Air Fryer Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

If you have an air fryer, chances are it's already revolutionized the way you cook. After all, this popular appliance that took the world by storm has pretty much everything going for it: air fryers are affordable, incredibly easy to use, capable of heating food easily and quickly, and — for the most part — the recipes you can make with an air fryer are much healthier than their traditionally-fried counterparts.


But you might be surprised to learn that air fryers aren't just for making delicious homemade french fries or the easiest Korean-style salmon you've ever had the pleasure of cooking. From previously-unthought-of uses like home-roasting your own coffee beans to practical tricks like how to keep greasy meats from smoking, there are a few hacks that any self-respecting air fryer owner should know to get the most out of their beloved appliance. We've scoured the depths of the internet and consulted with all the air fryer experts in our life to figure out the best air fryer hacks you'll wish you knew sooner.

Embrace preheating your air fryer

One of the strongest selling points for air fryers — if not the biggest altogether — is how unbelievably easy the appliance makes it to prepare a vast array of foods. At its easiest, just press a few buttons, wait a few minutes, and voila! And while you can certainly take the simplest approach with just about anything you can fit into your air fryer's basket, you might want to consider preheating the appliance for certain recipes.


As with conventional ovens, preheating an air fryer serves the purpose of having the cooking process start out at a higher temperature, which will ultimately decrease cooking time and increase the quality of some foods. While preheating isn't necessary for every single thing you cook in an air fryer, it can be an especially good idea for freezer foods and recipes that are meant to have a crispy or crunchy texture. Some models automatically preheat, while others require the user to manually start the process. Either way, it's worth a quick recipe check or a flip through your model's manual to be sure.

Use the right oil

Traditionally deep-fried foods are popular for a reason: they're undeniably delicious. But they also pack an unhealthy punch of excess oil, grease, and fat that's downright unappetizing, especially if you're actively monitoring your health. Enter the air fryer, capable of delivering the same delicious fried foods but at a fraction of the health cost. However, even then, most air fryer recipes do call for a relatively small amount of fat or oil in order to achieve the right consistency and quality.


The thing is, it's actually quite important that you choose the correct oil for this particular cooking process, as the extreme heat inside an air fryer can break down oils with a lower smoke point, releasing chemicals that can cause an undesirable burnt or even bitter flavor in your food. Instead, look for oils with a higher smoke point, like canola, sunflower, or plain vegetable oil. Remember to beware of aerosolized oils and cooking sprays, which can ruin air fryers, as some contain additives like soy lecithin, which can bind to the interior of your appliance causing a grimy residue that is extremely difficult to clean and can ultimately harm the longevity of your air fryer. Alternatively, opt to apply oil to your food with a basting brush or another safer method.


Parchment paper is your non-stick friend

One of the few annoyances when it comes to using an air fryer is the sticking problem: Whether you simply forget to add a bit of oil, underestimate the amount needed, or take all the necessary precautions anyway, sooner or later, you're going to encounter food that just doesn't want to be parted from your favorite countertop appliance once the cooking cycle is done. And sometimes, there's only so much that cooking oil can do to prevent this.


With that scenario in mind, it's our pleasure to point out the wonderfully heat-resistant solution that is parchment paper. Commonly used to line baking sheets, parchment paper can handle temperatures well over 400 Fahrenheit as well as prevent sticking and make clean-up that much easier. Many times, you can even find specially shaped parchment paper liners specifically made to line air fryers. While it may be tempting to use aluminum foil for the same purpose, always use caution to ensure that said foil can't be blown loose inside the air fryer — if it touches the heating mechanisms, it can be a major fire hazard. Parchment paper is a far safer solution.

Don't overstuff the fryer

It's all too tempting when you're busy and need to get dinner on the table to just dump food into the air fryer and walk away. Unfortunately, this isn't the best way to get good results. (Also, you should follow the filling instructions faithfully, as some air fryers have been recalled due to fire danger.) 


Air fryers are generally quite tolerant. However, the appliance does not take well to overcrowding. Air fryers work by circulating hot air evenly around food. This is why you can get a nice crisp without oil, although a light toss of oil across the surface of your foods can make them crispier. Either way, if you pile your fries, chicken cutlets, or veggies all together, the air can't get in. This can lead it to become soggy or, in the case of meat, it can even come out undercooked and it's therefore dangerous. You can overwork your air fryer and cause it to break, too. Instead of taking any risk, arrange your food in a single layer and work in batches.

