I discovered this air fryer trick and it’s a game-changer for making fries

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French fries are one of the tastiest treats you can indulge in. These crisp crunchy sticks of potato, which were created in the 1780s, have become a staple at dinner times. 

Traditionally deep-fried in gallons of oil, you’re now just as likely to use one of the best air fryers, which circulate hot air around food to crisp it rather than relying on oil, to get your weekly, or daily, fix of French fries.  

Americans consume 29lb of French Fries per year, according to National Geographic. That’s almost 60% of the total amount of potatoes the US Department of Agriculture estimates Americans eat every year. So it’s not hard to see why switching to an air fryer might be better for your health.

I’ve made no secret of how I switched to an air fryer and will never go back to cooking fries in the oven again, but while the overall cooking time with an air fryer is faster, when you factor in soaking the chipped potatoes in water for at least 10 minutes and thoroughly drying them (to ensure a crisp exterior and so they don’t stick together), it can become a time-consuming process.

At present, I use a sieve to drain the chopped potatoes and leave them to air dry for five minutes, before soaking up any excess water with a dish towel, but is there a faster, more efficient way to dry the potato before air frying? What about if I used the air fryer itself? 

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Read on to discover the game-changing trick for cooking fries, or if you’ve already decided you want to invest in an air fryer, check out the best prices right now:  

How to speed up drying fries using, well, an air fryer

The best air fryers on the market today offer a range of programs with pre-defined time and temperature settings for cooking different foods, but these settings can also be customized to suit you. 

That got me thinking, would it be possible to set the air fryer to a lower temperature than needed for cooking to dry the fries for a few minutes before coating them in oil and air frying as usual? 

The Instant Vortex Plus air fryer, which currently holds the top spot in our list of best air fryers, has a Dehydrate setting that uses a maximum temperature of 132 F / 54 C, which is the lowest temperature the air fryer can drop to. 

This seemed like a sensible place to start. After selecting the program, I discovered the minimum cooking duration I could set was one hour, which was far too long. 

I decided to use the program anyway, asking Alexa on my Amazon Echo Spot to set a timer for me for five minutes. I’ll be honest, there isn’t any science behind the length of time - it just seemed like a reasonable amount of time to wait.  

After five minutes, I removed the air fryer basket, only to discover the fries were still wet - in fact, they had barely dried at all. Clearly, 132 F / 54 C was just too low to be able to remove the moisture on the exterior of the fries. So I went back to the drawing board. 

The Instant Vortex Plus also has a Reheat setting, with a suggested temperature of 210 F / 99 C. At almost double the temperature would this program fare any better at drying the fries? 

The fact that I could set a cooking duration of five minutes with this option certainly filled me with hope, so after soaking another batch of fries for ten minutes, I drained them and added them to the frying basket. 

Once the preset finished, I tentatively removed the frying basket, and I was pleasantly surprised. The fries were no longer glistening with moisture and when handling them it was clear they were in fact dry. I removed them from the frying basket, tossed them in oil, and placed them back in the air fryer ready to cook on the usual setting.

After the 20 minutes cooking time elapsed I was left with a perfect batch of fries. Crisp and evenly browned, the exterior was crunchy while the potato inside was soft and fluffy. They were so moreish that my other half nearly didn’t get any for this dinner that evening.

So drying your fries for five minutes at around 210 F / 99 C, rather than air drying them for five minutes followed by patting them dry for a further five minutes, really can speed up the preparation time without impacting the taste.  If you make fries once a week, that's 20 minutes saved a month, which equated to over four hours per year. 

Carrie-Ann Skinner

Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.