Air frying has become my go-to cooking method for making quick, delicious meals at home. But lately, I’ve been wondering – can you use water instead of oil to steam food in an air fryer?
After doing some experiments in my own kitchen, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about this unconventional air fryer technique.
- 1 Understanding How Air Fryers Work
- 2 The Idea Behind Using Water to Steam
- 3 Yes, You Can Use Water in an Air Fryer for Steaming!
- 4 Benefits of Steaming in an Air Fryer
- 5 Step-by-Step Guide to Steaming in an Air Fryer
- 6 Air Fryer Steaming Tips and Tricks
- 7 Delicious Air Fryer Steamed Recipes to Try
- 8 Important Safety Tips for Air Fryer Steaming
- 9 Water vs. Oil for Air Frying – The Difference
- 10 Get Steaming in Air Fryer!
Understanding How Air Fryers Work
For those unfamiliar, air fryers are small countertop appliances that use super hot air to cook food. The high heat quickly crisps up the food’s exterior to get it hot and browned while keeping the interior moist.
Traditionally, air fryers call for adding a small amount of oil to food for even browning and crisping.
Air fryers have soared in popularity due to their ability to cook food that tastes fried without all the oil required for deep frying.
Who doesn’t love crispy french fries and chicken wings without all that added fat and calories? I know I love the ease and versatility of my air fryer for cooking all kinds of dishes.
Read Also: Can You Stack Chicken In An Air Fryer?
The Idea Behind Using Water to Steam
While air fryers are designed to work by rapidly circulating hot air, some users have experimented with adding a small amount of water to the cooking basket instead of oil.
Adding a bit of water to your food creates steam during cooking. This steam essentially “fries” the exterior of the food, resulting in a crispy outside similar to air frying.
Intrigued by this concept, I decided to test out using my air fryer for steaming. Could I use water to make steamed yet crispy foods in my air fryer? Time to find out!
Yes, You Can Use Water in an Air Fryer for Steaming!
The answer is yes – you absolutely can put water in an air fryer instead of oil to effectively steam foods.
I was able to steam vegetables, seafood, and more to perfection using just a spoonful or two of water at the bottom of my air fryer basket. The results were fantastic!
While air fryers are not designed specifically for steaming like standalone steamers, they do an excellent job of quickly cooking food through vapour when a small amount of water is added.
The rapid air circulation and heating allow steaming to occur fast.
Read Also: Can Metal be Safely Used in an Air Fryer?
Benefits of Steaming in an Air Fryer
I found several benefits to steaming in my air fryer versus traditional steaming methods:
- Much faster cooking times thanks to rapid air circulation
- Crisp exterior while retaining lots of moisture
- Intense heat results in great caramelization and flavour
- No need to preheat a separate steamer appliance
- Allows for steaming and air frying in one device
- Retains more nutrients than boiling or other cooking methods
Steaming in the air fryer made preparing healthy meals like steamed vegetables, fish, and chicken faster and tastier than ever.
Step-by-Step Guide to Steaming in an Air Fryer
Here is a simple process for steaming food in an air fryer:
- Add 1-3 tbsp water to the bottom of the air fryer basket.
- Place food either directly over top of water or in a perforated basket.
- Set the temperature to 375F and cook time based on food size.
- Check food halfway through cooking time and add more water if needed.
- Cook until food is tender and the exterior is crisped.
Be very careful not to pour in too much water, as this can damage the appliance. Start with minimal water and add more as needed.
Air Fryer Steaming Tips and Tricks
Based on my testing, here are some useful tips:
- Use shallow, wide baskets that allow steam to circulate.
- Don’t crowd the basket – give steam room to circulate.
- Brush or mist vegetables and proteins with oil for added browning.
- Flip or toss food midway through cooking for even results.
- Add herbs and spices to the water for infused flavours.
Recommended Cooking Times
- Vegetables – 8-12 minutes
- Fish – 10-15 minutes
- Chicken – 15-20 minutes
- Shrimp – 4-8 minutes
Always keep an eye on food and adjust time as needed. Thinner cuts will cook faster.
Delicious Air Fryer Steamed Recipes to Try
To get you started, here are a couple of my favourite air fryer steaming recipes:
Perfect Steamed Vegetables
Toss vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or green beans with 1 tsp oil. Add 2 tbsp water to the fryer basket and place veggies directly over the top. Steam at 375F for 9-11 minutes.
Sweet and Spicy Steamed Shrimp
Marinate raw peeled shrimp in a sauce of 2 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp chilli garlic sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil. Arrange shrimp in a single layer in a fryer basket. Add 1-2 tbsp water and steam at 375F for 5-7 minutes until opaque.
Important Safety Tips for Air Fryer Steaming
While using water in an air fryer works well, there are some safety measures to keep in mind:
- Only use your air fryer if the manufacturer approves steaming.
- Don’t submerge the heating element in water.
- Use minimal water – 1-3 tablespoons max.
- Keep an eye on the appliance to prevent dry firing.
- Don’t let water get into air fryer vents or electrical parts.
As long as you take precautions, steaming in an air fryer is a safe technique. But always refer to the instruction manual for your specific appliance.
Water vs. Oil for Air Frying – The Difference
While using water for steaming produces great results, keep in mind that using oil to air fry still has some advantages:
- Oil helps food brown more evenly and deeply.
- Oil adds flavour as it cooks into the food.
- Oiled food gets an ultra-crispy exterior.
- Oil allows for cooking breaded foods.
For the crispiest, crunchiest air-fried dishes, oil is the way to go. But steaming is great for healthier, gentler cooking while still getting a nice crisp exterior.
Get Steaming in Air Fryer!
Thanks for learning all about using water to steam food in an air fryer with me today! I hope these tips give you the confidence to try out this simple trick and discover just how effectively an air fryer steams.
Let me know in the comments how it goes when you give this a try yourself. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more air fryer tips and mouthwatering recipes. Now get steaming!