6 Things You Should Never Put in the Air Fryer

We read the manuals for Amazon’s three top-selling air fryers and crowdsourced from YouTube and TikTok to find the foods you should never ever put in your favorite countertop appliance.

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There's literally nothing you can't put in an air fryer, if you can jam it in the basket. But that doesn't mean you should. Try telling that to global singing/air-frying sensation Air Fryer Guy, and you might hear otherwise. Birthed by TikTok and our seemingly unanimous need to fry foods with less oil and more air, Air Fryer Guy's viral videos almost exclusively feature him air-frying ANYTHING. Although the notorious AFG may have a few lessons to teach us about what to absolutely, under no circumstances, never ever put in your air fryer, he is not the ultimate authority. A simple Googling will show how much conflicting information there is out there. So we've read the manuals of Amazon's three top-selling air fryers and crowdsourced YouTube for the things that you should never put in your favorite countertop appliance.

An airfryer full of question marks on a designed background with a do not enter symbol
Adobe Stock / ArtoBarto

1. Sugary items

It may go without saying, but never put cotton candy (aka fairy floss, aka spun sugar) in your air fryer. Or sour gummy candies. Nor whole Subway sandwiches, games of Boggle, or Apple watches (thank you, Air Fryer Guy!). The bottom line—sugary foods will melt and burn. They're just not made for an air fryer, so quit trying to crisp-up these items.

2. Overly fatty foods

According to Cosori, maker of the No. 1 bestselling air fryer on Amazon (Buy one: Amazon.com, $93), regardless of what you're cooking, never add more than 2 tablespoons of oil to your air fryer. The consensus when it comes to oil: Don't overdo it. Let the air do the frying.

Both the popular YouTube channels Mashed and Fabulessly Frugal note that olive oil is not air-fryer friendly because of its low smoke point. Instead, opt for oils with high smoke points, such as canola, vegetable, peanut, avocado or grapeseed oil. Fabulessly Frugal also recommends using your own mister or sprayer when adding oil (Buy one: Bedbathandbeyond.com, $11), advising that the chemical additives or propellants in canned, pressurized cooking sprays "cause problems with the coating inside the air fryer basket." However, the Cosori manual has no problem with store-bought sprays.

Excess fat and oil can also cause a mess inside an air fryer, which brings us to bacon. None of the bestselling air fryers' manuals discourage putting bacon in the basket. But quite a few users do discourage it because of the excess grease that dirties the basket. Bacon requires a fair amount of cleanup, so as long as you're not allergic to elbow grease, go for it!

Dash, maker of the No. 2 bestseller on Amazon (Buy one: Amazon.com, $50) does discourage putting "extremely fatty items, such as sausages, in the air fryer," and also advises that if you notice smoke, check to make sure the food is not touching the heating element.

3. Wet batter

The manual for the No. 3 bestselling air fryer on Amazon, the Vortex by Instant Pot (Buy one: Amazon.com, $100), notes, "For the Baking program only, you can use a metal or glass baking dish to hold things like batter for cakes and dough for breads." If your cooking vessel is oven-safe, it's air-fryer safe, if it fits in the basket. Avoid battered foods, like corn dogs, unless they're frozen. Coating any food with wet batter and plopping it in an air fryer never turns out well—not even for Air Fryer Guy. Breaded foods, like fish sticks, are A-OK.

4. Dry spices

The video on Mashed's YouTube is against using dry spice mixes because they blow around. This can be exceptionally tricky if those spices happen to be, well, spicy ones! Cue the cough fest. But they do point out that you can make them stick by using a bit of oil.

5. Liners, like wax paper or paper towels

Firm nos from Fabulessly Frugal include the use of wax paper and paper towels to line the basket. They'll burn! But, aluminum foil is OK as long as it doesn't obstruct the airflow.

6. Grains, like rice or popcorn

Most grains, including rice, will not cook properly in the air fryer. You'll need an extra vessel to hold the rice, and the water won't get hot enough, according to Mashed. Air fryers only get up to 400°F, which is also not hot enough to pop everyone's favorite snack (or sometimes dinner): popcorn. Stick to your usual method for popping.

What About Frozen Foods?

Fabulessly Frugal also agrees with all the brands when it comes to frozen foods—have at it! However, she does have one caveat: frozen veg tends to crisp up and cook better than fresh vegetables. In general, frozen foods cook quicker in an air fryer than in an oven. Fabulessly Frugal recommends using a slightly lower temperature than the one suggested on the packaging and keeping an eye on it until you get the timing right for various frozen foods.

Bottom Line

While it may seem like the air fryer can do it all, there are a few things it just can't handle. Save yourself the hassle (and potentially money for a new air fryer) and plan to cook up those particular foods on the stove, oven or in the microwave.

Along the same lines, there are a few things you shouldn't do in your air fryer. One being dehydrating foods. While Vortex brand is OK with using the air fryer as a dehydrator for fruits or veg, Mashed doesn't recommend it because the size of the basket is restrictive and the airflow blows around whatever you're dehydrating, making the end product inconsistent. Sure, you can try it, but you might be better off using this oven method instead. And secondly, you shouldn't overcrowd your air fryer because it may throw off cooking times or cause the food to cook unevenly. Except for chicken wings, according to Fabulessly Frugal, they still crisp up since they're all entirely covered in fatty chicken skin. But use your best judgment, you don't want wings sticking out of the fryer.

Follow these suggestions and guidelines (and your common sense) and you'll be off to a great air-frying start!

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