Here’s What the Buttons on Your Air Fryer Actually Mean

Use our helpful guide to master the air fryer's most common functions (so you can get start whipping up some tasty air fryer recipes).

Thanks to the weeknight-changing magic of air fryers, you can serve up a meal in minutes. Plus, you can cook almost everything in this gadget—from cheesy breakfast egg rolls to a plate of Nashville hot chicken. It’s basically a home cook’s dream come true. (Check out our air fryer cooking guide for everything else you need to know.)

The best reason to jump on the air fryer bandwagon is the intuitiveness of the most popular models. To help you become an air fryer pro, we’re breaking down the buttons and functions you’ll find on most of the magical ovens. Learn what is an air fryer and what it really does to your food.

▷ || Button

The “Play / Pause” button is one you’ll find on compact models like this. This important button allows you to pause cooking so you can take turn your food (e.g., chicken wings or fish fillets) to ensure it’s cooked all the way through. It also lets you shake the contents of the basket (fries or broccoli tots) to achieve maximum crispiness. Use this button to check the temperature for doneness when cooking meat or fish as well.

-/+ Button

Look for single or dual -/+ buttons to adjust time and temperature. On popular models like this Cosori Premium Air Fryer, there is a button to shift from time or temperature to adjust both. On models without an LCD screen, the -/+ buttons are replaced by knobs or dials.

Keep Warm

Many home cooks use the air fryer like a second oven, cooking up a tasty appetizer or side to go along with the entree baking away in the actual oven. This “Keep Warm” function does exactly that for a set amount of time—usually 30 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: Crispy foods can lose crunch over time on this setting, so shorten the keep-warm time or re-crisp at a higher temperature right before serving. Find more air fryer insights from our Test Kitchen.

Food Presets

You may own an air fryer with buttons for certain foods, including frozen french fries, chicken or fish. If you’re an air fryer newbie, they can certainly give you an idea of what to cook in your new machine! The presets give you the ability to cook whatever you want without second-guessing because the temperature and time are already set.

Before setting and forgetting, it’s helpful to check out your machine’s manual. Every preset is set according to a set amount of food in grams so if you have a double serving of chicken—or a smaller amount of frozen fries—you’ll need to adjust for time.

Editor’s Tip: There are also a ton of helpful tips located in the cooking table for presets.

Roast or Broil

The option to roast vegetables or brown meat in an air fryer is becoming more common with larger air fryer models like the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL. Use the Roast setting when you’re ready to place a marinated piece of meat—let’s say a beef chuck roast—into the air fryer basket. In a conventional oven, you would typically brown meat before baking. With an air fryer, you can skip that step. The constant push of super hot air creates a gorgeous, caramelized exterior on its own.

Just remember to flip the meat and/or vegetables halfway through the process. Check the interior temps to know when it’s ready to take out, too.


Dehydrating typically can be done in an air fryer, with food placed on an air fryer rack. With the Dehydrate option, you can create your own dried fruit or beef jerky right at home! This preset option cooks and dries food at a lower temperature for hours.

Next: Use this air fryer trick for perfectly golden and crispy food, every time.

Make One of Our Favorite Air Fryer Recipes
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Joann Pan
Joann Pan is a content creator based in New York City. Her work has appeared on,, The Huffington Post and more.