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8 Air Fryer Hacks You Won’t Find In The Manual To Masterchef Up Any Meal

Air fryer hacks and mistakes

It’s Saturday night and your date is coming over for a home-cooked meal – alas, your stove just ran out of gas. You look over to your good ol’ air fryer and think to yourself, “Guess I’m not screwed after all”.

Growing up in an Asian household, we all know the convenience of rice cookers. But let’s not sleep on the air fryer. It’s highly versatile, with both high-end and budget options to consider. If you’ve already purchased one, here’s how to best utilise it.

Check out other articles on kitchen appliances:

1. Add water in the basket to prevent fatty food from smoking

air fryer hacks - water in basket

Plonking down fatty foods such as bacon directly onto the tray and cooking it tends to produce a lot of smoke. This is due to grease from the fat spattering onto the hot basket, causing it to sizzle.

Instead, add some water into the basket to the point that it’s just covering the tray. This will stop the fat from dripping directly onto the hot basket, thus preventing it from getting smoky. Now you won’t be confused by any burnt smells and wonder if you’ve overcooked your bacon.

2. Use small baking pans or silicone cups for easy desserts

air fryer hacks - baking panImage credit: In The Kitchen With Matt

If you have a sweet tooth but lack an oven for baking, use an air fryer instead – it’s a mini convection oven after all. Any baking pans or cups can be heated up in the air fryer as long as they are oven-safe.

You have now unlocked the options to bake muffins, cupcakes, and other small pastries. Some delicious recipes you can try out include banana muffins and chocolate cupcakes. Fancy home cooks can even use the air fryer to make omelettes using baking pans. 

3. Bring stale bread back to life with an air fryer

air fryer hacks - stale bread

We’re all guilty of buying too much bread and then watching it go all sad and stale. Rather than throwing it out, consider doing a little bread CPR with your air fryer.

air fryer hacks - fresh bread

Simply place your stale bread in the air fryer with a few tablespoons of water in the fryer basket. This will give the bread a fluffy and “buttery” inside without drying it out further.

4. Use an air fryer instead of a microwave to reheat fried and baked food

air fryer hacks - microwave

Our microwaves might have seen us through some tough times, but they do have flaws too. Some foods, like fried chicken, just don’t work well in a microwave, often turning into hot mush and lose their crisp.

Instead, reheat your food in an air fryer for one to two minutes. Not only will your food retain its crispness, but it also won’t feel moist or mushy.

5. Don’t overcrowd your basket to avoid uneven cooking

air fryer hacks - overcrowding

Sometimes, less is more. And in this case, filling up more than half the basket with food means that you’ll end up with 50% burnt, 50% undercooked, and 100% unevenly cooked food.

Cooking your food in smaller batches will help avoid overcrowding your food and ensure that all the items are cooked as evenly as possible.

6. Mix seasonings with oil before adding them to your food

air fryer hacks - seasoning mix

Seasoning your food is basic cooking 101, but sometimes our meals still come out of the air fryer tasting bland despite all that salt and pepper. This is because of the air circulation inside, which can blow any dry seasonings away.

To prevent such mishaps, mix your seasoning with oil then coat your food with a brush. That way, it will stick and everything will be nicely flavoured.

7. Flip your food or shake the basket halfway during cooking

air fryer hacks - flip

Popping your meals into the air fryer and going on about your business is what most of us tend to do. However, if you don’t want your food to be crispy on one side and soggy on the other, then it’s good practice to check on your food now and again while it’s cooking.

To help food stay crisp, always turn, rotate or shake contents in the air fryer basket. Just be sure to use either tongs or a spatula so you don’t burn your hands handling piping hot food.

8. Make your air fryer non-stick

air fryer hacks - non-stick

Anyone who has washed dishes before will tell you that one of the worst parts is trying to scrub gunk out of a pan. Air fryers also fall victim to this, as the bottom of the basket may get accumulated with grease and bits of food sticking onto it.

To prevent this, pour a teaspoon of your preferred cooking oil onto a paper towel and rub it all around your basket to ensure it has a thin coating of oil. The food will no longer adhere to the coated basket, making the clean-up process a breeze.

Bonus 1: Avoid messy clean-ups by using baking paper or tin foil

air fryer hacks - aluminium foil

In order to avoid clogging the sink with bits of food leftover from the air fryer, here’s a bonus tip you can follow. Take a piece of parchment paper or tin foil and line it inside or under the basket. Then, proceed with cooking as per normal.

After you’re done, you can easily remove the sheet without worrying about food bits or grease getting stuck on your air fryer’s basket. All that’s left is to wipe off any grease or residue with a paper towel. This is not a replacement for washing your air fryer completely though, since there will still be a build-up of grease over time.

Bonus 2: Clean the air fryer while it’s warm

air fryer hacks - cool down

While we instinctively tend to wait until a hot pan has cooled before washing, this is one appliance where we shouldn’t wait too long, as cooling allows the residue and grease to harden and stick to the air fryer.

Instead, leave the air fryer to cool down until it’s warm enough to touch, as the heat ensures the grease is still easy to remove. Run a microfibre towel under some warm tap water and add a little dish soap. Then, wipe the air fryer down and rinse it with warm water before letting it dry.

Air fryer hacks and mistakes

Now that you’ve mastered some of the tricks here, it’s time to whip out the wine bottle and impress your date with some delicious air-fried food, even if you’re normally a walking fire hazard in the kitchen. From frozen meatballs to fresh salmon and even muffins for dessert, the humble air fryer will cook up a storm and help secure you that second date fo’ sho.

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Cover image adapted from (L-R): Fast Food Bistro, No BIGGIE
Photography by Huiwen Chan