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Your ultimate guide to air fryers

04 May 2023

Your ultimate guide to air fryers

Countertop convenience or just a load of hot air?

Over the past few years, the air fryer has enjoyed a boom in popularity, becoming a staple in kitchens the length and breadth of the land. The miniature countertop ovens can cook, bake, roast and reheat all kinds of food quickly and evenly, without the need for unhealthy additives like oil. Making them more than convenient, but a healthier method of cooking for many.

And although the air fryer can make small work of an assortment of dishes and recipes, air fryer rice is often overlooked. But we’re here to tell you that air-fried rice is very much on the menu. Read on to find out where the air fryer came from, why everyone’s talking about them at the minute, and how to use one to achieve the best results. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to the air fryer, and once you’ve got one in your kitchen, you’ll wonder what you ever did before. But, let’s start off with a bit of a history lesson.  

What is an air fryer?

Although the air fryer has only been in the spotlight for the past ten years or so, the technology behind it dates back to the Second World War, invented by a chap called William L. Maxson. He was thinking about ways to reheat frozen meals for American servicemen and dreamt up the whirlwind oven – a large appliance which used a fan to circulate hot air. It took its much smaller form, as we know it today, around 2010.

In layman’s terms, the air fryer is a tiny convection oven, featuring a heating element, a high-speed fan, and a seal to keep all the hot air in. And as it’s much smaller than an oven, the heating is more intense (and it’s cheaper to run), which means the circulating air can cook your food quicker, for rapid results. And unlike microwave ovens, which don’t play nicely with metal due to their electromagnetic heating, it’s absolutely fine to put foil in an air fryer. But it will get very hot, so be careful.

What can you cook in an air fryer?

Due to the air fryer’s small size, its relatively low price point, and the speed in which it can deliver healthier results, it’s no surprise popularity is on the up and up. But above all those tasty benefits is the humble air fryer’s versatility. You can cook almost anything in the air fryer, and if yours has two separate compartments, you can cook two completely different dishes at once. Here are a few of the top sweet and savoury dishes you can cook at home in your air fryer, some of which will pair perfectly with a side of your favourite rice (probably not muffins or cookies though):

  • Rice, both raw and uncooked [add link to new blog]
  • Chips, potatoes and wedges ~10–20 mins
  • Chicken (breast ~22 mins; thighs ~25 mins; goujons ~10 mins)
  • Fish ~8 mins
  • Prawns ~8 mins
  • Pizza and garlic bread ~5 mins (great for reheating the morning after, too)
  • Bacon, pork chops, sausages (vegan or original) ~ 5–10 mins
  • Pastries, sausage rolls and empanadas ~8–10 mins
  • Quiche ~10 mins
  • Muffins ~11–13 mins
  • Cookies ~8–10 mins

What can’t you cook in an air fryer?

Unfortunately, you can’t air fry absolutely everything. You should avoid anything with a wet batter, (which will fall to bits), or anything loose that would be able to drip through slots in the basket. Saying that, you can cook great eggs in the air fryer, just pop them in a ramekin dish. 

Your ultimate guide to air fryers

 How to use an air fryer

 Using an air fryer is really straightforward, and only requires a few button-pushes to get going. Unlike your standard big oven, you don’t need to wait 10–15 minutes for it to preheat. A couple of minutes is normally sufficient. A lot of models will come with presets for certain types of food, like white meat, chips, or muffins, but the temperature and timer settings are always adjustable. Here are a few top tips to get the best results:

  • Give it two minutes to preheat, so it can reach your desired temperature
  • Don’t overcrowd the basket (look for the maximum capacity line)
  • When cooking large quantities, shuffle or rearrange your ingredients every five minutes or so for even results
  • Be sure to offer some clearance between your air fryer and the wall behind. The fan can pump out some very warm air, which if left for a long period of time, could melt things directly behind it.

How to clean an air fryer

When it comes to the clean-up, the removable basket will generally have a removable, slotted metal plate in it, allowing air to freely circulate around the food you’re cooking, and in most cases, both the plate and the basket are completely dishwasher safe. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can simply clean the basket and plate with hot soapy water, as you would any other kitchen utensil. Just make sure you let them cool down before cleaning.

Do air fryers save electricity?

The cost of living crisis has us all looking for ways to cut back on spending, and the air fryer is a great cost-saver. Although it shares technology with the standard kitchen oven, it’s a lot smaller and therefore takes less time to cook your food. Instead of heating up the whole oven, and perhaps only using 50% of the space inside, the air fryer offers a more compact, more efficient cooking space. And promises a tasty, crispy finish.