oil, since oil products are in the coating already.
When you do apply oil, use a cooking oil spritzer for the most control. You can use oil products from the grocery store already in aerosol spray cans, but most have added ingredients you may prefer not to consume on a regular basis.
✓ Do use it to bake and roast
It’s not just about foods that you would traditionally throw in the deep fryer. Make veggies in the air fryer when you want a roasted texture without using much or any oil. Make cinnamon rolls when you don’t feel like waiting for the oven to preheat for 10 or more minutes. Or, make a whole roasted chicken when you want a crispy, golden skin and moist, tender interior. The options are limitless—as long as you know these air fryer baking and roasting rules.
✗ Don’t fill it up too full
Tempting as it may be to fill the basket with an economy-size bag of sweet potato fries, don’t fill it more than halfway full. This, plus periodically shaking the basket, will help air circulate around the food and reach every piece, giving you the absolute best results.