An air fryer is a mini convection oven that uses fans to circulate hot air around food for even heating. Since air fryers work like traditional ovens, you can also bake in them. However, in order for the food to cook properly, some minor adjustments need to be made to traditional recipes.
There are also specific air fryer baking recipes, both savory and sweet, to choose from. Baking in an air fryer will save time and produce excellent results, and the cooking time is faster because of the compact size of the cooking chamber and the high heat.
- What Is an Air Fryer?
- What To Look For in Air Fryer
- Can You Bake in an Air Fryer?
- Benefits of Baking in an Air Fryer
- What To Bake in an Air Fryer
- What Not To Bake in an Air Fryer
- Baking Tips For An Air Fryer
- How To Adjust a Recipe for an Air Fryer
- How To Grease a Baking Pan for an Air Fryer
- Pans for Baking in an Air Fryer
- Final Thoughts on Baking in an Air Fryer
What Is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer works by having fans beside the heating element. When the heating element produces heat, the fans blow the hot air around the food, similar to a convection oven.
The difference is that the heating element in an oven is located in the back, and the element in an air fryer is at the top. An air fryer cooks food fast because the food is closer to the heat.
What To Look For in Air Fryer
If you plan on using an air fryer for baking, there are specific features to consider. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
Types of Air Fryers
- Oven Style Air Fryers: These are excellent for baking due to their larger capacity and oven-like design. However, they can take up a significant amount of counter space.
- Basket Style Air Fryers: These models are more compact, making them a good choice for smaller kitchens. However, they may not hold as much food as tabletop models.
Size and Depth
If you're planning on baking extensively, opt for a larger air fryer to ensure adequate space for your dishes. Consider the depth as well—deeper baskets can accommodate larger or taller baked goods.
Timer and Temperature Control
These features are essential for precise cooking. Look for models with easy-to-use digital controls and timers that can be set for specific cooking times and temperatures.
Basket Design and Material
The basket is a critical part of an air fryer. Some models feature a double basket design, allowing you to cook different foods simultaneously.
Ensure the basket is non-stick for easy food release and cleanup. Dishwasher-safe baskets are a bonus for convenient cleaning.
Check the quality of the basket material. Durable materials like stainless steel will last longer.
Some air fryers come with baking-specific accessories like baking pans, pizza pans, or muffin molds. These can enhance the versatility of your appliance.
Ease of Cleaning
In addition to a dishwasher-safe basket, consider how easy it is to clean the rest of the air fryer. Removable parts and a design that doesn't have many crevices will make cleaning easier.
Brand Reputation and Warranty
Consider the reputation of the brand and check customer reviews for long-term reliability. A good warranty can offer peace of mind, especially for higher-priced models.
Can You Bake in an Air Fryer?
Since air fryers use the same heating method as a household oven, it is possible to bake in an air fryer. Baking in an air fryer gives pastries a caramelized top and a moist interior and gives bread a golden brown exterior. However, if you are looking for a softer dough, it's best to use a traditional oven.
Benefits of Baking in an Air Fryer
Air fryers provide numerous benefits for baking, despite the limitation of a smaller cooking capacity compared to traditional ovens. Below are some key advantages:
- Efficiency for Smaller Meals: The compact size of the air fryer makes it ideal for 1- or 2-person meals. You can bake in batches, producing fresh and hot servings each time.
- Improved Texture of Baked Goods: Pastries, cakes, and other baked goods can achieve a delightful crunchy exterior and soft interior due to the high heat in the small cooking chamber. Baked goods tend to cook better when they have consistent heat, which is what baking in an air fryer provides.
- Time-Saving: Air fryers typically heat up much faster than traditional ovens, saving you time as you don't have to wait for the oven to preheat. Additionally, food often cooks quicker in an air fryer, further speeding up meal preparation.
- Space-Saving: An air fryer takes up little countertop space, making it an excellent choice for smaller kitchens or for those looking to declutter.
- Less Heat Production: Unlike traditional ovens, air fryers do not significantly heat up your kitchen, making them a more comfortable option for baking, especially during warmer months.
What To Bake in an Air Fryer
Air fryers offer a versatile cooking platform, suitable for a wide array of dishes. Here are examples of foods you can bake:
- Cinnamon Rolls: Perhaps the best air fryer baking recipe is for cinnamon rolls. They take about half the time as they do in an oven and provide superior flavor and texture.
- Cookies, Cakes, and Doughnuts: These are also widely popular in the air fryer, offering a quick and convenient baking method.
- Apple Pies: Small or individual-sized pies can be perfectly baked in an air fryer, with a flaky crust and hot, bubbling filling.
- Brownies and Muffins: These sweet treats can be made in individual portions, resulting in a crispy exterior and a soft, moist interior.
- Bread and Rolls: These items develop a beautiful brown crust on the exterior while the interior stays fluffy and chewy when baked in an air fryer.
- Pizza: Air fryer pizza is in a class of its own due to the crispy crust and perfect texture it develops. The dough should be precooked in the air fryer before the toppings are added to avoid a soggy pizza.
- Quiches and Frittatas: These egg-based dishes cook well in the air fryer, maintaining a creamy interior while achieving a delightful crust.
- Stuffed Bell Peppers: The air fryer can roast the peppers while melting and browning any cheese or breadcrumb topping.
