What is an air fryer? Everything you need to know

woman using air fryer to cook potato chips

Danny Baggs

Posted July 31, 2023

Some foods might taste better made in an air fryer. Here’s everything you need to know about air fryers, so you can decide whether your kitchen needs one.

Air fryers are the latest craze in domestic kitchens, featuring in thousands of homemade recipes and earning pride of place on countertops nationwide.

Not only can air fryers save you time when cooking thanks to their fast cooking speeds, they can also save your household money due to their energy efficiency. Rather than using an entire oven to heat or cook your meals, an air fryer can cook the same volume of food and generally use less energy.

Here are all your questions answered, so you can get air frying fast.

Guide to air fryers

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer is a kitchen countertop appliance that can mimic deep-frying by circulating hot air rather than submerging your food in masses of oil. It’s like a small, portable and extra-fast convection oven. The resulting food is deliciously crispy, crunchy and low-calorie compared to their traditionally deep-fried variants.

Air fryers are safe, versatile and easy to clean. You can cook most things in them: chicken tenders, sweet potato fries, burger patties, and so on. They’re also faster to cook your food than ovens or stovetops because you don’t have to wait for anything to heat up. And they’re not limited to frying: some can bake, grill and roast too.

What types of air fryers are there?

There are several main types of air fryers.


Air Fryer Types

Air Fryer Types


Best for cooking

Pull-out drawer air fryer

Requires you to pull out the drawer and give it a shake every few minutes to ensure even cooking

Frozen foods
Crumbed foods
Reheating leftovers

Self-stirring air fryer

Built-in paddle automatically stirs your food around the bowl for more even cooking

Battered fish
Crumbed chicken
Baked vegetables

Rotating basket air fryer

Automatic rotating basket with accessories that allow for roasting, grilling and baking

Roast meat
Roast vegetables

Benchtop oven air fryer

Can roast, grill, bake and air-fry

Chicken wings
Chicken tenders

black air fryer on a kitchen counter

Most air fryers for sale are the pull-out drawer version. Image: Getty


What can I cook in air fryers?

Any ‘fried foods’ like chicken wings, bacon, potato wedges, mozzarella sticks, salmon and vegetables are some of the best types of food for air frying. 

While you don’t need to use oil in an air fryer, a light spritz of cooking oil spray will take your meal’s crispiness to the next level. It’s not as necessary for foods that have natural oils (like chicken or salmon) but can add great texture to foods like dumplings or samosas.

Because an air fryer is technically a convection oven, you can also bake cupcakes, sweet and savory muffins, cookies, brownies and other small baked goods and recipes. Similarly, you can roast nuts and vegetables, reheat leftovers and warm up frozen foods like party pies and spring rolls.

Discover some of the best foods and recipes to cook in an air fryer here.

What can’t I cook in air fryers?

While air fryers can handle most food items, there are a few foods and recipes that don’t do well in an air fryer. These include:

  • Wet battered foods – wet batter needs to be submerged in oil to ‘set’; in an air fryer, it will slide right off the food. Pre-fried frozen battered food is fine to air fry, however.

  • Cheese – like wet batter, melty cheese will slide off your food and pool into the bottom of your air fryer.

  • Rice and pasta – these grains need to be rehydrated by boiling in water before they’re eaten, not blasted with hot air.

  • Some fresh vegetables – delicate leafy greens burn quite easily in air fryers. Frozen veggies are the way to go with air fryers: the moisture retained in the ice will preserve them better.

  • Dry spices – the inside of an air fryer is like a hot wind tunnel. Dry spices will be blown off your food and likely clog your machine. Season your food after it’s cooked in an air fryer instead.


potato chips and pizza cooked in air fryer

Potato chips are easy to cook in an air fryer. Image: Getty


Is cooking with an air fryer healthy?

Compared to frying your food in oil, eating air-fried food results in less fat and fewer calories. Consuming less oil can help reduce your cholesterol levels too.

Is an air fryers energy efficient?

Air fryers are generally more energy efficient than traditional ovens and consume less energy as they are a smaller appliance.

That's because an air fryer’s heating element sits closer to the food and blasts hot air around a smaller space, cooking your food much faster than an oven and reducing the need for pre-heating.

