Does Air Fryer Dry Out Food (Meat/Chicken)?

Most of the time my food tastes like cardboard after air frying. I have seen people posting pics of juicy meat pieces after air frying.

Even after following recipes step by step, my meat never turns out juicy.

I wonder if I am doing something wrong, or if air frying dries out food. Is it all a gimmick? Will I have to toss my air fryer out? Nervous, I decided to dig deep and find details. Here is what I found.

Does the Air Fryer Dry Out Food?

Yes, the air fryers do dry out food. This is because of a very powerful blast of hot air inside the chamber of the air fryer.

It’s like cooking food under the hot air of a hair dryer.

As the hot air circulates inside, it pulls at the moisture present inside the food.

Just like how dry wind can dry out your hands and lips. The amount of dryness depends on the time duration of cooking and the amount of moisture present inside your food.

Why Is the Air Fryer Drying Out My Food?

There can be a lot of reasons for this to happen.

It could be your fault or the fault with your raw food. Let us go into detail.

You are Cooking Too Long

It could be that you are cooking for a long time. Leaving food exposed too long to hot air dries it up.

Even if you follow the recipe time to the dot, the actual cooking time depends on how stiff/tender your meat is.

The size of your Airfryer box also matters to an extent.

Another big no is cooking at low temperatures for long. Trust me, I tried it thinking the low heat would not dry out my meat.

Not only did it take a lot of time, but my meat also ended up hard and stiff like rubber.

You are Cooking Boneless and Skinless Meat

A big reason for drying up is your food becoming susceptible to losing all of its moisture content.

Boneless and skinless meat loses out all moisture and turns dry quickly. This is because skin and bones are a moisture retainer barrier for the meat.

You are Cooking the Food the Wrong Way

A third reason is that your raw food contains very little moisture that gets sucked up quickly, leaving your food dry.

Example: Cauliflower.

These florets contain very little moisture.

You need to give them an extra protection layer of an oil marinate and take care not to cook them for long.

Also read: Can You Add Water to Air Fryer? Do’s and Dont’s!

You are Reheating the Food a Lot

Reheating food is a foolproof way of drying it up.

Exposing it to hot dry air, again and again, will suck up the very last moisture droplet from the food leaving it rock-hard.

I would advise you to reheat the food in stages.

Another tip would be to use low temperatures if all you need to do is reheat your food. As the saying goes “less is good”.

Also read: Can You Use Air Fryer to Reheat Pizza?

You are Air-Frying Food That Has Been Frozen for a Long Time

I was all ears while researching this one. Not only should you not air fry such food, but you should also forfeit eating them altogether.

According to the FDA, you should not store meat and seafood in the freezer for more than six to twelve months. Ground meat stays good only for three to four months.

Food left in the freezer for a long time goes into a state called freezer burn.

The food gets sapped of all moisture content. Dried food + Dry cooking technique = Rock hard lump

Also read: How to Air Fry Frozen Onion Rings?

What Can I Do to Protect My Food From Drying-Up in the Air Fryer?

Now that you are aware of the reasons for the drying up of food, let us proceed toward prevention and correction.

Oil It Up

Oiling gives a protective layer to food including meat and chicken. It helps to trap moisture giving you juicy and tender results.

When air frying, use oil with a smoking point. A few examples are extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, etc.

Apart from retaining moisture, oil also gives a crisp texture to the food. 

Use any good oil spray bottle to give a good coating to your meat/food. I am attaching the link to an Amazon bestseller oil spray for air frying.

If you want to air-fry frozen food, have a look at the ingredients. If it already has oil, you don’t need to add extra oil.

Marinate the Food

Marinating helps to give moisture and flavor to the food. The marinate acts like skin and prevents the moisture particles from getting sucked up by the hot air.

Take a freezer bag and add meat, oil, and spices. Massage the meat with the marinate by rubbing the bag well.

You can also marinate food in a bowl and seal the top.

You can marinate a day earlier, overnight, or even a few minutes before air frying. I guarantee you a moist piece of meat if you marinate.

The most suitable marination would be olive oil, mixed with your choice of herbs and spices- garlic, honey, wine, chili flakes, oregano, pepper, salt, etc.

Just make sure not to add too many ingredients or you will defeat the purpose. Your food will turn dry and overcook or even burn.

Wrap the Food in Aluminum Foil

To stop the moisture from getting sucked up by the air, wrap the food in aluminum foil.

The aluminum foil allows food to get cooked while preventing loss of moisture.

It also helps to lock the flavors and aromas of food. The excess oil/fat coming out of meat pieces will remain in the foil giving a good taste to your food.

Food-grade aluminum foils are air fryer safe and can be used safely to cook food.

Also read: What Utensils Can Be Used in Air Fryer?

Brine Your Meat

Before cooking your meat in the air fryer, dip it in salt water. For brining, take one cup of warm water and add a spoonful of salt.

You can also rub the piece with vinegar and dry salt. Brining or rubbing salt helps to retain water inside the meat as it cooks.

Just remember not to brine for a long time or your meat will turn extra salty. An hour is more than enough.

After taking the meat out from the brine solution, rinse and pat dry. Don’t forget to spritz some oil before air frying.

Use Moderate Temperature Settings

To prevent drying out, avoid using high temperatures and low temperatures. Use a medium temperature range.

Exposing meat to low temperatures will delay the cooking. Similarly, high temperatures will cause the food to undercook inside and turn hard on the outside.

A moderate temperature for meat would be 350-380° F for 18-20 mins.

Two Tips to Help You Get the Meat Moist While Air Frying

  1. Use a thermometer to find out if the meat is done. This will prevent overcooking and drying out of your meat. Example: For chicken, the internal temperature needs to be 165F.
  2. Preheat your Air Fryer for 3-4 minutes at default temperature. Placing your food in a hot basket will quicken the cooking process.

Final Words

I hope all the methods above have excited you to try them out. As humans, we unlearn what doesn’t work and acquire wisdom by learning what does work.

Marinate your food well or spray it with oil. You can also use aluminum foil to keep the food moist.

It is best to rub a little salt or brine your meat for an hour before air frying. Preheat your air fryer and use moderate temperatures to cook food.

Keep your enthusiasm strong and feed your soul with moist and crisp food. Cheers!

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