I’m a big fan of indulgent sweet treats such as cake and cookies, and none more so than the humble brownie. This chocolatey-based cake has a crisp top and a fudgy center - whether you’re looking for elevenses or an afternoon pick me up, a brownie is the perfect sweet treat.
However, baking them can be time-consuming, taking around 35 minutes to cook in the oven, and the results can be unpredictable - it’s a fine line between a squidgy center and the brownie being underbaked.
The best air fryers have a much smaller cooking cavity than a traditional oven, which means the hot air can circulate around food more rapidly, cooking it quicker than traditional methods. This also means the results tend to be more consistent - something I experienced when I made French Toast in an air fryer.
This led me to wonder if using an air fryer might have a better result, turning out brownies with a crisp shell and a squidgy center far quicker than an oven?
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Read on to discover what happened when we attempted to make brownies in an air fryer - or, if you’ve already decided you want to invest in this handy kitchen appliance, check out the best prices on the best air fryers we like right now:
Let's get baking
I’m a huge fan of a bakery in London called Konditor and Cook (opens in new tab) - it offers an array of delicious cakes and cookies, but for me, its brownies are second to none.
It offers the perfect balance of crispness and gooey, fudginess. However, as the branches of the bakery aren’t close to areas I frequent, and until recently they didn’t deliver to my home address, I don’t get a chance to enjoy the brownies as often as I’d like.
I couldn’t have been more thrilled when the recipe was published online by Hello - it meant I could enjoy these delicious brownies whenever I like. In fact, they became a staple bake for me during lockdown. So it made sense that it was this recipe I used when trying to cook brownies in an air fryer.
I mixed the ingredients into a smooth batter - do check out the recipe for a more detailed guide on how to do this - and went to fill a baking tin with it. However, while I would usually line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and add the brownie batter, it became clear this wasn’t going to be viable.
Instant, the manufacturers of the Vortex Plus air fryer we were using (and currently our top-rated air fryer) state there must be 1 inch / 2.5 cm of space around any metal or glass containers placed in the air fryer.
Due to the lip on the 8-inch square tin, I wasn’t even able to get it to fit inside the frying basket, let alone with enough space surrounding it. So instead, I opted for an 8-inch circular pan that I’ve previously used to make cinnamon rolls in an air fryer.
Some basic calculations made it clear that the pan could not hold the same quantity of batter as my usual tin, so I poured slightly over half the batter into the pan, leaving the remainder to one side for cooking up after this batch of brownies had finished.
Now there was nothing left to do other than get cooking.
When it came to the cooking temperature and duration, I thought back to when I made air fryer donuts so well, my partner thought they were from Krispy Kreme. There, I learnt through trial and error that it's best to use the same temperature as stated in the recipe, so I set the air fryer to 356 F / 180 C.
As I was using slightly less batter than usual, I opted for a cooking duration of 17 minutes, which is half the usual time I cook these brownies for. I reasoned that if the brownies weren’t ready, I could cook them for a few additional minutes, rather than have to scrap the whole batch if they were overcooked.
The easy way to tell brownies are ready? Give the pan a gentle shake, the brownie won’t wobble (if it does it's underbaked) Also look for a shiny top that’s slightly cracked.
I dialled in the temperature and duration on the Instant Vortex Plus, which saw the appliance preheat for three minutes before alerting me it had reached the required temperature. I then placed the pan of brownie batter on the crisper plate in the air fryer basket and cooking commenced.
Part way through cooking the air fryer alerted me that it’s time to turn the contents of the basket, so the hot air can reach every inch of the food to ensure a crisp finish. However, in this instance, I chose to ignore the alert, as, unlike other cakes, brownies shouldn’t be cooked all the way through: this is what creates the gooey center.
Air fryers have much smaller cooking cavities than ovens, which means the hot can circulate more rapidly around food, which is why it cooks quicker. That's why I thought it would be good for speeding up the time brownies take to cook, while still maintaining the goey, fudgy center.
Once I got to the end of the cooking time, I opened the air fryer drawer and the brownie was clearly cooked. Given the top was shiny and had a couple of cracks in it, I lifted the pan out and gave it a gentle shake - zero wobble, so as far as I was concerned the brownies were cooked to my liking (if you prefer brownies that are cakeier (ie, firmer), consider increasing the cooking duration by a few minutes).
I removed the cake pan from the frying basket and left it on the side to cool. I then transferred the brownies to the fridge for a couple of hours to ensure the fudgy center firmed up a little and didn’t create a sticky mess when being eaten.
After an agonizing wait ( they smelt so delicious), it was time to cut into the brownies. The top cracked and made a pleasing crunch as I sliced into it, and I was relieved to see the center was fudgy but not runny. A quick taste test confirmed these were as good as every batch of brownies I made in my oven. Using an air fryer really had sped up cooking time without affecting the texture.
So now I’ve proved I can get my brownie fix in almost half the cooking time it takes in usual methods, I certainly will carry on using an air fryer next time I want a chocolatey-fudgy treat to indulge in - and you should too.
- Check out these great air fryer deals