My top 3 air fryer dos – and my 1 epic fail don't

I love my air fryer, but I've had to learn some lessons the hard way

Philips Air Fryer XXL
(Image credit: Philips)

Some people claim to love air fryers so much that they bought the best air fryer they could find. Me, I bought two: the first to see if they were any good, and the second because my first one was too small to cope with my new air frying addiction.

The best air fryers are genuinely brilliant gadgets for several reasons: they make really great food really quickly, they make traditionally unhealthy foods much more healthy, and if you forget about them they won't set your home on fire.

I've made some really great things in my air fryers, but I've made a few horrific messes too. So here are some lessons I've learnt the hard way, both good and bad.

Do: use the 20% rule

If you're buying food such as pre-cut chips you'll see cooking temperatures and times on the packaging, but those are for regular ovens and fan ovens. As a rule of thumb, cut the temperature by 20 degrees and the time by 20% for your air fryer – so if you're used to doing oven chips at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, try 16 minutes at 180. Make sure you shake the basket and give everything a quick spray of oil about halfway through if you want it to be nice and crisp.

Do: brine and bash your chicken

Air Fryers can dry out chicken and make it a bit tough, so it's a very good idea to flatten your fillets (I put mine in IKEA bags and whack them with the side of a wooden tenderiser) for more consistent cooking and to brine them for a good while in advance so they don't dry out. A basic brine is just a mix of salt and water that you chuck your chicken into and leave for a while. You can brine for as little as 20 minutes but the chicken will be fine for a few hours; just don't do it all day or overnight as the chicken starts to get mushy. 

Do: make your basket non-stick

In many cases, your air fryer basket will be a very thin metal mesh – and that mesh likes nothing better than to grab onto food and refuse to let it go, tearing chunks out of your chicken or sabotaging your salmon when you try to remove it. For more delicate foods such as salmon, make sure you oil the basket and that you also pat dry and oil the skin before placing the salmon skin side down.

Don't: overcrowd the basket

If like me you started with a relatively small air fryer, resist the temptation to cram the basket: it's a false economy, because while it's quicker than cooking in batches the end result will be a mix of overcooked and undercooked food. Air fryers' increased speed means batch cooking is quicker than with other methods, and given the choice between crap food quickly or properly cooked food that takes a little longer most people would pick the latter every time.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).