Air fryer mistakes to avoid or risk ‘soggy’ food

Air Fryer cleaning hack using a dishwasher tablet

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Air fryers are essentially small benchtop fan-forced ovens that, as the name suggests, fry foods using air and limited oil. They are fast becoming the number one kitchen gadget to own right now, and while they are great at cooking many things, users must be careful to not damage their machine. Here are a few common mistakes you might be making with your air fryer. 

1. Not preheating the air fryer  

When cooking foods that aren’t already precooked, such as meats, fish, vegetables or potatoes, preheating is essential to ensure the food doesn’t end up soggy. 

Home economist Fiona Mair explained: “It’s important to preheat your air fryer when cooking these types of foods so it’s the correct temperature at the start. That way, food starts to cook and crisp immediately.”

2. Cooking food with wet or loose batters or coatings 

Air fryers are not deep fat fryers and therefore, they cannot cook the same things. 

If ingredients covered in a runny batter are placed into the air fryer, the coating will slip through the baskeet, or off the food altogether, causing a massive clean-up job.

Fiona added: “Batter needs to set immediately, which is why it won’t work well in an air fryer. 

“Stick to precooked crumbed and battered foods instead as the coating will stay on much better than fresh versions.”

3. Overfilling the basket 

To be efficient, the food inside an air fryer needs space for the air to circulate and create a crisp outside. 

If there is too much food in the basket, the air fryer will steam the food. 

To add to this, “overfilling the basket causes uneven cooking and browning, as well as undercooked soggy areas,” Fiona told 

To overcome this, cook food in batches or purchase an air fryer with a larger basket. 

4. Not checking food as it cooks 

Using an air fryer doesn’t mean switching it on and waiting for the timer to ping, lots of items need checking and/or shaking halfway through.  

Chips, for example, need a good shake to ensure they get golden and crispy on all sides. 

Some air fryers have a programmed setting that beeps to remind you to shake the food – check the manual to see if yours has this feature. If not, set a time every 5-10 minutes. 

5. Adding extra oil 

Air fryers promise tasty “fried” foods without the oil – especially for pre-cooked items. 

Packaged frozen foods like chips, chicken or fish don’t require oil as it’s already in the coating. 

But for fresh items like homemade chips or meat, a little oil can encourage browning. 

It’s advisable to use oil spray so a light amount evenly covers the food. 

6. Not patting food dry 

Moisture is an air fryer’s biggest enemy as it will cause steam and reduce the crispiness of the food. 

To encourage browning and crispiness, pat dry anything that is unbreaded before cooking, such as meat, fish or vegetables. 

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7. Not giving the appliance proper space 

Since air fryers are essentially small versions of wall ovens in fan-forced mode, they require space and ventilation during use.

Air fryers should also be positioned on a stable, heatproof surface when in use, so keep an eye on your benchtop to prevent potential damage.

They should also not be left plugged in and not positioned on top of the hob. 

Instead, consider investing in a heatproof board the air fryer can sit on. 

8. Not cleaning it properly food hacks

For best results, the air fryer needs to be clean. Any rogue residue or crumbs can burn the next time it is used and leftover oil can smoke, which can impact the flavour of the food, fume the kitchen and perhaps pose a fire risk. 

There is a particular way to clean an air fryer – and it’s not the viral hack that involves pouring water and washing up liquid inside the basket and then turning the machine back on to do the hard work. 

After each use, clean around the fan and wipe inside the unit with a microbre cloth. 

Doing this while the machine is warm makes it easier, and don’t forget to check the manual to see whether the accessories are dishwasher-safe or need to be washed by hand. 

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