No, it is not necessary to preheat air fryer before cooking food.
The question pops up probably because people often make air fryer vs. oven comparison — and since most ovens need preheating, they assume the same for air fryers too.
But do you need to preheat your air fryer?
Does air fryer preheating improve the quality of cooked food?
In this article I have shared my findings after performing different tests.
Is It Necessary To Preheat Air Fryer?
No, in most cases, air fryer doesn’t require preheating. It all depends on the type of food you are cooking in the air fryer.
If a recipe demands crispy texture then it is mandatory to preheat the air fryer. Preheating is also required when you are reheating food in the air fryer.
How to Preheat an Air Fryer? [Best Tips]
Some air fryers have a preheat function. For them, you only need to press the preheat button and Bingo!
It will do its job. To manually configure the preheat settings, follow the below steps:
- Plug in your air fryer while it is empty. Make sure the air fryer’s heating element is clean, as dirty heating elements heat up slowly and consume more power. You can check my guide on how to clean air fryer heating element.
- Turn on the power button on the air fryer.
- Set the temperature according to the recipe.
- Select the time for preheating. On average, preheating requires 3 to 5 minutes.
When the air fryer is preheated, open the drawer and add the food to the air fryer basket. You can also use a foil in the air fryer before adding the food.
What Happens If You Don’t Preheat Air Fryer?
If you don’t preheat, your air fryer will take longer to cook food.
It will expend some time to heat the cooking accessories, such as the basket and drawer, before it gets to cooking the food.
Other things that can happen when you don’t preheat your air fryer include:
- The exterior won’t be as crispy as you may like it to be
- When cooking in batches, the first one will take longer to cook, and the rest may get burnt if you don’t monitor closely
- The food may not cook uniformly from all sides
- The recipe may not provide you desired results
KitchenHanker Preheat Testing Results
During testing, I cooked 32 ounces (16 ounces in each basket) of Tater Tot with and without preheating my Ninja air fryer.
Without preheating, it took 15 mins at 400°F with one shake.
Contrary to that, the air fryer preheated for 5 mins took 8 extra minutes (total of 13 minutes) to cook 16 ounces of tot at 400°F.
Apart from a slight difference in texture, both preheated and non-preheated cooked tater tot tasted the same.
You can see the results in the pictures below:
After successfully making Tater Tot, I made chicken in the air fryer. I took two pieces of chicken, each weighing approx. 10 ounces.
The non-preheated air fryer took around 20 minutes at 380°F to cook the chicken piece.
On the other hand, the preheated air fryer took 17 minutes to cook chicken at the same temperature. There was no difference in the taste.
The results of the test are posted below:
When To Preheat Air Fryer
Often brands mention preheating requirements in the user manual.
Like, preheating ninja air fryer is highly recommended by the manufacturer.
But regardless of the air fryer’s brand and model, below are some instances when preheating is good.
- Preheating gives good results when cooking steaks and rotisserie in air fryer, as they need a nicely done crust and sear.
- When cooking precooked frozen food such as fish sticks, French fries, nuggets, etc.
- When reheating the leftovers of chicken wings and pizzas.
When To Avoid Preheating Air Fryer
Preheating is not a good idea when you cook dense food such as big chicken breast, roasts, or anything that needs to be cooked slowly through the center.
If you preheat, the exterior will cook too quickly before the heat reaches the center. Other instances to avoid when preheating include:
- Cooking delicate food such as small cut veggies as they might burn from the outside before the inside is fully cooked and tender.
- When making cakes, bread, or pastries, you need the heat to spread and reach the center slowly. Preheating will cook them from the outside while the inside remains doughy and undercooked.
- While aluminum foil or parchment paper is in the air fryer, they can float due to circulating air, reach the heating element, and cause a fire hazard.
Do You Preheat Air Fryer With Oil?
No, you should not preheat your air fryer with oil. Adding oil while preheating produces hot oil splatters.
Splattering can be dangerous and lead to fire or other accidents.
Therefore, avoiding putting oil in the basket during this stage is better.
Here are some problems I found with preheating your air fryer with oil.
- Preheating an air fryer with oil can cause intense smoke and strong odors that can linger in your house.
- No one likes messy cleaning, which is possible when preheating the air fryer with oil.
- Adding oil in the preheating stage means you will collectively use more than you usually use for cooking.
How to preheat the air fryer for the first time?
Before using your new air fryer, read the manual to find the manufacturer’s recommended time and temperature for preheating.
Turn it on and set it to preheat at 400°F for around 5 minutes.
This will also remove plastic smell from the air fryer.
Do you preheat the air fryer for fries?
While it is not mandatory to preheat the air fryer for French fries, preheating has its benefits.
It reduces the cooking time, makes the fries cook more evenly, and taste crispier.
Do you preheat the air fryer for chicken?
Preheating is generally associated with better and more even cooking, less cooking time, and crunchier crust on the chicken surface.
But preheating is not recommended in the case of thicker pieces of chicken, such as roasting a whole chicken.
If you do, the exterior will be fully-cooked, but the center remains undercooked.
What happens if you don’t preheat your air fryer?
When you don’t preheat, your air fryer takes longer to cook the food as it needs some time to attain the temperature before starting the cooking process.
Also, your food may cook less evenly, and the exterior may be less crunchy.
How do I know when the air fryer is preheated?
In instances like preheating Cosori air fryer, you have to press a “preheat” button.
However, for manual settings, such as Preheating Philips air fryer, without a “preheat button,” the unit gives a beeping sound when it reaches the temperature you set for preheating.
Other models/brands have a light indicator that changes color when the air fryer achieves the set temperature.
Not all air fryers come with the instruction to preheat before cooking. However, it is generally seen that preheating allows the food to cook better and more uniformly.
Apart from instances where preheating is not required (as shared in the above article), it is better to wait a little and let the air fryer reach the right cooking temperature before adding food into the basket.
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