The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook

The Only Book You Need for Your Small, Medium, or Large Air Fryer


By Bruce Weinstein

By Mark Scarbrough

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Unleash the power of your air fryer with this comprehensive air fryer bible, featuring 300+ recipes designed for every size, brand, and model, from the authors of the bestselling Instant Pot Bible.

Welcome to the air fryer revolution. More than 7 million Americans use air fryers to make the crispiest French fries or crunchiest chicken tenders without the mess or health concerns of deep-frying. But your air fryer can also sear a rib-eye steak in half the time it takes to heat up the grill, roast perfect vegetables, and reheat leftovers while putting your microwave to shame.

Only The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook can show you how to make the most of this versatile kitchen appliance, for every meal of the day. Each of the 300-plus recipes gives ingredients and timings for every size of air fryer (from small 2-quart models to 10-quart ones), plus extra recipes to make each dish a complete, delicious meal.

This comprehensive air fryer bible will help you make delicious roasted chicken and healthy vegetable sides, decadent desserts, delightful snacks, and crispy wings and tenders that beat take-out by a mile. And air-frying experts Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough offer customized ingredient lists and timings alongside clear, easy-to-follow directions that will have you cooking like a pro, no matter your skill level.

You’ll enjoy:
  • Kale Chips
  • Better-Than-Chinese-Take-Out Orange Chicken
  • Hearty Roasted Vegetable Soup
  • Cauliflower-Crust Pizza
  • Crispy Ranch Chicken Thighs
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Jalapeño Poppers
  • Perfect Broccolini
  • Easy Carnitas
  • Shrimp Teriyaki
  • Zucchini Fries
  • Blueberry Crisp
  • Chewy Coconut Cake
  • Fried Oreos
  • And more!


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Ready for the next home cooking revolution? It’s begun! Millions of people are using air fryers to make crisp, crunchy, delicious fare without the mess, expense, or health concerns associated with deep-frying.

Maybe you already know all that and you’re an air fryer fanatic looking for new recipes. Maybe you’ve heard about these hot new appliances that can make shatteringly crunchy treats with just a few teaspoons of oil—and you’re wondering if all the fuss is justified. (It is.) Or maybe you’ve just unboxed your new fryer and don’t know where to start. No worries: Whatever your level of expertise, we’re here to guide you.

The promise of air-frying is pretty simple: crunchy food that can be healthier than deep-fried, is often easier to prepare, and certainly calls for less cleanup afterwards. Although guilt-free French fries are the grail, you can make a lot more in an air fryer. The machine is actually a countertop convection oven that can make nachos and pork loin roasts in about half the time they’d take in the oven or on the stove. And it’s something like a turbocharged broiler that can cook a strip steak in less time than it takes to heat up the grill. It can even reheat a store-bought rotisserie chicken, frozen dumplings, or yesterday’s leftovers in less time and with better results than your oven or microwave.

Sounds too good to be true? At first, all revolutions do.

And we know a thing or two about revolutions. Over the course of more than 30 cookbooks, we’ve left no stone unturned in our search for tools that can save you time, effort, and hassle in the kitchen. We’ve written pressure-cooker books galore, a slow-cooker book, and even one for making desserts in a turbo blender. So take it from us: The air fryer really delivers. Even better (and despite our love of gadgets), you won’t need any other specialty appliances or fancy tools to complete the recipes in this book. We wanted to focus on what the air fryer does well, with no gimmicks or clickbait-y tricks. Listen, air fryers are like spouses. They can’t do everything, even though we want them to.

And like spouses, they come in lots of sizes. Most air fryers run around 3 to 4 quarts, although there are small 2-quart models on the market and giant 6-quart ones. We recently spotted a 10-quart model! Despite this array of sizes, almost none of the recipes written for air fryers account for the differences in cooking time or portion size for each model. We get why. A recipe that handles the size variable is hard to write.

