Air Fryers are miracle workers, especially for fries’ lovers (and who isn’t one nowadays?). Their ability to save time to cook, fry, and bake different kinds of foods with minimal oil usage has made them a hot kitchen appliance.
However, when it comes to using these, some people struggle to get the desired results. An important aspect of cooking is preheating, and one may think: Do you preheat an air fryer?
Whether you need to preheat an air fryer or not depends on the type of food you are cooking, the recipe, and the model of your air fryer.
But don’t worry! If you are new to this or have difficulty getting the best of your air fryer, we are here to walk you through it. Keep reading!
Let’s first take a brief look at how air fryers work.
How do air fryers work?
Contradictory to the name and common misconception, air fryers do not literally fry the food. There is a fan installed in the appliance that circulates hot air around the perforated basket inside, cooking the food and browning the exterior of the food items. This helps add that crispiness to the food that we often desire.
Are you supposed to preheat air fryer?
Yes, you might need to preheat your air fryer, mainly if you wish to get a crispy exterior for your foods. Some recipes specifically recommend preheating, while some do not. The same goes with the air fryer models. But some foods are cooked best if the air fryer is not preheated.
We will take a different approach towards suggesting preheating for air fryers. Below are scenarios that would work out best if you preheat and cases where you should not preheat your air fryer. Let’s get to it!
When to preheat
- Making frozen foods. Precooked frozen items, such as cheese sticks, nuggets, and french fries, usually need that crisp. All of these are already cooked, so it’s a better idea to preheat the air fryer to get the best quality food.
- Reheating leftovers or making smaller foods. Preheated air fryers can cook such items quickly while maintaining a nice crisp.
- Making steaks. Preheating would help get a good crust or sear on your meat, giving it a good rare or medium-rare texture while it is cooked.
- Good sear, crust, and crispy food. Preheating can be suitable if you are cooking thinner foods, such as chicken strips or pork chops.
- Part of the recipe. If the recipe recommends preheating, do it.
- Guided by the manual. Check your air fryer’s manual. If the manufacturer suggests preheating, do it.
When to not preheat
- Parchment paper. Do not preheat with the parchment paper inside the air fryer. The paper would fly inside and may burn if it touches the heating element.
- Cooking delicate items that do not need a crisp. These could include foods like vegetables. When preheated, the air fryer would turn the outer layer of the vegetables brown too quickly before the inside has had time to turn tender.
- Raw and thick foods. Preheating is a bad idea if you plan to cook a thick, raw/frozen piece of any kind of meat, such as chicken breasts, roasts, etcetera. Such foods need a slow cook to the center so that the meat does not remain raw from within.
A preheated air fryer is likely to burn the exterior of such foods quickly while the center is not cooked properly (steaks that you want to be cooked rare or medium-rare are an exception here).
- Bread, cakes, or pastries. Again, you want these cooked all the way through to the center so that the inside is not a doughy mixture of the batter. Preheating would turn the outside/crust crisp and hard while the inside would remain doughy and raw.
How to preheat an air fryer?
You can use the preheat setting (if your model has one) to start the preheating process automatically, or you can do it manually. Here is what you need to do in either case:
Using the preheat setting
- Check your manual to confirm that your model has a preheat setting.
- Check that all removable parts are dry, clean, and in place (such as the basket).
- Follow the instructions on the manual to select and enable the preheat setting/program.
- Leave the unit to preheat automatically.
Manually preheating an air fryer
- Make sure all removable parts are dry, clean, and in place.
- Select the air fry setting and set the desired temperature (guided by the recipe or set your own) and the time.
- Switch it on.
- Once the timer elapses, insert the food items in your basket.
Note: Your air fryer’s basket and other inner components will be hot once you have preheated it, so be careful in handling them.
How long to preheat an air fryer before cooking?
The time you need to give your air fryer to preheat depends on the size of your air fryer and the temperature you want to work with. As a rule of thumb, we suggest that you preheat your air fryer for about 2-3 minutes if you have a smaller basket and about 5 minutes for larger baskets.
Here is a more specific breakdown for temperatures and respective suggested time periods (take the lesser value for smaller air fryers and the bigger values for larger ones):
- 300 degrees or below: 2-3 minutes
- Between 300 and 350 degrees: 3-4 minutes
- Between 350 and 400 degrees: 5-6 minutes
How to preheat air fryer the first time?
Set a temperature and time manually if your air fryer does not have a preheat setting (this setting preheats automatically- check your manual for instructions). Wait for the set time to elapse, and then insert your food items in the basket. For smaller air fryers, preheat for 2-3 minutes. Preheat for 4-5 minutes for larger ones.
Can you open an air fryer when it is on?
Yes, you can open an air fryer while it is on and cooking. You can pull the basket out from the side or front to check the food’s progress, shake the contents or add any elements that you wish to.
For further assistance read this article on what happens when you open an air fryer when it’s on!
Why do you preheat an air fryer?
Preheating the air fryer ensures that the food starts cooking instantly once in the air fryer. This helps food crisp up from the outside instead of turning soggy. Preheating an air fryer is suitable for some foods (e.g., French fries, pork chops, rare or medium-rare steak, etc.) while it is bad for others (e.g., bread, thick meat, etc.).
Do you preheat air fryer with oil?
It is not necessary, but brushing a small amount of oil on the air fryer’s interior (basket and other accessories) can help improve the non-stick effect. It can also slightly enhance the flavor of your food.
Wrapping up our thoughts on preheating an air fryer!
So, do you preheat air fryer or not? While it is completely safe and up to you to choose to preheat or not to preheat an air fryer, we suggest that you consider the recipe at hand and the air fryer model you are using (do not ignore the manufacturer’s recommendations!). It would be wiser not to be inspired by another person’s experience with their air fryer unless they use the same model as you. Moreover, be mindful of the list of foods that do not cook well in a preheated air fryer. One last thing: do not leave the parchment paper inside while preheating!