BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Kitchen

How to use an air fryer

A first-timer’s guide to using an air fryer

Whether you’re looking for a healthier way to make your favorite crispy foods or need to get dinner on the table in a hurry, an air fryer is a must-have kitchen appliance. It cooks your food faster than an oven from start to finish and prepares meals with less fat and calories than a deep fryer. 

Getting the hang of new kitchen appliances is always an adjustment, and an air fryer is no different. Luckily, an air fryer doesn’t have too steep of a learning curve. With a bit of research and practice, you’ll know how to use an air fryer like a pro.

What is an air fryer?

Air fryers are a combination of several kitchen appliances but with slightly different technology. Depending on the model, they’re versatile enough to cook potato chips, pizza, french fries, chicken wings and more. All air fryers have a heating element and a fan. The air fryer surrounds your food with scorching hot air to cook the inside and crisp the outside. This is how you’re able to get crispy food without using a deep fryer. 

Types of air fryers

There are two different types of air fryers — basket and oven-front. 

Basket air fryer

The basket air fryer is the most common type of air fryer. You cook your food in the pull-out drawer, which holds a perforated basket. It generally has a smaller footprint than an oven-front, making it better for small spaces. One caveat is that its compact size means a basket air fryer doesn’t hold quite as much food as an oven-front.

Oven-front air fryers

Oven-front air fryers look very similar to a toaster oven, and depending on the model can cook everything an air fryer can plus more. They have a larger cooking area, which is great for making pizza or even an entire chicken. Be sure you have enough space on your counter or in storage, as they tend to take up more space.

What size air fryer do I need?

Make sure to get an air fryer with a capacity large enough for your family, but not so large that it takes up unnecessary space. You can also cook in multiple batches if you prefer to own a smaller air fryer. Here are the different sizes of air fryers and the amount of people they serve. 

  • 1- to 3-quart: one to two individuals
  • 3- to 5-quart: three to five individuals
  • 5- to 6-quart: four to six individuals
  • 6- to 10-quart: five to 10 individuals 

How to use an air fryer: A guide

  1. Read the instruction manual. The manual will inform you about your air fryer’s unique features, cook times and safety information. 
  2. If it’s brand new, wash and completely dry all removable parts before running your air fryer empty. This lets it off-gas and gets rid of any chemical smells. 
  3. Place your air fryer at least 8 inches away from the wall on a heat-resistant surface. 
  4. Place your food in the basket or tray.
  5. Set the time and temperature or pick out your preset.
  6. Shake or turn your food midway through cooking to help it cook evenly and get crispier.
  7. Clean it after every use.

Tips for using an air fryer

  • You don’t need to add oil to your air fryer. However, adding oil could prevent food from sticking and add extra crispiness. If you want to avoid sticking without additional oil, air fryer liners are convenient to have on hand. If you choose to add a small amount of oil, using an oil sprayer will give you a consistent coating. Never use more than 1-2 tablespoons of oil.
  • While most air fryers don’t need to be preheated, some need a few minutes. Refer to your manual for specific instructions.
  • Don’t dump the entire drawer onto a plate. Hot oil collects at the bottom of the drawer, so remove only the basket to prevent spills or burns.
  • Don’t overfill your air fryer. It might seem like a good idea to cook more food quickly, but it will actually result in longer cooking times and less crispy food since the hot air can’t reach all sides.
  • If you cook several batches, you might not need to cook the subsequent batches as long as the first one, since an air fryer heats up quickly and stays hot.

Top air fryers

Philips Premium Digital Air Fryer with Fat Removal Technology

Due to its unique fat removal technology and no preheat times, you can cook your food fast and with less fat than other air fryers. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

GoWISE USA 5.8-Quart 8-in-1 Digital Air Fryer

If you’re looking for an affordable air fryer that doesn’t sacrifice on quality or extra features, this model has a large capacity and eight cooking presets.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

COSORI CO130-AO 12-in-1 Air Fryer Toaster Oven Combo

Get the versatility of an air fryer and the capacity of a toaster oven. You can roast an entire chicken or cook a 13-inch pizza.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Air fryer accessories

Air Fryer Baking Pan

This convenient air fryer baking pan allows you to cook your favorite oven-baked dishes like macaroni and cheese or monkey bread. Be sure that it fits your air fryer before purchasing.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Rasse Set of 10 8-Inch Air Fryer Accessories

If you want the ability to cook almost anything you can imagine in your air fryer, this accessories set includes a muffin pan, skewer rack, oil brush and more. Make sure the items are compatible with your air fryer. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: