How To Preheat An Air Fryer? - And If You Must Do It
Although air fryers are a relatively new product on the market, their technology, ease of use, and health benefits have taken the world by storm.
As people are becoming more and more health conscious and realize the drawbacks of fatty and fried foods, now everyone wants to have an air fryer in their kitchen.
Compared to conventional ovens, air fryers are small, lightweight kitchen appliances that are incredibly easy to use and allow you to enjoy crispy fried chicken and French fries without guilt or regret. It certainly doesn’t get any better than that!
Although there is no debate about the advantages of air fryers and their ease of use, there is a bit of confusion when it comes to preheating them. To preheat or not to preheat, that is the question.
With so many styles and sizes of air fryers available on the market, there is no definitive answer. It depends on the type of model you use and, above all, the type of food you prepare in it.
So how do you preheat an air fryer?
If you have a preheat feature on your air fryer, all you have to do is press the button and let it do the rest. You can also manually preheat it by setting the temperature and time on the machine to get it ready to cook.
Read on for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to preheat an air fryer, when you should and shouldn’t preheat, common mistakes to avoid, and much more.
Should you preheat an air fryer?
Depending on the type of air fryer you use and the food you are preparing in it, it may be important to preheat the air fryer before using it.
Basically, an air fryer preheats for the same reasons an oven preheats. It allows you to heat up the air fryer before placing food in it, which reduces overall cooking time as the cooking process begins immediately.
Also, while the crispiness of your food depends on many factors, preheating may be one of them. If you don’t pre-fry your air fryer, you risk your food being soggy or not as crispy as you’d like.
Food can cook unevenly, and if you cook in batches, the first batch will take longer to cook than subsequent batches. If you’re not careful enough and don’t pay attention, you can risk burning your food.
When to preheat an air fryer
Some of the best times to preheat an air fryer are when
- Reheat leftovers, thinner frozen items, and smaller items, as it can help to crisp foods very quickly.
- You want a crispy crust and a good sear, especially on thinner meats like chicken tenders or pork chops.
- Cook steaks as it will help cook the outside of the steak and give it a nice sear while leaving a nice rare texture on the inside.
- Fry frozen foods, such as French fries or fish fingers, as these foods are already cooked and just need to be heated to make them crisp on the outside.
When should you not preheat the air fryer?
Some of the worst times to preheat an air fryer are when
- You are cooking thick, raw foods as they need to be fully cooked and preheating will cook the outside too quickly before the inside has a chance to cook.
- Cooking delicate foods that you don’t want crispy, such as small cut vegetables, as the outside could burn before the inside of the food is tender.
- Baking quick breads or small cakes as this will, again, make the crust tough and the inside soggy and raw.
- Use parchment paper, as it can move during the preheat process and hit the resistor, causing it to burn. You can use the parchment paper once you are done preheating.
How do you preheat an air fryer?
Preheating an air fryer is an easy process that requires only a few steps. Depending on the type of air fryer you use, you may have a preheat setting on the appliance or you may need to preheat manually.
Here are detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to preheat your air fryer to get the most out of it and get the best results:
1. Consult the instruction manual
The first step you should take, especially if this is your first time preheating your air fryer, is to read the instruction manual that came with it.
Not only will you know how to handle it without problems, but it will also be much safer and more efficient.
Different manufacturers may have different methods of preheating, and while some may have a specific button for the task, others may require you to follow different steps.
2. Make sure the air fryer is clean
If you want your air fryer to run smoothly, you need to keep it clean. Although air fryers generally don’t get that dirty, you should always clean them after each use.
Leftovers and the smell of food you’ve previously prepared can ruin your next meal. Plus, they can cause your air fryer to smoke from burning food debris.
3. Plug it in and turn it on
When you’ve made sure the air fryer is clean, plug it in and turn it on by pressing the power button. Make sure you follow these steps in the correct order.
Before turning it on, check the voltage required by the air fryer and your home electrical supply to see if they are compatible.
4. Set the timer for preheating
Now that the air fryer is on, you need to set the timer for how long you want the appliance to preheat.
There is no fixed time and it varies from model to model, so it is best to consult the instruction manual. The usual time is between 2 and 5 minutes. We’ll talk more about this in a bit.
5. Set the temperature for reheating
As with the preheat duration, there is no uniform ideal temperature for preheating and most manufacturers propose their own temperatures.
If yours doesn’t specify one, you can set it to 400°F to make your food crispier and perfectly cooked.
How long do you need to preheat the air fryer?
The amount of time you need to preheat your air fryer depends on two things: the temperature you are setting and the size of the air fryer.
The total time varies between 2 and 5 minutes, and while 2 minutes should be enough, it is best to leave it for 5 minutes to allow both the surface and the air inside the fryer to heat up.
