7 foods you should NEVER cook in an air fryer

Despite their power, air fryers can’t cook everything… especially not these foods!

Foods to never cook in an air fryer
(Image credit: Amazon)

Since their popularity skyrocketed in the 2010s, the best air fryers have completely changed the way people cook. These handy kitchen gadgets can do a lot, from crisping up your fried chicken to baking a cake.

But despite their power, air fryers can’t cook everything… or they can but it won’t come out looking or tasting nice. So, if you’d like your food to be edible and you’d rather not damage your air fryer, here are 7 foods you should definitely not cook in an air fryer.

Before I get into the list, it’s worth noting there are a few foods that we’ve omitted from this list – steak, burgers, boiled eggs and popcorn, to be precise. With the former two, they can be cooked in an air fryer but they’ll come out well done so if you want it rare, the air fryer method isn’t your best option. Regarding the latter two foods, I wouldn’t recommend making boiled eggs in an air fryer or making popcorn in one either, but it can technically be done as our testers found out themselves.

Now, let’s get into the list and if you want more air fryer advice, here are the best foods to cook in an air fryer.

1. Rice

Foods to never cook in an air fryer: Rice

(Image credit: Pille R Priske / Unsplash)

Rice and grains like pasta need to be boiled in water and air fryers don’t do this. Yes, you can add a certain amount of water into an air fryer but it won’t be enough to cook the rice. The water in your air fryer is also unlikely to reach a high enough temperature to boil the water which in turn, won’t boil your rice. Air fryers are designed to circulate hot air around at high speeds, and if you’re doing this with water and rice, you risk this getting into the inner workings of your air fryer which could damage it. The bottomline is that air fryers aren’t designed to boil food, so if you want to make rice, you’re better off using a rice cooker.

2. Greens

Foods to never cook in an air fryer: Greens

(Image credit: Bailey Heedick / Unsplash)

While you can cook most green vegetables in an air fryer, leafy greens like spinach, kale and lettuce aren’t the best things to put in your air fryer… unless you drown them in oil. Because of the circulating heat, this can cause your greens to fly around the chambers which result in uneven cooking and burning. If you want to make crispy greens, you’re better off putting them in an oven or you’ll need to add a hefty amount of oil to weigh them down.

3. Toast

Foods to never cook in an air fryer: Toast

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Personally, I’m not sure why you’d want to cook toast in an air fryer when you can use the best toaster but each to their own! Similar to greens, making toast in an air fryer is fairly pointless as a slice of bread is likely to fly around the chamber with the fan. Even if you manage to make the bread stay put by weighing it down, you’ll still have to open up your air fryer to flip the bread so you get an even cook on both sides. Pre-heating is also something to consider, as air fryers take a few minutes to come up to heat which increases how long it will take to make a simple slice of toast.

4. Cheese

Foods to never cook in an air fryer: Cheese

(Image credit: Scott Eckersley / Unsplash)

Whether you’re making a cheese toastie or just trying to melt it, cheese in an air fryer is a big no-no. While there are some good air fryer recipes which feature melted cheese, it’s generally avoided because of the clean-up. Cheese melts fast, meaning it can burn quickly and become super stringy, making your air fryer harder to clean (see how to clean an air fryer for tips). When melted cheese dries, this can be a nightmare trying to get it off and this can damage your air fryers’ inner workings.

5. Anything with wet batter

Most foods that are covered with wet batter shouldn’t go in your air fryer as it won’t cook properly. The consistency of wet batter won’t set properly so it won’t crisp up, it could burn where it’s rested on the base and the liquid will spill everywhere, making it harder to clear up. This might sound surprising as fried chicken, which is the most popular food to cook in an air fryer, will sometimes have a wet batter, but you won’t always get the best results. You’re best choosing a dry batter or breadcrumbs.

6. Anything with sauce

If you’re making an overly saucy pasta dish or a hearty stew, you should definitely use a slow cooker or a big pot on the stove rather than an air fryer. While these types of foods are weighty so they won’t fly around, the sauce will splatter and go everywhere – no one wants to get boiling hot sauce on them!

7. Anything with dry seasonings

If you cook food with dry seasoning, the heated air will essentially blow off all the herbs and spices, leaving your food unseasoned. The sides of your air fryer will get messy and the herbs can burn or clog inside the mechanism. The best thing to do is to season using oil so it sticks to the food you’re cooking or season your food when it comes out of the air fryer.

Now you know! If you’re investing in an air fryer or you want an upgrade to the one you have, we’ve collected the latest prices on air fryers below. And before you start using it, make sure you’re not making these common air fryer mistakes.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!