What to cook in an air fryer? 10 things that are better air-fried

From roast chicken to fillet steak and fries – you can enjoy culinary favorites faster – and at a lower cost

Air fryer in a white tiled kitchen
(Image credit: Alamy)

Knowing what to cook in an air fryer has its benefits – whether you're looking for a fast (but delicious) dish after work or experimenting with low-fat cooking at home. 

Once you have found the best air fryer for your kitchen, you can begin to enjoy its advantages. And while this appliance is known for its ability to cook healthy food fast (air fryers are 70% faster than ovens and 95% less oil compared to deep frying*), it is good for your wallet, too. 

A recent study by *Instant Brands revealed that cooking in electric ovens can cost more than 5 times that of cooking in air fryers and electric pressure cookers. 'We can make simple tweaks to help reduce the amount of energy we use,' says lead researcher Dr. Ximena Schmidt Rivera. 'Electric ovens are a big culprit, using 5 times more energy than air fryers and pressure cookers.'

What to cook in an air fryer

'There are plenty of things you can air fry,' says Adele Brennan, home electrics buyer at VonHaus. 'From healthier snacks, such as sweet potato or peppers, to more indulgent treats like fried bacon or frozen chicken strips – air fryers are completely versatile. 

The best food for you comes down to personal preference. However, bacon, doughnuts, and homemade chips are known to be popular choices. Here's what else the experts are enjoying in this emerging kitchen must-have.

Below, you can see our top suggestions for what to cook in an air fryer, plus tips on getting the best results for tasty food.

1. Roast chicken 

As Instant Brands suggests, cooking in an air fryer is one of the easiest sustainable kitchen ideas you can follow. And the food at the peak of their must-try list is roast chicken. 

'We've undertaken an independent study with researcher Dr. Ximena Schmidt Rivera, a sustainability researcher, and lecturer at Brunel University London. It found that cooking chicken in an air fryer can save you more than 80% of energy and therefore cost compared to an electric oven,' explains Instant's marketing manager, Laura Wilkinson.

Air fryer in a white tiled kitchen

(Image credit: Alamy)

Zoe McClean, the senior home economist at Breville, reinforces this suggestion. 

'A small whole chicken can roast beautifully in 60 minutes,' she says. You'll be left with a delicious roast chicken that's got a crispy skin. Our top tip? Use the juices that gather at the bottom of the oven to prepare a gravy. '

A moist yet crispy chicken is easy to achieve in an air fryer (with a rotisserie function), but you also practice this in one of the best toaster ovens, too. 

2. Tofu

Air fryers use 95% less oil than deep frying so that you can achieve a crispy but healthy finish. And the process behind tasty tofu is easy. 'Simply season or marinate before popping them in the air fryer,' Laura says. 

And, if you choose an air fryer with a window, you can keep track of its cooking process and remove your tofu when it is the perfect color for you.  

3. Whole roasted garlic 

It's easy to love garlic – the pantry staple that instantly elevates an abundance of dishes. And, if you're looking for a more sustainable and cost-effective way to enjoy its flavor, you will find the solution in your air fryer. 

'It's much more energy efficient to air fry a garlic bulb in the concentrated area of an air fryer rather than having to heat a whole oven for a small item of food,' Laura explains. 

4. Burgers and patties

'Burgers and fast food all cook and crisp up in minimal time whilst retaining flavor and color in an air fryer,' Zoe says. 

'Homemade burgers take about 10 to 15 mins at medium to high heat. Place these directly into the basket or rack (no oil needed), season, and cook. As air fryers get hot really quickly, there is no need to preheat as you would with a regular oven or grill. I like to turn mine halfway through cooking to encourage even browning, but this isn’t necessary.

'Tip: If you're building a cheeseburger, assemble the burger on the bun, add the cheese and any relish, and pop the complete burger into the now turned-off air fryer and let this sit in the warm oven for a few minutes. This melts the cheese and warms the bread.'