If you need to cook multiple batches of food or recipes in your air fryer to complete your meal, however, an air fryer might not be a money saver - it may be more time and energy efficient to use your oven.

Always turn the air fryer off at the plug when it’s not in use to consume less energy – appliances left on at the plug are hidden energy hogs.

air fryer cooking samosas

Air fryers can cook a wide range of foods and recipes. Image: Getty


Which air fryer features do I need?

Here are some popular air fryer features to keep an eye out for:

  • Thermostat – allows you to set and see the exact frying temperature for more precise cooking

  • Automatic shut-off – prevents over-cooking or burning

  • Keep Warm mode – keeps cooked food at serving temperature

  • Double-layer tray – allows you to stack foods to maximise space

  • Twin baskets – allows you to fry two different foods simultaneously

  • Drip tray – catches excess fats dripped from meats while cooking

  • Cool-touch grip – prevents burning your hands when handling the basket

  • Cooking accessories – certain add-ons will enable different air fryer models to grill, toast, bake, slow cook, etc.

What size air fryer do I need?

What size air fryer you need depends on your kitchen space and how many people you usually cook for. When deciding on air fryer capacity, remember that smaller air fryers cook food faster than larger versions because the air doesn't need to travel as far (and therefore retains heat better).

The most common air fryer sizes are:


Air Fryer Capacity

Air Fryer Capacity


Best for

0.5 - 2L

1 person

Very fast cooking

Limited countertop space

Portable cooking

2 - 4L

2 - 3 people

Frequent use

Couples or small families

Smaller kitchens

4 - 6L

3 - 5 people

Meal prep / batching


Larger kitchens

busy man cooking with an air fryer beside an open laptop

Air fryers can be especially useful for busy students and professionals. Image: Getty


How to use an air fryer

Moisture is the enemy of crisping, so pat food dry with paper towels before you season, oil, and place them in the air fryer's basket. Leave room between each piece of food for the best results.

Most air fryers have preset programs for different foods. Select the appropriate preset, or manually set the cooking time and temperature that's best for your food. Hint: your air fryer manual should list recommended temperatures for different foods.

Remember to shake the basket every so often to evenly expose your food to the heat for better browning and crisping. Or, for larger items like chicken fillets, flip them over with a pair of tongs.

When your food is ready, use tongs to grab out your meal - it'll be hot!

Always read and follow your air fryer's manufacturer instructions. There are also plenty of air fryer recipes available.

Things to avoid with an air fryer

While cooking with an air fryer can be quick and easy, there are a few mistakes that you should avoid.

Avoid overcrowding the drawer with food. You'll get crispier results if you cook in smaller batches, leaving space between your chips or veggies for the hot air to swirl around properly.

Spray or toss your food with oil instead of greasing the drawer with cooking spray. Since air fryer baskets are typically have non-stick coatings, cooking spray can damage their finish over time.

Finally, treat the air fryer basket or drawer like a hot pan. Only touch the handle, and only set it down on a heat-resistant surface like your cooktop or a trivet.

How to clean an air fryer

Air fryers are generally easy to clean up compared to an oven. And unlike deep fryers, they don’t splatter hot oil around the rangehood and countertop.

Simply unplug your fryer after cooking and wait for it to cool, then empty the oil from the pull-out drawer.  Wash any of its removable components (like the basket and drawer) with warm, soapy water on a soft sponge or cloth.

Bits of hard food stuck in the basket? Use a dishwashing brush or a toothpick to poke them out. Next, wipe down the inside of the air fryer, clearing off any grease or food debris on the heating element. Dry everything and reassemble.

Make sure not to use any abrasive cleaning materials (such as steel wool) on your air fryer: you don’t want to scratch its non-stick coating. Check the box or product description to see if your air fryer has dishwasher-safe parts for even easier cleaning.

Is an air fryer worth it? Can an air fryer save me money?

Air fryers can be a worthwhile purchase for time-poor students and professionals, or singles who don’t need an entire oven to cook dinner. The cost of air fryers ranges from under $50 to several hundreds of dollars, and is mostly dependant on how many features and how much cooking space you need from your air fryer.

If you are part of a large household, you may find that air fryers aren’t worth the investment considering their generally small space and high energy consumption when used for long periods of time. In this case, consider whether an induction cooktop might be the best way to conserve energy in the kitchen.

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