Some sources say you can safely load your basket up with fries or veggies, neither of which will make you sick if undercooked. This will raise the cooking time, though, and it will likely lead to a less crunchy and satisfying result. If you want to cook for a large family, it's probably better to buy an air fryer with a multi-level basket.


Pay attention to proper cleaning methods

Though it may seem a bit obvious to be counted as a hack, taking a small amount of time to consider the proper cleaning methods for your particular model of air fryer can save you quite a bit of time and effort, and it can also prolong the lifespan of your appliance altogether. Though there are lots of different air fryer models on the market, there are several tips that can apply universally to all models.


To start with, always try to clean your air fryer shortly after use, but wait for all the components to cool down first. If you can't get to it right away, it's okay to soak your air fryer's pan and inner basket in warm soapy water for a little while. You can even make a paste out of water and baking soda to help dissolve especially tough grime. Perhaps most importantly though, you should never use sharp utensils or abrasive sponges or brushes in the cleaning process, as many air fryers have a protective nonstick coating that can be damaged if you don't stick to a gentler means of cleaning. Remember to wipe the interior chamber of the main unit with a damp towel too, as crumbs and oil can and will accumulate there. And while some air fryers have components that are dishwasher safe, for longevity's sake it's usually a good idea to hand wash or at least confirm the best cleaning method with your model's manual.


Reheat leftovers to restaurant-ready perfection

Air fryers aren't just for freezer foods and nifty from-scratch recipes. Whether you're reheating last night's takeout or making the most out of that giant meal you prepared earlier in the week, it's time to give your microwave a break and discover a better way to reheat. The key to our favorite countertop appliance's expertise with leftovers lies in the basic way that it functions: All air fryers work by using a high-powered fan to circulate hot air throughout its interior. When food is suspended in the air fryer's basket, the hot air is able to cook everything evenly all at once, resulting in the delightfully crispy texture that we know and love.


When it comes to leftovers, the usual reheating methods — by way of a microwave or a conventional oven — tend to leave some foods soggy. But due to its method of air circulation to achieve an even cooking temperature and texture, air fryers leave even the saddest leftovers with a fresh crunchiness that will never fail to satisfy. From pizza to egg rolls and beyond, you're really missing out if you haven't already tried this incredibly simple hack.

Place a slice of bread in the drip pan to soak up excess grease

There are multiple reasons why you might, on occasion, notice smoke coming from your air fryer. Maybe a piece of food has fallen through the basket into the drip pan, or maybe you've just got too many items in the basket and the appliance is struggling to keep up. Either way, you're more likely to see smoke coming from your air fryer if the foods you're cooking are on the greasy side, like burgers or even bacon. And while even a small plume of smoke can be alarming, there is an easy solution to prevent your air fryer from smoking due to greasy foods.


The immediate answer is to place a small amount of water, think a couple of tablespoons, in your air fryer's drip pan. The interior heat will quickly turn the water into steam and take care of the smoke problem. On the other hand, if you know ahead of time that something you're cooking is on the greasy side and likely to smoke, try placing a slice of bread in the drip pan. The bread will soak up any excess grease that drips into the pan, ultimately preventing that dreaded cloud of smoke from hovering over your kitchen.

Explore air fryer accessories

We've already established that the number of things you can do with an air fryer is nearly endless. From chicken wings to tasty falafel, there isn't much that you can't make with an air fryer, and with the countless number of accessories available on the market, that list is growing ever smaller by the day. So if you find yourself making the same old recipes over and over, it might be time to start exploring what kind of extras could potentially breathe new life into your kitchen.


Now bear in mind that not all air fryer accessories are universal — you'll definitely want to double-check whether an attachment is compatible with your particular model before purchasing. But all in all, if you have an air fryer, we can pretty much guarantee you'll be able to find plenty of gadgets to work with it. Something as simple as silicone baking cups can open the door to all kinds of delectable recipes, from muffins to frittata. Other popular air fryer additions include racks and special pans that will allow you to "grill" certain food items, as well as cake and pizza pans, and even refillable oil sprayers.

Small oven-safe baking dishes are also air fryer-safe

Shopping for air fryer accessories is certainly fun, but for the budget-conscious, it can be a little pricey. After all, the number of accompanying pans, racks, and other products on the market is practically limitless. Thankfully, you likely already have plenty of dishes that can take the place of those accessories. After all, any oven-safe dish is also air fryer-safe!


