because of the 6 reasons, you can not cook the 10 things in an air fryer
The air fryer is one of the most versatile kitchen appliances. Depending on the model, it can air fry, bake, toast, roast, broil, slow cook, etc, the versatility explains why many home cooks love the air fryer.
While an air fryer supports many cooking functions, it will not cook just anything. So before you put just anything in there, it is vital to know its limitations.
Cooking some food types in an air fryer can create a mess. Others will cook unevenly, and some will end up soggy. Worst still, some can even ruin the appliance. And so, it is important to understand the limitations of your air fryer.
As an experienced home cook and air fryer enthusiast, I will explain the main 10 food that you cannot cook in an air fryer, and the most important is the 6 reasons that we will talk about later, when you got this, you won’t get confused when considering any food if it can be put in the air fryer.
Let’s start with a quick overview of how air fryers work!
- 1 How do air fryers work?
- 2 10 food you should not cook in an air fryer and why
- 3 6 reasons Why cannot just cook anything in an air fryer?
- 4 1. Limited basket capacity
- 5 2. They can pose significant health risks
- 6 3. Not everything turns out delicious
- 7 4. Air fryers can be super hard to clean
- 8 5. Top-mounted heating mechanism
- 9 6. High heat output
- 10 Other common mistakes you are making with your air fryer
- 11 So which are the best foods to cook in an air fryer?
- 12 Bottom Line
How do air fryers work?
An air fryer cooks by rapidly circulating hot air around the food. The appliance has a top-mounted heating mechanism and fan.
When you turn on the air fryer, the heating mechanism heats the air inside the air fryer. The fan then circulates the heated air around the food. The rapid movement of the hot air helps make the food crispy.
Most models will feature a perforated basket or tray. The perforations help ensure the hot air circulates faster and more evenly. Also, perforation means food is cooked from all directions. This explains why air fryers cook faster than traditional ovens.
10 food you should not cook in an air fryer and why
So what can you not cook in an air fryer? The list is quite long. Sometimes it takes trial and error to figure out what does not come out well in an air fryer. Regardless, here are 10 things you should avoid air frying.
1. Boiled foods
An air fryer cannot cook anything that requires boiling, like rice. The appliance gets hot but cannot produce enough direct heat to boil the water.
Even if you can find a container to hold water in the air fryer basket, you still cannot boil food. And so if you are making rice, it is always better to cook it in a rice cooker or instant pot and finish it in the air fryer.
The air fryer’s dry environment is unsuitable for boiled foods. Such food types require moisture to cook properly.
Solution: Use an instant pot or stovetop cooking method for boiled foods. Nonetheless, you can still use an air fryer to make your rice crispy once it cooks. Also, you can use the air fryer when making fried rice.
2. Cheesy foods
You can air fry cheese with no issues and even add it to foods when air frying. However, it is hard to make grilled cheese in an air fryer or cook a whole cheese wheel.
Attempting to cook large quantities of cheese in any air fryer can be messy. The cheese will melt on the basket and burn, creating a smoky mess in the kitchen.
Solution: Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper when making grilled cheese. Also, encasing the cheese in thick breading or a sandwich can prevent the mess.
3. Wet batter foods
Wet battered foods are one of the worst foods you can cook in an air fryer. The batter will leave a huge mess and make cleaning the air fryer hectic.
Using wet batter also affects how your food cooks. It does not set well in an air fryer. And so the results will not be as crispy as they would be when you submerge the food in oil.
Solution: If you have to use a wet batter, start by pre-frying it in hot oil and then freezing it. You can then air fry the frozen food with no issues. Also, you can get creative by dry coating your fish sticks and fried chicken. Use breadcrumbs or cornmeal instead of a wet batter.
4. Whole chicken
Air fryer ovens are typically small appliances for cooking small batches of food. And so you should not expect to roast a whole chicken in yours. Additionally, they are not very good for cooking bone-in proteins like chicken.
A whole chicken is likely to cook unevenly and can easily dry out. Thicker parts of the chicken, like the breast, will not cook at the same rate as the thighs. Moreover, all those drippings will leave a huge mess in the air fryer.
Solution: Buy a large-capacity air fryer that can fit a whole chicken. Also, look for a model with a dedicated rotisserie function. Cut the chicken into smaller pieces if you have a smaller air fryer. Small pieces ensure it cooks evenly and gets a nice crisp
5. Leafy veggies
Leafy veggies cook fast and easily. However, they will not cook very well in an air fryer. The thin and delicate leaves cannot withstand high heat without burning.
Also, leafy veggies are too lightweight. It will be easy for the hot air to blow them into the heating element.
Solution: If you have to cook leafy veggies in your air fryer, you should try making chips. Air fryer kale chips can be quite tasty. You can easily make kale chips by spreading a single layer of seasoned kale in the basket. You should then cook it at 375℉ for 5 minutes.
