For decades, aluminum foil has been used to aid in cooking and keeping cleanup in the kitchen a breeze, but can you use it in your air fryer? Air fryers, which are mini convection ovens, “fry” food using hot air and a small amount of oil. The extremely hot heat circulates around your food via a fan, which lends to crisping your food in a fried-like manner.1 Though simple to use, there are ins and outs to be aware of when operating a large, kitchen appliance.
The Great Foil Debate
Yes, you can use foil in your air fryer, but should you? Research suggests using aluminum foil for cooking could lead to possible health complications.2 High concentrations of aluminum have been connected to the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as those with bone diseases or compromised kidney function. The research further indicates that temperature and length of cooking time play a role in how harmful aluminum foil may be. Lengthier cooking times, higher temps, and acidic foods resulted in more aluminum leeching out of the foil and depositing itself in numerous places in the body.
Researchers also mention that minimal amounts of aluminum are okay for the human body since small amounts are typically excreted from the body without issue. As a result, some experts say it’s probably safe to use aluminum foil for cooking on occasion.3 But if you’re at all concerned with the possible health risks, it could be time to give up the foil as a cooking accessory.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
How to Safely Use Foil
To minimize risk, follow a few simple rules if you decide to use aluminum foil in your air fryer. Always use the basket that comes with your air fryer, whether you use foil or an alternative cooking container or protective covering, according to Insider.4 Chefs also recommend you place the foil in the fryer only when you’re ready to put the food in there as well. Otherwise, lightweight items such as foil could move around the air fryer, possibly overheat, and potentially cause a fire.
Foil can also be used to make a sling – a long piece of folded foil that resembles a sling with handles, which allows you to carefully lift your food out of the basket without having to pick it up from the bottom.
Ball up small pieces of foil and place them on the bottom of the basket. Arrange your food on top of the balled foil to raise your food higher in the basket. This brings your food closer to the heating element for a deeper browning effect.
Don’t fully cover the bottom of the basket with foil, however. The holes are what help the air to circulate around your food and cause the crispiness you desire. Use just enough foil to put the food on. Don’t use acidic foods, such as tomatoes, vinegar, peppers, or fruit, since the acid will break down the foil faster.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Whatever cookware you can safely put in your oven, you can safely put in your air fryer, provided it fits of course. Oven-proof glass, ceramic, cast iron, silicone, porcelain, and stainless steel are good options for using inside your air fryer, especially when it comes to foods like pizza, sticky foods, small cakes, or other baked goods.
Insert accessories are sold specifically for air fryers, such as muffin pans, cake pans, deep dishes for pizza, and stainless steel cooking racks. Parchment paper is a good substitute for aluminum foil, and you can even find perforated parchment paper made to fit your air fryer to help keep the air circulating. It serves the same purpose as a foil – keeps your food from sticking and helps with general cleanup.
Oil sprays are also recommended to keep food from sticking and also to encourage browning.5 Lightly spray the bottom of the basket before putting it in the air fryer or spray your food before placing it in the basket, for best results.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
What to Cook or Not to Cook
So what can you cook in an air fryer? From meat to veggies to bread to dessert, there are a number of foods that can be fried, baked, or steamed in your fryer. Toss cubed or small vegetables in some oil before placing them in your air fryer basket (lined with parchment if you prefer an easier cleanup). Cook steak, chicken, pork, or even make meat and veggie kebabs. Adjust the air fryer to a lower temperature to cook delicate foods, such as fish.
Make the most out of your air fryer, and use the inserts that are made to fit inside. Expand your culinary delights, and create freshly baked bread, muffins, cakes, and more. You can also make cookies, but be sure to use parchment paper so the dough doesn’t fall through the holes of the basket.
While a good majority of foods can be cooked in an air fryer, there are a few items that just won’t work. Air fryers are made to cook dry foods, so anything that’s wet or requires a lot of liquid to cook will not cook well.6 This includes wet batter, raw grains like rice and pasta, and cheese.
Whether or not you use foil in your air fryer is a matter of personal preference and risk assessment. Parchment paper is a safer alternative, and air fryers can hold numerous other inserts and oven-safe cookware. With many options to choose from, aluminum foil isn’t necessary for your cooking needs. But in a pinch and not used often, foil can be a viable go-to cooking accessory.
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- Frequently Asked Air Frying Questions. Americastestkitchen.com. Accessed Sept 24, 2021.
- Bassioni G, Mohammed FS, Zubaidy EA, Kobrsi I. Risk assessment of using aluminum foil in food preparation. Int. J. Electrochem. Sci. 2012;7:4498-4509. Published May 1, 2012. Accessed Sept 24, 2021.
- Erickson A, Jones M. Is It Safe to Cook with Aluminum Foil? Rd.com. Updated January 15, 2021. Accessed Sept 24, 2021.
- DeBianchi A. Yes, you can put aluminum foil in an air fryer – but it’s not always the best option. Insider.com. Published Feb 4, 2021. Accessed Sept 24, 2021.
- How to Get the Most From Your Air Fryer. Americastestkitchen.com. Accessed Sept 24, 2021.
- Taubenfeld E. 5 Things You Should Never Cook in an Air Fryer. Rd.com. Updated Jan 8, 2021. Accessed Sept 24, 2021.