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5 foods you should never cook in an air fryer and why

daewoo air fryer with food inside and on plate feature - what can you not put in an air fryer

Air fryers excel at cooking an array of foods, but be aware that certain recipes and items could result in culinary catastrophe

The best air fryers can be an invaluable tool for creating delicious meals in super-quick time. Not only that, but with the added bonus that they use very little oil, which enables us to enjoy the crisp pleasures of fries, chicken or even fish – among other things – in a healthier way.

But if you’ve only just treated yourself to one of these genius appliances, then you may well be unclear over which food items cook best in an air fryer – and which foods shouldn’t go anywhere near an air fryer.

While most foods are technically safe to cook in an air fryer, certain ingredients or types of food are best avoided, simply because they either won’t cook to the optimal standard, or because they will leave you with a rather involved clean-up job. There are plenty of air fryer cookbooks around for inspiration on what to cook, what not to cook and the how-tos. So, to save you from having to find out for yourself, we reveal the foods you should never cook in an air fryer – with a little help from some experts.

What shouldn’t you cook in an air fryer? Five foods to avoid

1. Saucy foods, such as bolognese

chilli dish with kidney beans in bowl with herbs and crackers in background - what can you not put in an air fryer

According to the experts, it’s unwise to put any foods with too much sauce into your air fryer – and not only because of the resulting mess.

“Saucy dishes – those with sauce as the main ingredient, such as bolognese or chilli con carne, should be kept well away from air fryers, even if placed within a silicone basket”, says Thea Whyte, air fryer expert at “The hot air circulating in the appliance will cause liquids to splatter, which can be both dangerous and messy.”

Jack McCallum, small domestic appliance buyer at Daewoo Electricals, points out that there’s also a risk to your appliance. “The sauce can get into the air fryer’s mechanism and possibly damage the appliance”, he says.

2. Battered foods

In a similar vein, foods with lots of wet batter may not fare very well in an air fryer either, despite this appliance’s reputation for delivering a healthier alternative to deep-fried food.

“The batter mix can drip and create a mess in the basket, and it may not cook evenly or even form a crispy battered coating”, Thea says.

In fact, the results may not be what you expect, according to Paul Bough, chef at ZWILLING UK: “Battered foods may easily become dry, so if you’ve chosen to put them in the air fryer, be sure to monitor carefully,” he explains.

“If you have something with a sauce, it’s probably more advisable to use a slow cooker for best results”, he adds.

3. Eggs for hard boiling

Those who love a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the morning are probably best sticking to a pot of boiling water for their preferred results.

eggs in wooden bowl with fresh herbs on top - what can you not put in an air fryer

As Thea explains: “While an air fryer can certainly be used to make hard-boiled eggs on a practical level, it isn’t the best idea, since this process can quickly ruin your egg,” she says. “An egg can become rubbery and chewy, which can spoil the entire meal for many people.”

4. Food containing lots of water

According to Paul, “foods with a high water content may not cook through properly in an air fryer”. The reason for this is that air fryers crisp food by circulating hot air around the machine – and it can be tricky for the appliance’s heat to properly penetrate any food that has a lot of water in it.

“If you put vegetables or whole tomatoes in an air fryer, for example, they’re more likely to go mushy and soggy than crispy”, Jack says.

Those who do want to cook foods that are naturally moist – such as chicken breast or potatoes – in an air fryer should take a few steps beforehand for best results. For example, be sure to remove excess water first by patting down the items with kitchen paper, and add a small coating of oil before placing into the air fryer.

5. Leafy vegetables

Keep your leafy greens well clear of an air fryer. In fact, if you attempt to load them in for cooking, they’re not even guaranteed to stay put in your air fryer’s basket, due to the fact that the appliance blows hot air around in order to heat your food.

kale in bowl with cheese and lemon with cutlery - what can you not put in an air fryer

“Leafy veg can end up just blowing around in the air fryer and won’t cook well,” Jack says. “Avoid cooking foods such as spinach or kale in this appliance.”

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Why you should never overload your air fryer

Whether you’re cooking some chicken or baking some muffins, it’s important to avoid placing too much food in your air fryer.

“If the air fryer is overfilled, there won’t be enough room for the hot air to circulate and cook foods properly,” Paul points out. The result will be food that is undercooked or overcooked in spots, or that it may not be as crispy as you’d like it.

Cooking bigger items such as a whole chicken in an air fryer is possible, but Paul advises that there are a few things to be aware of when doing so.

“Ensure you have a big enough air fryer, with enough room for the air to circulate and cook the piece of meat thoroughly”, he says. “It may need checking often and turning to ensure it’s evenly cooked.

He also advises that you consider investing in a meat thermometer. “A good meat thermometer removes the guesswork, and ensures that food is neither over nor undercooked; always check the thickest part of the meat for the most accurate reading.”

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The ideal foods for cooking in an air fryer

There are clearly a few food items that are best kept well away from your air fryer – but there’s no denying that these appliances are still expertly equipped to cook so many of our favourite foods to their very best.

“Chips (french fries) and roast potatoes cook beautifully in an air fryer”, says Jack. “There’s nothing better than crispy potatoes, plus an air fryer gets perfect results without using lots of oil, and in far less time than cooking in the oven, too.”

Meat and fish also cook perfectly in an air fryer. “Fish such as salmon works really well in an air fryer, as does breaded chicken”, adds Jack. In fact, it’s possible to achieve brilliant results with lots of breaded products including halloumi fries, mozzarella sticks and breaded fish.

zwilling air fryer with potato dish in front - what can you not put in an air fryer

And while leafy greens aren’t recommended, Jack says, “vegetables such as sprouts, corn on the cob and broccoli crisp up really well in an air fryer”.

While the food items mentioned above are those typically associated with air fryers, Paul urges that these machines are also great at cooking slightly more unconventional items. “The kitchen appliance of the moment can also be used to make healthier versions of classic bakes, from blueberry muffins to doughnuts. It’s also ideal for reheating leftovers, ensuring they regain their original crispiness and flavour, so that nothing in the fridge goes to waste”, he says.

For more ideas on what to cook in your air fryer, read our full article on the best things to cook in an air fryer.

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