Yes, You Can Grill in Your Air Fryer—Here’s How

Photo: Stocksy/Huff
POV: You’ve got the kebabs skewered, the grilling tools are ready to go, and you’re sporting your best fun-in-the-sun 'fit. Only problem? That looming rain cloud that you hoped would head in the opposite direction has made its way right to your backyard despite your emphatic prayers to the weather gods. What started as a light drizzle has turned into a full-blown torrential downpour that has really put a damper on your cookout plans.

So, what now? Before you weep and order pizza, we’ve gathered a few genius tips to transform your trusted air fryer into a mean, lean grilling machine to help salvage the day. Indeed, with these easy tips, you can turn your air fryer into an indoor grill that can provide that iconic char flavor, grill marks, and plenty of summertime vibes regardless of what the weather looks like outside. Read on to learn how Jaclyn Huff, a Los Angeles-based certified health coach and private chef, does her grilling using an air fryer even when the sun’s shining.

Experts In This Article
  • Jaclyn Huff, Los Angeles-based certified health coach and private chef

How to grill in an air fryer

1. Preheat the air fryer before you add the food

So, can you grill in an air fryer? You sure bet! Like most air fryer recipes, the key is to preheat your fryer before you throw in the food for maximum crisping effect, says Huff. To replicate the high heat of a grill, she recommends heating it up to 400°F so it’s piping hot from the get-go for maximum charring potential.

However, before you start cooking, you'll want to reduce the temperature to ensure you don't overcook your meal. “Next, reduce the temperature to 380°F when you are ready to grill," Huff says. "Temperatures for cooking can range between 380°F and 400°F for grilling. Food tends to cook quickly in the air fryer, so food will take roughly half the time to cook than on a traditional grill. This is due to air fryers having consistent heat circulation."

That said, investing in one of the best air fryers on the market can help make the task much less challenging; which according to a cookbook author that wrote an entire book about air frying is the Instant Omni Plus 18L Air Fryer Toaster Oven, which retails for just under $250. (BTW, it has 10-in-1 cooking functions: air fry, broil, bake, roast, dehydrate, reheat, rotisserie, toast, warm, convection.) However, if you're really looking to take your indoor grilling up a notch, the same brand also has an Instant Indoor Grill and Air Fryer, which retails for $170. And bingo was his name-o! 

2. Prep food so it’s evenly-sized and at the same temperature

When cooking in small, confined spaces (like your air fryer), optimal air circulation is the most important part. However, in order to ensure your food evenly cooks, you'll also need to do two things: prep food so it's roughly the same proportions and make sure it's all at the same temperature. “Make sure food is similar in size for the most even cooking. For meat, it's best to cook it when it has reached room temperature. This ensures even cooking. It's also good to use a thicker cut of protein for the air fryer, again because they tend to cook food quickly. This will help your meat retain moisture and juiciness,” Huff says.

3. Use an onion to season (and clean) the grates

Before you get the air fryer grilling going, Huff recommends cutting an onion in half and rubbing it on the air fryer basket's grates to season and add flavor before cooking. The sulfur compounds in alliums (like onions) react with the metal when heated and form a hard sulfide layer that helps prevent food from sticking to the surface. You can also use the onion to help loosen and remove any burnt bits once you’re done cooking.

4. Use a grill plate attachment for grill marks

So, do you need a grill rack for your air fryer? Yes and no. If those classic grill marks are everything you strive for, then yes, you'll want to to use an air fryer attachment (like this one from Amazon) to help you achieve that iconic pattern. “The attachment has grooves that create grill marks, and it allows the juices from the food to fall, so it can evaporate and create more flavor. This is similar to what happens in a grill; the juices can fall from the food and evaporate,” Huff says.

Although, if grill marks aren't really your top priority, then investing in one of these air fryer tools won't be necessary. In which case, you can simply transform your oven to air fryer mode if it has a convection cooking option. Most ovens made in the last decade mode sport this nifty feature that relies on extra heat and powerful air circulation to speed up cooking time and achieve that sought-after air fryer magic.

5. Use oils with high smoking points

According to Huff, you should use oils that can withstand high heat, like avocado or vegetable oil. “You also do not have to use a lot of oil when cooking with an air fryer. Food can be tossed in a small amount to help prevent sticking to the grill attachment—think a few teaspoons,” she says.

6. Pre-soak skewers to avoid burning them

Remember: Air fryers typically get really hot, like, really fast. As such, foods (and cooking tools) can be prone to burning if not properly primed and prepped. That's to say, you'll want to ensure your wooden skewers are presoaked for before you get grilling. “To prep skewers for the air fryer, it's important to soak them in water first just as you would with your standard grill. This will help to prevent the skewer from burning. Traditional skewers may not fit in the air fryer; shorter ones may be needed. Again, be sure food is cut into similar sizes for even cooking,” Huff recommends.

7. Season to add smokiness

To mimic the char flavor in the air fryer, Huff uses different seasonings to get the smokiness just right. “I recommend smoky flavors like smoked paprika, liquid smoke, smoked salts or spices, barbecue sauce, black cardamon, mesquite seasonings or similar grill seasonings, chipotle peppers, and cumin,” she says. Thankfully, many of these seasonings are a staple for anti-inflammatory grilling, since they have naturally-occurring properties that help fight free radicals in the body.

Air fryer cooking temperatures and times for commonly grilled foods

Corn: Coat in a few teaspoons of oil or butter. Season as desired. Cook at 400°F for about eight to 10 minutes. No need to par-boil. Make sure to turn the corn halfway through cooking.

Peaches: To prevent sticking, lay a piece of parchment over the grill attachment and lightly butter or oil the peach (season if desired, savory or sweet). Peaches grill best when cut in halves. Be sure to use fresh, ripe (or slightly underripe) peaches as they will hold together better. To achieve grill marks, press the peach down lightly on the grilling attachment (even with the parchment) with tongs. Cook at 380°F for about five to 10 minutes.

Potatoes: Cut potatoes into evenly-sized pieces or use whole small potatoes. Lightly oil and season as desired. Grill at 400°F for about 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes), turning to achieve char marks. No need to parboil.

How about some carrot dogs on the barbie? Check out how to make them here:

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