You Need To Avoid The Temptation Of Overcrowding Your Air Fryer

Air fryers just keep trending. These small, efficient convection ovens aren't just a fad that promises crispy fried foods without managing a pot of hot oil. Air fryers have become so essential to home cooks that U.S. News reports "more than 25 million air fryers were sold in the U.S. over the past two years." Air frying acolytes swear by the speed, convenience, and quality of the food they can produce.

Air fryers excel with classic fried foods, like chicken wings. But, there's a variety of recipes to be made, like Brussels sprouts and crispy chickpeas, which are decidedly healthier but just as tasty. Air-fried food becomes crispy and caramelized much faster than in a standard oven. Plus, you save the time of having to preheat the oven. Aside from that time, you save those energy costs. According to Food Manufacture, that's a big reason people appreciate the air fryer they own, and those savings are driving new buyers. Finally, food manufacturers are getting up to speed and starting to include air fryer-specific instructions on the packaging. Why not enjoy saving time, crispy food, and lower energy costs?

But, using an air fryer isn't foolproof. There are plenty of air fryer mistakes to avoid. The biggest mistake might be overcrowding your air fryer.

Is an overcrowded air fryer still an air fryer?

If you fill the air fryer basket to the brim, the air cannot move around the food. Without access to the hot air, food won't cook right or crisp up, per the University of Nebraska Lincoln. If you choke the air from moving, there's really no point in air frying. So, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for how much food to load into your air fryer. For the best results, don't stack food on top of each other. That pile of food not only impedes the airflow but also holds onto steam. Steam is the mortal enemy of crispy food, so, it's better to make two batches of great food, than one batch of soggy food.

If you follow those directions, perfectly air-fried food isn't the only benefit. Air fryers have other advantages that make it different than a convection oven. According to The Washington Post, air fryers' smaller size maximizes the efficiency of that hot air by confining it to only move around the food. Aside from well-browned, super crisp food, that efficient design can reduce the cooking time by 25% versus a standard oven. That efficacy doesn't just save time, it saves energy costs as you're heating less space for a shorter time.

New generation of air fryers are harder to overcrowd

Air fryers are evolving to allow for bigger batches. CNET provides a guide to finding the right air fryer for your needs. First, there are two most common styles of air fryers. The first is a solo air fryer. These are the smallest, most affordable options. The downfall is it has a small capacity. For a few people, these air fryers are fine. A larger household will need to purchase a larger solo air fryer. They recommend one quart of capacity per person. So, a family of four should consider a four-quart air fryer.

For a larger cooking area, an air-frying toaster oven is an answer. These have broad cooking areas and look like a classic countertop toaster ovens. Aside from allowing more room for air frying, these can also broil, roast, bake, and toast. The downfall of these is slower cooking times. In air frying, the smaller the oven, the faster the food cooks. Those longer cooking times are still shorter than waiting for a second, or third, batch. For example, CNET found that a typical 2.5-quart solo air fryer could fit three chicken thighs. A five-quart solo air fryer can accommodate six. The air-frying toaster oven will have room for ten to twelve thighs, especially if there are multiple racks.

Once you've waded through the options and decided on the style of air fryer that will suit your cooking needs, look for the best air fryers to buy.