Surprising Foods That You Can And Cannot Cook In An Air Fryer

Since the air fryer was introduced in 2010, it has become massively popular. The device not only fries food quickly and safely, but also cooks other meals within minutes. You can make juicy chicken, baked pasta, and even eggs–but you should never cook cheese in an air fryer! Surprised? Read on to learn which foods you cannot heat in an air fryer, and a few that you probably didn’t know you could.

Never Include Wet Batter

A donut-maker dips a Snickers bar on a stick into frying batter.
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In a traditional fryer, you would cover meat, fish, or vegetables in a batter of flour and eggs before frying. But you should not do this in an air fryer. An air fryer has nothing to set the batter.

For instance, a traditional fryer has oil that will keep the batter on the food. Because an air fryer does not have this, the batter will just fall off. You will end up with a giant mess and, in the worst-case scenario, the batter will burn. Coat the food in a light layer of oil instead.

Keep Chicken Juicy With The Right Technique

Korean-style chicken wings were made in an air fryer.
Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Some people think that cooking chicken in an air fryer will dry it out. But that is not true if you use the right technique. First, do not overcrowd the basket. You cannot cook an entire chicken in an air fryer; use breasts, wings, or strips. Also, do not stack these pieces on top of each other.

Coat the chicken in a light layer of oil or rub, and cook it in the air fryer for 15 minutes on 350°F. Flip them over and cook for another five to eight minutes. When the juice of the chicken turns clear, it’s done.

Vegetables That You Can And Cannot Air Fry

A woman holds up an air fryer during its launch.
Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

In April 2020, the Krazy Koupon Lady reported that many of her vegetables became soggy in the air fryer. These devices are not suitable for certain types of vegetables. Air fryers work best with cruciferous vegetables, soft veggies like tomatoes, and thin ones like asparagus, according to Live Eat Learn.

Unless you cut carrots or zucchini into strips, do not air fry them. And if your vegetables turn out soggy, try frozen veggies instead. According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, frozen vegetables have the same amount of nutrients as fresh ones.

Hard Boil Eggs By “Frying” Them

A hard boiled egg is cracked open.
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Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Believe it or not, you can hard boil eggs in an air fryer. You do not need water at all, actually. Some recipes have hard-boiled eggs in an oven by heating them for 25 minutes at 325° F. And just like the oven, you can hard boil eggs in an air fryer.

Preheat the air fryer to 250° F. When it warms up, place cold eggs into the basket; you might want to test one or two before committing to the whole carton. Cook them for around 16 minutes, and afterward, put them in an ice bath until they cool.

You Cannot Boil Pasta, But You Can Bake It

Baked pasta with cauliflower sits in a pan.
Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Unfortunately, you cannot boil pasta in an air fryer. Unlike pressure cookers, air fryers do not have heating technology that can boil water. Pasta noodles need water to hydrate and become al dente. However, you can bake pasta in an air fryer.

Most air fryer pasta recipes will require you to boil the noodles halfway beforehand. If you do not do this, the noodles will become chips. After you partially boil the noodles, bake them in an air fryer with sauce. Many only require ten minutes at 350° F, although the time might vary depending on the noodles.

Never Put Cheese In An Air Fryer

Bread with melted cheese is pulled apart.
Scott Eckersley/Unsplash
Scott Eckersley/Unsplash

Many people bake cheesy foods, such as lasagna or enchiladas, in an oven. But do not do that in an air fryer. Yankel Polak, the head chef at ButcherBox, told Insider that the cheese will melt and gunk up your fryer.

“An air fryer is not actually a fryer, so there isn’t the instant outer crust you would get from actually deep-frying cheese,” he explained. Skip anything with a layer of cheese that can drip, including cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, quesadillas, and anything else with an outer or inner layer of cheese.

Popcorn Will Pop!

A close-up picture shows a pile of popcorn.
LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images
LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

Although some people believe that air fryers do not get hot enough to pop popcorn, that is not true. According to Scientific American, popcorn kernels require at least 355° F to burst. Most air fryers reach their maximum heat between 325° F and 400° F.

If your air fryer can go up to 400° F, you can make popcorn in it. Heat the fryer to 400° F, toss the kernels with 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil, and cook it for five minutes. It should not take long for the popcorn to pop.

Air Fry Bacon To Make It Leaner

An entire package of bacon is cooked in an air fryer.

Not only can you cook bacon in an air fryer, but you’ll also make it less fatty. If you put bacon in the basket, the excess fat will drip through. This results in crispier, leaner, healthier bacon.

To start, heat the air fryer to 400°F. Place bacon strips in the basket, but be careful not to overcrowd it. Cook the strips for ten minutes, and then check them to see if you want them any crispier.

Bake Cookies In An Air Fryer!

A woman holds up a tray of cookies that she baked.
Tim Greenway/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Tim Greenway/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Air fryers are much easier to bake with than others. For instance, the average oven takes ten to 15 minutes to preheat. Air fryers only need around three minutes, according to registered dietitian Dana Angelo White, the author of the Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook.

With the right basket, you can bake cookies in your air fryer. White recommends getting a “6-in round baking pan or bundt pan” that can fit inside of the basket. Use these to lie the cookies flat and bake them as you would in an oven.

Now It’s A Bread Fryer

Baked bread is seen in an air fryer.

In May 2020, writer Rachel Trujillo for Food Network tried to bake bread in an air fryer. She was “pleasantly surprised” with how quickly an air fryer could bake bread compared to a conventional oven. With the right technique, you can do this too.

