Why Your French Fries Failed To Get An Even Crisp In The Air Fryer

An air fryer offers convenience in the world of cooking, from being a more simple and healthier alternative to deep frying to saving space as a compact kitchen appliance (via The Food Network). The New York Times notes that these handy kitchen countertop appliances are all the rage — even brands of traditional pressure cookers and ovens are adding air-fryer features. 

Influencers on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok show how the air fryer became a staple in 2022, cooking everything from chicken tenders to filet mignon and cheesecake (yes, even cheesecake) as a lower-fat alternative to cooking with oil. However, even with the easier and more convenient way of cooking with an air fryer, sometimes making something as simple as good old-fashioned crispy French fries doesn't turn out as well as we would expect. 

Perhaps it was the rushed way we put the fries in the air fryer basket or glazing over the instructions on the bag. Either way, this simple step is one you don't want to skip to ensure your fries get that classic crunchy exterior. 

The key to great air-fried French fries is cooking them in a single layer

Whether store-bought or peeled and cut from scratch, make sure to lay your fries in a single layer in the air fryer basket to get an even crisp (via H-E-B). It's fine if the fries are huddling close to each other with their sides touching, notes Kitchn. But piling them up is a no-no since the hot air from the fryer won't be able to drift among the edges of the fries if they're stacked. 

To avoid turning a molehill of fries into a soft mess, pour some of them into the basket a little at a time. Then shift the basket back and forth a few times to settle the fries. If you can fit a few more in there, add some and shake again to ensure that the heat is circulating and cooking the fries evenly, per Sweet C's Designs

While a bit tedious, this will get you the crispiest fries in up to 15 minutes, according to Kitchn — however, different-sized fries may have different cooking times. According to H-E-B, crinkle-cut fries get 12 minutes total in the air fryer. For skinnier fast-food fries, cooking for eight minutes total is ideal (versus 20 minutes in a conventional oven).