Why is your air fryer food too dry?

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Welcome back to Air Fryer Bro, a place where we look to help all those people out there struggling with air fryer issues!! Today, we will look at the topic of air fryer food being too dry, why that is and what you can do about it?

So, why is some air fryer food dry (like cardboard)? From my experience, when you have skinless and/or boneless meat, this can get particularly dried out by an air fryer. The skin literally acts as a barrier, helping to keep some of the moisture in the meat. It is also a fact that having meat with a bone running through it also helps the meat retain some moisture. When you take that away, you end up with incredibly dry and tough meat from the air fryer! With other food outside of meat, if there is no form of oil or fat on the surface, you will end up with something very dry!

I have owned air fryers for almost a decade at this point, and this has been my experience. Although I don’t claim to be an out-and-out expert on the matter! (still working on that!)

I can remember the first time I tried to cook chicken strips in the airfryer! I just put them in without doing anything to them, and they came out so hard they were tough to bite through. That’s not good. Some of that was about timing, but a lot of that is also down to incorrect cooking in an air fryer!

Why Does an Air Fryer Dry Out Food?

Think about it in this simple way. What other home appliance has a heating element and a strong fan to blow the hot air coming off that heating element around? One I can think of is a hair dryer. Think about the hot air coming out of your hair dryer and imagine using that to cook food. In its very nature, this hot air will dry out food. This is why you need to be careful with the hot air cooking in an air fryer. Some food will come out hard and dry if you are not careful.

I hear some of you saying about fan assisted ovens, that they don’t dry out food, so why should an air fryer? Well, these ovens are ‘assisted’ by hot air from a small fan and this is not the main source of cooking. Whereas with an air fryer, it is the main and only source of cooking. This is why fan assisted ovens don’t dry out food as much as an air fryer.

2 Simple Ways to Stop your Air Fried Food being Dry!!

If you, like me, have had that experience of incredibly dry food out of your air fryer, all is not lost!! In this article, I will detail the two ways I have found help me a lot with this particular problem!

1. Let there be marinate!

As I talked about above briefly, skinless and/or boneless meat can get dried out in an air fryer. In the Air Fryer Bro household, we have a simple solution. We make a marinade for this meat, and keep it soaking in the marinade overnight.

You then get perfectly moist and well-flavored meat. Of course, you don’t have to marinate the meat for a long time like us. You could do it immediately before cooking if you are short on time.

The main purpose of the marinade is to replace the effect the skin would usually have during cooking, and to be a barrier to keep the moisture locked into your meat.

For us, a marinate can be as simple or advanced as you would like. The main ingredient is olive oil, as this is the main thing to coat the meat. Usually, in our house, we just mix some olive oil with chili flakes, garlic and honey and a touch of steak seasoning (to give some saltiness to the marinade). Sometimes, my wife will throw in Chinese cooking wine or chicken stock powder!

I would recommend you start with an olive oil base and try out a combination of flavors you like. If you still find the meat somewhat dry, you could add honey or cornflour to the mix to help it stick better! (If you come up with an awesome marinate, please let us know too!!)

The first time I tried to cook chicken strips with a marinade, I was blown away by how different it was. The chicken was incredibly moist, the pole opposite of when I tried to cook them bare!

It also helps with cooking times, as you can give yourself a little more margin of error. With the barrier of the marinade, it doesn’t matter so much if you go a little over on the cooking time (just don’t go under!).

The only thing some people may not like about this method is that the marinated food doesn’t really come out crispy. I don’t personally mind this, I would much rather have something moist. Each to their own, I suppose!

2. Let there be oil misters!!

The marinating method described above has worked great for me, and it has become a staple of my air fryer cooking style! However, like I said earlier, some people won’t like the fact that the food doesn’t come out crispy. 

There is another method that can be used to give your food more of a golden crisp to it, and not fall into the realms of “dry like cardboard”. This is the “spray with oil method!!”

It is as simple as it sounds. Any food that you want to have more of a golden crisp too it (and not dried out), simply use a spray bottle to lightly dust your food with oil. For me, I usually just use olive oil, as it is the oil I commonly have available. 

If you ask most air fryer geeks what their favourite air fryer accessory is, they would probably say their oil sprayer! And this is why. I have seen so many disappointed new owners of air fryers that turned into raving enthusiasts as soon as they discovered the wonders of spraying their air fried food with oil! (you will be one of those soon!)

Before you have a chance to buy an oil sprayer or mister, you could just dip your food in oil before cooking (I would use olive oil for this, in case you accidentally add too much!). However, with both methods, I would be careful not to add too much oil. As this might cause your air fryer to start puffing white smoke, as described in my earlier article HERE!

Will this method give you food with the golden brown crispiness you get from a regular deep fat oil fryer? No, it won’t! But, for me, I find this level of golden crispness is perfectly good enough and something I quickly got used to. Maybe die hard oil fryer fans won’t like it, but everyone else should be fine!

Another thing to warn you against with this method is when cooking pre-made frozen food, such as frozen chips, french fries or onion rings. I often find that these products already have some kind of oil in them, to make them crisp up in the oven. This is one of the rare cases when I would not spray the food with oil and it still comes out great. 

If you look at the ingredients list of the food you want to cook, it should be clear whether it contains oil or not. Otherwise, just experiment!

An oil mister should be an easy thing to find. Just be careful to buy one that is specifically designed for oil. Most oil is quite thick in consistency, and will need a fairly beefy spray mechanism to give a good spraying result. A quick look on Amazon should help you find something with all the features and the look you need. To check out the one Air Fryer Bro currently recommends, simply go to our recommended products page.

You may think this particular one is a little on the pricey side, but for me I would rather pay a bit more and get something more long lasting. I learned the hard way, however, as at first I bought an oil sprayer/mister that was about half the price of the one above.

Very quickly, it struggled to spray the oil, resulting in severe dripping and very little spraying. Eventually, the spray mechanism actually broke, and that was that. As I said earlier, oil is quite a dense thing to spray, and thus needs a higher quality spraying mechanism to get the best results. Certainly if you want it to last more than a few months!!

That’s all folks!

Thank you for reading another article from Air Fryer Bro. I hope I can help at least a few new air fryer adopters to get the best out of their new purchase. 

As I said in the “about me” section of this website, I was so crazily excited about air fryers that I joined some Facebook groups to learn more and share air fryer ideas. After being in those groups a while, this complaint of dried out food is one that I still see on a regular basis!

This is how I make sure my air fried food is not dry, but I am certainly not saying this is the only way. If you are an air fryer expert yourself, and have some words of wisdom, I would love to hear all about it in the comments section below. I will try to add any new ideas to this article as we go along.

If you have tried my methods above, I would also love to hear about your experience too. Were you satisfied with the results, or did you still feel your food was dry?

As you can see from the fact I joined Facebook groups, I love finding out new things and learning from others’ experiences, when it comes to air fryers!! My air fryer is not shiny anymore, but my enthusiasm for it certainly is! And still going strong!

Air Fryer Bro, over and out!!

2 thoughts on “Why is your air fryer food too dry?”

  1. Thanks. I will use the spray oil. I followed the recipe with the air fryer for onion rings. They were like cardboard and uneatable.


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