Of course, depending on the size of your air fryer, you're going to be limited as to which dishes you can actually use. But any small — and some medium-sized — dish that you can put in the oven can also stand up to the heat in an air fryer. This can make some recipes vastly easier to achieve with little or even no cleanup required — especially if your oven-safe, air fryer-safe dish is also compatible with your dishwasher. As always, double-check to make sure that the dish you're using is up to the task. While most glass baking dishes are totally fine to go in an air fryer, that doesn't mean that they all are.

Contact the manufacturer before replacing a broken air fryer

It's true, you can do just about anything with an air fryer. However, they can still have issues, just like any other appliance. But before you conclude that your trusty kitchen buddy is a lost cause and spend the money to replace it, it might be worth contacting the manufacturer.


Best case scenario, some models come with a warranty that could get you a brand new air fryer for little or no extra money. On the other hand, the problem might be as simple as a broken component. Many companies offer replacement parts to purchase, and some might even fix the appliance for you. Either way, solving the problem is better for the environment than simply chucking the malfunctioning air fryer in the garbage — and not to mention, better for your wallet than replacing the entire appliance.

Give your toaster the day off

Since before the days of the Crockpot, it's seemingly been a competition to see which popular new kitchen appliance can do more than the last. Some have even become obsolete along the way. And while we don't think the toaster is going to go extinct anytime sooner, the advent of the air fryer is certainly giving it a run for its money. Turns out, your air fryer's signature crispiness is exactly what your morning toast has been looking for all along!


Simple as it seems, it still might take a couple of tries to figure out exactly which setting you prefer, since cooking time for a simple slice or two of bread is, expectedly, quick. But this function of your air fryer goes beyond toast too. Things like bagels, waffles, and other large or thick-sliced breads may not be able to fit in your average toaster, but your air fryer can handle them no problem, and they'll likely be even tastier. Not only that, but it might enable you to declutter your kitchen countertop a bit. What's not to love?

Try roasting your own coffee beans

This one's for all the coffee addicts out there. When you think of all the wonderful, mouthwatering things you can make with an air fryer, coffee likely isn't one of them. And while you're definitely going to need to defer to your preferred method of brewing for your average morning cup of joe, air fryers can make that cup so much fresher if you can just get your hands on some green coffee beans. That's right — you can roast your own coffee beans right at home in your air fryer.


This process is one that you'll want to preheat your appliance for, but altogether, it should take less than an hour from start to finish. Ideally, the beans should be in a single layer so that each one ends up being evenly roasted. The length of time you'll air fry your beans depends on whether you prefer light, medium, or dark roasts. Once they're done and you've allowed the beans to sit for a while to cool, you can store them or grind them immediately for the freshest cup of coffee you've ever had.

Dehydrate fruits, veggies, and meats

Interestingly enough, dehydrators already work much like an air fryer, just without the high temperatures. So it really isn't a surprise that, with the right settings, your air fryer can also double as a dehydrator. Those settings will vary according to what you're trying to dehydrate, but a quick recipe check should be all you need to get on your way.


By setting your air fryer at a relatively low temperature for a period of time (but still usually less time than it takes for a dehydrator to work), you'll be able to make all kinds of delicious snacks — think fruit chips, "sun"-dried tomatoes, fruit leather, jerky, spices, and even homemade dog biscuits for the pet in your life! The key is to choose the right temperature for the food you're making, which can vary, so be sure to have a game plan before you start throwing ingredients together.

Don't thaw frozen vegetables before air frying them

Up front, it's a simple question: should you thaw out your frozen vegetables before popping them in the air fryer? It's no secret that the process of air frying is one of the tastiest ways you can prepare your daily intake of veggies, but how can you ensure that they don't end up soggy nonetheless? The answer is that it depends, but most of the time, you should air fry your frozen veggies as they are without thawing them out beforehand. This is also another food that you'll want to preheat your appliance for.


When frozen vegetables are defrosted, they begin to release the moisture trapped by those low temperatures in your freezer, so they can start to get soggy. Putting them straight into a blazing hot air fryer doesn't give that moisture a chance to soak into the veggies. That being said, some vegetables like bell peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli hold up to the freezing process better, so if you're just dying to thaw your veggies beforehand, it isn't going to hurt these varieties. Even so, it saves time and effort to simply pop them in, press a button, and give it a few minutes.

