What shouldn't you cook in an air fryer? (2024)

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What not to cook in an air fryer

Anything with a wet batter

Recipes that use a wet batter, including fried chicken, will end up being very messy if cooked in an air fryer. This is because there won’t be enough hot oil to set the batter, and it will likely drip everywhere rather than forming a crunchy coating. The puddle of batter may also burn the base of your air fryer basket.

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What shouldn't you cook in an air fryer? (1)

You can, however, cook air-fried chicken with a dry coating, using a flour mixture and any seasoning you like. “I like to add garlic granules, smoked paprika and celery salt to the flour mixture,” says Good Food's Ailsa Burt.

“I’d then pair it with some buffalo sauce drizzled over the top and a crunchy, fresh romaine lettuce salad. To make sure the chicken stays perfectly crispy, serve immediately.”

Our crisp chicken bites recipe also works well. Fried foods that have been frozen can be air fried, too, as the wet batter sets during the freezing process.

Anything with a sauce

Hearty dishes including stew, chilli con carne or bolognese are midweek favourites, but Good Food’s food copy editor Samuel Goldsmith advises against using an air fryer to cook them. As the hot circulates inside the air fryer, this can cause hot liquids to splatter, which can be dangerous and messy.

Slow cookers are better for sauce-based recipes – they’re usually low maintenance and very efficient to run, which is ideal for keeping energy bills down during the cost of living crisis.

Popcorn

This popular cinema snack won’t cook well in an air fryer, either, as most models won’t reach the required temperature to pop the kernels. Popcorn kernels can also become lodged within the air fryer’s heating element, which may cause the appliance to short – creating a fire hazard.

What shouldn't you cook in an air fryer? (2)

The good news is, it’s very easy to make your own popcorn by cooking on a hob or in a microwave. Try our recipes for sweet popcorn or toffee popcorn.

For an alternative air-fried movie snack, try making DIY tortilla chips. Ailsa Burt recommends “cutting a few tortillas into eight wedges, then toss with a little oil, salt and pepper, and air fry until crispy”. Then add whichever dips you like.

Broccoli

Some vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, are good at retaining moisture, so crisp up well in an air fryer. Broccoli, however, can dry out and become chewy and bitter.

Roasting is usually a better way to get crunchy, crispy broccoli florets, which you can do in an oven or an air fryer that has an oven extension.

Try our roasted broccoli, puy lentils and tahini yogurt recipe and cook for 30 minutes. You could also use a steamer to get delicious, crunchy broccoli.

Pasta

It is possible to cook pasta in an air fryer, and “pasta bakes that just need the baking part should be fine”, says Ailsa Burt. “But I wouldn’t use an air fryer to cook pasta dishes with lots of sauce.”

What shouldn't you cook in an air fryer? (3)

For the best al dente pasta, cook in a saucepan of boiling water and add a drizzle of oil to stop the strands sticking together. Find further tips with our guide on how to cook pasta.

Rice

Like pasta, raw grains need to be boiled in water to cook, and while it's fine to add a few drops of water to your air fryer basket, these gadgets aren't built for boiling or steaming foods.

If you want to add a crispy finish to rice, Samuel Goldsmith suggests cooking on a hob first before adding it to the air fryer afterwards for a few minutes. Rice cookers also produce excellent fluffy rice – read our guide to the best rice cookers.

Hard-boiled eggs

While you can use an air fryer to make hard-boiled eggs, their texture can be chewy and rubbery – and there are certainly other ways of producing better results. Learn tips and easy techniques with our guide on how to make hard-boiled eggs.

If you’re still keen to give it a go, however, Ailsa Burt advises cooking medium-sized eggs straight from the fridge at 125C for 10 minutes.

Toast

Toast is best avoided, too, says Good Food's cookery assistant Helena Busiakiewicz. "If you put bread in an air fryer, it will just move around and not really cook properly. For the best results, I'd always stick to a toaster." See our pick of the best toasters as tested by the Good Food team.

Air frying: the basics

New to air frying? Ailsa Burt shares her top air frying tips to help you get started.

1. Don't overfill

"Be careful not to overfill your air fryer basket," says Ailsa. "This can result in uneven cooking and can leave you with soggy food at the bottom. If you want to cook larger portions, look for an air fryer with a bigger capacity."

2. Distribute ingredients evenly

"Try to keep the food in an even layer, as this will ensure the heat circulates and makes the food crispy. If you need to, give the food a shake halfway through cooking."

3. Be wary of the heating element

"Make sure nothing gets too close to the heating element, as this can easily burn or be a safety hazard," she adds.

Which air fryer to buy

Air fryers are sold at a range of price points, from simple appliances to high-tech gadgets with extra accessories and functions.

Read our guide to the best air fryers to discover which models came up on top in our tests.

If you're looking to upgrade your kitchen kit, here are some of our tried, tested and top-rated favourite air fryers.

Air fryer recipes

Air fryer chicken thighs
Air fryer doughnuts
Air fryer salmon
Air fryer sweet potato fries
Air fryer bacon
Air fryer sausages
Air fried chips
Air fried roast potatoes

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And if you haven't already got an air fryer and are wondering which one to buy, take a look at our pick of the best air fryers.

What shouldn't you cook in an air fryer? (2024)

FAQs

What shouldn't you cook in an air fryer? ›

It is safe to cook raw meat in the air fryer if it is fully defrosted, seasoned, and monitored. Some fully cooked foods, including chicken tenders or fries, can be placed frozen in the air fryer. However, with raw meat, it's recommended to thoroughly defrost to allow more even cooking and a tasty final product.