But not impossible. That’s where we come in, the guys who’ve already written a slow-cooker book with the recipes sized for every pot and The Instant Pot Bible with recipes calibrated for every size of the beloved multi-cooker.

So we did it again: This is an air-fryer book with every recipe tailored for almost every size of air fryer on the market. We’ll get to how this works in the next section. But we’ve got you covered, no matter which model you’ve bought.

With one exception: Lately, a very small 1.2-quart air fryer has shown up in stores. It’s so little, it won’t even handle a large bone-in chicken breast or two standard chicken thighs. It can’t make more than a few French fries at a time, not enough for one serving (at least in our opinion). Unfortunately, it can’t handle most of the recipes in this book. Sorry about that. But this book is good to go for all the other machines, from 2-quart minis on up to the biggest counter-space eaters.

So here’s what’s ahead. There’s an introduction laying out the rules of the road. Don’t skip the five-step how-to that comes next! It will show you how to use this book for maximum success. After that, there are 305 recipes in seven chapters, plus more than 150 narrative recipes for delicious ways to take your meals to the next level, including everything from a sweet-tart Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (here) to a classic Cream Gravy (here), along with lots of easy salads and over a dozen specialty cocktails and mocktails.

You thought you were holding the only book you need to make hundreds of air fryer recipes for snacks, soups, sandwiches, mains, roasts, and even desserts. You didn’t know there were still dozens more recipe ideas to go along with all that great, crunchy fare. The revolution just got better. Join us!

A Five-Step How-To for This Book

How do these recipes work?

Each recipe has a title, a set of tags to categorize it (more on those just below), a headnote that explains the dish or offers a trick to making it a success, a chart with ingredients sized for almost all air fryers (more, too, on that below), a recipe method that details the preparation of the dish, and one or more Thens that offer you serving suggestions, simple salads, additional recipes for sauces and the like, or further ways to use whatever’s just come out of the machine. Everything in the Then section is for what happens after you complete the main recipe.

You might think that we have omitted the serving size, which is usually found by the recipe name. Since our ingredient charts are sized for various air fryers, you’ll end up with a varying number of servings, depending on how much your fryer can handle and what quantity of ingredients you decide to work with. Look for the number of servings for each specific amount of ingredients below the list of those ingredients in the charts. (Admittedly, this sounds a little confusing. As you’ll see in a bit, you can make a smaller number of servings in a larger machine—or, of course, a large number of servings in a large machine. But you can never make a large number of servings in a small machine without working in discrete—and often time-consuming—batches.)

The tags at the start of each recipe offer you a set of specs to guide you as you flip through the book. Is this recipe fast or easy? Is it vegetarian or vegan, or can it be either with some simple modifications that we always include in the list of ingredients? Is it gluten-free, or can it be with some modifications, again always given in the ingredient list? And finally, how many ingredients does the recipe require? The most is thirteen; the fewest, one.

As to that “gluten-free” or “can be gluten-free” tag: Although we’ve marked ingredients that are notorious problems (for example: bread crumbs, bacon, sausage meat, purchased mayonnaise), there are others that are generally gluten-free (for example: Dijon mustard, hot red pepper sauce, barbecue sauce, and even rolled oats) but which in some brands may be found with glutens, gluten derivatives, or cross contamination from gluten-laced products that are made in the same facility. If you’re extremely sensitive, we trust you know to watch out for these “maybes.”

Should I bother to read the headnotes?

Yes! They often offer a specific tip to make the recipe a success. Lots of the recipes have little secrets that we discovered in our testing. We’ve put those in the headnotes, too.

The headnotes also include explanations of potentially unfamiliar ingredients. And a few have optional narrative recipes for specialty items like garam masala here or our favorite jerk dried seasoning blend here, if you want to make your own.

How do I read the charts for the ingredients?

Safe to say, these are the most innovative part of the book. They require a little explanation.

The leftmost column is the list of ingredients the dish requires. In the columns to the right of the ingredients are the amounts for each based on both the size of the batch and what a specific model can hold.

