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Yes, you should be preheating an air fryer — here’s why

Learn how to get the most out of your air fryer

French fries
Louis Hansel / Unsplash

It’s the latest food fad that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, the healthy cook’s dream, the now hallowed and exalted air fryer. The hype around this countertop wonder doesn’t seem to be dying down, either, with new recipes and rave reviews popping up everywhere in recent years. Boasting the ability to prepare healthier versions of countless foods, from “fried” chicken to potato chips, by using little to no oil, it’s no wonder the air fryer has such adoring fans.

Fried chicken
sharonang/Pixabay

How does an air fryer work?

The science behind the air fryer’s magic is really quite simple. It works similarly to a convection oven by circulating air around the food at very high temperatures, causing the food to crisp and brown without the need for added fats. Deep-fried flavor without the deep-fried calories? Not a bad deal. But as this handy gadget is still a relative newbie to the kitchen counter, there are still things to learn about this little appliance and how to best operate it.

Something to keep in mind is that air fryers produce very high temperatures very quickly. Unlike an oven that takes a good bit of time to preheat, an air fryer will preheat in just a short amount of time. While this is very handy in a lot of cases, the quick heating time also makes it easier to burn food, so use those timers carefully!

Potato chips
avantrend / Pixabay

Are you supposed to preheat an air fryer?

To put it simply, yes. Most foods, particularly those cooked in an air fryer, will benefit from a sudden blast of high heat. This interaction creates browning and crisping, whereas a slow, more gradual heating (like what happens if you don’t bother preheating and just stick your food into a cold air fryer) won’t have quite the same effect.

In addition to flavor and texture, preheating your air fryer will also prevent uneven cooking in your dish. You’re more likely to have cold spots or areas that are overdone if the air fryer isn’t given a chance to preheat. This is especially true when reheating leftovers, which is also something that can be done in your air fryer. Depending on your dish, you’ll find you get a much fresher, crispier result than you would in a microwave.

So while it isn’t technically a requirement — some models don’t even have a preheat setting — it’s still a crucial step as far as flavor is concerned.

Churros
Daria-Yakovleva/Pixabay

How do I know when my air fryer is preheated?

Of course, all brands and models will vary in their features, but learning how to preheat an air fryer could be tricky. Many air fryers now have preheating options and alerts. If, however, your model doesn’t have this feature, the basic preheating guideline is to use the “air fry” setting, adjust your machine to the temperature your recipe calls for, and simply manually preheat for three to five minutes.

A few tips for successful air fryer preheating: First, always be sure that your fry basket is inside the unit when preheating. This is the part of the machine that will actually be in contact with your food, so it must therefore be preheated as well.

Second, if you’re using parchment paper to line your fry basket, it should not be inside the unit while preheating. Because of the convection fan inside, the parchment may blow into the heating coils and burn. The parchment paper must be weighed down underneath the food you’re cooking. Silicone liners are widely available and should be heavy enough to avoid this issue. Of course, always consult the packaging of your specific product to avoid any safety issues.

Now that we understand a few more of the rules of this trendy appliance, we can enjoy its popularity with perhaps a bit more ease. So don’t be afraid to jump on the air fryer bandwagon and get into the hype. With all of the calorie-cutting, time-saving, and delicious goodness to be derived from this little machine, this is one food trend it’s okay to enjoy.

Fried chicken
pastel100 / Pixabay

Air fryer fried chicken recipe

This chicken recipe from The Kitchen Magpie has over 500 nearly perfect, rave reviews, so we just had to try it. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Given how incredibly juicy and flavorful this recipe is, you’d never believe that this chicken hadn’t taken a sizzling bath in a deliciously greasy jacuzzi. No extra calories and no one missed ’em!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 small chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of seasoning salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, and Old Bay seasoning.
  3. Dredge chicken through the flour mixture, through the egg, and then again through the flour mixture.
  4. Shake off excess flour.
  5. Place four thighs in the bottom of the air fryer and cook for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Enjoy!
Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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