After a long and arduous day, cooking can be the last thing on our minds. Who isn’t guilty of wanting to get a sneaky takeaway meal instead? Since most of us aren’t blessed with a personal chef, we must find a convenient solution to ease us through our time-poor days. It’s also a great tool to satisfy the late-night hunger pangs.
If you’re the kind of person looking for a food hack without making a mess, this could be the solution for you. An Air fryer can quickly enhance your meal repertoire and help you save money and time in the long run.
You can create some of your favourite meals with all the rich flavours and crispy textures you’re used to without needing as much oil. If you haven’t used an Air Fryer before or are thinking of gifting one, we have created a guide below for the things you need to know to get started.
What is an Air Fryer, and how does it work?
The fabled Air Fryer isn’t a myth. It is a compact countertop appliance available anywhere and everywhere. Air fryers enclose your food in a fryer style basket, boosting its cooking power and making them compact enough to fit on your countertop and easy storage.
When it comes to cooking with air, many people are still wondering, how does an Air Fryer work?
Air Fryers are heated using a top element to heat the food while fans rapidly circulate the air down and around the fryer-style basket. This method allows the heated air to cook your food from all directions. The primary heat source will be from the coil located in the upside compartment, so you will need to rotate your food at least once during the session. Most models can reach up to 200 degrees Celsius within just a few minutes.
Due to the enclosed basket and small footprint, it heats exceptionally quickly and circulates air rapidly. Food cooked requires much less oil than traditional methods of baking and deep-frying–a favourite for home chefs who are short on time and don’t want to clean up bulky oven trays or greasy pans.
How much oil does an Air Fryer need?
A lot less oil than a deep fryer, that’s for sure. We recommend a light oil coating with a high smoke point—a couple of teaspoons at the minimum. Be careful not to under oil as your food will lose flavour and texture. And don’t over-do-it on the oil, either.
There is a delicate balance that might take a few tries to get right.
The main tip here is to use a high smoke point oil like Peanut Oil or Canola Oil. Avoid the olive oil and aerosol sprays, too. The additives in the aerosol are known to corrode the non-stick elements of your fryer basket over time.
It’s important to note that an air fryer is not a deep fryer. It uses a dry heat method of cooking which creates a different flavour profile than being submerged in oil. The air fryer still uses oil, but a lot less is required.
You need only a couple of teaspoons or more to lather your food before cooking. But without any oil – your food will dry out. Oil helps transfer heat to the surfaces of your food, so it cooks more evenly.
Types, Sizes, Models, and Brands
Air fryers come in various types, sizes, and models across multiple brands, for added flexibility in the kitchen.
For example, the standard fryer-style basket offers more height to increase airflow, while others provide an oven style fryer with modular trays. Some models also feature dual baskets allowing you to cook two different meals simultaneously.
The tray and basket can create meals that taste pretty similar, but the units will be different sizes. Choose the one that suits your lifestyle more. The fryer-style basket can cook most proteins, vegetables, and fried goods, but an oven-style will better suit pizzas, skewers, or rotisserie-style chickens.
It’s a personal choice for what size will suit your home or office space. The average air fryer will be between 3.5l to 7.3l in capacity, so we recommend finding something in the middle to start, such as the Instantpot Vortex Plus 5.7L. Suitable for most occasions without feeling too cramped or too large, the Vortex Plus is a fantastic starting point for any wannabe air fryer chef.
Air Fryer versus a conventional oven?
If you seek a quick crisp, an air fryer will get you there in no time. Compared to the large body of a kitchen oven, the smaller fryer basket will allow hot air to flow faster and cook foods at higher temperatures and intensity.
You’ll love being able to air fry baskets of chips or vegetables on the side of your oven while it is being used for a roast, which helps immensely with multi-tasking, especially for big dinners.
How to use an Air Fryer
A typical Air fryer uses two dials. One dial controls an analogue timer while the other manages the temperature gauge. Digital models will also display cooking modes, timers, and intelligent heating options for baked and roasted goods.
Either way, both styles are simple to use. Even the most inexperienced home chef won’t need to keep reading the manual on how to use an air fryer – it’s super simple.
After unboxing, ensure all packaging is removed from the device, inside and out. You’ll want to wash your basket from any packaging residue before use.
Dry before cooking
Once set up, pre-heat to your desired temperature by placing the basket and turning the dials. Once heated, place your lightly oiled food and set the timer. It’s ok to check inside periodically by opening the basket and flipping your food when needed. The heating element will stop once opened but resume when the basket is fully re-inserted.