We’ve divided all air fryers into three groups: 2-quart or larger, 3.5-quart or larger, and 5.25-quart or larger. Almost always, each gets a column in the chart. (More on the exceptions in a bit.)

The first column of amounts can be made in a small 2-quart machine or in any larger machine if you own a larger appliance but want to make a smaller amount.

The second column of quantities, the 3.5-quart or larger category, tells you that you cannot make this batch in a machine smaller than 3.5 quarts but you can make this moderate number of servings in a 3.5-quart machine or in any larger machine.

And finally, the last designation, 5.25-quart or larger, is for the biggest machines and the most number of servings. These larger quantities cannot be made in smaller machines unless you work in batches.

And you can. Sometimes. It’s easy to make several batches of Shrimp “Scampi” (here) in a small machine since each batch only takes 5 minutes. It’s much harder to make several batches of country-style pork ribs when each batch takes 30 minutes. Some hungry family members or friends will be hanging out a long time after others have finished and gone to bed.

Please allow us to state all that one more time, in one sentence, just for clarity’s sake: You can make a smaller quantity in a larger machine, but you cannot make a larger quantity in a smaller machine unless you work in batches.

Here’s why: An air fryer is essentially a countertop convection oven. It works by heated air currents—which means it only works well when there’s good air circulation around the items in the basket. When food pieces crowd against each other, they do not cook evenly and—the real shame—they do not get crunchy. So space between those items is of supreme importance. Sometimes, you may see an ingredient in a list—let’s say, a 1-pound bone-in chicken breast—and say to yourself, “Shoot, I could fit more of them in my little machine.” Don’t! We sized these recipes for air flow as well as volume.

Now that we’ve got the batch sizes down, let’s look at the exceptions. A few recipes have their ingredients sized for only two types of machines—for example, for a small machine (or, as we stated, for a small batch in a larger machine) and for a large machine. In these recipes, the amount of air space in the medium-size machines was not enough to make an intermediary amount without crowding items against each other in the basket. So the chart has been written only for small or large quantities. If you have a 3.5-quart machine, you can either make the small quantity in your machine (just as if you had a smaller model) or prepare the larger quantity and air-fry it in batches.

In a very few recipes, there’s only one column for all machines. In these recipes, we assume you must air-fry in batches, even in the largest models. So these recipes have a one-size-fits-all approach, with the only variable being the number of times you’ll have to air-fry something, remove it, and air-fry more of it in subsequent batches.

Some of the charts’ ingredient sizes have been a matter of simple math, despite our testing variations galore. Others are trickier because, say, the flavor of garlic powder compounds exponentially. You can’t just multiply it up for a bigger batch without killing off all the sexy vampires in your life. That said, cooking isn’t rocket surgery (or brain science). If you like a little more garlic, have at it. (Baking, however, is another matter. Follow these recipes scrupulously.)

Do I set the time from when I start to heat the machine?

Many recipes outside of this book tell you to fill the basket, put it in the machine, and turn the machine on. Ours do not. Air-fried foods come out better if they start in a hot machine. Coatings set more quickly for a better crunch; marinades caramelize more quickly for deeper flavor.

In testing, we put a breaded pork chop in a cold machine, turned it on, and watched the fan blow the panko coating off the chop and onto the basket’s walls. But such pork-chop carnage didn’t happen when the machine was first heated. In fact, it never happened when the machine was properly heated. Therefore, our timings are almost always set, not from when you turn the machine on, but from when you put something in the basket or a pan to cook. (There are a couple of rare exceptions in the book, but we’ll be careful to call them out.)

Don’t solely trust the timings we give. We also offer visual cues to tell you when your food is done. Open the drawer or the door. Check the basket or tray. See how things are cooking. Calibrations may vary among models. Trust your eyes. And when necessary, use an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure your food is safe to eat (more on that below).

