Air Fryer Cooking Guide: The Best Recipes, Tips & Reviews

Our Test Kitchen reveals the best air fryers, our favorite air fryer recipes and the tricks you need to know for cooking success.

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If you love kitchen gadgets, chances are you have your eye on an air fryer. These countertop convection ovens have been around for about a decade, but they’ve recently picked up steam for their ability to “fry” foods without the oil. While testing readers’ air fryer recipes, our Test Kitchen pros have picked up lots of tips for air-frying success. Now we’re sharing them with you.

What to Cook with Your Air Fryer

Thanks to this small but mighty kitchen appliance, you can lighten up some of your favorite comfort foods. This cooking method practically eliminates the need for oil, leaving you with crispy air fryer chicken, restaurant-quality french fries and, yes, even crunchy potato chips. Ready for a healthy crunch? You can make air-fryer tortilla chips with way less oil than deep-fried tortilla chips and don’t miss our other addicting air-fryer appetizers.

But it isn’t just a healthier alternative to cooking traditionally deep-fried foods. You can also make other everyday favorites with this cool tool. Sizzle up a juicy air fryer steak. Start your Saturday morning with a batch of bacon. Or satisfy your sweet tooth by air-frying chocolate chip cookies. Your recipe options are practically endless!

The Best Air Fryers

You know you want one, but which is the best air fryer? In 2018, our Test Kitchen reviewed several top brands, and the Philips Avance TurboStar Air Fryer came out on top. We loved its easy-to-use controls, ability to cook evenly and sleek design.

Recently, our test cooks had the opportunity to try out the PowerXL Air Fryer. We still stand by the Philips, but we’ve added the PowerXL to our list of favorites. It has a huge capacity, it’s simple to use and it preheats in a flash. Read our entire review.

While those two models are our top picks for performance, we know you might have other considerations when buying an air fryer. Have a large family? You’ll need a bigger air fryer. Short on counter space? Try an air fryer-toaster oven combo.

Our Favorite Air Fryer Cooking Secrets

Air fryer aficionados know this kitchen tool isn’t just good for making recipes from scratch. It’s awesome for reheating foods like french fries and other takeout favorites. We also love it for cooking frozen foods—from mozzarella sticks to chicken wings—in a flash.

Perhaps our favorite air fryer trick: you can copycat the crispy golden exterior of deep-fried fare by spritzing your food with nonstick cooking spray before air-frying it. Here’s what else we’ve discovered:

How to Clean Your Air Fryer

Good news! Most air fryer parts are dishwasher safe, so cleaning the appliance is pretty easy. After each use, remove the basket, tray and pan, and wash them like you would any other pot or dish. When it comes to cleaning the outside of your air fryer, a simple soapy wipe-down will work.

If your cooking project was a bit messier than usual or the machine has developed an odd odor, it’s time to deep-clean your air fryer.

Air Fryer FAQ

Our Test Kitchen pros get a lot of air fryer questions from readers. These are our top three:

How does an air fryer work?

An air fryer is basically a mini convection oven. (The cooking times are slightly different—read our guide to air fryer cooking times.) The food goes into a basket (similar to one you’d use in a deep fryer), but instead of hot oil, the food is blasted with hot air to create that crunchy texture we all crave. That’s where the convection oven comparison comes in, but here’s how air fryers vary from ovens.

Do you put oil in an air fryer?

No, but you may want to spritz your food with oil before air-frying. Doing so will give it the crispy, golden-brown exterior that makes deep-fried food so delicious. That said, you don’t have to douse all your air fryer recipes in oil. In fact, air fryers can cook all kinds of recipes, from breaded appetizers to desserts.

Is air-fried food healthy?

Air-fried food isn’t necessarily “healthy,” but it cuts down on calories from fat that would otherwise be used to deep-fry foods. So, air fryer recipes are slimmed down compared to conventionally fried ones, and that’s what a lot of us are looking for these days: to save calories while eating food that tastes great.

Have another air fryer question for our Test Kitchen? Ask here.