Should you Preheat your Air Fryer?
Everyone has this question when you get an air fryer: Should you preheat the air fryer before cooking? We talk about this in detail below. Read your manual first for the best guidance on using your specific air fryer model. Your manufacturer model should be helpful in answering all your specific problems with your air fryer.
Should You Preheat Air Fyer Before Cooking?
There’s quite a debate on this topic. With so many styles and sizes of air fryers and because they all cook differently, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Don’t take the advice from one person who has only used ONE air fryer model and always cooks the same type of food. You’re most likely not getting the full picture. We’ve tested and cooked hundreds of recipes to give you the best explanation and tips for air fryer pre-heating questions.
Air Fryer Pre-Heating isn’t always necessary. But It Can Be Helpful for Certain Foods.
We’ve tested foods on 13 different air fryers and our general answer is that in most cases, you don’t have to preheat. It all depends on the type of food your’e cooking. If you don’t preheat, and the recipe calls for preheating, you just need to add a little more time. Food isn’t going to fail if you don’t preheat. Some small to medium air fryers have the cooking element really close to the food, which can be both good or bad. These type of air fryers cook so quick and hot you don’t need to preheat. Let us explain in more detail….
When To PreHeat your Air Fryer (and when not-to):
Bad times to preheat:
- Thick Raw Foods. Cooking very thick or thick/frozen meats like roasts, big chicken breasts or anything raw that needs to be cooked though the center doesn’t need preheating. If you’re preheating, you’ll be cooking the outside way too quick and too crisp before it cooks all the way to the center. This is bad when you’re cooking raw, thick or frozen raw foods. The meat, roast or frozen center will still be raw in the center. Think about it. Too hot, too quick means raw food won’t cook all the way through. The exception is in the case of steaks that you want to be rare or medium rare.
- Delicate foods that you don’t want crispy. Preheating will only make foods cook hotter and crisper on the outside. In cases when you’re cooking delicate or small cut vegetables, they might burn on the outside before the inside is tender. And in many cases, cooking too hot when pre-heating dries out the food. So if you do pre-heat, just reduce cooking time a bit.
- Pastries, breads, cakes or similar products. When air frying quick breads or small cakes, you want to start in a cold air fryer so it can slowly heat or cook the bread/pastry. Preheating will cook the outside too crispy and the inside will be doughy and raw. The crust will be hard, while the interior dough will be raw. If you make smaller bite sized pastries or cakes, then the inside can cook quicker and not burn on the outside when the air fryer is pre-heated.
- Don’t preheat your air fryer with parchment paper! The paper will blow around during pre-heat and may hit the heating element which will cause it to burn. If preheating and using parchment, wait to put the parchment in after it is preheated.
Best times to pre heat:
- Re-heating leftovers, smaller foods and thinner frozen foods. This can make food crispy, quick.
- Good Crust and Sear: If you want a good sear on food and have crispy outside texture. Thinner meats like chicken tenders, thin pork chops or steaks can benefit from preheating. So when you want a good sear or crispy crust on steaks where you don’t want it fully cooked in the middle. More in #3.
- Steaks! need to have a preheated air fryer so that you get a great crust and sear. This will also cook the outside of the steak quick and give a good medium rare or rare texture. Pork chops can also benefit from a preheated air fryer so that the meat gets the crust and not too dry in the middle. .
- Precooked frozen foods like frozen French fries, cheese sticks or fish sticks. When the food is already cooked and you want to cook it hot go get a crispy outside. Here’s our complete list of how to air fry frozen foods.
- Overall it Doesn’t Make Much Difference: For most things cooked in the air fryer, it doesn’t make too much difference if you preheat and cook for a little less time or if you don’t preheat and cook a little longer. For simplicity, we find Not Preheating is easier and cooks about the same on most recipes.
How to PreHeat an Air Fryer?
Some air fryers have pre-heat functions already which you just press for the preheating process. If your model does not have this feature, how how to do it easily:
- Set the temperature at which you are cooking the food. Or at the temperature that the recipe states.
- Click “on” and let the air fryer heat for 3-5 minutes. We suggest 2 minutes for small air fryers less than 3 qts. And for larger air fryers, we suggest about 5 minutes.
What do you think? Do you preheat your air fryer? Let us know in the comments below!
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More of our–> Air Frying 101 Tips and Tutorials
this article was originally published in 2020.