8 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Cook in an Air Fryer

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Before you hop on the trend, know which foods you can't cook in your air fryer.

You can air fry almost anything these days. And why wouldn’t you want to? There’s a reason these appliances have seemingly taken over everyone’s kitchens, and why this person used their air fryer every day for two weeks to find a whole new way of eating. Air fryers can imitate the results of deep-frying with some intense hot air and only a fraction of the oil. With this healthier alternative, you don’t have to reserve crispy foods for nights out and state fairs. But because you can cook so many foods in an air fryer, with easy-to-use materials like foil or parchment paper, you may be wondering: What can you not cook in an air fryer? Not all foods are suitable for the kitchen gadget, so we got to the bottom of this oft-asked question. And make sure you know how to clean your air fryer and how to avoid common air-fryer mistakes before you get started on your next recipe with our favorite air fryers of 2022.

Battered foods

Avoid placing wet batter in the air fryer. It’ll create a mess, and wet batter won’t set the way it does when it’s submerged in oil, meaning the food won’t have that crunchy shell. If you’d like to add a little crispiness and get your food perfectly golden every time, coat it in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.

That said, if a battered food is pre-fried and frozen, it’s OK to put it in the air fryer.

Fresh greens

Leafy greens like spinach will cook unevenly because the machine uses high-speed air. It’s very easy to burn foods that don’t say put. When choosing vegetables to cook in the air fryer, opt for those that hold some weight, like broccoli and zucchini. Kale chips may also be successful if you coat the kale in enough oil to weigh the leaves down. Ultimately, experts say that frozen veggies are the way to go when it comes to air fryers because they retain more moisture from the ice. This is just one of those food facts you may not have thought about before.

Whole roasts

When it comes to using an air fryer to cook a whole roast, the biggest issue is whether or not the entire roast will fit properly into the air fryer’s basket. But even if the meat does fit, it’s best to just stick to the regular oven. The roast will not cook evenly, and the part closest to the heat source will likely burn by the time the section furthest from the heat is safe to eat.

It all comes down to overcrowding. Since the hot air needs room to appropriately circulate, you’re better off cooking the roast in smaller pieces. If cooking a chicken, make sure the breast is placed face down, with the skin facing up, because air fryers heat from the top. Before you start cooking next, learn if you can put aluminum foil in the air fryer.

Cheese

Who wouldn’t love to instantly make some fried cheese to snack on? Unfortunately, because your air fryer isn’t truly frying your food, cheese placed inside without some sort of coating will just melt into a puddle and create a mess you don’t want to clean up. Unless you scavenge the freezer aisle for some frozen mozzarella sticks, there won’t be any fried cheese coming out of your air fryer.

This also applies to grilled cheese, which will likely burn under the intense pressure from the hot air. Stick to the stove top for this classic comfort food.

Raw grains

Grains such as rice and pasta can crisp nicely in an air fryer, but they have to be cooked on the stove top first. Air fryers are intended to dry cook food, so trying to cook something that needs to be immersed in water during the cooking process won’t work. Even with an insert that allows you to place water inside the air fryer, the fan will never get hot enough to boil the water and successfully cook your grains.

Hamburgers

Air fryers aren’t really designed to grill red meat, especially if you like your burgers medium-rare. 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. But if you like your burgers very well done, it should be just fine in an air fryer.

Toast

In theory, an air fryer would toast a piece of bread fairly well with all of its evenly dispersed hot air. You may have even seen air fryer kitchen hacks that praise the gadget’s ability to toast bread, but the high air pressure will actually make the bread move around and blow crumbs all over the basket. It’s important to remember that an air fryer is not a toaster oven. It’s best to stick to toasters and toaster ovens when you want a crispy piece of toast.

Popcorn

Before microwave popcorn and packaged, premade popcorn bags, people had to add kernels and oil to a pot for some homemade popcorn. An air fryer chamber may seem similar to an enclosed pot, but an air fryer typically doesn’t get hot enough to pop popcorn. An air fryer is usually between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit, but it takes a temperature between 400 and 460 degrees Fahrenheit to get popcorn to pop.

Now that you know what not to cook, check out these recipes that are perfect for the air fryer.

Sources

  • Food Network: “These Are the Foods You Just Can’t Make In an Air Fryer”
  • Mashed: “Things You Should Never Cook in an Air Fryer”
  • Food Network: “Air Fryer Do’s and Don’ts”
  • Insider: “7 things you should cook in an air fryer and 7 things you shouldn’t”

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Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is an assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who focuses on digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pick-up lines, and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists, and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.