How to Use All the Functions On Your Air Fryer
Your guide to the roast, dehydrate, broil, bake and reheat buttons: What they mean, tips for using them, plus how to manually set them on your machine.
Whether you just purchased an air fryer or have been using it for a while, you probably have the basic function mastered and enjoy air frying everything from potatoes to chicken tenders. But these machines can go way beyond the fundamental function of air frying. Depending on which model you have at home, there are numerous techniques you can master with this small-but-mighty appliance, including dehydrating, broiling, baking, roasting and reheating.
We spoke with Amanda Neal, Food Network recipe developer and resident air fryer expert, about the functions you might be missing out on and what she recommends you make with these features.
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a countertop appliance that uses air circulated by a powerful fan and heating element to quickly cook and crisp foods. It works similarly to the convection setting on some ovens, but with a few modifications. For one, food sits in a basket so that air circulates all around the item. And its small size means that intense heat levels are reached quickly and evenly, promoting fast, uniform browning. Food is “fried” by superheated air, not hot oil. Air frying can be healthier than deep-frying since minimal oil is required.
Basket air fryers have a removable basket that sits in the belly of your appliance. Air fryer ovens have racks to put foods on, and can be a combination air fryer and toaster oven. Wondering which style is better? Food Network road tested the latest models in our 7 Best Air Fryers.
What Do the Different Air Fryer Functions Mean?
Air fryer functions like broil, roast, dehydrate, bake and reheat are pre-set temperatures and times programmed to achieve various results for your food.
Wondering how your air fryer can transition to different modes with the switch of a knob or press of a button? It’s not unlike the popcorn button you might have on your microwave: A specific heat and time setting programmed to cook microwave popcorn. Having this pre-set function means the user doesn’t have to read the package directions — or guess at the best way to use their machine.
Having the option to use the air fryer for different cooking techniques is especially helpful when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen by turning on the oven. Plus, you’re almost guaranteed a shorter preheat wait when you opt for cooking in the air fryer, making it time-efficient.
What If Your Air Fryer Doesn’t Have Specific Functions?
If your air fryer doesn’t have preset functions, no problem. The manufacturer’s instruction booklet will usually cover what temperatures and times correspond to specific techniques: bake, roast, dehydrate, etc. You’ll just need to manually adjust the temperature and set the cooking time. A good rule of thumb? Use a temperature about 25 degrees F lower than what you may might be accustomed to with a conventional oven: Baking in the air fryer is typically about 325 instead of 350 degrees F, roasting will be about 400 instead of 425 degrees, and so on. You can also convert regular deep-fry recipes to air frying with the same formula. Air fryers typically cook faster than conventional ovens, so start checking your food as early as halfway through estimated cook times.
The Air Fryer Dehydrate Function
Homemade apple slices, fruit leather and crispy chips are easy with an air fryer's dehydrating feature. In testing, we loved the Ninja Air Fryer for its versatility, including the dehydrating function. “A traditional dehydrator gently blows warm air on a piece of food for a long period of time, drawing out any excess moisture,” says Neal. When picking the dehydrating setting on an air fryer, it will default to the correct temperature and time to achieve those same results. You can also try these colorful veggie chips or crispy potato chips to achieve crunchy results with manual time and temperature settings. For best results, leave room for the air to circulate around each piece — never stack or overlap the food.
The Air Fryer Roasting and Broiling Functions, Plus How They Differ
Air fryers can get up to pretty high temperatures, making them great for roasting and broiling. When you use an air fryer to roast, it will default to a higher temperature and cook for a shorter amount of time than it does while air frying. That makes it suitable for cooking beef or poultry (hello, chicken wings!) like you would in a traditional oven. If you set your air fryer manually, temperatures ideal for roasting will range from 375 degrees F to 425 degrees F depending on the size of the food item.
Broiling requires strong heat that comes just from the top of the oven. For melting cheese or browning a casserole, opt for an air fryer with a broiler feature, like the Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven, which will only use the direct, top-down heat to create a crisp, bubbly top on your dish.
The Air Fryer Bake Function
Many air fryers come with baking inserts for making everything from bread to cakes to cookies. Like most techniques, the bake function lowers the overall temperature called for in conventional ovens by about 25 degrees F. Additionally, the baking time will be shorter in the air fryer, and preheating takes only minutes if it’s necessary at all.
While Neal finds air fryers to be solid substitutes for an oven in most cases, she cautions against relying too heavily on the baking function. She's found that the hot air tends to dry out baked goods as it circulates. Your best bet is to use reliable recipes developed specifically for the air fryer and air fryer inserts, and to watch your food carefully. Also look for recipes that have a good balance of fat like butter or oil and other moist ingredients to make baking them more forgiving. Air fryer banana bread is a good example. The fruit keeps the bread famously tender, and you have a generous window for getting a moist interior and just-browned exterior.
The Air Fryer Reheat Function
Air fryers are especially good at reheating leftovers like pizza, fried chicken or French fries. While a microwave might make them soggy, an air fryer's circulating air keeps them crisp. Make sure there’s plenty of room in the air fryer basket for heat to circulate around the food; that means that if you’re reheating pizza you’ll probably need to do it one or two slices at a time. If setting the fryer manually, use temperatures of around 350 degrees F for leftovers. And always watch the food carefully. You want it crisped on the outside and just heated all the way through, so check it every 3 to 4 minutes.
Classic Air Fryer Recipes
Who doesn’t want a crispy, crunchy crust on their chicken coupled with a tender and juicy interior? The buttermilk brine on this Southern-style fried chicken makes it particularly tasty and moist, while the spiced flour coating is easy and tasty. The only added fat? A spritz of olive oil cooking spray.
The promise of crispy, aromatic, golden-brown fries without a ton of oil single-handedly puts the air fryer in the culinary hall of fame. This recipe is an example of just how easy and delicious the dish can be and calls for just a single teaspoon (!) of olive oil.
This recipe shows off several things that make cooking proteins in the air fryer ideal: There's no time wasted preheating an oven or grill, browned and juicy results and almost no clean up. The homemade compound butter featuring garlic, parsley and chives comes together in the minutes the steak takes to cook, but you could also opt to top it with store-bought pesto or caponata.
Brussels sprouts used to be reserved for Thanksgiving and typically arrived at the table somewhere between tired and mushy. Fast forward a decade and “crispy” is the preferred state of sprouts. This delicious recipe gets crunchy results with a minimal amount of oil and less than 20 minutes of cook time — two great reasons to make it an everyday side dish.
The air fryer helps create a crunchy exterior and luscious interior in tofu, making it a tasty, crispy addition to salads, pastas or stir-fries.