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How to Use an Air Fryer: A Full Guide for Beginners

Way to go — you’ve made the plunge and bought one of the most convenient countertop appliances around! Here’s a detailed guide on how to use an air fryer.

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reheat leftover pork chops in air fryer
Frozen Pork Chops in the Air Fryer

If you’ve just become the owner of a brand-new air fryer, this article is for you. Air fryers are everywhere — for good reason. There is so much you can make, bake, and create. Enjoy all of the beauty of quick-cooking without a lot of clean-up or grease and oil!

You’re most likely wondering how to use an air fryer! An air fryer uses — you guessed it — air to fry your favorite foods, among so many other things. Plus, an air fryer barely uses any oil. Below are some tips, tricks, and the best ways to learn how to use an air fryer. 

Whether you want to make traditionally fried foods like French fries and potato chips, or healthier options like vegetables, an air fryer can do that. It’s important to understand exactly how to use an air fryer so that you get the results you’re looking for.

What is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer is a countertop convection oven that comes in various sizes. It is designed to imitate the process of deep-frying without all of the grease and oil that comes along with it. The fan inside the air fryer circulates hot air at a high speed, resulting in a crisp layer on the outside of food.

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Air fryers cook food quickly and evenly, thanks to the concentrated heat source. The air fryer was invented by Philips in 2010. 

What does an air fryer do? The better question is, what doesn’t an air fryer do? Here are just a few examples of what you can cook up:

Remember: you can use an air fryer to make fresh and frozen foods.

What’s the Difference Between an Air Fryer and a Deep Fryer?

The biggest difference between an air fryer and a deep fryer is that an air fryer uses little to no oil! Achieve the golden and crispy look and taste that you’re after without any of the added oil and grease. Here are some other important differences:

  • An air fryer preheats faster than a deep fryer
  • An air fryer requires less clean up than a deep fryer
  • An air fryer is more versatile than a deep fryer

Let’s take a closer look at how to use an air fryer.

How to Use an Air Fryer: Questions and Answers

I use my air fryer every single day of the week – sometimes three times a day! There’s no denying how convenient it is to use from start to finish! It doesn’t take up too much space in my kitchen and it’s so easy to use, once you understand how it works. It’s essential to learn how to use an air fryer to get the most out of this cooking appliance.

Below you’ll find some of the most commonly asked questions on how to use an air fryer!

Air Fryer Options

Let’s back up a little bit. If you haven’t decided on which air fryer to buy, there are some things that you’ll need to consider first! 

There are several different air fryer options out there. Air fryers range from small and compact with a basket to air fryer toaster ovens, and there are even some wall ovens that include an air fryer (learn how to use those here)!

The most obvious first question you’ll need to ask yourself is what size air fryer would be best for your kitchen. 

You should also think about what kind of food you want to cook in your air fryer. If you dream of cooking up popcorn shrimp or potato chips, you should go for a small to medium-sized air fryer. If you have grand plans of roasting a whole chicken, opt for a medium to large air fryer!

Here are some of my favorite air fryer options:

Taking Your Air Fryer Out of the Box

Let’s set up that new air fryer! Remove all of the contents from inside the box. Don’t be alarmed if there is a distinct plastic smell at first! This just means that your air fryer is brand new and has never been used. The smell will fade after a few uses. 

Once you’ve taken everything out of the box, I recommend that you wash all of the removable pieces. Make sure to include the air fryer basket, racks, and drawer.

You’ll notice that the basket features small holes to let any excess oil or grease drip off whatever you’re cooking. The air fryer drawer collects that excess oil, ensuring that none of it gets in your meal!

Run the air fryer on empty for about 10 minutes. Now, you’re ready to try it out!

Do You Need to Preheat an Air Fryer?

Yes, you do need to preheat an air fryer. So many people neglect this important step when learning how to use an air fryer. Just like an oven, you need to preheat an air fryer before you use it. No matter what make or model you use, don’t skip this step!

Some air fryers will come equipped with a convenient preheat button, but many do not. You can leave the air fryer basket inside the air fryer as it heats up. Double-check the recipe you’re using, and set the air fryer to the correct temperature. A small to medium-sized air fryer preheats in 2-3 minutes. Larger models can take up to 5 minutes.

Once your air fryer is hot enough, place the food you want to cook inside and set the timer for the desired cook time and enjoy! 

How to Clean an Air Fryer

Like any other kitchen appliance, don’t forget to clean your air fryer! Air fryers should be at least lightly cleaned after each use. You should deep clean your air fryer every few weeks. It’s especially important that you clean the air fryer basket and drawer every time you use it. You can learn everything you need to know about cleaning your air fryer here.

