Yes, you can put aluminium foil in an air fryer — but it’s not always the best option

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Foil can go in an air fryer, but it isn’t necessary. shauntoray grisby/Shutterstock
  • Aluminium foil can be used in an air fryer, but it should only go in the basket.
  • Acidic foods react with aluminium, so avoid using it with ingredients like tomatoes and citrus.
  • Parchment paper or a bare basket are better options because they won’t interfere with the cooking process.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For many home cooks, the air fryer has joined the Instant Pot and KitchenAid stand mixer as a countertop essential. Whether you’re cooking under a time crunch, have run out of oven space, or want a healthier spin on a deep-fried recipe, air fryers can come in handy.

As with other beloved kitchen tools, the first thing you should figure out is what you can — and subsequently, cannot — do. Before you get cooking, it’s important to learn what can safely go in an air fryer, including a common household item: aluminium foil.

How an air fryer works

According to chef Meredith Laurence of Blue Jean Chef, an air fryer is simply a compact, countertop convection oven that crisps and browns food quickly. There is, however, one key difference between this appliance and a traditional oven. “There’s a fan that blows hot air right next to a heating element, while in a regular oven, a fan blows hot air all around, but it’s not in direct relationship to the element,” Laurence says. “So in an air fryer that convection cooking is way more intense and way more direct.”

Only put foil in the basket

“If you can put something in an oven, you can put it into an air fryer, ” says Laurence — and that includes aluminium foil. So, if you’re typically one to sidestep an oven mess with this added layer, it’s also safe to use in an air fryer, but there are a few tips to adhere to.

The golden rule of using foil in an air fryer is to only put it in the basket. If placed in the bottom of the drawer, it could get blown around and ultimately dislodge. In the worst case scenario, the foil could blow onto the heating element, overheat, and potentially start a fire. Never preheat the air fryer with a foil-lined basket. You “want to make sure that [the foil is] weighed down with food,” Laurence says, or it could blow around into the heating element and start a grease fire.

Avoid placing acidic foods on aluminium

When you’re using foil with any heating appliance, there are certain foods to steer clear of. Aluminium is a reactive surface and it can react negatively with highly acidic ingredients. “They react with the foil and start to break it down, so you’ll actually have aluminium in your food,” she says. “Aside from the fact that that’s not palatable, it’s also not very good for you.”

Acidic foods that should not go on foil

  • Tomatoes
  • Fruit, especially citrus
  • Peppers
  • Marinades that contain vinegar or lemon juice

Use foil sparingly

If you using foil, you should tear as little as possible so you don’t cover the basket’s holes. If you’re making something doughy like a cookie, she recommends only putting enough foil down to ensure the dough doesn’t seep through.

“You’re really hindering the best effects of an air fryer when you cover those holes in the bottom of the basket,” Laurence says. “They’re there for a reason — to let the air really circulate perfectly around the whole entire surface of the food, including the bottom.” When you cover the perforations, you’re essentially top browning your food and not cooking it through.

Laurence recommends using parchment paper over foil when possible since it’s not a reactive surface and food is less likely to stick the paper. Plus, it’s better for the environment. Retailers even sell perforated parchment paper with circles specifically designed for air fryers. “Always opt for parchment paper over foil, except when you want to elevate your food or if you’re using that foil as a sling,” Laurence says. “Otherwise use the foil when the food comes out to keep it warm, but that’s about it.”

Turn the foil into a sling

If you do want to use foil, one of the safest ways to do so in an air fryer is for creating slings. Laurence suggests folding a long piece in half two times to create a narrow strip.”I’ll use that as handles to put something into the air fryer, and then I can just tuck those handles in, so that when the food is finished, I can then take those handles and pull the food out again.”

Use it to elevate the food

Foil can also be used to bring food closer to the heating element. “If you’re cooking a steak and you want to get a really brown crust, you could crumble up foil so that it’s very uneven and then you could put that in the basket,” she says. “You put the steak on top of that and it just elevates it a little bit closer to the element, so you can get a nicer brown on there.”

Insider’s takeaway

Putting foil in an air fryer is completely acceptable as long as you adhere to certain safety protocols. Ultimately, foil isn’t the most ideal cooking sheet to use in the air fryer. Using a bare basket or one covered in perforated parchment paper is the best option.

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