These Are the Foods You Just Can't Make In an Air Fryer

Some foods can't be cooked with hot air alone.


Photo by: serezniy/Getty Images

serezniy/Getty Images

By Amanda Neal for Food Network Kitchen

Air fryers have taken the kitchen appliance world by storm, thanks to their powerful engines that cook food quickly and easily. There is a variety of ingredients that cook perfectly in an air fryer, such as breaded chicken tenders, crunchy cauliflower florets, and even thick-cut steaks! However, we’ve found that some things are best left to other cooking methods. Here’s a closer look at how the air fryer works, as well as what you should and should not air fry at home.

How Does an Air Fryer Work?

An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that circulates hot air at a very high speed, set to a temperature of your choosing — similar to a convection oven. The result is a crispy, crunchy exterior with little to no added fat. All air fryers come with a perforated basket or tray to promote even air circulation, and can range in price anywhere from $30 to $250. You’ll typically see air fryers that hold about 3.5 quarts, but there are also some larger models that hold 6 quarts or more (big enough to fry a whole 2-pound bag of French fries at one time!).

Food Network Kitchen’s Air Fryer Opener, as seen on Food Network.

Food Network Kitchen’s Air Fryer Opener, as seen on Food Network.



How to Use an Air Fryer

There are a few details you'll want to make sure you understand before you start air frying. For a more comprehensive list about air fryer dos and don'ts read this.

Don’t Overcrowd the Basket – Make sure there’s plenty of room around your food items in the air fryer basket, so the heat can evenly distribute around the food and promote even cooking. It’s also a good idea to give your food a toss halfway through as well.

Air Fryers are Great for Reheating Food – Instead of running to your microwave to reheat leftovers, try the air fryer instead. It can re-crisp, re-melt and revive cold food without turning it into rubber.

Still Use Oil – Adding a spritz of nonstick cooking spray or a drizzle of olive oil to your food before air frying will give you nicer browning and crisping than no oil at all. Not to mention, it will help adhere seasoning and keep anything from sticking to each other or the air fryer basket.

What Can't You Air Fry?

While we'd love to say that you can make anything in an air fryer, that's just simply not true. Many of your favorite deep fried foods can be converted to an air fryer method, as well as many proteins, baked goods and more. However, there are some foods that are better left out of the air fryer. Here's what you should never attempt to air fry.

Battered Foods – A very wet batter, like the cornmeal batter on a corndog, will not cook successfully in an air fryer. Any coating that is particularly heavy and wet will drip through the perforated basket before it has time to crisp. The hot oil bath in a traditional deep fryer is key to setting up a battered food. If you’re craving something battered, try dipping the food in flour, egg and breadcrumbs for a similar deep fried crunchy exterior, such as these Air Fryer Fried Pickles.

Cake Doughnuts – A cake doughnuts does not air fry well, mainly because of the dense batter made of sugar, sour cream and flour. A traditional deep fry keeps these sweet treats perfectly moist and fluffy, while an air fryer will just dry them out. Try air frying a buttery baked-good, such as these Air Fryer Chocolate Chip Cookies instead.

Large Whole Chickens – Whole chickens and other large, bone-in proteins are not great for the air fryer because they will cook unevenly. There’s a good chance that the breast meat will be over cooked even before the chicken thighs are safe to eat. Try air frying smaller chickens around 3 pounds, like this Air Fryer Roast Chicken recipe.

Bacon – I know what you’re thinking … this sounds delicious! Extra crispy bacon without all the hot grease splattering and popping? While it technically works, the air fryer is not the best piece of equipment for cooking bacon. The hot air rotates incredibly quickly inside the air fryer, causing the bacon fat to spray all over the inside of the machine, leaving you with a big, greasy mess. Try air frying leaner turkey bacon for a similar breakfast treat with less clean-up.

Lots of Cheese – When you’re making dishes with a lot of cheese, it’s incredibly likely that the cheese will ooze out before you achieve that perfectly crisp exterior, resulting in a basket full of drippy cheese. If you’re in need of a cheese fix, try Air Fryer Arancini (fried risotto balls); the rice and breadcrumbs will hold the melty mozzarella cheese inside.

Leafy Greens – Leafy greens, such as curly kale, also fall short in the air fryer because of the high-speed hot air. The light and airy greens will fly all around the air fryer basket, leaving you with unevenly cooked greens. Try air frying other sturdier veggies into crispy chips, such as this Air Fryer Veggie Chip Medley. They’ll hold up to the windy conditions and stay perfectly crisp.

Raw Rice and Other Grains – Raw rice and other grains will not cook evenly in an air fryer, even when using a special pan-insert. Try using cooked rice instead to make Air Fryer Fried Rice with Sesame-Sriracha Sauce, so you can achieve the crispy, browned rice without having to heat up a large sauté pan or wok.

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