How to convert recipes for the air fryer
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How to convert recipes for the air fryer

Jul 28, 2023

These days the question appears almost as soon as we hit publish on a recipe: “Can I make this in the air fryer?”

Many home cooks are devoted to this countertop appliance, and with good reason. It cooks food quickly and excels at browning it, often with much less fat. Air fryers also are handy for people lacking a full kitchen setup.

All that and more is why so many people want to convert recipes for the air fryer. If you, too, are looking for ways to do just that, here are some tips.


While many people refer to an air fryer as a convection oven, it’s not quite an accurate comparison, says cookbook author Bruce Weinstein, whose latest book with Mark Scarbrough, “The Look & Cook Air Fryer Bible,” comes out in November. A standard convection oven is much larger, with a low-power fan that creates no more than a “gentle breeze.” An air fryer is much smaller, with a much more powerful fan — “it’s like a blow dryer in there” — and it gets very hot, very fast.

The challenge comes in the wide range of air fryers with varying sizes, shapes and strengths, says Rebecca Abbott, who with Jennifer West founded Air Frying Foodie and just released a new book, “Air Fryer All Day.” The power of the dozen or so models Abbott has ranges from 700 to 1,700 watts. That’s why it’s especially important to understand how your particular model works before you start trying to make everything in it. Start with something easy and graduate to more complicated items, West advises. She recommends frozen foods — onion rings or french fries — or low-stakes toast or bacon.

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As part of the process, take note of the physical qualities of your air fryer. Is the basket wide and shallow or narrow and deep? How close is the heating element to the basket? These things might affect what you can prepare in it or whether, for example, you need to cook food in batches.

It may be easier to list what doesn’t work well in the air fryer than what does. Is the recipe predominantly liquid or particularly saucy or in other ways reliant on moist cooking? In other words, it’s best to leave those soups, stews, risottos and low-and-slow braises for the oven, stovetop or Instant Pot. Weinstein is not a fan of putting large, thick cuts of meat, such as roasts, in the air fryer, because while it can be done, you risk a burned exterior and raw interior. He also doesn’t recommend foods coated with loose, wet batter (such as beer-battered shrimp or onion rings), as it can be blown off.

Get the recipe: Air Fryer Korean-Style Chicken Wings

Abbott and West say there’s very little they have found they can’t make work in the air fryer. Among the few stumbling blocks: fried ice cream and Pavlova, although baked Alaska was a triumph.

Many things you’re already making in your oven, toaster/toaster oven or cooktop are fair game — and may even be better in an air fryer. Dishes tend to fall under the umbrella of simply seasoned or marinated or breaded meats, vegetables and proteins, Weinstein says. Smaller, individual cuts of meat work especially well, such as chicken wings, drumsticks, thighs or breasts; meatballs; fish fillets; pork chops; shrimp; steak and more. Abbott and West have made casseroles, cakes, cookies and brownies. I’ve also successfully made dishes that otherwise would be deep fried, including fries, falafel and egg rolls, in the air fryer, although success does depend on the recipe.

You may be over the moon about using an air fryer to cut back on how much oil you use in a recipe in comparison with deep frying, shallow frying or even sauteing. But you still should use some oil. “Don’t think of this as fat-free cooking, because it’s not,” Weinstein says. Without oil, you may end up with burned, dried-out and unappetizing food. See more specifics below.

No matter the type of recipe you adapt, you are going to face a change in temperature or time or, probably, both. If you are going from an oven to an air fryer, expect recipes to cook faster. If you are going from the skillet, especially deep frying, to the air fryer, expect them to take longer. For example, air frying our Crispy Herbed Falafel took around 11 minutes, whereas they fry in oil for less than 2 minutes. Brussels sprouts that roasted in the oven for 20 minutes air fried in half that time.

The conventional wisdom for going from a standard oven to a traditional convection oven is to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and the time by 25 percent. While this can be a helpful starting point in your head for air fryers, it’s not a hard and fast rule that Weinstein is willing to apply across the board, largely because of the variation between brands and models, as well as how much more powerful air fryers tend to be than large convection ovens. It’s worth noting that many air fryers max out at 400 degrees as well.

Stay close by, and check food early and often. You can always add time, but you cannot subtract it.

Here’s general advice for different foods:

Converting recipes for the air fryer means you have to be willing to give it a test run, West says. And chances are if you’re wondering whether someone else has thought to air fry a certain food, they probably have, so look around for examples on which you can model your recipe. “Just experiment; have fun with it,” Abbott adds, “but most importantly, take the thing out of the box.” Be smart and attentive, and soon, air frying will feel like second nature.

An earlier version of this article said recipes going from an oven to an air fryer will take longer to cook. They will go faster. This version has been updated.