June 19, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

7 things you should cook in an air fryer and 7 things you shouldn’t

6 min read
air fryer
Air fryers can help you prepare crispy food in a jiffy. Shutterstock
  • Though certain foods become crispy and juicy in an air fryer, others can get messy or dry.

  • The experts recommended using an air fryer when preparing frozen food, making cookies, and cooking bacon.

  • You’ll want to avoid putting overseasoned food items, wet batters, and cheese in your air fryer since they can create a mess.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Air fryers can be convenient and versatile when it comes to preparing many dishes, but not all food should be tossed into this appliance.

Here are the best and worst foods to cook in an air fryer, according to chefs and other culinary experts:

Frozen food can become nice and crispy in an air fryer.

chicken nuggets
Frozen nuggets can get crunchy and golden in an air fryer. Shutterstock

The air fryer is a great appliance to use for reheating or cooking food that has been frozen, according to Stephanie Pixley, the deputy food editor of America’s Test Kitchen

The air fryer does a great job of making food crispy because of the convection function, Pixley said. This feature allows hot air to surround the food, cooking it more evenly and quickly.

Brussels sprouts get nice and crispy in the air fryer, even without oil.

brussels sprouts
They won’t be as greasy as if you fried them in oil. Klaus Hackenberg/Getty Images

Brussels sprouts also do well in an air fryer, according to Pixley. The air fryer helps the sprouts get crispy, and you don’t have to deal with the mess and greasiness of oil.

You can quickly make cookies in an air fryer because it doesn’t have to preheat.

cookies candy baking
You can also try popping a firm premade cookie dough into an air fryer. iStock

According to Pixley, cookies can thrive in an air fryer; plus, they are quick to prepare. 

“I like keeping cookie-dough balls on hand in my freezer so that I can have one (or a few) without having to make up an entire batch,” Pixley told Insider. “And now, I’m always going to make them in my air fryer.”

Since you don’t have to preheat the air fryer, you can have fresh, homemade cookies in 10 minutes flat, she added. 

With practice and patience, you can make a beautifully cooked steak in an air fryer.

skirt steak with greens
It’s all about timing. Shutterstock

Since air fryers can serve as miniature ovens, they can also be used to cook steak, Pixley told Insider. 

With a little bit of practice you can get a beautifully cooked steak in the air fryer, allowing you to skip the smoke and flames from the grill, according to Yankel Polak, the head chef at ButcherBox.

Plus, it frees up the stovetop and doesn’t leave the mess that searing a steak typically produces, Pixley added.

Air fryers can help you to avoid soggy zoodles.

zoodles vegetable spiralizer zucchini
Zoodles can be used as a pasta alternative. Shutterstock

It may sound odd, but zoodles are actually an ideal air-fryer food, according to Jess Dang, the founder of Cook Smarts.

“Zucchini releases a ton of moisture during cooking, so you can quickly wind up with a soggy mess in a pan,” Dang told Insider. “In the air fryer, however, all that excess moisture just drips out of the basket, leaving you with perfectly al dente zucchini noodles.”


Make your chicken breasts in the air fryer for juicy results.

salt pepper raw chicken cutlets breast cooking
If you use dry seasoning, be sure it’s rubbed in very well. iStock

The air fryer yields a much juicier chicken breast than either the oven or the stovetop, according to Dang.

“Due to the compact design of an air fryer, there’s not as much room for the juices to evaporate like they sometimes do in other methods,” Dang said.

Glazed chicken also cooks nicely in an air fryer, according to Pixley.

“With the high heat and constant airflow of the air fryer, the glaze caramelizes on the chicken, which just takes roast chicken to another level entirely,” Pixley told Insider.

Just be careful not to put too much glaze on your chicken, as the excess may drip and spread around your air-fryer chamber.

Using the air fryer for bacon is the way to go, as it’s leaner and cleaner.

In an air fryer, your bacon can get crispy without becoming too oily. Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

Dang said her favorite way to cook bacon was actually by using the air fryer. 

“Fat drips out of the basket to keep it a bit leaner, and it’s so much less messy and requires less supervision than other cooking methods,” Dang told Insider.

On the other hand, broccoli can dry out in an air fryer.

bowl of broccoli brocoli
Broccoli might get kind of dust-like in an air fryer. Shutterstock

Pixley said that while Brussels sprouts are air-fryer-friendly, broccoli is not.

“After our experience with Brussels sprouts, we had high hopes that broccoli florets would get super crispy and delicious. Unfortunately, they just got very dry and dusty and the experience was like chewing on sandpaper,” Pixley told Insider, recalling her kitchen experiences with the vegetables.

Avoid putting large roasts or whole chickens in the air fryer.

Consider cooking a whole chicken in your oven instead. iStock

“Beyond the obvious question of whether they’ll fit in the air-fryer basket, larger roasts and whole chickens just won’t cook evenly in the air fryer,” Pixley said.

The portion closest to the heat source, according to Pixley, will burn and dry out well before the portion farthest from the heat source is safe to eat.

Any food with a wet batter should not be placed in the air fryer.

corn dogs corndogs ketchup mustard
Unless they’re pre-fried, you’ll want to avoid putting corndogs in your air fryer since the batter can make a mess. Shutterstock

You also want to avoid putting food that has a wet batter, like corndogs or tempura shrimp, in air fryers.

Wet batter goes everywhere, and without a proper oil bath the batter won’t set, which means it won’t be the crispy, fried item you hoped it would be, according to Polak.

“Not only will the batter drip off the food during cooking and probably burn and stick to the bottom of your air fryer — it ends up chewy and not at all crispy,” Pixley said. 

Cheese can create a huge mess in an air fryer.

tomato soup grilled cheese
A grilled cheese might ooze all over your air fryer. Erin McDowell/Insider

You also want to avoid putting cheese in an air fryer, according to Polak. 

“An air fryer is not actually a fryer, so there isn’t the instant outer crust you would get from actually deep-frying cheese for, say, something like a mozzarella stick,” Polak told Insider. “Instead you’ll get a cheesy mess in your fryer.”

Medium-rare burgers are not likely to happen in an air fryer.

If you want a medium-rare burger, you may want to take out your grill. Shutterstock

“Air frying a burger to perfect medium-rare just isn’t going to happen without a lot of compromise,” Pixley told Insider.

Reaching medium-rare doneness doesn’t take long in the air fryer, and the exterior of the burger just won’t have time to brown, according to Pixley.

You can, however, easily use an air fryer to create a well-done burger, she said.

Fresh greens don’t belong in an air fryer because they will fly all over the place.

They may not cook well, either. Pixabay

Fresh greens, like spinach or kale, are also something you want to avoid putting in an air fryer, according to Polak. 

“These greens will literally fly all over the place and cook unevenly,” Polak said. “Stick to the normal oven if you’re looking for kale chips.”

Overseasoned proteins and vegetables are also to be avoided.

seasoned ribs dry rub
An air fryer may not treat your dry rub too kindly. iStock

Overseasoning your meats and veggies before placing them in the air fryer is another big mistake.

In general, when you have a food that has a dry surface with seasonings, these seasonings can get blown off by the airflow in an air fryer or will fall through the basket, Polak said. 

Read the original article on Insider

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