Don’t use any abrasive products or scrubbers and make sure that your air fryer is unplugged before you clean it. Some air fryers feature dishwasher-safe baskets and drawers, while others need to be cleaned by hand. Check your user manual before putting any attachments in the dishwasher! 

You can make clean up even easier if you use these air fryer accessories:

Remember, proper maintenance will make your air fryer last longer! A dirty air fryer can result in bad tasting food and can cause your air fryer to malfunction. Or worse, it can result in a kitchen fire.

Do You Use Oil in an Air Fryer? 

There is a common misconception out there that an air fryer uses zero oil. While an air fryer is different from deep frying, you should use a small amount of oil in an air fryer. You can toss the food you’re cooking in a bit of oil, use a basting brush, or you can mist it with an EVO Oil Sprayer.

Whichever way you add it, put the oil directly on whatever you’re cooking. Don’t put the oil in the air fryer basket. Depending on what you’re making, you can add up to 1 tablespoon of oil. 

If you make frozen food like ravioli or dumplings in your air fryer, you’re definitely going to want to add a bit of oil to prevent dryness. However, most meats don’t need any excess oil, especially if you marinate first. Other frozen foods like onion rings don’t need any added oil as they are cooked in oil before being frozen.

Maybe most importantly, don’t ever, ever use PAM or any other aerosol cooking spray in your air fryer! These sprays feature an ingredient (soy lecithin) that is next to impossible to remove from your air fryer and can eat away at the non-stick surface.

Are Air Fryers Safe?

Yes, air fryers are safe! You just need to follow a few rules to make sure that you’re using your air fryer correctly — and safely:

  • Never place your air fryer on a stove, whether it’s on or off.
  • Keep your air fryer on a heat-resistant surface. Depending on the material of your countertops, you may need to buy a silicone mat or rolling tray to keep your counters safe.
  • Keep your air fryer 6 to 12 inches from the wall when cooking. If there is an outlet on the wall near where you’re cooking, keep your air fryer 12 inches away, the back of it can get very hot!
  • Avoid burning your hands and forearms by using a long oven mitt or silicone tongs to remove food from your air fryer. 
  • Make sure to unplug your air fryer after each use.

Plus, unlike deep fryers, you don’t have to worry about getting burned by splashing oil if you use an air fryer. Follow the tips above and you can’t go wrong!

Tips for Cooking in An Air Fryer

I’ve been using my air fryer for years now and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way! Here are some of my favorite tips for cooking in an air fryer:

  • Always preheat your air fryer.
  • Air fryers cook more quickly. If you use a recipe that calls for a traditional oven, make sure that you decrease the time (and temperature) that you cook your food! You can use this air fryer conversion chart to help.
  • Air fryers can be loud. Don’t be alarmed if you find yours to be noisy!
  • Never fill an air fryer more than halfway full. This can cause uneven cooking and you can end up with half-burnt and half raw food.
  • Get that deep-fried taste you’re looking for by using a little oil. My favorite method is to use this EVO Oil Mister

    However, don’t ever put cooking spray on your air fryer as it will damage it.
  • Ditch the microwave and reheat leftovers in your air fryer for a crispier (and yummier) result.
  • Use silicone tongs to remove food from your air fryer instead of just dumping out the basket into a bowl. Do this to avoid any excess oil that could burn you or make your meal soggy and to not scratch it.
  • Be aware that the outside of your air fryer is hot (especially the back). Be careful not to touch it!
  • I’ve made my share of mistakes with my air fryer along the way, which is why I’m so passionate about helping air fryer beginners!
slice of air fryer chocolate cake
Air Fryer Cake

What are the Best Things to Cook in an Air Fryer?

The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to using an air fryer! Well, not so endless that you can steam broccoli in your air fryer, but you get the idea. Recipes that call for roasting, baking, and frying can be adapted to use with an air fryer. Don’t be afraid to get creative! 

Now that you know how to use an air fryer, let’s take a look at the best things to cook in an air fryer:

If you’ve never used an air fryer before, these beginner recipes are the perfect place to start. I love them all, but favorites include garlic bread, ranch potatoes, french bread pizza, and air fryer apple wedges!

If you’re thinking about what to make for dinner, this list of easy air fryer dinner recipes is filled with ideas and inspiration. I’m a huge fan of bone-in pork chops with breading, shrimp with lemon and pepper, and the chicken fajitas!

Summing it Up!

Whether you’re an air fryer expert or a novice, it helps to learn how to use an air fryer! The bottom line is that like any other kitchen appliance, if you don’t know how to use your air fryer you won’t get the most out of it.

