People love to talk about how great an air fryer has made their lives. And to be honest, I’m also one of those people. Air fryers are amazing kitchen appliances that crisp up food with little to no additional fats. Best of all, air fryers come in a wide range of sizes.
The size of the air fryer’s basket will determine how many people it can feed in one air-frying cycle.
- 1 to 3 quarts—1 person
- 3 to 4 quarts—2 people
- 5 to 8 quarts—4 people
- 8 quarts and more—6 people
In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about air fryers, from what there are to what size you’ll need to feed your family.
What Is an Air Fryer?
If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably seen people speak highly about their air fryer. So, what exactly is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that “fries” food using nothing but the power of air and heat. It comes with a motor base and a detachable basket where you place your food. When you turn the air fryer on, the heating element will raise the temperature in the basket, while an impeller fan distributes the heat evenly in the small space. The result is perfectly crisp food every time.
How to Use an Air Fryer
Using an air fryer is a no-brainer. The included paperwork will pretty much tell you everything you need to know about how to operate these awesome kitchen appliances. Also, the dials and buttons on an air fryer are pretty much identical to those on an oven.
Here’s what you need to do when using your air fryer:
- Preheat the air fryer. If your air fryer doesn’t have a preheat button, simply set the temperature and let the air fryer run for 5 to 10 minutes. However, this isn’t a necessary step.
- Line the food basket with parchment paper or tin foil. The air fryer’s basket may not always come with a nonstick surface, which is why you need to line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Alternatively, you can use spray oil to grease the food basket, but this will introduce more fat to your food, which goes against the purpose of an air fryer.
- Place your food in the food basket. Don’t overcrowd the food basket. You will know when you’ve put too much food in the food basket when the basket doesn’t go in all the way.
- Cook your food for as long as the recipe instructs. Some air fryers will have programmable timers, while simpler models won’t. In either case, keep your eye on the air fryer and make sure that the food doesn’t burn. You can remove the food basket to take a peek at your food while it’s cooking.
Air Fryer vs. Convection Oven
So, if an air fryer uses a fan to distribute heat throughout the basket, how does it differ from a convection oven?
To put it simply, the main difference is in terms of their size. Even portable convection ovens can be quite bulky, so finding a spot on your kitchen counter can be a challenge. Air fryers, on the other hand, are much smaller and can fit inside cabinets without trouble.
However, because air fryers are so small, their cooking baskets don’t hold much food. The biggest air fryer on the market right now is the Big Boss 16-quart model. Convection ovens can hold at least twice as much food as the biggest air fryer on the market.
As such, you will need to prepare your food in batches or find an appropriately sized air fryer to serve your entire family in one air-frying cycle.
What Size Air Fryer Do I Need?
Air fryers come in a wide assortment of sizes. You’ll find 1-quart models, such as the Elite Gourmet EAF-3218, as well as humungous air fryers like the Big Boss. So, how do you determine which air fryer size to get? Simple—figure out how many people you want to feed at one.
Of course, other variables will come into play, such as how much food a single person eats per meal. The chart below will describe the average number of mouths you can feed based on the size of an air fryer.
|Air Fryer Size
|Number of People
|1 to 3 quarts
|3 to 4 quarts
|5 to 8 quarts
Is a Larger Air Fryer Better?
One question air fryer newbies have is, should I get a large air fryer or not? A “large” air fryer is usually defined as an air fryer with at least a 5-quart basket. So, should a 2-person family invest in a 5-quart-plus air fryer, or should they stick to a 3- to 4-quart model?
The chart above shows rough estimates of how many mouths an air fryer can feed per cook cycle. Air fryers are designed to food in small batches, so you can certainly get by with a smaller model. You’ll just have to prepare lunch and dinner ahead of time to have everything ready for the next meal.
However, based on many people’s experiences, larger air fryers are almost always better. You might find yourself using an air fryer to prepare anything from French fries to chicken thighs. In addition, the fewer air-frying cycles you have to wait through, the quicker you can devour your food, which is always a plus!
Basically, there’s no such thing as an air fryer that is too large. However, there is such a thing as air fryers that are too small for comfort.
What Air Fryer Size Will Cook a Whole Chicken?
Like air fryers, a whole chicken has different size classes. Some whole chickens weigh as little as 3 pounds, while some are nearly as large as small turkeys!
The chart below will give a rough estimate of what air fryer size is perfect for different chicken weight classes.
|Air Fryer Size
|4 to 6 quarts
|3 to 5 pounds
|6 to 10 quarts
|6 to 7 pounds
|10 to 16 quarts
|8 to 10 pounds
Clearly, a larger air fryer basket will accommodate a larger chicken. While I advise getting the largest chicken you can, you are more than free to choose any chicken size you want, depending on how many people you want to serve during dinner.
Can You Cook Steak in an Air Fryer?
If you can cook chicken in your air fryer, you can most certainly prepare a hearty steak for dinner with the same appliance. Simply put the steak in the food basket and let it run until the steak is as cooked as you like.
The only downside of using an air fryer for cooking steaks is that it won’t produce sear marks on the surface. So, you might want to pre-sear your steak before finishing it off in the air fryer. You can also pop a few garlic heads in the oven to perfume your steak and make quick roasted garlic.
When the steak is done, remove it from the food basket and place it on a cutting board to rest. Letting the steak rest for 10 minutes will allow the meat to reabsorb its lost juices.
While you don’t have to add fat to your steak while cooking it in an air fryer, doing so will definitely preserve the steak’s juiciness. Just go easy on the butter and olive oil!