Want to mix up the way you cook without spending extra time and effort in the kitchen? Of course you do – and that’s where the very best air fryers come in. 

Providing an alternative way to rustle up a meal, air fryers use (you guessed it) air to heat up your food in a similar way to convection ovens. This means hot air is circulated around the food until it’s cooked and has a crispy exterior.

Since the food is cooked using hot air rather than conducted heat in a pan or direct heat from a grill, the cooking times are much quicker than you’d expect from a traditional gas or electric range or hob, for example.

And, while it is possible to deep-fry food in a matter of minutes or even seconds, another advantage of air fryers is that they require very little oil at all, making them a healthier option than deep or shallow frying. 

If you’re thinking about investing in an air fryer, it’s likely you’re going to want to find the top option for your budget, and since these machines take up a fair amount of space on your countertop it’s well worth finding out about all the meals you could make in one – and there are literally hundreds. 

It’s probably fair to say that a lot of people associate air fryers, such as the Tefal ActiFry Genius XL, with creating healthier fries or perfectly crispy potatoes, but what else can these machines cook? 

What can you cook in an air fryer? 

Air fryers can be used to cook a whole range of dishes, from crispy fries to desserts, and cook them quickly too. When it comes to savory meals, you can cook frozen fried foods straight from the freezer, and if you opt for an air fryer such as the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer, you’ll be able to create two dishes at once thanks to the dual-drawer design. 

Since air fryers use intense heat and air circulation to cook your food, bear in mind that cooking times are likely to be a lot quicker than you’re used to with a traditional oven. Fries, for example, can be cooked in as little as 15 minutes. 

Other savory dishes that are perfect for air frying include chicken wings, meats, root vegetables, and homemade potato chips – but you might be surprised to learn that gnocchi and ravioli can also be cooked this way, and even mini pizzas. If you’re looking for healthier snacks, chickpeas will crisp up well in an air fryer, while you can make your own vegetable chips using kale or zucchini/courgettes.

It’s not just side dishes you can make in an air fryer either. Dishes such as fajitas can be prepared entirely in an air fryer, but as with anything you’re air frying, be sure to avoid overfilling the frying basket or drawer, as this will result in longer cooking times, and food that’s not evenly cooked. 

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Can you cook raw meat in an air fryer? 

You can use an air fryer to cook raw meat in the same way you would a range cooker or hob. Steak is very simple to cook in an air fryer – you simply need to turn it halfway through the cooking process. Frozen chicken nuggets, as well as fresh, raw chicken, can also be prepared using an air fryer. 

Sausages are also suitable for air frying and, depending on the size and how many you’re cooking, can be done in around 10 minutes. If you’re cooking particularly fatty cuts of meat such as bacon, air frying won’t cook off the fat, but you won’t end up with greasy slices of bacon either, because you won’t need to use additional oil. 

It’s not just cuts of meat that you can cook in your air fryer – dishes such as meatballs are suitable for cooking in this way, and they’ll come out with a deliciously crisp outer coating. Be aware, though, that as cooking temperatures are so high it’s very easy to burn your food, so keep an eye on it. 

Instant Pot Vortex Air Fryer press image

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

What desserts can you make in an air fryer?  

It’s easy to assume that air fryers are simply for cooking savory dishes, but these handy appliances can be used for sweet options too. 

Churros and donuts are great desserts to make in an air fryer, and you won’t be left with a greasy finish as you might expect from deep fat frying. Small pies work well in air fryers, and you can also make s’mores (marshmallows and chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker, if you didn’t grow up camping in the US), and beignets (a deep-fried pastry). 

Here’s something else that might surprise you: since air fryers mimic the way convection ovens work, they also provide a fantastic way to bake cakes, with the hot air circulation ensuring that your cake will be evenly baked throughout. 

If you’ve sworn off the donuts and are looking for a healthier selection of desserts to make in your air fryer, fruit works surprisingly well. Slices of apple will be transformed into crisp, tasty snacks, and even softer fruits such as peaches are delicious if you sprinkle them in a little cinnamon and sugar before cooking.

If you want even more options for preparing desserts, consider a model such as the Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker, which combines air-frying functions with other handy features such as baking, searing, slow-cooking, and grilling. 

What can’t be cooked in an air fryer?  

Not surprisingly, there are some foods that can’t be cooked in an air fryer. Generally speaking, dishes that have a wet batter aren’t suitable for air frying – the batter won’t set properly, and it’ll be very difficult to clean the machine after, – so you’re better off sticking with a deep fryer. 

Other foods that don’t work so well include raw greens such as broccoli, and dishes that require water, like rice. If you’re a big cheese fan, then air frying foods with cheese isn’t going to be the best idea – you’ll end up with a whole load of mess rather than a tasty treat. 

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