6. Over-seasoned foods
Some foods require extra seasoning to give them an additional punch. However, the extra seasoning can ruin the meal if you plan to cook it in an air fryer.
Overseasoned food means you will have a lot of loose seasoning. The loose seasoning will be blown around and end up in the heating element. Also, the excess seasonings can clog the air fryer.
Solution: If you have to use a lot of seasoning, you should coat the food with a little oil. The oil helps the seasoning stick better to ensure it is not blown off.
7. Raw grains
Raw grains are liquid-heavy foods that must be submerged in boiling water to cook well. An air fryer’s heating element and fan cannot get the temperature high enough to boil water. And so the raw grains will not cook well.
Even if you can insert a bowl full of water into the basket, you still cannot air fry raw grains successfully. The water will hardly even boil.
Solution: Cook the grains on the stovetop or in an instant pot. You can then finish them off in an air fryer to get some nice crispiness.
Most air fryer models have toast as one of the main cooking functions. While roasting bread in an air fryer is technically possible, it is not always the best way to do it.
The fast circulating hot air is likely to blow the bread around. And so, in many instances, you end up with unevenly toasted bread. Also, the air will blow crumbs all over the basket and heating element.
Solution: Stick to toasting bread in your toaster oven, as it does a much better job. A traditional oven can also do a good job. But, if both are not an option, it is still okay to occasionally toast bread in an air fryer.
Making popcorn in a microwave is almost effortless. Simply put a bag of premade popcorn in the microwave and press the popcorn preset. And in a few minutes, you should have perfectly popped kernels. But things are not that straightforward when using an air fryer.
Most air fryer ovens will not get hot enough to pop the corn. It takes up to 460℉ for corn to pop, but a typical air fryer reaches a maximum of 400℉.
Solution: Get an air fryer that gets hot enough and has a basket you can use to make popcorn. Otherwise, stick to using a microwave or stovetop.
10. Burgers and steaks
Air frying your burgers and steaks will not give you that perfect medium-rare you love. In most cases, you will end up with the meat well done.
Also, the meat will not brown evenly. The top might get well done and brown too much, while the bottom is still mushy.
Cooking burgers and steaks in an air fryer can also create a mess. All the juices from the meat end up pooling at the bottom of the air fryer.
Solution: Use an air fryer with a dedicated steak function for air-fried burgers and steaks. Also, keep a close eye on the meat as it cooks, and remember to flip it at the right time. And use a meat thermometer to ensure the right doneness.
6 reasons Why cannot just cook anything in an air fryer?
The versatility of the air fryer ovens is what makes them famous gadgets. But you still cannot just use it for cooking anything. And here is why it might not work well for certain food types:
1. Limited basket capacity
You can get an air fryer in different capacities, from as little as 3 quarts to over 30. But what is clear is that all models have limited capacities. And so if you have a 3-quart model, you should not expect to cook 2 pounds of french fries or a whole chicken.
The limited basket capacity restricts the quantity and size of food you can cook. For example, few air fryers have a large enough capacity for a whole lamb leg roast.
2. They can pose significant health risks
Using an air fryer to cook some food types poses significant health risks. For example, using an air fryer for cooking fish at high heat leads to the formation of COPs (cholesterol oxidation products). COPs have been associated with an increased risk of various chronic diseases.
Cooking meat at high temperatures also produces harmful compounds like heterocyclic amines. These compounds are associated with an increased risk of developing different cancer types.
3. Not everything turns out delicious
Well, not everything will turn out delicious when air fried. You can still make some crispy french fries, but they are still not the same as deep-fried ones.
Given the high heat, some foods can easily dry out. Others, like leafy greens, will cook unevenly and can burn easily. And so you may not like the taste.
4. Air fryers can be super hard to clean
Some air fryers can be super hard to clean. When you cook foods with wet batter or a lot of spices, they end up sticking on the surfaces and heating element. Once the food dries on the surfaces, it will take a lot of scrubbing to remove.
Air fryers have delicate finishes that are easy to ruin if you scrub aggressively. And if some of the foods end up on the heating element, cleaning it will take a lot of effort.
Add all this to the fact that some air fryers have hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. It is clear that if you cook the wrong thing, you are in for a hard clean-up time.
5. Top-mounted heating mechanism
A top-mounted heating mechanism makes it easy to burn the top of the food. For example, if you are cooking wet battered foods like cakes, it is easy to burn the top as it is closer to the heat source.
It is also easy for food particles to be blown into the heating element at the top. As the fan circulates the hot air, it can pick up food particles or light food types. Light foods such as leafy greens do not stay put. The particles and light foods are blown into the heating element and burn.
6. High heat output
The high heat output is one of the advantages of an air fryer. But, it is also why you cannot cook some food types. Although you can always lower the heat, many models will hardly go below 200℉.
If your food requires lower heat than this, an air fryer will not work for you. The heat output remains constant throughout the cooking. And so it is easy to burn your delicate foods.