As we’ve already said, most manufacturers have their own specified preheat times, so be sure to check that as well.
Temperature is another crucial factor and may be specified in the user manual. For an air fryer basket filled to 3/4 full, the ideal temperature is between 350°F and 400°F to ensure perfectly cooked, crispy food.
Anything below 350°F can lead to undercooked food, while anything above 400°F can burn.
Mistakes to Avoid When Using an Air Fryer
While preheating an air fryer can be a crucial step in certain circumstances to ensure food is perfectly cooked and crispy, there are some common mistakes we’re all guilty of when using this relatively new kitchen appliance.
Don’t Crowd the Air Fryer
We understand that most of us are used to cooking in larger batches on the stove and in the oven, but given the size of most air fryers, you need to cook in smaller batches.
It may seem tedious at first, but if you want to make crispy items like French fries and fried chicken, you need to space the food out to allow hot air to move freely and cook the food on all sides.
Removes excess moisture from food
A big reason why most of your food, especially meat items like baked chicken, end up soggy, may be because you’re not properly drying the meat before cooking.
You should always remove excess moisture from your food, both meats and vegetables, as a dry surface will allow them to cook faster and give them a crispy, golden exterior.
Moist foods also slow down the overall cooking time, so keep that in mind as well. Use paper towels to remove excess moisture and prevent this problem from arising.
Turn and cook
When we cook in a pan, we constantly move the food and turn it from time to time so that it cooks evenly on all sides, right? Well, you should also do the same with air-fried foods.
Just open the air fryer at regular intervals and use a tong to gently flip or turn your food so it’s heated on all sides and cooked to perfection.
Regularly clean your air fryer
We are all guilty of not cleaning our kitchen appliances as properly and as often as we should.
Although the air fryer does not get that dirty, it must be cleaned well after each use.
Leftovers from previous meals can affect other foods you cook in the air fryer, so it’s always a good idea to gently wipe down the inside of the air fryer after each use.
This will also prevent bacteria or mold from growing inside which, as we all know, can be harmful to health.
Now that we’ve talked about how to preheat air fryers, and whether you should, here are some additional questions we thought you might have:
Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer?
Yes, you can, but it is not always the best option. In fact, we have an entire article on how to safely use aluminum foil in an air fryer, which we recommend checking out for the best results.
If you want to do it, make sure you only put it in the basket. If you put it on the bottom, it could be thrown into the heater, overheat and potentially start a fire.
Also, make sure you never preheat your air fryer with a foil-lined basket. Make sure it’s loaded with food or it could be thrown and become a fire hazard.
How to clean an air fryer
Although some air fryer models are easier to clean than others, the truth is that they all need to be cleaned after each use.
The first thing to remember is to never delay cleaning and do it as soon as possible after you have finished using the air fryer. The longer the crumbs and food remain in it, the more difficult it will be to clean it later.
Clean the removable parts of the appliance with warm soapy water and a soft sponge or cloth, or put them in the dishwasher if they are suitable for it. For food that may be stuck in the basket, use a toothpick or wooden skewer to pry it out.
Clean the inside of the air fryer with a damp, soapy cloth, checking that the resistance does not have food remains or other elements. Clean the exterior of the air fryer with a damp cloth and dry it.
How to treat persistent odors in an air fryer?
When you cook strong-smelling foods in your air fryer, the odor can linger in the machine even after you clean it properly.
To deal with these lingering odors, you can try soaking the basket in warm, soapy water for 30-60 minutes before trying to clean it again.
If that doesn’t work, you can cut a lemon in half and rub it in the air fryer basket and drawer, let it sit for 30-60 minutes, and wash it again.
Do I have to put oil in the air fryer?
Although air fryers don’t need oil, adding a small amount to your food can help bring out flavor and crunch.
Also, you should keep in mind that using a little oil to cook does not increase the health risks, especially when compared to frying.
Instead of putting oil directly into the air fryer, you should oil your food using an oil spray or basting brush. This will give your food a golden, crispy exterior and a juicy interior.
Use very little oil, between a teaspoon and 2-3 tablespoons, depending on the type and size of food you are cooking. Make sure the oil doesn’t drip off the food, because if it does, it could damage the machine and its internal circuitry.
Although, for effortless cooking, you can oil the basket of your air fryer so that food doesn’t stick to it. If your air fryer model has grates and grates, be sure to oil those as well.
How do air fryers work?
Air fryers are small portable kitchen appliances that allow you to cook your favorite foods without using excess oil.
They work a bit like a convection oven in that a fan pushes hot air into the air fryer. The circulated air allows food to cook crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just like fried foods.
Not only can you make your favorite fries healthily in an air fryer, but you can also bake your favorite desserts and pastas in it, reheat leftovers, and cook raw steak in it.