Yes, an air fryer cooking time chart can be helpful, but here’s why you should never trust it (and what to do instead).
Lots of sites on the web offer air fryer cooking time charts. It seems like a great idea, but it isn’t that simple. Here’s why, and what you need to know to avoid disaster.
Factors That Affect Air Fryer Cooking Time
My Air Fryer vs. Your Air Fryer
The first consideration is your appliance. If you’ve cooked for very long you know that regular kitchen ovens can vary in the way they cook. You could set two different ovens to bake at 350°, and one might run a little hot while the other might run a little cool.
There are two ways to know whether your kitchen oven is overheating or underheating. One is to use an oven thermometer that will actually tell you the temperature. The other is by experience. That is, over time you learn that your oven always cooks food a little faster or slower than the times given in recipes.
The same is true of air fryers. For one thing, the term “air fryer” now applies to quite a variety of appliances:
- the original egg-shaped appliance (what I call a true air fryer)
- the pressure cooker with a lid that turns it into an air fryer
- the combination air fryer/toaster oven
- other multi-function appliances that have an “air fryer setting”
You can bet that if you set the temperature to 350° in each one of those appliances, you won’t get the exact same result. Even different models of the same type appliance may vary.
In fact, even the exact same model might vary when used in your house or mine. Though my knowledge of electricity is extremely limited, I do know that I once had a flat iron that got significantly hotter when I used it traveling (in hotel rooms or other peoples’ homes) than when used at my home.
Differences in Kitchen Environments
Here in Louisiana the humidity is always high. In Arizona it’s always quite dry. Then there are all the places that have humidity levels somewhere in between. Humidity may also vary depending on the time of year and local weather.
If you have high humidity you can see this when using a toaster oven. Sometimes there is so much “steam” that you need to open the toaster oven door to allow it to escape so your food won’t take forever to cook.
The amount of moisture in the air may not affect air fryer cooking times a lot, but in some cases it can be enough to make a time chart somewhat inaccurate.
Another environmental factor is the temperature in your kitchen. Egg-shaped air fryers are fairly well insulated. However, multi-function appliances may be more affected by an extremely hot or cold kitchen, especially if you’re opening the door a lot to check or stir foods.
Temperature of Foods
The time it takes for an air fryer to heat food to a certain temperature depends on the temperature of the food when you start. In a typical pantry, foods tend to be slightly cooler in summer with central air conditioning running, and slightly warmer in winter when you’re heating your home.
If you’re cooking a refrigerated food item, you might take it straight from the fridge to the air fryer so that it’s still ice cold when you begin cooking. On the other hand, food will be warmer if your recipe has a long prep time or if you let it sit out on the counter while you prepared other parts of your meal.
I’ve even known people who keep potatoes in the fridge. If you’re making French fries, those ice cold potatoes aren’t going to air fry as quickly as warmer potatoes from a pantry.
Air fryers cook by rapidly circulating hot air around foods. If anything partially blocks that circulation, it slows down cooking time.
Therefore a handful of French fries is going to cook faster than a basketful. A handful will cook quickly and evenly without even need of stirring or shaking. With a basketful of fries you have to stop to rearrange, probably more than once. The full basket makes it harder for that hot air to circulate, so that increases cooking time.
Are Air Fryer Cooking Time Charts Useless?
No, not at all! You just have to use them correctly. Here’s how.
Always remember that a time chart is not a rule, it’s a guide. Think of it as an estimate or an average. It’s telling you “this is about how long it should take to cook your food”. The key word there is about.
The smart thing to do is:
- Always start with the shortest cooking time.
- Halfway through that time, stop and check your food.
At the halfway point you should be able to tell how quickly your food is cooking. If it’s already looking more than halfway done, that’s a sign you may not need the full cooking time. You could check again at about the 3/4 point.
Nothing is fool proof, but this is the best way I know to keep from burning foods before you realize it. Undercooking is not a problem because you can always keep adding time until foods reach the desired doneness.
Of course, experience will make a world of difference. The more you use your air fryer, you’ll learn whether it tends to take more or less time than most recipes suggest. The above method may still come in handy when you cook something completely new – for example when you bake for the first time.
If you’re brand new to air frying, the most important thing to remember is don’t be afraid of it! Some people think time charts are helpful, but even then there is a little guessing involved. As you experiment you’ll discover it’s not that hard, and you’re going to absolutely love the results!
Some air fryer recipes you might want to try…
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