And while we’re on questions of timing, pay attention to a recipe’s last step about letting foods rest when they come out of an air fryer. Such advice may seem like cookbook boilerplate. It’s not. What comes out of the air fryer is superheated. A crisp crust needs to set; the juices need to reincorporate into a cut of meat. We’ll let you know if you need to wait a couple of minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or more. For the best meal, don’t cheat this step.

On the other hand, don’t wait too long before digging in. Many coatings get soggy after half an hour, sometimes even after 15 minutes. Like anything deep-fried, air-fried food is crunchy for a bit, then it’s sadly not. In most cases, plan on enjoying the meal pretty soon after you make it. Or if you’ve got tardy friends or a family member kept at the office past dinnertime, re-air-fry an item at the same temperature it was cooked at for 2 to 3 minutes to crisp it again.

How do I use the Then after each recipe?

These bullet points are often serving suggestions. But they also include almost 160 optional narrative recipes that you can—but don’t have to—add on to the main recipe. Many of these additional recipes will go with more than one dish in this book. For example, the Jalapeño Jam (here) is welcome with lots of snacky fare. We hope you’ll find many more uses for this “bonus” content: 22 dips, almost 40 condiments and sauces, 34 salads, 16 cocktails and mocktails, and lots more.

The Sixteen Rules of the Road

We use words like “fried,” “roasted,” and “barbecued” with a knowing wink.

We mean that something has a “fried” texture or a “roasted” feel or a “barbecued” flavor, although nothing in this book is “fried” or “barbecued” in the traditional sense. If you want to get technical, everything in this book is “convection baked,” although the machine’s convection fan is more powerful than the one in a convection oven—which is why the air fryer is a great tool for quicker cooking.

Use the appropriate cooking fats.

There’s a myth that air-frying doesn’t require additional fat. Not true. Sure, you can cook a plain chicken breast in the machine. We hope you enjoy your chicken shards. Successfully air-fried foods require some fat, but not much. You’ll see over and over that we ask you to spray food with vegetable oil, olive oil, or (rarely) coconut oil. This spritz of oil, less than 1 teaspoon per serving in most cases, helps set the coating, get it crunchy, and protect the food underneath. That little bit of oil also adds lots of flavor because it carries forward the notes from the herbs and spices in the coating. And the smidgen of oil allows the food to cook more evenly. Don’t neglect that little bit of fat, but at the same time…

Almost never use aerosol nonstick sprays.

The problem with aerosol sprays is that they’re not very directional. Bits of oil spew out in a fan pattern, most of it getting on the target food but some of it ending up all over the innards of an air fryer. That residual oil can start to gunk up the machine. It’s the main reason an air fryer will start to smoke (more on that below). And there’s some evidence that over time the propellants—that is, the chemicals that create the aerosol spray—may degrade the nonstick coating on the machine’s basket. No manufacturer recommends these sprays. Take their word for it. Which means you should…

Buy little spritzer bottles for oils.

We have two on our counter right now: one for vegetable oil and one for olive oil. We used them constantly in testing the recipes for this book.

Ours are small, hand-sized plastic bottles with a bulbous body and a hand-pump spritzer. We got them for about a buck each at a dollar store. Yes, you can find more expensive ones. They’ll work just as well. But we cheaped out and haven’t noticed any difference. We filled them with their respective oils, then wrote on each with an indelible marker so we’d know which was which.

The one exception is for coconut oil spray. Most coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Unfortunately, we had to use an aerosol can to get the fat onto whatever we were cooking. In this case, make sure you spray the coconut oil away from the machine and onto the food itself.

That said, filling our two little spritzers with our own oil gave us another benefit over most aerosol cans. Let’s face it: The oil in many aerosol sprays is not of the highest quality. Although we didn’t put an expensive olive oil in our spritzer, the oil was still better than the stuff in most commercially packaged cans.

