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7 Things You Shouldn’t Cook in an Air Fryer

No, you can't cook everything in an air fryer.

<p>Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images</p>

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

Fact checked by Marcus ReevesMedically reviewed by Kristy Del Coro, MS, RDN, LDN

There’s no small appliance that’s more popular than the air fryer right now. These countertop cookers make life so much easier, allowing you to skip the oven and even “set it and forget it” for some dishes. Best of all, air fryers can be easier to clean than a stove or oven.

Because air fryers are useful for cooking a variety of foods—such as chicken, steak, and even doughnuts—many of us are under the impression there isn’t anything you can’t cook in them. While this is technically true, it doesn’t mean that everything you try to cook in an air fryer will turn out its best or that you won’t potentially risk ruining your treasured air fryer if you use it to make certain dishes.


Here are the foods you should avoid cooking in an air fryer, according to Laurie Klein, chef and consumer test kitchen specialist at Hamilton Beach Brands.

Related: 20 Air Fryer Recipes Almost Too Quick-and-Easy to Be True

Anything Breaded or Battered

<p>Songsak rohprasit/ Getty Images</p>

Songsak rohprasit/ Getty Images

“Air fryers are magical ovens that can cook just about anything. However, it's best to leave anything wet-breaded to other small kitchen appliances that are more suited to the unique cooking needs [of breaded foods],” Klein explains. The problem with cooking breaded foods like shrimp tempura or beer-battered fish in the air fryer is the risk of dripping, which can complicate cleanup or potentially damage your machine.

Leafy Veggies

<p>Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty Images</p>

Basak Gurbuz Derman / Getty Images

It’s important to eat your veggies, and while there are many ways to cook them—the air fryer isn’t a good choice for leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, and kale. This is because the speed of the air causes them to heat unevenly. The one exception to this rule is that air fryers are great for making veggie chips from these types of vegetables.

On the other hand, vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini taste delicious when cooked in an air fryer.

Saucy Foods

<p>Rien Janssen / Getty Iamges</p>

Rien Janssen / Getty Iamges

Thinking about putting heavily-coated chicken wings or perhaps a steak dripping in marinade in the air fryer? Klein suggests thinking again. “The worst foods for air frying have sauces or batters," the chef says. The problem isn’t the cooking so much as the cleanup. Air fryer baskets have holes in the bottom or wire mesh for air circulation. Sauces fall through the openings and cause a messy disaster to have to clean up,” Klein explains.

Related: Air Fryer vs. Toaster Oven: Which Is Right for You?

Cheesy Foods

<p>LauriPatterson / Getty Images</p>

LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Cheesy foods like grilled cheese, mac and cheese, or potatoes au gratin are also a no. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule: Frozen foods that have already been fried, such as mozzarella sticks, can be re-heated in the air fryer.

Pro Tip

Even if you aren’t using your air fryer to cook any of the foods listed above, you still need to be mindful of how you use your machine. Klein tells me, “For the best results, no matter what the food, be sure to arrange in a single, even layer. Piling certain foods, like fish and hand-breaded items, in the air fry basket will increase cooking time and reduce the crisping of food.”

Large, Bone-In Meat Cuts

<p>carlosgaw / Getty Images</p>

carlosgaw / Getty Images

Even if you can fit large, bone-in foods in your air fryer, such as a whole chicken, using the appliance to cook those items isn’t a good idea. Why? Given the size of a whole bird, there’s no way air will be able to circulate properly and thoroughly cook the chicken, likely leaving you with an unevenly cooked final product that won’t have a crispy skin and juicy interior. Instead of cooking your chicken in an air fryer, go ahead and roast it in the oven for the best results. If you’d like to cook chicken in the air fryer, opt for smaller parts like wings and tenders.

Uncooked Grains

<p>BURCU ATALAY TANKUT / Getty Images</p>


Using the air fryer with grains that are already cooked is no problem, but steer clear of firing up the appliance for uncooked grains, including rice, quinoa, and pasta. Air fryers are designed to cook dry foods, and rice and other grains need to be cooked in water. Even with an insert that can hold water, the air fryer likely won’t get hot enough for the water to boil and cook the grains, resulting in a mushy mess. When it comes to grains, use the air fryer to reheat them instead of cooking them from raw, and cook them on the stove (or in a rice cooker) instead.

Related: We Know Whole Grains Are Good for You, but These 11 Are the Healthiest


<p>fcafotodigital / Getty Images</p>

fcafotodigital / Getty Images

Hamburgers are beloved, in part, for their charred exterior and juicy interior. While an air fryer can technically take a burger patty from raw to cooked, the exterior won’t brown as quickly as it would on, say, a grill, which means medium-rare (and even medium) burgers are out of the question. You also won’t get that irresistible char. If you don’t mind a burger that’s very well done, the air fryer can get the job done, but we all know there are better ways to make a burger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you cook raw meat in an air fryer?

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to cook raw meat in the air fryer. However, any raw meat you cook in the appliance should be fully defrosted first, and even then it still requires some extra attention. Since air fryers don’t typically get as hot as a standard oven, the meat will take longer to cook. You’ll also need to keep a close eye on it as it cooks, and should have a meat thermometer handy to ensure that the meat reaches the minimum internal temperature once it’s done.

Can you use aluminum foil in an air fryer?

Yes, you can use aluminum foil in the air fryer, but there are a few rules to keep in mind for your safety. For starters, it’s imperative that the foil doesn’t come in contact with the heating element of the air fryer, which can cause a fire. Additionally, any foil you use should be weighted down with food so it won’t blow around the basket and potentially catch fire. Lastly, as is the case whenever you use aluminum foil, be careful with acidic foods. If acidic ingredients come into contact with aluminum foil, the foil can break down and leak aluminum into your food.

Where should air fryers not be placed in the kitchen?

When using your air fryer, make sure the appliance has plenty of space on either side, and behind as well. Refrain from using your air fryer under a low cabinet, too close to a wall or other appliances, on a surface that isn’t heat-resistant, and on or near anything that’s flammable. Using it in any of the aforementioned locations increases the chance of a fire, which you obviously don’t want. Instead, use your air fryer on a clean kitchen counter, with plenty of space on all four sides. 

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