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How to Perfectly Cook Fish in an Air Fryer

Air fryers are the latest and greatest kitchen gadget. Producing crispy, crunchy faux-fried foods in less time and with less mess than a traditional deep fryer, these countertop appliances have quickly become a staple for many home cooks. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming your air fryer is only good for your standard fried foods like french fries or chicken strips. You can also cook up delicious, fresh, air fryer fish. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Easily Air Fry Fish at Home

How Does an Air Fryer Cook Fish?

Cooking fresh or frozen fish in an air fryer is almost like magic. So how does that magic happen? Air fryers work using hot air and little else. When you add food to the fryer’s suspended basket and place the basket inside the fryer, it uses a fan and a heating mechanism to blow hot air on and around your food. This air circulation gives foods a crispy exterior. 

While this process does sound similar to how a convection oven works, there are a few key differences. An air fryer circulates air much faster than an oven, in a smaller space. This makes for a more even, overall faster cook. 

Are There Any Fish You Can’t Cook in an Air Fryer?

You can cook both fresh and frozen fish filets in an air fryer. Unfortunately, you won’t want to add beer battered fish to the air fryer (or fish with any sort of batter). The liquid not only makes a mess in the bottom of your fryer, but it also doesn’t quite stick to the fish in the same way it would when deep frying. 

The good news? You don’t need to stick to putting fish in an air fryer with no breading at all. Breading is fine, so long as it’s dry and you’ve shaken off any excess before adding the fish to your fryer basket. 

Can You Cook Frozen Fish Directly in the Air Fryer?

Yes, you can! In fact, cooking frozen fish in your air fryer is extremely simple and quick. You can cook frozen fish filets in under 15 minutes, directly from frozen, without needing to wait for the filets to thaw, making for the perfect, quick weeknight meal.

How to Cook Fish in an Air Fryer (Perfectly!)

So, ready to whip up a fast, fried fish feast? Here’s how to fry fish in an air fryer.

  • Take your fish from the fridge in advance to thaw (if needed)

While, yes, we did just say you can cook frozen fish directly in your air fryer without thawing, there are some exceptions. If you plan on breading your fish or cutting your filets into specifically portioned sizes, you’ll want to let the filets thaw in advance, either in the fridge overnight or in the sink, in cold water, for an hour or two. 

  • Portion your fish filets

If you’re planning to portion your fish filets, you can do so once they’re thawed. Portioning your fish filets so that they’re all relatively the same size will help ensure even cooking for the entire batch. 

  • Preheat your air fryer

Just like an oven, you’ll want to let your air fryer get nice and toasty before adding your fish. Remove the frying basket and then preheat. We recommend preheating your air fryer to 400 degrees, which will take about 10 minutes.

  • Add your fish to the air fryer basket

While the air fryer is preheating, you can go ahead and give the basket a quick spritz with some non-stick spray. Then, add your fish to the basket, being careful not to overcrowd the filets. Place them in a single layer. Remember, you want the hot air to be able to circulate around the entirety of each filet. 

  • Air fry your fish

Once the air fryer is preheated, place the basket inside and let the filets cook. Your cooking time will vary according to the size of your filets, as well as whether or not you’re cooking with any marinades, glazes or breading. Since some marinades, glazes and breading overcook quickly, you’ll want to lower the cooking temperature and cook your fish longer when cooking with any of these. 

In the middle of the cooking process, you’ll want to flip the fish, for even cooking.

Regardless of whether or not you need to lengthen your cooking time, the process will still be quick. For example, a six-ounce cod filet can cook in as little as 12 minutes.

For full instructions and handy ingredients lists, check out this recipe for breaded air fryer fish, or this one for air fryer fish and chips

Cooking Fish in an Air Fryer

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Fish in an Air Fryer

Whatever air fryer fish recipe you use, try to avoid some of the most common issues home cooks experience when frying fish in an air fryer for the first time, such as…

  • Overcooking

Make sure to check your fish frequently so that it doesn’t overcook. Some fish can cook in as little as five minutes in an air fryer, so keep an eye on it!

  • Burning on one side

Don’t forget to flip your fish halfway through the cooking process. Otherwise, you could end up with a filet that’s burnt on one side and raw on the other.

  • Sticking

While air fryers don’t require any oil to “fry” your food, it’s still a good idea to add some non-stick spray to the fry basket or to coat your fish with a thin layer of oil to prevent sticking. You can also lay a small sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the basket. America’s Test Kitchen shows how to create an aluminum foil sling to both prevent sticking and make for easier retrieval once your food is finished cooking. 

Make Your Air-Fried Fish Even Healthier, with 100% Wild and Natural Seafood

Whether you’re cooking salmon, halibut or black cod, if you’re cooking it in your air fryer, chances are good you care about healthy eating. While an air fryer offers a healthier take on traditional frying, you can make your next air-fried seafood dinner even healthier, with high-quality wild and natural Alaskan seafood. Swap out that cheap, farmed seafood filled with contaminates, antibiotics and pesticides, and serve your family fresh-caught fish that’s the same as what you’d find in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Check our current availability here