Why Preheat An Air Fryer?

Why Preheat An Air Fryer - Air Fryers for Home Use

Air fryers are amazing appliances that can last for years as long as you treat them well. They are certainly simple enough to use. You may or may not need to preheat your unit. There’s an ongoing debate around whether this is necessary or not. So, why preheat an air fryer? There are many reasons why it’s a good idea and a few reasons why it may not be necessary.  

Should You Preheat Your Air Fryer?

There are so many different types of air fryers out there, the answer isn’t simply yes or no. The first thing you need to do is to check the user’s manual for specific cooking instructions. You should also check the air fryer recipe to see if preheating is necessary.

There are certain foods that benefit from a preheated air fryer such as:

Steaks: preheating gives the steak a nice sear on the outside while cooking to rare or medium on the inside. For the best results, use a thermometer to check the inside temperature of the steak.

Frozen Foods: frozen foods that have been pre-cooked such as frozen breaded fish will give you that nice crust on the outside similar to deep-fried fish.

Leftovers: leftover pizza reheats really well in an air fryer.

Preheating can be helpful depending on the food you’re cooking.

When Not To Preheat An Air Fryer

Spiced Chicken Legs - Why Preheat An Air Fryer

If you are cooking raw meats or poultry, preheating may cook the outside too quickly and leave the inside raw. This can also apply to frozen foods. The only time you may want to preheat is when you are cooking steak. Preheating will cook the outside of the steak while leaving the inside more raw. Leaving it in a little longer will cook the steak to your liking. 

There are certain foods that don’t require you to preheat. For instance, if you were cooking bread, cake, or pastries, it’s not necessary to preheat. These foods should begin the cooking process in a cold air fryer allowing the food to slowly heat up and cook. Preheating may cause the food to cook on the outside while remaining raw on the inside.

Other foods would be raw vegetables. Preheating may burn the outside while leaving the vegetables raw or even cold inside. Preheating can also dry out certain foods like chicken breasts. 

How to Preheat an Air Fryer?

Some air fryers have preheating functions built into the unit. All you have to do is press a button to get the process started. We’ll talk about how to preheat with and without a preheat button.

 5 Steps Without Preheat Button  

  • Step 1. Have your food ready to place in the basket
  • Step 2. Set the unit to the desired temperature
  • Step 3. Set the timer to 3 minutes. 
  • Step 4. Start the unit by pressing the Start button
  • Step 5. When done, add Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil if desired and place food in a basket quickly so it does not cool down and cook food.

3 Steps With Preheat Button

  • Step 1. Have your food ready to place in the basket
  • Step 2. Push the Preheat Button
  • Step 3. When done, add Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil if desired and place food in a basket quickly so it does not cool down and cook food.

According to Dana Angelo White MS, RD, ATC, author of the Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, “Preheating the air fryer is best for optimum cooking, the temperature, and airflow will be at right levels and food can cook to crispy air fried perfection.” 

3 Minute Timer - Why Preheat An Air Fryer

How Long Does It Take to Preheat the Air Fryer?

How long it takes to preheat will vary depending on the model. You also need to consider the size of your air fryer and the cooking temperature. There’s a general rule of thumb for the preheating process:

  • 2-3 minutes: 300°F and below
  • 3-4 minutes: 300-350°F
  • 5-6 minutes: 350-400°F

Smaller air fryers don’t need as much time to preheat while larger ones will need more time. Generally, it will take 3-5 minutes to preheat your air fryer.

Should I Preheat My Air Fryer With Parchment Paper or Aluminum Foil Inside?

In general, the answer is no. You should never preheat with parchment paper.  Placing loose parchment paper inside while you preheat your unit is dangerous. The air circulation will cause the paper to fly around inside and can cause a fire. The same logic applies when using aluminum foil.

You can place foil inside as long as it has been wrapped around the rack first so it doesn’t become dislodged.

What If I Forget To Preheat My Air Fryer?

A Person That Forgot - Why Preheat An Air Fryer

Hey. It happens, right? You get all caught up trying to get food ready or talking to your guests and you forget to preheat your air fryer. Your guests are hungry and you’re feeling the pressure so you quickly put the food into your air fryer before preheating. Here’s what may happen if you forget to preheat. 

  • Your food may take longer to cook
  • If you’re cooking in batches, that first batch may not be cooked properly
  • The result may not be accurate if you are following a recipe

None of these issues is a disaster. You just may not achieve the desired result.  Some foods are more forgiving than others. it all depends on what you’re cooking. 

Does Fryday Dave Preheat?

I really enjoy cooking in my air fryer and use it often. And yes, I preheat beforehand and no, my unit doesn’t have a preheat button. I am in the habit of preheating my unit at the desired temperature for 3 minutes. While it’s preheating, I’m preparing my food.


Why Preheat An Air Fryer - Comment Image

Preheating can help you get the desired result from the cooking process and save you cooking time. Air fryers are little convection ovens, so I use the same logic as when I cook or bake in the oven. It’s also important to know when it’s not necessary.

Keep in mind that some air fryers do not require preheating at all. You can simply switch them on and load up the basket with food and it will cook deliciously.

Do you preheat your air fryer? Have you had any bad experiences when you didn’t preheat? Please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear about it!

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2 thoughts on “Why Preheat An Air Fryer?”

  1. From my understanding of physics, and as a former manufacturing engineer, “preheating” a straight-up air fryer would not be desirable or even possible. It could make sense for a combination air fryer/toaster oven, where the toaster oven’s mass is absorbing heat from the air fryer.

    Air fryers cook by advection, i.e., by moving a lot of hot air over and around the food. A straight-up air fryer has very little thermal mass in which to store heat the way a normal convection oven does (My air fryer basket weighs 2 lb. Meanwhile, my conventional wall oven weighs 200 lb, most of which is thick steel walls for storing heat.).

    Air fryer baskets are designed to shed heat as fast as they can, so that the heating element, fan(s), and thermostat can do their job of very quickly and evenly regulating the cooking temperature in the small cooking chamber. A side benefit of this design is that the air fryer parts avoid overheating, making them easy to clean.

    For simplicity, it could be helpful to think of a typical hair dryer, which works on the same principle – it heats up in just a few seconds and cools down in about a minute. No preheating necessary or even possible.

    • Hey Barry,
      I just wanted to say I found your comment really intriguing. I’ve been preheating my air fryer ever since I got it four years ago, but now you’ve got me curious about whether it makes a difference. Maybe I’ll have to run my own experiment and compare the results! watch for a new video coming soon to YouTube and here.

      And the best part is, I now have a great excuse to get a new air fryer! Can’t wait to run the test and see if I have been wasting my time.


      FryDay Dave


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