Other common mistakes you are making with your air fryer
The most common mistake is trying to cook things like rice and grilled cheese in your air fryer. Yet, there are still many others, and here is an overview of 5 of them:
1. Failing to preheat
An air fryer will heat up quickly to reach the optimum cooking temperature. And so, preheating might not always seem necessary.
Nonetheless, failing to preheat your air fryer is a big mistake than affects your cooking. For starters, the food will take much longer to cook. Also, failing to preheat means you get less crispiness and uneven browning.
Some air fryer recipes will not call for any preheating. Many manufacturers also claim you do not have to preheat their air fryer. But, you are always better off preheating before cooking.
2. Overcrowding baskets/trays
Unlike deep frying, which relies on hot oil to spread the heat, air frying relies on hot air. If you overcrowd your basket or tray, you will inhibit the movement of the hot air. And so food takes longer to cook, and the results are uneven.
Avoid the temptation of cooking everything in one batch to save time and energy. Instead, put food in small portions and single layers. Even if this means you have to cook it in several batches.
3. Not cleaning it frequently
Failing to clean the air fryer after every cooking session is a big mistake. Even if the appliance does not look dirty, you must clean it between cooking sessions.
If you do not clean the appliance, the food particles left behind will burn the next time you use it. Also, any oil left at the bottom of the basket is likely to smoke and affect the food’s flavor.
4. Forgetting to flip/toss food
An air fryer is not a set-and-forget appliance. You must keep a close eye on the food as it cooks and make sure you flip or toss it at the halfway point.
Flipping food ensures it cooks evenly on both sides. If you forget to do it, you will likely have one side over browning and the other still undercooked.
5. Not using the right amount of oil
Air fryers can cook without any oil at all. But, you need to use a little oil to get nice browning and crispiness.
Also, using too much oil is a bad idea. The excess oil will drip to the bottom of the air fryer. When exposed to high heat, it can start smoking. The smoke can damage the appliance or trigger the smoke alarm.
The right amount of oil depends on the recipe. Most call for 1 or 2 teaspoons, but it is better to check just to be sure.
So which are the best foods to cook in an air fryer?
Anything that cooks well when dry-fried will turn out perfectly in an air fryer. But, here is a list of some of the best things you can air fry.
1. Frozen French fries
Frozen french fries are one of the best foods to make in an air fryer. You can get fantastic results with a little drizzle of oil and by ensuring you cook the fries in a single layer.
The air-fried frozen french fries will also have fewer calories. And most air fryers can cook them to perfection in around 12 to 20 minutes.
Using sweet potato fries can make your frozen french fries healthier and tastier.
2. Chicken nuggets and tenders
Frozen chicken nuggets and tenders cook exceptionally well in an air fryer. It takes less than 15 minutes to make them at 400°F, and they require little oil. They always come out nice and crispy.
The results are much better than cooking them in the oven. But make sure you cook them in a single layer. And remember to flip after around 10 minutes for even cooking and crisping.
3. Brussels sprouts
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and other veggies like broccoli will not turn out well when air-fried. But you can still air fryer other types like brussels sprouts.
Brussels sprouts will get nice and crispy in an air fryer. Also, they cook fast as the total prep and cook time is under 30 minutes. And to crown it all, you can cook them with little to no oil.
You can make fantastic air fryer cookies with store-bought dough and a few minutes to spare.
In many instances, you will not even need to preheat the air fryer. You only need to cut the cookie dough and place the cookies in the air fryer basket over parchment paper. Make sure they are well-spaced for better cooking. All this takes under 10 minutes.
When making everything from scratch, you can still have the cookies ready in under 20 minutes.
Bacon will taste great whether you are grilling, deep frying, or making it in the oven. Now you can add air frying to your list of ways to make your bacon.
Air frying bacon takes between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want yours. The process is also quite simple. You only need to place the bacon in the basket in a single layer and pop it in the air fryer. It should brown and crisp beautifully in a few minutes.
6. Preheated leftovers
An air fryer can help breathe new life into your leftovers. Unlike a microwave, it will not just warm or reheat the food. Instead, it will cook it with a nice crisp.
Air fryers are especially useful for reheating things like pizza. Whereas a microwave will leave the leftover pizza with a soft and soggy crust, an air fryer makes it crispy.
Now it should be clear enough what you can and cannot cook in an air fryer. If you keep the points above in mind, you should get the best service from this fantastic kitchen appliance.
So, how do you use your air fryer? Have you tried cooking the foods mentioned above, and how did they turn out? Please drop your answers in the comments sections. And feel free to add anything important you think I left out.
My love for food was influenced by my brother, a chef at a 2-star Michelin restaurant, and we often exchange food knowledge together. It’s been 12 years since I first stepped into the kitchen, and with my vast experience and expertise, I will share many ideas on how to make dishes more delicious!