Does Air Fryer Need To Preheat?

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Among the most frequently asked questions about the air fryers…

One of them is related to preheating the air fryer before cooking.

The question probably pops up because people make air fryer vs oven comparisons.

Especially before purchasing.

As most ovens need preheating, the assumption extends to air fryers.

But is preheating mandatory? Does it improve cooked food’s quality?

No, it is not mandatory to preheat the air fryer. However, in most cases, doing so helps you cook faster and achieve the signature crispiness of the fried food everyone loves.

How To Preheat An Air Fryer The Right Way

Some air fryers have a preheat function.

For them, you only need to press the preheat button and Bingo! It will do the job.

To manually configure the preheat settings, follow the below steps.

  • Plug in your air fryer while it is empty.
  • Clean air fryer heating element before use. As dirty heating elements heat up slowly and consume more power.
  • 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.

Once the air fryer is preheated, open the drawer and add the food to the basket.

You can also add a layer of foil to the air fryer before adding the food.

When To Preheat Air Fryer

In most cases, it is recommended to preheat.

Often, brands mention preheating requirements in their user manual. For instance, Ninja air fryers recommend preheating.                       

Regardless of the air fryer’s brand and model, below are some instances when preheating is good.

  • When cooking steaks, they need a nicely done crust and sear.
  • When cooking precooked frozen food such as fish sticks, fries, nuggets, etc.
  • When reheating the leftovers of chicken wings and pizzas.
  • When making food like chicken tenders that need a thick crust on the outside

When Preheating Air Fryer Is Not Recommended

Instances when preheating should be avoided include:

  • Cooking delicate food such as small-cut veggies, as they might burn from the outside before the inside is fully cooked and tender.
  • Cooking foods like shrimp, where you don't want to overcook or dry them out.
  • When preparing cakes, breads, or pastries, you need the heat to spread and reach the center slowly. Cooking in a preheated air fryer may result in quick cooking from the outside while the inside remains doughy and undercooked.
  • Cooking dense food such as whole chicken or its big breasts, roasts, or anything that needs to be cooked slowly through the center.
  • When aluminum foil or parchment paper is inside air fryer without food on it. These liners can float due to circulating air, reach the air fryer heating element, and cause a fire hazard.

What Happens When You Don’t Preheat Your Air Fryer?

If you don’t preheat, your air fryer will take slightly longer to cook.

Other things that can happen when you don’t preheat your air fryer include:

  • The food’s 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 it closely.
  • The food may not cook uniformly from all sides.
  • You may not get the desired results from your recipe.

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:

How Long Do You Preheat An Air Fryer?

If you have a small air fryer, it only needs 2-3 minutes preheating to reach the desired temperature. Whereas a large family-sized air fryer takes around 4-5 minutes.

The precise preheating time can vary based on the model of your air fryer.

You can find the instructions mentioned in your air fryer’s user manual.

Preheat Temperature And Time

If your air fryer does not have the preheat button, here is how long you should preheat your air fryer. 

  • To preheat the air fryer to 300F and below, preheat it for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • To preheat the air fryer to 300-350 F, preheat it for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • To preheat the air fryer to 350 F and more, preheat it for 5 to 6 minutes.

Factors That Can Affect The Air Fryer’s Preheating Time

Certain factors can affect the preheating time of your air fryer are listed below:

  • The size of the air fryer
  • Thickness or how dense the food being cooked is
  • Presence of multiple cooking functions, such as baking, air frying, etc. (each function will require different preheating time)

Preheating Time When Reheating Food In Air Fryer

When preheating the air fryer for reheating food, set the temperature at 300-350F.

Configure the timer setting for 3-5 minutes.

Once preheated, place the food in the air fryer basket and air fry it for an additional 4-5 minutes.

Preheating Time When Food Is Stacked In Air Fryer

Stacking food in an air fryer can impact airflow, even with careful arrangement.

So, when preheating the air fryer for cooking stacked food, add an extra 1-2 minutes to the standard preheating time.

This way, the air fryer can compensate for any heat loss resulting from food stacking.

Do You Preheat The Air Fryer With Oil?

You should not preheat your air fryer with oil. Preheating the air fryer with oil increases the risk of hot oil splatter, which can be dangerous, leading to burns or other accidents. Additionally, oil splatters can potentially damage the heating element. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid putting oil in the basket during preheating.

Issues With Preheating An Air Fryer With Oil

Here are some problems we 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. 
  • Oil splatters or drips while preheating can reach the heating element or air fryer’s inner walls. 
  • Adding oil in the preheating stage means you will collectively use more than you usually use for cooking. 


How To Preheat A Philips Air Fryer?

  • Set the temperature using the control panel or dial. We advise consulting the user manual to determine preheating requirements specific to your particular Phillips model.
  • Next, set the timer. If available, use the preheat timer function to adjust the time automatically.
  • Alternatively, use the manual controls to set a regular cooking time and adjust it once the preheating is complete.
  • Once the air fryer reaches the desired temperature, it will notify you with a beeping sound. At this point, you can open the air fryer and add your food.

How To Preheat A Ninja Air Fryer?

  • Plug your Ninja air fryer into an electrical socket and turn it on.
  • Locate the “Air Crisp” option on the control panel and press it.
  • Using the temperature button, set the required preheating temperature.
  • Set the timer by pressing the time adjustment buttons until the display shows 5 minutes.
  • Close the lid properly, as the air fryer will not start until it is securely closed.
  • Press the start button to initiate the preheating process.
  • After 5 minutes, the air fryer will produce a beeping sound. This is your cue to open the air fryer and add food.

Note: These instructions specifically apply to the Ninja Foodi air fryer model. If you own a different model or have any uncertainties, consult the user manual for specific preheating instructions tailored to your air fryer model.

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.

Wrapping Up!

While preheating an air fryer is not mandatory, it is a good practice. Preheating allows the food to cook better and more uniformly. However, remember that the preheating time can vary depending on the air fryer model and size, whether you're reheating, cooking raw food, or stacking. Moreover, note that preheating your air fryer with oil is unwise, potentially resulting in burns and cleaning messes.