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How to Preheat an Air Fryer – Tips and Tricks

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An air fryer is great for cooking healthy food fast. But before you start cooking up a storm, you need to know how to use your new kitchen gadget!

And one of the biggest questions people have about it is, “Do I have to preheat my air fryer?” This question makes a lot of sense because you always preheat your conventional oven, after all.

And yet air fryer recipes are pretty inconsistent about whether or not they suggest you preheat air fryer. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. You might be wondering, is skipping this step just an oversight or not? Well, here is the answer:

You do not always need to preheat your air fryer. But for some recipes, you will get much better results if you do. So basically, it depends! Read on for all the details.

air fryer with sweet potato fries

Quick Take on Preheating

Generally, it is not essential to preheat when making basic recipes. Preheat if:

The recipe directions or owner’s manual indicates it is necessary

You are cooking something with breading

Check Your Owner’s Manual

There are dozens of different types of air fryers of all different sizes and shapes. Some are air fryer toaster ovens, and some are basket style.

I have personally cooked with six different brands, but there are lots more I haven’t used. So first, check your model’s owner’s manual and see what their recommendations are.

Why is Preheating Necessary?

An air fryer cooks faster than a standard oven because it blows the air around. So means it heats up quickly, making preheating less critical. But some recipes will cook and taste better with preheating.

For these recipes, your food items won’t get the texture you want if you skip this step. So it is vital to understand the differences and make sure you preheat when necessary.

top view of fried cihcken on a cutting board after air frying
Crispy food needs preheating

What Types of Food Need Preheating?

Frozen foods – These cook best when you preheat before cooking. Preheating helps them get crispy, faster. If you don’t preheat, this frozen food might need an extra minute or two of cooking time. This is especially true for deep-fried dishes, like frozen chicken tenders.

Foods you want seared – If you want your food to have a nice sear and a crust outside, then preheating is essential. Preheating ensures high heat inside the oven before you ever add the food. Steaks are a great example of this. Preheating for steaks can help ensure they have a crusty brown outside without being well done in the middle.

Food you want extra crispy – Preheating if you want your food items to be as crunchy as possible, especially when it has a coating of breading. So air fryer fried chicken, egg rolls, and breaded zucchini chips are all examples of things that will cook better with preheating. Preheating allows the breading or wrapper on the outside to crisp quickly, without overcooking the inside.

Find More Air Fryer Recipes!

chicken after cooking
Large food with a longer cooking time doesn’t need preheating

When Can You Skip Preheating?

Large pieces of food – For large food with a long cook time, like pork loin roasts or a whole chicken, preheating isn’t necessary. If you preheat, the meat could burn outside before the inside is fully cooked.

Leftovers – The air fryer is terrific at reheating leftovers, from pizza to fries. These foods have a short cook time, so preheating isn’t necessary. 

Food you don’t want to be crispy – Many fresh veggies, like butternut squash or broccoli, aren’t supposed to end up super crispy. So preheating isn’t necessary and can make it less tasty if the outside is too crispy or burnt

When Should You Never Preheat Air Fryer?

You should never preheat it with just parchment paper, a paper towel, or something very light in it! The cooking fan can blow the thin parchment paper right up into the heating element.

This is both a fire hazard and a mess to clean up. If you are using parchment paper, preheat without it and then add it to the cooking basket later with the food on top. The food will hold it down so that it doesn’t blow around.

fresh corn in husks
You rarely need to preheat to cook veggies

How Do I Preheat an Air Fryer?

Set the air fryer at the temperature specified by the recipe for cooking and start it with the power button to preheat. Let it run for 2-5 minutes. This simple step will ensure the most consistent results.

Some units have a dedicated preheat button. You can use the preheat button if your appliance has one, although it doesn’t do anything different. I have a preheat button on my Cosori air fryer, and I always use the power button.

How Long Do I Preheat My Air Fryer?

As a rule of thumb, if there is no time specified, then preheat for 2-3 minutes if the temperature is 370 degrees F or less and 5 minutes if the temperature is over 370 degrees F.

But if the recipe you are following specifies a specific preheating time, follow it. For example my recipe for Blooming Onion, I suggest using an unusually long 10 minute duration preheat because you want it as crispy as possible.

So be sure to check the recipe because there might be essential instructions that are more accurate than general advice.

What Happens If I Don’t Preheat My Air Fryer?

For most recipes, nothing. A few recipes will be noticeably better with preheating, but this is more of an exception than a rule.

How Do I Know If My Air Fryer Is Preheated?

Unlike an oven, there isn’t a thermostat inside the unit that determines when it has reached the desired temperature. So whether or not you have a preheated appliance is not something you can tell just by looking at it. If you have run the oven for the specified preheating process time, assume it is hot enough.

oven style air fryer on a counter
Toaster oven style air fryer
By on January 23rd, 2022

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