Air fryers are a fantastic kitchen gadget that has been on the market for decades.
But one question many people have has been, “Can you use an air fryer without the tray?”
The food you’re making may be too big or you may have specific things you need to add into your food that simply won’t fit the air fryer so removing the tray might be a viable option for you.
Here’s what you need to know.
Can you use an air fryer without the tray?
The answer is yes! You don’t have to use the tray when cooking from your air fryer. However, the tray allows you to make your food crisper, more evenly cooked, and even suspends food in the air so that oils and fats can drip to the bottom basket.
It doesn’t just end there. When removing the tray or deciding that you don’t need it, there’s a lot of different things you need to know and how to proceed in cooking without a tray, the proper way.
What happens when you use an air fryer without a tray?
The reason for using a tray has to do a lot with air circulation. Without one, you might not get the crispy results you were hoping for. That’s why sometimes, these trays are sometimes referred to as crisper plates. This isn’t to be confused with racks. Although, racks provide a main different function. Fortunately, They make the food crispier.
This also allows your food to be more evenly cooked throughout. These trays have gaps where much of the bottom of the food would be left exposed to the hot air.
Also, these trays or crisper plates suspend your food above the air a few inches. So when fats and oils start to drip downward, it falls off the bottom of the food and into the basket below. This is how it advertises its motto, “cutting the fat out”.
When would you want to use an air fryer without the tray?
You can’t find the tray anymore
The most common reason for not using a tray in your air fryer would probably fall to misplacing your tray. However, you can still place a heat-safe plate underneath your food.
Or you can just not put anything underneath at all. You can place the food directly in the basket. The basket has a nonstick coating and it’s recommended that you gently wash your basket after every use.
Keep in mind, that if you place your food on anything other than a rack, tray, or crisper plate, you’ll lose all the benefits of the extra crispiness, the even cooking, and the fat cutting features.
When air frying large amounts of food
Sometimes, you’ll have a larger than normal group of people to feed and the current air fryer just isn’t big enough. If your food doesn’t require extra benefits of being really crispy, you don’t mind turning the food over, or giving the basket a shake every once in a while, then removing the tray might be a good solution.
Keep in mind that we do recommend getting yourself a liner. It’s a heat-resistant pad that covers and protects the bottom basket from making contact with the food directly. Sure you can place your food directly on the basket, but keep in mind, the basket is coated with a non-stick layer that you want to keep from damage for as long as possible. It makes cleaning food, oil, and grease a lot easier.
Some foods simply don’t require a tray. Take for example, if you happen to want to air fry mash potatoes. Put your mash potatoes into a heat-safe plate or bowl and place it into the air fryer basket with a heat-resistant liner between the bowl and the basket. Again, this protects the basket’s outer coating from damage. You don’t need a tray for this since you’re not expecting to make all sides of the mashed potatoes crispy and you’re not trying to “cut the fat” and let it drop to the bottom basket.
When cooking certain foods that require additional utensils and kitchenware
Again, if the food comes in a bowl or maybe you’re baking something in a particular shape like a cake or cupcake, it may not fit and may not matter if you use a tray or not.
You can use ceramic, steel, glass, and even silicone molds when it comes to additional utensils and cookware.
Again, make sure to place a liner between the food and basket to protect your basket’s non-stick coating.
Do all air fryers come with trays?
When purchasing a brand new air fryer, you’ll almost surely get the tray, crisper plate, or maybe a single rack that comes with it.
We recommend always looking at what comes in the box when purchasing an air fryer so that you don’t have to go out and try to find one that fits. The more accessories that are included in the box, the more complete your set will be, and the more ready you are to prepare practically every possible meal.
One reason why manufacturers will provide this in the box is that you can’t simply just buy one from the stores. There is no standard air fryer-sized trays. Every air fryer is made differently and that includes the size, capacity, and dimensions.
What are some air fryer tray alternatives?
Racks usually are made so that you can cook food on top of other food. Whether it be to separate different types of food, like vegetables and meat, or just to a way to evenly space your food out more, racks can help increase the cooking surface area of your food. This also helps with the crispiness and allows for the fat to drip to the bottom. Just keep in mind though that the fats and oils that drip from the top of the rack also end up dripping on top of the lower level rack.
Using a rack, either 1 or more, can be a great alternative to a traditional tray.
Liners are simply there for the protection of whatever it’s placed on top of. We always recommend going for liners made of silicone.
Tips on how to use an air fryer without a tray
Ensure you are giving your air fryer proper airflow
Your tray also does one other thing we’ve not yet mentioned. It lifts up the food creating this Gap underneath that allows air to properly circulate throughout the entire chamber. Without this cap, without this tray, it’s likely that your food will block the ordinary path of circulation. Try not to put too much food into the basket, the last food you put in the better it promotes circulation of the air.
Large portioned foods
If you’re thinking about cooking one big chunk of meat, why not cut it into several sections? Again this has a lot to do with air circulation. Cutting your meat into different sections can allow the air to circulate in between these sections. Just make sure to separate them and don’t let them touch.
Frequently use a thermometer to check the temperature of your food
We’ve always recommended our readers get a food thermometer. It’s important to know the external as well as internal temperatures of your food. Understanding the right temperature that your food needs to be in can help you avoid food poisoning, and help promote a delicious meal.
If you are going to air fry your food without a tray, you’re going to need this air fryer thermometer more than ever to avoid any complications.
Elements of an air fryer
These egg-shaped air fryers almost always come with a basket. The basket is basically the outer container that is exposed to the environment of the air fryer. These baskets are usually made of heat-resistant plastic, ceramic, or steel. The inside of these baskets is protected by a non-stick coating in case users want to cook directly on the basket. The non-stick coating also allows for easy cleaning of food and oils that drip to the bottom of the basket.
The tray, sometimes known as the crisper plate, is the part that food usually sits on top of. It goes between the food and the basket. This trade usually has a bunch of dimples in it, or gaps that allow the hot air that circulating throughout the chamber to make contact with the bottom portion of the food. This is where you get your all-around crispy texture.
These crisper plates suspend food several inches above the basket allowing fats and oils to drip down into the basket.
A rack also provides that crispy texture that we all know and love from an air fryer. That’s because racks usually are made out of grills and they expose the majority of the food’s bottom area to hot air. The other major functions of using a rack are that you can stack a rack on top of another rack creating multiple levels where you can place your food.
Where can you buy an air fryer tray?
The best place to find a tray replacement is to look up the website of the manufacturer. Many times they will have replacement parts that you can purchase that will fit your air fryer perfectly. Keep in mind, however, that it does come with a premium price and that sometimes it’s just more economical to purchase a whole new unit.
We don’t necessarily recommend going to Amazon and searching for one that potentially fits your air fryer Unless you are very confident in the dimensions you found. However, if you do decide to go and buy a third-party tray, be sure to compare either the circumference or diameter. Into account the length and width of your basket. And look for something that measures about one and a half to 2-inch less. Also, be sure 2 take notice of the height as well.
The worst that can happen is that you purchase a tray that doesn’t fit your basket. You can always return it for a refund, however, your time is valuable and you don’t want to waste it on a few bucks.
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