You will need to get a baking pan that can fit inside of your air fryer. Once you make the dough and let the yeast rise, bake it as you would with an oven. Most bread heats at 375° F and are done when they reach a 200° F internal temperature. Different recipes offer different baking times and temperatures.

Air Fryers Are Perfect For Crisping Frozen Foods

Frozen cauliflower, carrots, peas, and other vegetables lie in a pile.
FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images
FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Air fryers are ideal for heating up frozen foods without leaving them soggy. On the official air fryer website, it lists a chart for cooking different frozen foods. The temperature and cooking time depends on the meat or frozen meal.

For instance, a frozen chicken breast cooks at 350° F for ten minutes on each side. However, frozen hash browns require 370° F and only 15 minutes. Before you start, spray some cooking oil on the basket to prevent the food from sticking when it thaws.

Leafy Greens Will Not Survive In An Air Fryer

Spinach and other leafy greens stick out of a wooden circular box.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Air fryers cook food quickly by circulating hot air around their basket. But this is why you should never cook leafy greens in an air fryer. Unlike an oven, the greens will fly around. They are so lightweight that they could be torn to shreds, according to Reader’s Digest.

However, you can still make kale chips in an air fryer. You will have to spray them with olive oil or another cooking oil to weigh them down. Heat the air fryer to 375° F and cook the kale for only four to five minutes.

Save Toast For A Toaster

A person pulls toast out of a toaster.
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

While some people can bake bread in an air fryer, do not use it for toast. “Toast is a major no-no,” claims David Jarvis, the Executive Chef for air fryer maker Nu Wave. Because of the air fryer’s air circulation, “it blows around so it doesn’t do a good job.”

In short, air fryers are not toaster ovens. If your bread can be blown around, it will be, and it will not get that crust that people want. However, you can bake garlic bread in an airy fryer because the oil and cheese will weigh it down.

Air Fryer Zoodles Won’t Be Soggy

Zucchini noodles sit in a pile.
Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Although you cannot make conventional pasta in an air fryer, you can cook perfect zucchini noodles (or zoodles). Because zucchini is high in water, it tends to get soggy in a pot, explains Jess Dang, the founder of Cook Smarts. She told Insider that the air fryer creates “perfectly al dente zucchini noodles.”

To make zoodles, preheat the air fryer to 400°F and spray the basket with cooking oil. Combine the zoodles with whatever sauce you prefer, and cook it for five to seven minutes. That’s all!

Brussels Sprouts Are The Perfect For The Air Fryer

Cooked brussels sprouts are on a blue plate against an orange table.
Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post via Getty Images

When Pixley tested vegetables in the air fryer, she found that brussels sprouts cook exceptionally well. Air fryers make them extra crispy, and you only need a bit of oil, vinegar, and seasoning to create a tasty, nutritious dish.

Preheat the air fryer to 375ºF. Combine one bag of brussels sprouts with one teaspoon of olive oil, one teaspoon of vinegar, and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Cook it for 15 minutes, but pause halfway through the shake the basket a bit.

Never Use Dry Rubs

Chicken wings are covered in a dry rub while they lie in a pan.
Sam Moqadam/Unsplash
Sam Moqadam/Unsplash

Spices are a tasty way to get nutrients and flavor into your meats and veggies. However, air fryers do not cooperate with dry rubs. Why? Because the circulating air inside will blow the spices right off, leaving your food with little to no flavor.

Chef Polak recommends combining the spices with a tiny bit of olive oil. The oil will stick the spices to the meat or veggies. Plus, the olive oil gives meats a nice sear. Do not over-season, or else the spices will fall into the basket anyway.

Broccoli Tends To Dry Out

A person holds up charred broccoli with tngs.

Although you can bake certain vegetables in an air fryer, do not do this with broccoli. Stephanie Pixley, deputy food editor of America’s Test Kitchen, tested some vegetables in air fryers. She found that broccoli dried out very quickly.

“Unfortunately, they just got very dry and dusty and the experience was like chewing on sandpaper,” she told Insider. Air fryers roast vegetables more quickly than ovens, and they evaporate more moisture. Because you can’t boil water in one, you cannot steam broccoli with an air fryer, either.

Like Pasta, Rice Can’t Handle The Air Fryer

Cooked white rice is in a small bowl.

Like pasta, rice requires at least a cup of water to cook. Dried rice needs hydration, and the heat circulation in air fryers does not allow that. According to Food Network, the fryer’s fan will not allow any water to reach a boiling point.

Although you cannot make traditional rice in an air fryer, you can use it for fried rice. Other recipes allow people to make curry rice, sriracha rice, and other dishes with a sauce that can cook the grains.

With Patience And Care, You Can Make Air Fryer Steak

A chef carries steak and tongs in a plate.
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some people believe that the air fryer cannot cook steak. That is not true! You can cook steak in an air fryer, but it might not be as charred as on the grill. If you want a bit of char, rub some olive oil on the steak before putting it in.

Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF. Season your steak as you please, letting it soak in the flavor for at least 20 minutes. Using an air fryer tray, put it in to bake for 12 minutes. Flip it halfway through.

Do Not Expect Medium Rare Burgers

Burger patties cook in an air fryer.
Gail Brook/Pinterest
Makayla Morris/Pinterest

Although you can cook burgers in an air fryer, do not expect them to be medium-rare. According to Pixley, air fryers do not provide a scorched crust like grills or ovens do. If you air fry a patty to medium-rare, the outside of the burger will not have time to brown.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that all ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F, brown on the outside with little to no pink in the middle. If you want well-done patties, air fry them.