Now you know how to use an air fryer from the moment you take it out of the box, how and when to clean it, and exactly what to cook up. Happy air frying!


About Samantha

I’ve always had a love of cooking and creating new recipes, so it only made sense to create a food blog so I could share those recipes with you. This site is designed to provide easy and flavorful recipes with as little ingredients as possible. That means you still get great flavor combinations without all that extra time and effort. Read more...

19 thoughts on “How to Use an Air Fryer: A Full Guide for Beginners”


    • I think you will! I know several 80 to 90-year-olds who absolutely love their air fryer! I recommend investing in a meat thermometer if you don’t have one and starting with something very simple, like reheating food or veggies until you get used to the buttons and how it works. That way it’s not frustrating if something goes wrong.

  2. I am brand new to the Air Fryer and I have a NuWave Brio 7.25 qt. The fryer did not come with a removable basket, only a reversible rack. It is difficult to not have food fall off the rack and down onto the air circulation riser. Any suggestions? I’m not even sure if they make a basket for this model.

    • Hi, I just took a look at the model, and have you tried parchment paper or a silicone liner in the basket? I think this will help a lot with the crumbs falling down. While some will always fall (that’s normal), this way will help with clean up.

  3. Two years after I purchased a Cosori Air fryer, I got an error message and the unit just quit on me. The manual said to contact CS, which I did. CS asked me to send a pic of the msg and the product code of the unit. Even though the unit was out of warranty for over a year, within a week Cosori sent me a brand new unit free of charge. Just wanted to share the great CS I received from Cosori.

  4. I have a very small kitchen. Apart from the stove and the sink all the work surfaces have cupboards above them. I have read in your guide that you should never put an air fryer on a stove and keep it 12″ away from the wall. Does the 12″ rule apply to the kitchen units above the work tops? I would hate to melt my cupboards. Thank you for your assistance.

    • Of course, it’s important to be careful when deciding where to put your air fryer in your small kitchen. The 12″ rule, which suggests keeping the air fryer at a safe distance from heat sources and surfaces, applies here. This means you should also consider the cupboards above your work surfaces.
      Maintaining at least 12″ of space between the air fryer and the cupboards will help avoid overheating and potential damage.
      Since your kitchen space is limited, it’s essential to find a safe spot for your air fryer. Look for a suitable area where it won’t cause problems for nearby surfaces.
      This might mean moving things around or finding a different place with enough clearance. Your concern about protecting your cupboards is valid, so taking these precautions is definitely a smart idea.
      Thanks for reaching out, and I hope you can find a safe and convenient spot for your air fryer in your kitchen!

  5. I have a new Gourmia air fryer and the manual says to leave 4″ around the sides and back. A comment above talks about leaving 12″ space. I have a similar problem to the writer, where I have little counter space. The best I can do is beside my sink, where there is no cabinet above or beside it, but there is an elevated counter top to the side away from the sink. Am I o.k. to use space somewhere beween those measurements? I’m hoping to try a baked potato for supper…I haven’t actually found anything that suggests how to fix it. Thanks!

    • Congratulations on your new Gourmia air fryer! While it’s recommended to have 4″ to 12″ of clearance around the sides and back for proper ventilation, it’s understandable that space can be limited. Placing it beside the sink with an elevated countertop sounds like a reasonable solution. Just keep an eye on its performance during the first use in this location to ensure it operates safely. For your baked potato dinner, preheat the air fryer to around 400°F (200°C), rub the potato with oil, season, and cook for about 35-40 minutes, turning halfway. Enjoy your meal and your new kitchen gadget!

  6. I just got my airfryer well its a microwave bake roast and airfryer. I failed the test my patotots was better out of the deepfryer than the airfryerI was able to set the clock ok but how to I set the tempiture and the timmer. I feel like a dumb old fool. I’ve been told grany get with it you cooked on a woodstove now it’s time to upgrade. But to the life of this 81 year old granny I can not find a way to airfrye anything oh I have no problem with the Micro functioning but I haven’t tried to bake yet and I thought I’d like to make some Creamhoens but kind of worried about it I still cannot set the tempiture or the timmmer. If you can explain this maybe like you would explain it to a child I might be able to wrap my old mind around it.

    • Hi Alice, each air fryer has its own way to set a time and temperature, so I recommend to first check out the manual that came with the air fryer for your model’s exact instructions. Typically, you will see a button that says “temperature” and one that says “time” and you can use the up and down arrow buttons or turn the knob forward and backward to change them to where you need.

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