Everyone knows the immense benefits of air fryers as it can cut oil consumption dramatically. But not everyone knows how to use an air fryer properly for optimal results. This is mainly because air fryer is a comparatively new entrant to hit Indian kitchens. So, this guide is mainly for first-time air fryer uses who want to understand how to use an air fryer optimally, what you can cook in an air fryer, how to make food cooked in air fryers healthy and nutritious and so on.
How Does An Air Fryer Work?
An air fryer is essentially a compact convection oven. The food is kept in a tray inside the basket. Above the basket, there is a heating coil and a fan behind it. The fan circulates the heat generated by the heating coil to cook the food. As the food tray is perforated, hot air reaches the food from the top and bottom. Even so, you need to turn the food to the other side halfway through. Else, it won’t get browned properly.
How To Use An Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a fairly simple appliance to use. The key to right cooking in an air fryer is setting the right temperature and duration. A general rule of thumb is to set the temperature about 20°C less than the oven temperature. But, this may vary depending on the wattage of the appliance. Fortunately, most air fryers come with a recipe booklet which helps you find the right temperature and duration for cooking various delicacies.
Digital air fryers also have various presets for cooking different food. These presets work the best for specific quantities of ingredients and they are mentioned in the recipe booklet/ manual that comes with the air fryer. But, some air fryers have poor preset functions that run either too less duration or too low temperature and fail to work optimally. So, the best bet would be to set the time and temperature as mentioned in the recipe booklets that come along.
When referring to recipes online from publishers other than the manufacturers, ensure that they are for air fryers of the same capacity and wattage as yours.
Related reading: Best Air Fryers In India
How To Add Food Into An Air Fryer?
Air fryers have an inner tray on which food needs to be kept for cooking. Apply some oil to the tray using a silicone brush or oil sprayer before keeping food in it.
It would be a good idea to marinate fish, chicken, paneer and such food overnight so that the masala penetrates deep.
Before placing the food on the air fryer tray, pat the surface of the food dry using a clean kitchen towel/paper napkin. This is because excess moisture prevents the food from developing a nice crispy browned surface.
Once the food is kept on the tray, spray a thin layer of oil on the surface. This not only helps crisp the surface but also keeps prevents the food from drying up and losing its succulence.
Unfortunately, most air fryers do not have an alarm that indicates when it is time to flip the food to the other side for browning. Hence, you have to keep an alarm on your mobile or kitchen timer about half way through the cooking time so that you can flip the food and ensure both sides are browned perfectly.
For french fries, stir-fried vegetables and food which are heaped in the basket, you need to toss the basket a few times in between so that the air circulates thoroughly and cooks the food uniformly.
It is alright to open the basket and check the food once or twice while cooking, especially for the first few uses. Though there will be a heat loss, it wouldn’t be so drastic enough to affect the quality of cooking. And of course, that heat loss is way better than over cooking or worse, burning the food.
Basic Safety Instructions For Using An Air Fryer
- The body of the air fryer gets hot when working. So never touch it. Also, place it away from the wall and ideally under the kitchen chimney to dissipate the heat.
- Air fryers need to be cleaned after every use. Else, the bits of food and oil dripped in the basket will smoke and emit fumes. It may also alter the taste of the food.
- Avoid overcrowding the air fryer tray. Also, never use regular parchment paper for lining the tray. You get parchment paper specifically made for air fryers with perforations. Else, air will not get circulated uniformly, thus preventing food from cooking uniformly.
- Never use cooking sprays in air fryers. Over a period of time, they form a coating over the nonstick surface which can damage it.
- Do not use air fryer parchment paper when frying lightweight food like chips. The circulated air may push the parchment paper towards the heating element and result in a fire.
- Never use steel wool or harsh chemicals to clean the air fryer basket as it may damage the nonstick coating permanently.
How To Clean Air Fryer?
Air fryers are fairly easy to use and clean. All you have to do is soak the tray and basket with soapy water after every use. Then, gently scrub it with a soft sponge. Never soak the main body of the air fryer in water. For detailed step-by-step instructions, check our post here.
Air Fryer Uses
Air fryers have almost the same functions as your convection oven. They can be used to cook a variety of ingredients like chicken, fish, paneer, mutton etc. In addition, you can air fry ladies finger, potato and banana chips too. Most air fryers can be used to dehydrate and defrost food too. Further, they can make a variety of delicacies like pizzas, tikka, cutlets, samosa, steak, stir-fried vegetables, tikkis, roasted peanuts and so on.
Food that has to be avoided in an air fryer includes battered food, popcorn and whole roasts like a full chicken, as, for one, it may not get cooked evenly and secondly, they often don’t fit perfectly inside the basket.
Is Air Fryer Healthy?
Air frying is definitely healthier than frying in oil as it cuts down oil consumption by 80-90%
A tablespoon of oil has around 120 calories. So, if you are looking to cut down your overall calorie intake without giving up fried delicacies, then an air fryer would be definitely the way to go.
Yet another advantage of air frying is that it significantly reduces acrylamide in fried food, which is a known carcinogen. For example, in research, it was found that air-fried potatoes had 90% less acrylamide compared to deep-fried potatoes. Further, air frying does not alter the physio-chemical composition of oil as deep frying does.
To conclude, air fryers provide a healthier alternative to deep-fried food. They are comparatively easy to use and most manufacturers provide a detailed recipe booklet that hand-holds firs time air fryer users till they get comfortable enough to experiment with it.