Experts Share Six Common Foods You Should Never Cook In The Air Fryer

air fryer
Credit: Alamy

Experts have shared six common foods that you should never cook in the air fryer.

An air fryer is a popular kitchen device that uses hot air to cook food by circulating it around at high speed, serving as a healthier option to traditional deep frying.

It achieves the desired crispy texture without the need for excessive oil, making it a popular choice for those seeking a lighter way to prepare their favourite foods.

If you look on social media, you’ll see numerous recipes that suggest using one of these kitchen appliances to help achieve super crispy yet surprisingly healthy results.

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However, experts have warned that these nifty gadgets can’t be used to cook everything – and in some cases, it could be very dangerous.

A number of experts – including senior editor Samuel Goldsmith, recipe developer Ailsa Burt, cookery assistant Helena Busiakiewicz, expert reviewer Millie Fender, head chef Yankel Polak, dietician Brenda Peralta, and deputy food editor Stephanie Pixley – have shared warnings about the common foods that you should never cook in an air fryer.

So let’s take a look at what they are…

1. Cheese

Fresh cheese has been deemed an absolute no-no for cooking in the air fryer.

Speaking to Insider, head chef Polak explained that people often think an air fryer operates the same way a deep fryer, but this isn’t the case.

“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 said.

“Instead you’ll get a cheesy mess in your fryer.”

This also applies to making a grilled cheese, which will burn under the intense pressure of the hot air. In fact, a good old toastie machine or skillet is the best option in this case.

Homes And Gardens do suggest, however, that frozen breaded cheese bites or frozen mozzarella sticks are okay to cook in the air fryer.

But remember – fresh cheese is an absolute no-go.

Brie Cheese
Cheese is one food you should avoid sticking in the air fryer. Credit: Alamy

2. Pasta, rice and toast

Raw grains, like pasta and rice, need to be boiled in water to cook, and air fryers aren’t built for boiling or steaming foods.

Air fryers are designed for dry cooking, making them unsuitable for dishes that require immersion in water during the cooking process.

Even if you use an insert that enables you to add water to the air fryer, the fan inside the appliance won’t reach the necessary temperature to boil the water and effectively cook your grains.

It is possible to add cooked pasta to the air fryer, and pasta bakes that just need the baking part should be fine.

However, recipe developer Burt tells BBC Good Food that you shouldn’t use an air fryer to cook pasta dishes with lots of sauce – we’ll explain why later.

Experts warn against cooking pasta or anything with sauce in an air fryer. Credit: Angele J/Pexels

Likewise, if you want to add a crispy finish to rice, senior editor Goldsmith suggests cooking it on a hob first before adding it to the air fryer for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, adding bread to the air fryer to make toast is another big mistake.

Cookery assistant Busiakiewicz explains: “If you put bread in an air fryer, it will just move around and not really cook properly.

“For the best results, I’d always stick to a toaster.”

Toasting bread in an air fryer can also result in scattered crumbs accumulating around the fan and heating elements.

These crumbs can be challenging to clean and may cause a lingering burning odour every time you use them.

So remember, it’s always best to stick to a traditional toaster if you’re craving a crispy piece of toast.

3. Anything with a wet batter or sauce

You should avoid adding anything with a wet batter to the air fryer – as it could be very dangerous.

Pixley and Polak have both explained to Insider that the batter won’t settle properly in the air fryer – meaning that it won’t get crispy.

Pixley explains: “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.”

Even more concerningly, wet batter can get blown around the air fryer and stick to the heating elements, or even blow behind the fan, both of which can lead to a fire.

Experts say fried foods that have been frozen can be air-fried however, as the wet batter is set during the freezing process.

Likewise, hearty meals with lots of sauce such as chilli con carne, stew or bolognese are not recommended.

Air Fryer
Air fryers are popular kitchen appliances, but there are several foods you should not cook in there. Credit: Alamy

Food editor Goldsmith advises against cooking them in an air fryer – as the hot air circulating inside the device can cause hot liquids to splatter, which could be dangerous and very messy.

Expert reviewer Fender warns: “Air fryers are not designed to be filled with liquids.

“Loose liquids can easily be blown about by the fans and cause a spark leading to a fire.”

For dishes with runny sauces, it’s advisable to prepare them on the stovetop or in a conventional oven.

The likelihood is that such foods don’t require the crisping-up process that air frying provides anyway.

4. Fresh greens

Vegetables with low water content, such as broccoli and fresh greens, can pose a challenge in an air fryer.

While certain vegetables like sprouts and potatoes excel in an air fryer, delicate greens like broccoli or thin, leafy varieties may rapidly dehydrate and scorch in the high-intensity, rapid heat of an air fryer.

Experts also warn that these foods won’t cook evenly.

Fresh Greens
If you are considering cooking fresh greens in your air fryer, you may want to think again. Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

Polak tells Insider: “These greens will literally fly all over the place and cook unevenly.

“Stick to the normal oven if you’re looking for kale chips.”

In such cases, conventional cooking methods like frying and roasting may produce better results.

Roasting your fresh greens in a traditional oven tends to be a better way to get a crispy, crunchy taste – which isn’t achievable in an air fryer.

5. Roast chicken, bacon, hamburgers and steaks

Experts have also warned against cooking a number of meats in the air fryer, including whole roast chicken, bacon and red meats such as hamburgers and steaks.

You should avoid putting large roasts or whole chickens in the air fryer.

A whole chicken is at risk of not cooking through properly, or cooking unevenly risking salmonella and food poisoning.

Pixely explains: “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.”

As per Pixley’s insight, the portion closest to the heat source will burn and dry out well before the portion farthest from the heat source is safe to eat.

The same goes for bacon, as Peralta, of, tells the Huffington Post: “Bacon is a fatty food, and when it is cooked in an air fryer, the fat can drip down and cause smoke or splatter.

While many people think bacon is OK to stick in the air fryer, one expert has warned why you shouldn’t cook it in there. Credit: Alamy

“This can make the bacon difficult to cook evenly, and it can also produce a lot of smoke and odours.”

When the bacon is uncooked in some areas you run the risk of getting food poisoning.

Food poisoning is caused by eating something that has been contaminated with germs, according to the NHS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year 48 million people in the US get food poisoning, 128,000 are hospitalised, and 3,000 die.

Red meats like burgers and steaks can be prepared in an air fryer – but experts warn it’s not the best method for achieving perfectly cooked results.

Air fryers operate through swift, direct heat for crisping food, which can be overly intense for the delicate and precise cooking required for red meat.

The outcome is often meat that’s excessively dry, lacking in flavour, and possessing subpar texture.

Should you opt to use an air fryer for red meat, it’s important to regularly open the basket to monitor the cooking progress.

6. Popcorn

Popcorn is another snack that should be avoided for safety reasons.

This is because the kernels may get stuck in the air fryer’s heating components – which can present another fire hazard.

Popcorn is reportedly a fire hazard if you cook it in an air fryer. Credit: Mo Abrahim/Pexels

Fender explains: “Air fryers are healthy cooking alternatives, so I can see why some people would try frying a healthy snack such as popcorn in an air fryer but this is perhaps the worst idea I could think of.”

She also states that air fryers don’t generate enough heat to make all the kernels pop, so not only would you not get a full bowl of popcorn, but it will cause more damage to your machine than good.

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Written by Rosario Monachino

Rosario is a former content editor at IGV who specialised in film, TV and entertainment news. He has a degree in English and Film from the University of Salford and a masters in Journalism from Liverpool John Moores University.