We can’t stress how important these spritzers are. Unfortunately (or really, fortunately for your health), most of the coatings in this book are low-fat—which means they’re delicate and their ingredients don’t cohere as easily with each other or even adhere to the food underneath as readily as high-fat coatings would. You can’t really brush oil onto these coatings without knocking them off. If you’ve only got a commercially packaged nonstick spray, go ahead and use it until you can get online and order a spritzer bottle or two.

And while we’re on the matter of spritzers (or even aerosol sprays)…

Never spray oil directly into the basket while it’s set in the machine.

For one thing, you’ll get oil all over the inside of the drawer and other internal parts. You’ll soon have a machine that sets off the fire alarm.

What’s more, spraying oil into the machine is dangerous. Would you do so into a 400°F oven? Absolutely not. And if you do use an aerosol spray (which, except for coconut oil, you shouldn’t!), you’re really asking for a nasty burn, as the atomized oil can easily ignite.

Discussing the matter of spraying oil actually brings us to the question of smoking, the bane of air-frying. We learned lots of lessons while we were testing these recipes but the most important one was this: Once we stopped spraying food with oil as it sat in the basket, our machine stopped smoking. The problem wasn’t the food. It was the residual oil on the basket and even inside the machine. The proper order of operation is 1) spray the food (if necessary), then 2) set it in the basket.

Air fryers don’t smoke on their own. If yours does, it’s got a serious mechanical problem. Unplug it immediately and return it. Air fryers smoke because there’s built-up oil and food gunk in the machine. You must clean it after every use. And you must also never spray any food while it’s in the basket.

True, a few high-fat coatings do produce some smoke. And while we’ve mostly opted for lower-fat coatings, we did go all out a few times. For high-fat coatings, we opened a window and turned on the stove vent.

Toaster oven–style air fryers work a bit differently than the more standard drawer-style models.

Most toaster oven–style air fryers have racks inside, some of which can be swapped out for other attachments. For almost every recipe in this book, slip the basket attachment into the slot nearest the middle of the machine. Then slip a tray into a lower slot to catch the inevitable drips.

The few exceptions are recipes that use cake pans. In these, you’ll need to skip the basket attachment and set one of the trays or racks lower in the machine so the cake pan will fit comfortably with some head space left over. In any event, read your instruction manual to operate your appliance properly. Better yet, read the manual, then go online and watch the manufacturer’s instructional videos.

Heat the air fryer to the appropriate temperature.

Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t, at least not for a book that’s been designed to cover a wide array of models. Here’s the problem: Some air fryers only offer temperatures in 10°F increments, not 5°F: 300°F, 310°F, 320°F, etc. And a few air fryers only offer temperatures in 30°F increments: 300°F, 330°F, 360°F, etc. So when we call for 325°F, we have to mark an alternate temperature in a parenthetical note like this: With the basket (or basket attachment) in the air fryer, heat it to 400°F (or 390°F, if that’s the closest setting). And sometimes, things get a little more confusing: With the basket (or basket attachment) in the air fryer, heat it to 375°F (or 370°F or 360°F, if one of these is the closest setting).

Always go with the first temperature, if you can. Go with the parenthetical temperature only if you must. If the lower temperature makes a significant difference, we modify the cook time later in the recipe.

Use pans approved for the air fryer (or a high-heat convection oven).

In a few recipes, we call for round or square baking pans, sized to fit into the machine you have on your counter. Make sure your cookware is approved for cooking in this high-heat environment. Most glazes are not. Much stoneware is not. Serving dishes and platters mostly are not. We assume you’re using metal cake or baking pans. But even these may have a coating that should not be exposed to 400°F temperatures. Check your brand to be sure.

Use more flour and dry coating ingredients than you need.