Can you put raw meat in an airfryer? ›

It is safe to cook raw meat in the air fryer if it is fully defrosted, seasoned, and monitored. Some fully cooked foods, including chicken tenders or fries, can be placed frozen in the air fryer. However, with raw meat, it's recommended to thoroughly defrost to allow more even cooking and a tasty final product.

What is the downside of air fryers? ›

What are Disadvantages of Using an Air Fryer? Air fryers vary in the amount of foods they can hold, but usually do not have a large capacity. Air fryers may not be convenient when cooking for large groups.

What do I wish I knew before I get an air fryer? ›

6 things I wish I'd known before I bought an air fryer
  • Air fryers do not fry. Deep fried foods: not like air fried ones. ...
  • The air fryer parts you use most are easy to clean but the outer parts… not so much. ...
  • There's a war going on in the air fryer community! ...
  • Air fryers can be quite large.

What material can you not put in an air fryer? ›

Avoid using plastic or paper containers, as they can't handle high heat and might release toxic chemicals. Water, wet food, heavy sauces, and stews are also a no-go. What type of container can I put in an air fryer? You're safe with oven-proof materials like glass, ceramic, silicone, and metal.

What cannot be cooked in an air fryer? ›

7 Foods You Should Never Cook In Your Air Fryer
  1. Wet Batters. Those beer-battered onion rings, fries, fish cutlets, plus tempura veggies and more are not well suited for a crisp in the air fryer. ...
  2. Cheesy Items. ...
  3. Large, Bone-In Meat Cuts. ...
  4. Baked Goods. ...
  5. Greens. ...
  6. Raw Rice and Other Grains. ...
  7. Too Much of Anything.
Apr 14, 2023

Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer? ›

Foil is safe to use in an air fryer so long as you follow three basic rules: never let foil touch the heating element; make sure the foil is weighted so it doesn't blow around the basket; and avoid contact with acidic ingredients, which can cause the foil to leach onto your food.

Why are people against air fryers? ›

The two biggest concerns are potential carcinogens called acrylamides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are created in the process of cooking.

What is the downfall of air fryers? ›

Cons of Air Fryer

These include stews, rice and pasta, batter and more. This means that Air Fryers are not completely versatile and cannot cook as many things as a traditional oven. If you're feeding a large family, you may find that the Air Fryer's capacity just won't do.

What is the real truth about air fryers? ›

They're not deep fryers. Air fryers work by circulating very hot air around your food, and that heat penetrates the food, achieving crispiness without a lot of—or any—oil. If it sounds kind of like an oven, you're not wrong: air fryers are essentially convection ovens.

What to avoid when buying an air fryer? ›

Air fryer buying mistakes
  1. Going too big or too small. (Image credit: Cosori) ...
  2. Not prioritizing ease of use. (Image credit: Instant) ...
  3. Disregarding cleaning and maintenance. (Image credit: Ninja) ...
  4. Overlooking multifunctionality. (Image credit: Getty Images) ...
  5. Ignoring wattage and power. (Image credit: VonHaus)
Nov 23, 2023

What is the best first thing to cook in an air fryer? ›

Brussels sprouts are the best place to start your air-fried vegetable journey. They crisp up beautifully and take no time at all. If you're making these for a crowd, we suggest frying them up in batches as overcrowding the basket can lead to soggy results.

Why I don t use air fryer? ›

I find the texture of most air-fried food a bit off-putting

Air fryers are advertised as a healthier cooking option, mostly because they don't require a lot of oil. But fat has a big impact on the texture of foods. I've found that the appliance typically produces dishes that are more dry than crisp.

Is there a negative to using air fryer? ›

Studies show that using an air fryer can increase the levels of cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) in fish. COPs are linked to an increase in heart disease, cancer and other medical conditions.

Why shouldn't you cook hamburgers in an air fryer? ›

Though it takes a fairly short amount of time for an air fryer to cook the inside of meat to medium-rare, the outside of the burger won't brown as quickly. If you like your meat red and juicy, an air fryer won't give it the char that balances it out.

Can I put paper towels in an air fryer? ›

Airflow is essential to the machine, so while a paper towel is useful for cleaning, it should not be used while cooking food in the air fryer. It can restrict the airflow of the machine and even catch fire. It's important to remember that the air inside the air fryer can get very hot.

Can meat be seared in an air fryer? ›

Perfectly pan-seared steak is undeniably delicious, but it takes practice to get it right every time. Cooking steak in the oven is easier, but it'll never achieve that crisp, seared exterior you're looking for. Enter: air fryer steak. Air frying combines the ease of baking with all the flavor of pan-searing.

Is air frying meat safe? ›

An air fryer is a healthier option than deep frying foods and can be an inventive way to fry not only meats and potatoes but other nutritious foods such as broccoli, yams, tofu, or eggs. Compared with deep-frying, using an air fryer can reduce the amount of fat, calories, and potentially harmful compounds in your food.

Is it safe to put raw chicken in an air fryer? ›

Absolutely. You can cook frozen chicken in the air fryer without thawing it. Just season the chicken with oil and herbs and put it in the air fryer. You can check if it is cooked using an instant-read thermometer.

Can you stack raw meat in an air fryer? ›

We tried stacking and cooking chicken breasts in the air fryer just to make sure, even shaking the basket every few minutes and moving the breasts around with tongs. The chicken breasts stuck together and ended up unevenly cooked, soggy and practically inedible.

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