She adds that frozen shop-bought burgers can be cooked from frozen; however, you should reduce the temperature to medium and wait around 15 minutes while they cook. It's always important to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked before eating. 

5. French fries

One of the best things about an air fryer is the ability to indulge in the odd 'guilty pleasure' – with a lower fat intake.

Homemade French fries are crispy and delicious when made in an air fryer, with fewer calories than deep fat frying. Simply cut them all to a similar size and place them in your air fryer basket in a single layer (you can do batches if you need a large amount).

Air fry for around 12 to 15 minutes, tossing halfway through. You can check the cooking process to see how they are coming along by simply pulling the air fryer basket out to look.

Want an even healthier option? Make sweet potato fries instead, and season with a little paprika, salt, and pepper for an extra taste before air frying.

Air fryer in a white tiled kitchen

(Image credit: Alamy)

6. Single-serve desserts 

'If you're craving a sweet treat, but no one else is, you can easily make a dessert without having to waste energy heating the whole oven for one portion, and it also means less food waste,' Laura says. 

The expert recommends making sticky toffee apple puddings but adds that cookies are also perfect if you decide that you do want to share. 'You can make cookies in less than 10 minutes without having to wait for the oven to preheat. My favorites are peanut butter cookies.'

7. Reheated leftovers

We're not ones to waste food, and an air fryer can ensure you make the most of your takeaways and indulgent fast-food dinners. 

Zoe McClean suggests: 'Use the air fryer for re-crisping or reheating takeaway leftovers, like fried chicken or pizza, and enjoy your meal for a second time.

'Why air fry leftover pizza when you can microwave it? Air frying still keeps the base of your pizza nice and crisp, whereas microwaving tends to soften the base. 

'I like to wrap leftover pizza in aluminum foil before air frying as this helps to prevent the topping from drying out. Place in a single layer direct into the basket or rack and cook on high for 5 to 7 minutes.'

8. Frozen chicken goujons

An air fryer is a versatile investment, and is great for cooking frozen food quickly on days when you're particularly time-poor.

Chicken goujons or tenders are a lovely option, and should take around eight to 12 minutes to get nice and crisp from frozen at around 400°F/205°C. 

Put them in a single layer in the air fryer basket; flip them at around 10 minutes and cook for another two minutes, or until crisp.

Zoe McClean comments: 'Frozen fast food items like chicken goujons, fish fingers, breaded or battered vegetables can all be air fried from frozen and like all the other foods: no waiting time for your oven to pre-heat. 

'Simply place direct into the basket or on the rack and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on food type. Medium to high heat.'

9. Crispy bacon

To air fry bacon (this is the best!), the experts recommend placing the bacon in a single layer in the basket or rack before cooking at a high temperature for 5 to 8 minutes. The bacon will be browned and beautifully crisp. 

You can also prepare bacon in a fraction of the time you'd need to cook on the stove, and it won't be swimming in its own fat as it cooks, which gives you a crispier and slightly healthier result. 

Air fryer in a white tiled kitchen

(Image credit: Alamy)

10. Crispy roast potatoes

Is there anything more palate-pleasing than a crispy roast potato? We think not.

'We love to make our Sunday dinner roast potatoes in the air fryer,' says Zoe. 'Simply parboil the potatoes first, allow to drain and dry out. Then, fluff with a fork, season and place in a small tin or tray in the air fryer with a spoonful of duck fat (or vegetarian alternative). 

'Roast on 390ºF/200ºC for 30 minutes, turning/shaking occasionally to encourage even browning.'

What's best to cook in an air fryer?

Our experts agree that the best thing to cook in an air fryer is bacon because it comes out crispy, perfectly cooked, and less fatty than when cooked under a grill or in a pan.

That said, we think fruit is wonderful cooked in an air fryer – particularly bananas, which caramelize beautifully if put into the air fryer sliced or whole and brushed lightly with oil or melted butter. Tempted to invest? You can shop for the best deals below. 

Contributing Editor

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of Livingetc.com, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.