Food waste is a legitimate issue; but we can’t solve it in one section of these recipes. You need a lot of flour, cornmeal, crushed corn chips (just wait), or crushed pork rinds (seriously, just wait) to get a good coating on a chicken thigh or a fish fillet. You have to use more of the dry stuff than merely coats the food because 1) some of the coating mixture gets soggy and unusable after repeated dips into it and 2) you need to be able to turn the food several times in the dry ingredients with room to spare. So yes, we call for, say, ⅓ cup all-purpose flour when you really only need 1½ tablespoons to coat two pork chops. The abundance will allow you to work efficiently and assure that the meat or vegetable or Twinkie (yup) is well coated before it gets dipped into the wet ingredient that will turn that flour (or cookie crumbs) into an irresistible coating. We hope you’ll forgive this waste for the promise of crunch. Hey, at least you’re not wasting all the oil that deep-frying requires.

Use the kind of bread crumb we list in the ingredients.

We work with five types: 1) plain dried bread crumbs; 2) seasoned Italian-style dried bread crumbs; 3) plain panko bread crumbs; 4) seasoned panko bread crumbs; and 5) fresh bread crumbs (in only one recipe and one variation of one recipe). That’s not counting other kinds of crumbs you might use as a coating, like potato chip crumbles. (See the chart here.)

Let’s start at the top: plain dried bread crumbs. You can make your own, although it’s a pain. To do so, toast 4 to 8 slices of old but not stale white bread. We find that most bread is at the right stage after three days at room temperature (but sealed up, as if we were saving the bread for toast). Toast this bread lightly. Tear up the slices and either grate them through the large holes of a box grater or pulse them in a food processor until coarsely ground. Spread these bread crumbs on a large lipped baking sheet and bake in a 200°F oven for 30 minutes. Stir well and continue baking until evenly browned, 20 to 40 minutes more. (The exact timing will depend on the moisture content of the bread.) Cool the crumbs on the baking sheet for 20 minutes or up to 1 hour, then pour these bread crumbs into a food processor and pulse until they are about the consistency of coarse sand. Cool completely and store in a sealed container at room temperature for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. (Use them right out of the freezer for these recipes.)

See what we mean: They’re a pain to make. That’s why we used purchased dried bread crumbs for every recipe we tested. That said, purchased dried bread crumbs vary dramatically in quality. You’ll do yourself a big favor by spending ten or fifteen bucks and taste-testing a few different brands. Some are wheaty; some, sweet; some, flavorless. You’ll soon know exactly which brand you prefer.

The only sort of seasoned dried bread crumbs we call for are Italian-style, meaning there are Italian herbs and probably garlic powder in the mix.

Panko bread crumbs are a specialty product, once a Japanese staple, now an international one. Panko was traditionally made from bread baked on electrical wires that dried it out. But not anymore. These days, panko mostly means a slightly larger, much paler, softer version of dried bread crumbs.

Seasoned panko bread crumbs have salt and dried spices in the mix. Most are Italian-style; a few are more Asian in their flavors. In truth, you can use any sort of seasoned panko bread crumb here, although we tested all these recipes using the ones with Italian-style flavorings.

Finally, one bit of bad news: Bread crumbs, even dried ones, go stale just like bread. Sure, the processed ones last longer, maybe a month or more. But they eventually get a funky smell. No amount of dried herbs and good oils can overcome the taste of stale bread crumbs.

Space food out in the air fryer’s basket or on the baking tray.


On Sale
Nov 19, 2019
Page Count
432 pages

Bruce Weinstein

About the Author

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are the bestselling authors of the Instant Pot Bible series of cookbooks, among more than 30 others. They are the owners of MediaEats, a culinary production company, were nominees for 2011 and 2015 James Beard Awards, won the 2015 IACP Award, and are the longest-serving columnists on, as well as regular contributors to the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, and Cooking Light.

Learn more about this author

Mark Scarbrough

About the Author

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are the bestselling authors of the Instant Pot Bible series of cookbooks, among more than 30 others. They are the owners of MediaEats, a culinary production company, were nominees for 2011 and 2015 James Beard Awards, won the 2015 IACP Award, and are the longest-serving columnists on, as well as regular contributors to the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, and Cooking Light.

Learn more about this author