Can You Put Aluminum Foil in the Air Fryer?
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Air fryers have revolutionized the way we cook at home. These genius appliances can do so much more than simply crisp up frozen fried foods—you can use your air fryer to cook your favorite entrées, bake cookies, reheat leftovers, and even, like this home chef proved while using their air fryer every day for two weeks, hard-boil eggs! Air fryers are essentially miniature convection ovens, so you might be wondering: Can you put foil in an air fryer, just as you can in a regular oven?
It’s a good question. After all, aluminum foil is exceptionally handy when cooking in the oven, since it can do everything from locking in steam and juices to making cleanup a whole lot easier. But then again, you should never put aluminum foil in the microwave. So, how does an air fryer work, exactly? What mistakes should you avoid? We got to the bottom of this kitchen mystery so that you can use your favorite air fryers of 2022 to their fullest potential.
Can you put foil in an air fryer?
The short answer is yes, you can put foil in an air fryer. However, as with any appliance, it’s smart to check the manufacturer’s recommendations first. Air fryers use high-speed fans to circulate hot air around your food, and if not weighted down, loose aluminum foil could be blown around and damage the appliance. Though it is perfectly safe to use foil in the air fryer if used correctly, doing so may void the manufacturer’s warranty for liability reasons.
Should you use foil in an air fryer?
Of course, this is a different question altogether. While it’s not necessary to put aluminum foil in your air fryer, there are a few good reasons to consider it. In fact, you may have seen professional and amateur chefs demonstrating some of these benefits on TikTok.
The first reason you might want to try this air fryer hack has to do with flavor. Loosely wrapping your food in aluminum foil, or molding foil into a small tray to support the bottom, prevents your food’s juices from dripping through the holes in the cooking basket. This is a smart thing to try when using your air fryer to roast meat, fish, or vegetables, because it will help keep these foods moist and flavorful. One important note: If you want your food to come out crispy, don’t completely cover or wrap your food with foil. This will lock in steam and prevent it from browning.
Preventing delicate food from falling apart
Aluminum foil can also help you get delicate food in and out of your air fryer. “For food that can easily fall apart while cooking, like salmon, you can make a sling out of aluminum foil to help lower it into the basket,” says chef Rebecca Eisenberg, who writes the popular food blog The Practical Kitchen. Her pro tip? “Tear off a bit more foil than you think you need. That extra bit of overhang will give you support as you lift delicate food out of the basket all in one piece.”
Making cleanup easier
While air fryers are known for being easy to clean, putting a sheet of foil beneath your food as it cooks will catch any drips or errant crumbs. Doing this will allow you to skip the full-basket cleaning occasionally.
Tips for using foil in an air fryer
As long as you follow a few simple rules, you can put foil in the air fryer without worry. If you don’t? Well, you could end up with subpar food—or a much worse problem.
- Use as little foil as possible. You don’t want to block too many of the holes in your air fryer’s basket. Air fryers work by rapidly circulating hot air around items, and if there are no spaces for the air to flow through, your food will cook improperly. Maximize airflow by using only enough foil to fit underneath your food.
- Never put foil at the bottom of the air fryer drawer. You should only put foil in the basket itself, not under it. If placed in the bottom of the drawer, the foil could make contact with the heating element or high-speed fan. This could damage your air fryer or, worse, cause it to overheat and start a fire.
- Make sure the food is heavy enough to weigh down the foil. If it’s too light, the foil (along with the food) can be dislodged by the high-speed fan, blowing it around and potentially turning into a fire hazard. While we’re on the subject, you also shouldn’t preheat an air fryer with foil in the basket. Wait for the air fryer to reach the correct temperature, and then add the foil at the same time you add your food.
What foods you shouldn’t cook with foil in an air fryer
Aluminum foil is a reactive metal, and when used alongside acidic ingredients, it is possible for small particles of aluminum to end up in your food. “Always be cautious with highly acidic foods—like tomatoes, vinegar, and lemon juice—and aluminum foil,” says Eisenberg, and make sure to avoid cooking these things in your air fryer altogether. “But if you can use aluminum foil to safely cook the food outside of an air fryer, it should cook just fine in foil in the air fryer too.”
A 2019 study conducted by the National Institute for Biotechnology Information showed traces of aluminum in food that was baked in aluminum foil, but not enough to be alarming. The researchers noted that it would be extremely difficult for the average person to consume enough trace aluminum for it to pose a serious danger. However, the study did warn that aluminum can have a high potential risk to people with certain aliments, especially those suffering from chronic renal failure, as well as young children.
If you’re at high risk for Alzheimer’s, you may also want to avoid using aluminum foil in high-heat environments like air fryers. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease supported previous research that linked human exposure to aluminum with the disease, with scientists finding high concentrations of aluminum in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients. Though there has been a lot of back and forth on the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s, it still may be something you want to keep in mind.
What can you use instead of foil in an air fryer?
If you don’t want to use aluminum foil, or you don’t have any in your kitchen, try using parchment paper in your air fryer instead. Parchment has a non-stick surface, is made out of non-reactive materials, and can do all the same things foil can do in the air fryer. In fact, it’s especially useful when cooking baked goods, like cookies and biscuits, in your air fryer. Don’t, however, use wax paper. It may look similar to parchment paper, but wax paper has a coating that will melt in an air fryer, ruining your food and your fryer and potentially even causing a fire.
- Rebecca Eisenberg, chef and blogger at The Practical Kitchen
- Food Science & Nutrition: “Aluminum contamination of food during culinary preparation: Case study with aluminum foil and consumers’ preferences”
- National Library of Medicine: “Comparison of the regional distribution of transferrin receptors and aluminium in the forebrain of chronic renal dialysis patients”
- ScienceDirect: “Aluminum exposure: a study of an effect on cellular growth rate”
- Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: “Aluminum and Amyloid-β in Familial Alzheimer’s Disease”