Cooking is essential housework now, with many restaurants still closed and extra mouths to feed parked at the table for all three meals. I don’t know about y’all, but frozen food was the first thing that was cleaned out of my local grocery store as I slowly stocked up back in late February. For the past month, the much-beloved tater tots, hash browns, and bagged fries I enjoy cooking in the air fryer have been fully sold out.
I would imagine that air fryers are seeing a boost as people across the world hunker down for our collective forced downtime. My theory is based on this simple truth: that these devices cook your food faster and render it crispier—two things we need when the world feels like it’s ending. Luckily, you don’t need to hit the frozen aisle to achieve potato excellence in the air fryer. Plain potatoes actually shine here, and before I owned my little R2-D2 air oven, “regular” potatoes were what I reached for, and the shops are full of ‘em.
Baked, roasted, and fried friends all come out crispy and delectable and, as I keep repeating—my excitement growing like the ShamWow guy—it happens in way less time than a typical oven, letting you time your meals perfectly.
Keep “roasted” potatoes uniform
The key to zapping raw potatoes in the air fryer is to use uniform cuts. While oddly chunked-up roasties do fine in uneven ovens—some get absolutely singed while others are nice and mushy—you can achieve almost uniform browning in the air fryer. Use it to your advantage!
Cubed or thinly sliced, most shapes do well here, even shoestring cuts, but the main concern when going from raw to crispy is too much steam, which will definitely occur if you overcrowd the basket. No matter what cut you use, make sure there is some space for evaporating moisture to dissipate. Steam buildup will make things floppy.
Try tossing russets with a tablespoon of neutral oil and simple salt and pepper, but hang onto the bowl in case you need to apply more oil later. Too much oil will just end up in the bottom of the basket, and applying cooking oil before the potatoes go into the basket prevents this. I love doing one russet’s-worth of one-inch chunks—a large potato fills up the basket of my fryer perfectly.
Run a cycle for 10 minutes at 200°C, then shake the basket or toss the potatoes with tongs before running again. They shouldn’t be dripping in oil, but if you think they look too dry you can toss them again with the residual oil in the bowl you saved. Cook for another five minutes at a time, shaking or turning until they’re crisped to your preference.
Mist potato pancakes with oil
For shredded potatoes, the air fryer may seem not ideal, but when held together with eggs and other binders, you can make one tasty potato pancake. This is where oil sprays will be your biggest helper. Spray the basket with cooking spray or oil before adding your formed latkes, then mist the pancakes with oil as well. A 12-14 minute cycle at 180°C should do the trick, but you may want to spray them again halfway through so they have the same savoury, oily crunch as fried latkes.
Some models will need to have the fan turned down for shredded or small cut potatoes, as the fan may blow your food around. And little potato bits can get stuck in the fan component, so exercise caution.
Par-bake for super crunchy spuds
One way to avoid cook-time confusion is by starting your potato projects with par-baked or fully baked potatoes. Pre-baking a stiff, starchy russet in your air fryer means you can slice and dice the already cooked potato, then return it to the fryer for a few more minutes to crisp up with a quick slick of oil. Taters cooked this way come out as crunchy as anything you’ve deep-fried. If you want to eat fresh, hot, cronchy potatoes throughout the week, you can par-bake a big batch, then air fry at your leisure.
To par-bake, clean three medium-sized spuds and stab them with a fork a few times on each side. Air fry at 200°C for 20-25 minutes for par cooked potatoes, and 30-35 for fully baked, depending on your model. (My regular oven takes about an hour to get them all the way done, so this is a summer survival tactic when I don’t want to heat up my living space with an oven blast.)
Take these cooked babies and store them in a sealed container in the fridge, then experiment to your heart’s content. This is a killer move for small households—one potato easily serves two—and you can change the cut and seasoning each day to keep things interesting. Have turmeric lemon wedges one day, try some cumin and chilli with peppers and onions for the next day’s second breakfast, then chunk one up and brush with it melted butter, perhaps using a rosemary sprig as the brush if you really want to make it fancy. The air fryer crisps the skin and outer surface of each without burning any butter or cooking oil in just five minutes, resulting in restaurant-quality patatas.
This article has been updated since its original publication.