Everything you should and shouldn’t cook in an air fryer, according to the professionals

Image: Amazon
  • Although certain foods become crispy and juicy in an air fryer, others can get messy and dry.
  • The experts recommended using this appliance when preparing frozen food, making cookies, and cooking bacon.
  • You’ll want to avoid putting over-seasoned food items, wet batters, and cheese in as they can create a mess.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the air fryers assert its place as a must-have kitchen appliance, and it’s easy to understand why.

An air fryer is a great way to prepare certain dishes to how convenient it is to use, along with its cooking versatility. Even if you’re someone who struggles with cooking a slice of toast, an air fryer can make you feel like you’re a master chef

However, as good as this appliance can be, it isn’t an appropriate tool for every type of food. There are some dishes that just aren’t compatible with it.

To help guide you in your cooking pursuits, here are the best and worst foods to cook in an air fryer, according to chefs and other culinary experts.

Picking up a good air fryer

air fryer

Before you can make any of these dishes, you’ll need to make sure you have an essential ingredient: an air fryer. If you don’t currently have one of these appliances but are considering picking one up, there are a few good options currently available on the market.

Frozen food can become nice and crispy in an air fryer.

Frozen nuggets can get crunchy and golden in an air fryer. Shutterstock

The air fryer is a great appliance to use for reheating or cooking food that has been frozen, according to Stephanie Pixley, deputy food editor of America’s Test Kitchen.

It also does a great job of making food crispy because of the convection function, Pixley said. This feature allows hot air to surround the food, cooking it more evenly and quickly.

Brussel sprouts get nice and crispy in the air fryer, even without oil.

They won’t be as greasy as if you fried them in oil. Klaus Hackenberg/Getty Images

Brussel sprouts also do well in an air fryer, according to Pixley. The fryer helps the sprouts get crispy and you don’t have to deal with the mess and greasiness of oil.

You can quickly make cookies in an air fryer because it doesn’t have to preheat.

You can also try popping a firm premade cookie dough into an air fryer. iStock

According to Pixley, cookies can thrive in an air fryer, plus they are quick to prepare.

“I like keeping cookie-dough balls on hand in my freezer so that I can have one (or a few) without having to make up an entire batch. And now, I’m always going to make them in my air fryer,” Pixley told Insider.

Since you don’t have to preheat the fryer, you can have fresh, homemade cookies in 10 minutes flat, she added.

With practice and patience, you can make a beautifully cooked steak.

It’s all about timing. Shutterstock

Since air fryers can serve as miniature ovens, they can also be used to cook steak, Pixley told Insider.

With a little bit of practice you can get a beautifully cooked steak, allowing you to skip the smoke and flames from the grill, according to Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox.

Plus, it frees up the stovetop and doesn’t leave the mess that searing a steak typically produces, Pixley added.

It can help you to avoid soggy zoodles.

Zoodles can be used as a pasta alternative. Shutterstock

It may sound odd, but zoodles are actually an ideal food for this appliance, according to Jess Dang, founder of Cook Smarts.

“Zucchini releases a ton of moisture during cooking, so you can quickly wind up with a soggy mess in a pan,” Dang told Insider. “In the air fryer, however, all that excess moisture just drips out of the basket, leaving you with perfectly al dente zucchini noodles.”

Make your chicken breasts in the air fryer for juicy results.

If you use dry seasoning, be sure it’s rubbed in very well. iStock

The air fryer yields a much juicier chicken breast than either the oven or stovetop, according to Dang.

“Due to the compact design, there’s not as much room for the juices to evaporate like they sometimes do in other methods,” Dang said.

Glazed chicken also cooks nicely in an fryer, according to Pixley.

“With the high heat and constant airflow, the glaze caramelizes on the chicken, which just takes roast chicken to another level entirely,” Pixley told Insider.

Just be careful not to put too much glaze on your chicken, as the excess may drip and spread around your fryer chamber.

Using it to cook bacon is the way to go as it’s leaner and cleaner.

In an air fryer, your bacon can get crispy without becoming too oily. Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

Dang said her favourite way to cook bacon is actually by using the air fryer.

“Fat drips out of the basket to keep it a bit leaner, and it’s so much less messy and requires less supervision than other cooking methods,” Dang told Insider.

On the other hand, broccoli can dry out in an air fryer.

Broccoli might get kind of dust-like in an air fryer. Shutterstock

Pixley said that although brussels sprouts are fryer friendly, broccoli is not.

“After our experience with brussels sprouts, we had high hopes that broccoli florets would get super crispy and delicious. Unfortunately, they just got very dry and dusty and the experience was like chewing on sandpaper,” Pixley told Insider, recalling her kitchen experiences with the vegetables.

Avoid putting large roasts or whole chickens in.

Consider cooking a whole chicken in your oven instead. iStock

“Beyond the obvious question of whether they will fit in the air fryer basket, larger roasts and whole chickens just won’t cook evenly,” Pixley said.

The portion closest to the heat source, according to Pixley, will burn and dry out well before the portion furthest away from the heat source is safe to eat.

Any food with a wet batter should not be placed in the air fryer.

Unless they’re pre-fried, you’ll want to avoid putting corndogs in your air fryer since the batter can make a mess. Shutterstock

You also want to avoid putting food that has a wet batter, like corndogs or tempura shrimp in this appliance.

Wet batter goes everywhere and, without a proper oil bath, the batter won’t set, which means it won’t be the crispy, fried item you hoped it would be, according to Polak.

“Not only will the batter drip off the food during cooking and probably burn and stick to the bottom of your air fryer, [but also] it ends up chewy and not at all crispy,” Pixley said.

Cheese can create a huge mess.

A grilled cheese might ooze all over your air fryer. Erin McDowell/Insider

You also want to avoid putting cheese in this appliance, according to Polak.

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

Medium-rare burgers are not likely to happen in an air fryer.

If you want a medium-rare burger, you may want to take out your grill. Shutterstock

“Air frying a burger to perfect medium-rare just isn’t going to happen without a lot of compromise,” Pixley told Insider.

Reaching medium-rare doneness doesn’t take long in the air fryer, and the exterior of the burger just won’t have time to brown, according to Pixley.

You can, however, easily use an fryer to create a well-done burger, she explained.

Fresh greens don’t belong in an air fryer because they will fly all over the place.

They may not cook well, either. Pixabay

Fresh greens, like spinach or kale, are also something you want to avoid putting in an air fryer, according to Polak.

“These greens will literally fly all over the place and cook unevenly. Stick to the normal oven if you’re looking for kale chips,” Polak said.

Over-seasoned proteins and vegetables are also to be avoided.

An air fryer may not treat your dry rub too kindly. iStock

Over-seasoning your meats and veggies prior to placing them in the air fryer is another big mistake.

In general, when you have a food that has a dry surface with seasonings, these seasonings can get blown off by the airflow or will fall through the basket, Polak said.

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