What Not To Bake in an Air Fryer
While air fryers are highly versatile, there are certain types of foods that are not recommended due to specific cooking requirements or the risk of damage to the appliance. Here are some examples:
Small or Delicate Pastries
- Choux Pastry (Cream Puffs), Mini Cupcakes, and Madeleines: These smaller baked goods need room to rise, which requires cooking them individually with plenty of space in between. As a result, only a few of these pastries can be baked at a time in an air fryer, and there's a risk that the dough will lose its rising power if left out too long.
- Macarons: Similar to the pastries above, macarons require careful temperature control and space to rise, which makes them challenging to bake in an air fryer.
Foods with exposed cheese are likely to melt and make a mess in the air fryer basket, although foods with cheese inside should be fine.
The high-speed hot air in an air fryer can cause beaten eggs to deflate, resulting in flat meringues.
Foods with a loose batter, like tempura or beer-battered fish, are not suitable for air frying. The batter will run out of the air fryer basket and potentially cause smoke or damage to the appliance.
Foods with Wet Breading
Similar to battered foods, anything with a wet breadcrumb coating can also cause a mess in the air fryer.
Whole Roasts or Large Cuts of Meat
The air fryer's small size doesn't allow for even cooking of large items, making it unsuitable for whole roasts or large cuts of meat.
Remember, each air fryer can have different capabilities, so always refer to your specific model's instructions before trying new foods.
Baking Tips For An Air Fryer
- Preheat: Preheating allows the air fryer to have a consistent temperature throughout and cook more evenly. Preheating also helps baked goods with chemical leaveners like baking powder or baking soda rise faster.
- Do smaller portions: If you're using fresh dough for rolls or biscuits, roll them smaller than usual so they cook all the way.
- Use liners: Parchment paper and aluminum foil are great for picking up sticky food, and they make clean-up easier.
- Don't overcrowd: Baked goods need space to rise, and the air fryer needs to be able to circulate hot air around the basket.
How To Adjust a Recipe for an Air Fryer
Regular recipes are written for a conventional oven most of the time and will have to be adjusted for an air fryer; since air fryers are smaller than ovens, they heat up faster. Plus, some recipes call for a large batch of food that is too much in an air fryer.
There are specific air fryer recipes to choose from, but if you want to cook specific meals, don't worry. Converting a regular recipe into an air fryer recipe is pretty simple.
It's always a good idea to keep a close eye on the air fryer the first couple of times to make sure the temperature isn't too high or low and to see if any adjustments need to be made. Follow these steps whenever you bake in an air fryer.
- Reduce the temperature by 25°F from the suggested temperature. Since air fryers cook faster than a conventional oven, if you bake at the temperature that the recipe recommends, the food will brown or burn.
- Reduce the baking time by 20%. Since the chamber of an air fryer is smaller than an oven, it heats up faster and retains heat well.
- Check periodically. Start checking the food after 10-15 minutes to see if the temperature needs to be adjusted. Rotate the food when it's halfway done.
How To Grease a Baking Pan for an Air Fryer
Even though you are baking in an air fryer, this doesn't mean you can't use oil. Baking in an air fryer is just like baking in conventional ovens. If you don't grease the baking pan or the air fryer basket, food will stick to it.
Since air fryers are basically convection ovens, you prepare the pan in the same way. You can use oil, flour and oil, liners, or pan release.
Pan Release does just what the name suggests; it is a nonstick coating that releases a cake from the baking pan. To make your own, combine 1 part shortening, 1 part flour, and ½ part vegetable oil.
You can also line the air fryer basket with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If you use a liner, leave the corners up so you can lift out the food.
Just remember that if you are using liners, they cannot go in the air fryer without weight on them, or else the fans will blow them around, possibly into the heating element.
Pans for Baking in an Air Fryer
If you've been baking for a while, you know that baking requires a lot of tools (and patience!). The only difference between baking in a conventional oven and an air fryer is the size of the pan.
I prefer darker pans because they absorb heat better than lighter pans and cook faster. For this reason, they make pizza crispier and give cakes an even brown color.
There are different sizes and types of air fryers. The air fryer I use is a tabletop convection oven that is also an air fryer that can handle bigger baking pans. If you don't know the dimensions of your air fryer, check the user's manual.
Generally, you don't want the baking pan to be taller than 3" because it'll come in close contact with the heating element. If you use a 4" tall pan, only fill it up halfway, or you may burn the food.
Here are a few accessories that will make baking in an air fryer easier:
- 6"-8" baking pans
- Round or square cake pan
- Springform pans for cheesecake
- Mini loaf pan
- Bundt pans
- Cupcake molds
- 6" cast iron skillet
The 6" cast iron is my go-to because cast iron cookware is my favorite—I always look for a reason to use it. A 6" or 8" skillet is the perfect size for an air fryer and is perfect for individual dessert, cakes, muffins, or even an individual apple pie.
Out of all these pans, the cake pans will probably be the ones you use most. They are versatile, and you can cook almost anything in them. The cast iron pan can also be used for a lot of things and also adds a unique flavor to whatever you're baking because of its seasoning.
Final Thoughts on Baking in an Air Fryer
Air fryers are a great way to serve crispy yet juicy foods in a short period. The cooking time is so rapid because of their unique design and convection heating. Air fryers do more than just fry, however. You can also bake and dehydrate with them.
Baking in an air fryer is ideal for a small batch of food and individual servings. Baked goods benefit from the way that an air fryer works.
Air fryers cook evenly and provide a nice, caramelized crust on the top of baked goods while the interior stays light and fluffy. It takes less time when baking in an air fryer than a traditional stove, and it doesn't produce the heat that an oven does.
There are many benefits to air frying and not a lot of downsides. After one or two tries, you'll be cooking like a pro.
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