Due to the design and small size, the Air Fryer may run hotter than a typical oven recipe would need. Use a thermometer to check for temperature consistency and ensure your food is at a safe to eat temperature.
Take caution after cooking. The basket will be hot to touch and could burn your skin. A potholder or set of oven mitts is recommended for safety.
What can I cook in an Air Fryer?
Air frying is simply an alternative method of cooking. We recommend using it for foods that benefit from dry heat and need speedy cooking times. It’s also convenient if your oven is in use or you’re low on time.
Anything you want roasted, baked, or deep-fried; if it fits and isn’t crowded, it should be fine! We recommend the following as suggestions:
Proteins: Chicken tenders, Chicken fillets, Chicken wings, Steak, Fish, Pizza rolls, Spring rolls, Fries, Bacon, and much more.
Vegetables: Frozen vegetables, Tofu, Cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, Broccoli, Kale chips, and more.
Desserts: Cookies, Churros, Brownies, Apple Chips, Cheesecake, and more
How to clean your Air Fryer
Cleaning an Air Fryer is simple. Firstly, unplug your appliance and let it cool.
The basket will be hot after use. Remove the basket and wash with soap and warm water. Check your instruction manual or box to see if your model is dishwasher safe – most baskets are.
Check the coil on the top side of the Air Fryer. If there are any noticeable remnants of food or grease, you can clean it with a damp cloth or brush (once cooled).
Essential Tips for Air Fryers
Preheat your air fryer – This ensures your cooking time is consistent.
A meat thermometer Is your friend – It might look crispy and delicious on the outside, but it can be undercooked on the inside if you’re used to cooking the meal differently.
Skip the olive oil – Use oil with a high smoke point. Avocado, peanut, sesame, vegetable, sunflower, and canola oil are good options.
Avoid aerosol sprays – Additives from the aerosol can corrode the non-stick fryer baskets.
Use tongs to remove your food – Oil may build underneath your basket, so it’s best to remove food safely rather than dumping it into a bowl. The last thing you want is hot oil pouring out.
Put your air fryer basket on a heat resistant mat – Once taken out of the Air Fryer, be careful touching the base of the basket with your bare hands. Don’t place your air fryer on plastic or flammable surfaces. It’ll be hot!
Use a stopwatch to measure the analogue timer – Like all watches, any timer can run slow or fast depending on the model and how it’s made. Compare a 5-minute timer on your Air Fryer to the in-built timer and see how accurate it is to figure out the sweet spot for that perfect crispy meal.
Air Frying Mistakes
Overcrowding the basket
You will likely get a half-burnt or a half-cooked meal if you add too much to the basket. You can cook your food in batches to alleviate problems, similar to pan-frying. Some Air Fryer models have dividing tray accessories to help you cook twice as much.
Once you finally dig into your meal, it’s easy to forget to clean your Air Fryer and pack it away. The charred crumbs, left-over grease, and other nasties can build up over time and change the taste of your meals in the future. Keeping it clean will ensure more delicious flavours over time.
You’re not patting your proteins dry
Like baking or frying, patting your proteins dry before cooking will help you get that sought after crispier skin. Reducing the protein’s overall moisture content and help your seasonings stick to your meat.
Forgetting to preheat before cooking
Certain foods are cooked at a specific temperature to ensure it isn’t under or overcooked. Before cooking, set your Air Fryer to the intended heat - it’ll only take a few minutes to reach that temperature.
It’s not just for frying
It’s easy to assume an Air Fryer is for fried foods only. There are plenty of recipes focusing on an assortment of roasted vegetable recipes. You can make a mean stuffed pepper or roasted asparagus. Get creative and see what you can make.
Not rotating or jostling the proteins.
When your food is crisping inside, it’s easy to set and forget. Don’t forget to rotate your meat so each side can get the total amount of heat. The top section will always be the hottest while the hot air circulates the basket.
A lack of oil
Many people thought you just needed air to cook your meal in the early days. While not untrue, your food does need oil. Without it, your food will be dry and taste bland. Oil helps facilitate the maillard reaction, which leaves a lovely fried crust on the surface of your food. It helps prevent your food from sticking to the basket, increases the surface area of heat, and brings out the flavours.
Like water to steam, oil converts to smoke when heated too high. This process lowers the temperature, browning your food without burning.
Air Frying With Minimax
Is an Air Fryer worth it? That’s up to you. We feel it’s the perfect kitchen companion to use at least a few times a week or daily. It depends on your diet and cooking preferences, but it is a handy appliance in the kitchen.
Whether cooking in between Zoom meetings for those work from home days or while we’re multitasking in the kitchen–do your research; there’s an air fryer for everyone here at Minimax.