Air fryers have been a trendy kitchen appliance for several years now. They're beloved for adding that crispy "fried" taste to food without actually frying—or even using oil.
But the use of the name "fryer" has sometimes led to some confusion about what this device is capable of, and just how to use it, far beyond those golden crispy foods.
As someone who has been very engaged with my air fryer from day one, I've discovered that there's a lot of elements to it that are not dissimilar to an oven. It's just a more compact, countertop version, but it can do just about everything that your oven does.
And that means that, yes, sometimes foods you cook in your air fryer will benefit from preheating.
How To Preheat an Air Fryer
Preheating an air fryer is the same process as preheating an oven:
- Set the air fryer's temperature to the one you will be cooking the food at. Press start or preheat.
- Then, let the appliance warm up to that temperature for a few minutes before placing the food in the air fryer.
This way, when the food starts cooking, the air fryer is already at the temperature it needs to be, rather than needing to climb to that temperature during the cooking process. It'll cook your food even faster.
How Long To Preheat an Air Fryer
Much like with ovens, smaller air fryers will preheat faster than larger ones. So, while a small air fryer may preheat pretty well in two to three minutes, you may want to go for four to give minutes of preheating time in a larger air fryer.
When To Preheat
Generally, the foods that need a good sear are the ones that can benefit from an air fryer preheat.
For example, I’ll preheat my air fryer for three to four minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit if I’m making steaks or burgers and want my meat to have that grill-like browning and sear.
But preheating is also a good idea to maintain a crispy and crunchy texture that we immediately picture when we consider making food in the air fryer. This could be good for freezer foods, such as chicken cutlet patties , chicken tenders, fries, or Tator Tots.
In general, preheating the air fryer will have the cooking process start out at a higher temperature, which will decrease cooking time. So if you are looking to have great food faster, preheating can help.
When Not To Preheat an Air Fryer
Preheating will of course mean that the food in the air fryer will be heated more thoroughly—that’s the whole point. But that means certain foods would not benefit from going into a preheated air fryer.
If you are making something very delicate, say shrimp or perhaps some garlic and tomatoes to put in your roasted tomato salsa, you don’t want to burn or dry out the food. You want these to cook at a slower rate. With these foods, you’d be better off not preheating the air fryer.
A good rule of thumb: Don't preheat if the food will be cooking for a long period of time. For example, when I roast a chicken in the air fryer, it’s in there for close to an hour. Same for a baked potato. For those dishes, I wouldn't want to preheat the air fryer.
And if it’s an item you normally make in the oven and don’t preheat the oven when making it (like some baked goods), you probably will want to avoid preheating when doing that same dish in the air fryer.