Use a toothpick to keep things together

Here's the thing about air fryers: it's a magical thing how you can simply pop your food into the basket, let the hot air circulation do its thing, and enjoy something yummy just a few minutes later. But when it comes to recipes that involve stacked ingredients, think sandwiches or anything that involves a slice of cheese on top, that rapidly-circulating air can make a bit of a mess.


While the process isn't likely to blow apart your entire meal, some ingredients may need to be a little more secured to ensure that they come out in perfect condition. Thankfully, the solution couldn't be simpler: just stick a toothpick in your sandwich or stacked food, making sure to secure the ingredients you're worried about, and you're done! That being said, only use wood or reusable metal toothpicks for this hack, never plastic.

Some air fryers allow you to proof and bake bread

This we know: air fryers are absolutely not the same thing as bread makers. And if making homemade bread is your favorite hobby, chances are you already have the equipment you need. But for the rest of us who are relatively new to the process and might want to try our hand at making fresh bread before going out and buying all the necessary paraphernalia, an air fryer can be a great way to experiment.


Not every air fryer is made to handle bread making. But those that are do massively simplify the process. Proofing is the step in which dough is allowed to rest and rise one final time before being baked — the dark, draft-free interior of an air fryer is a perfect place for this. For the final baking step, you'll want to defer to your chosen recipe.

Roast garlic

Roasted garlic is delicious and versatile. You can use it in countless ways, from mixing it into your mashed potatoes to using it for the best garlic bread you've ever had. Stews, roasted veggies, ground meat, butter, hummus, and gravy all do well with an addition of sweet, caramelized garlic. Best of all, you can make roasted garlic in an air fryer


Start by preheating your air fryer to 380 Fahrenheit (some sources advise 400 Fahrenheit, so feel free to experiment with your machine). Cut the top off of a head of garlic just enough that the cloves beneath are exposed, but no more. All you need is an entry point for salt, oil, and heat. Use about 1 teaspoon of oil per head and ¼ teaspoon of salt if desired. You can also cook without salt if you prefer, as it won't measurably change the consistency of the results. Once prepped, wrap the whole head in tin foil and pop it in the air fryer.

Depending on your device, it may be done in 16-20 minutes, or you may need to wait more like 25. Start checking at the 16-minute mark the first time you do it and you should be safe. 


Make hard boiled eggs

Hard boiled eggs are great. They're healthy, require no extra fat, and lend themselves to a variety of dishes, from egg salad to green salad. They also work well as a pre- or post-workout snack or an easy addition to a lunchbox. The only problem? They're kind of a pain to make, which is where the air fryer comes in.


In the air fryer, you can cook a batch of four eggs (some air fryers can accommodate more) without waiting for water to boil, after which you can dump them into cold water to cool, the same as you would with a stovetop approach. Preheat your machine to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, arrange the eggs across the basket, and cook for 13 minutes for soft boiled and 17 for hard boiled. Although you'll have to work in smaller batches, the process is pretty hands-off and there's less cleanup. Plus, the timing is very precise and the eggs peel easily.

The only note is that different air fryers cook differently, so when cooking a hard boiled egg this way, you might need to experiment. Start with 13 minutes at 250 and go from there. Have an ice water bath ready nearby and plunge the eggs into it as soon as they come out. 


Revive stale chips

Nobody likes stale chips. Depressingly, an open bag of chips loses its crunch pretty quickly, even though they can safely last well after the best-by date as long as they're unopened. This freshness time boils down to moisture content. When snack foods absorb too much humidity, they get soggy, which is why so many of them come with a little absorbent packet inside.


Now onto the good stuff: You can revive stale chips in the air fryer. While the microwave also works, and you can even make homemade chips using this appliance, the air fryer gives more reliable and enjoyable results. Just know that the temperature and timing will depend on the variety of snack food you're looking to raise from the dead.

First, preheat your air fryer to 300 Fahrenheit. You can either rely on your machine to tell you when it's heated or wait three minutes or so. Once hot, heat thin potato chips for a minute and a half only. Cook thick potato and other kinds of chips for the same amount of time, and then check frequently as you continue to heat until done. For denser snack foods, such as Cheetos, tortilla chips, and baked chips, cook for two and a half minutes. This trick works for other snacks as well, but you may need to play with the amount of cooking time.