Aluminum foil is a useful accompaniment to cooking as it can lock in flavors and help with clean up - but can you use foil in an air fryer? Here's what the experts say
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Air fryers are incredibly useful kitchen appliances, allowing you to cook a variety of foods quickly and with minimal mess. But a common question asked by users is, can you put foil in an air fryer? Is it safe, and are there any benefits to using it if so?
Whether you want to cook salmon, chips, eggs, chicken, or a host of other foods, the best air fryers are a great option for achieving a tasty, crispy texture. Plus, they're easy to use, and cook food quickly, too. But given they are a relatively new kitchen must-have, many of us aren't exactly clued up on what we can and can’t put in them. So once you've answered the question of what can I cook in my air fryer you might be wondering what else you can put inside them.
A common concern is tin (or aluminum) foil. Experts advise against putting it in our microwaves, so is it safe to put it in an air fryer? We spoke to professional chefs and long-time air fryer users to find out.
Can you put foil in an air fryer?
We spoke to various air fryer experts. And the answer was a resounding yes – as long as you follow some important guidance.
Using foil in an air fryer is considered to be safe as it doesn't operate like a microwave (of all the things not to put in a microwave, foil is at the top of the list) – though it’s an easy mistake to assume that it acts like one.
Because an air fryer is primarily heated via a fan – the appliance heats up quickly, and then the fan distributes the hot air – the way it works is more similar to an oven – meaning that like an oven, it is safe to put tin foil inside an air fryer.
Dennis Littley (opens in new tab), a chef of 20 years, clarified, "A common misconception is that tin foil can't be used in an air fryer. I think people perceive the cooking within an air fryer to be similar to a microwave when actually it's totally different. I'd actually recommend using tin foil in an air fryer – especially as it can be very useful for saving on the clean up afterward.”
However, he advises that before you start using tin foil in your air fryer, it may be worth checking the manual of your specific model. "The likes of Phillips air fryers, for example, say not to use tin foil – so it can be different for each brand."
So whether you have a Phillips model, a Ninja air fryer, a Tower air fryer, or another brand, "Make sure you check if you can use it prior to cooking,” Dennis said. Check by consulting your manufacturer's user manual.
The dos and don'ts of using foil in an air fryer
While you can use foil in an air fryer, there are a few points to bear in mind in order to ensure you are cooking your food when using your air fryer, in the safest way possible.
- Don't cover the food completely with tin foil: "Ensure the tin foil doesn't totally cover the food or the base, as the food within an air fryer needs breathing space to fully get the benefit," advises Dennis.
- Don't use tin foil alone in an air fryer: Jenny Tschiesche (opens in new tab), chef, nutritionist and author of the Air Fryer Cookbook (opens in new tab) explained, “You must never put foil or in your air fryer without food or a suitably sized dish on top to weigh it down.” This is so that the foil doesn't move during cooking, which would leave it open to potentially coming into contact with the heating element. "Having foil touching the heating element may prevent thorough cooking, and could spark a flame," Jenny says. So before you begin cooking in your air fryer with foil, ensure you have either placed food on top of it, or that are using a dish alongside it.
- Cut your foil to fit your air fryer: “The foil must fit the footprint of your air fryer almost exactly so that there is no possibility of excess touching the heating element,” advises Jenny. In order to do this, “you can use the air fryer basket or tray as a template to cut around.”
- Avoid using certain foods with foil in your air fryer: “Acidic foods should be a no-no as they react with the foil. So tomatoes, peppers, and anything with citrus in should be avoided," advises Dennis. For more guidance on the foods that don't belong in an air fryer, consult our guide on what not to cook in an air fryer.
Should you use tin foil in your air fryer?
So why might you actually want to use foil in your air fryer, when it works perfectly well without it?
According to Dennis, it can actually be a great way to lock in flavor. “If you're using lots of herbs and spices, you don't want the flavor to run off and to the bottom, so it's a great way of keeping those ingredients in with the food you're cooking," he tells us.
Tin foil can also help your food to cook evenly, meaning it can be a great tool for use in your air fryer cooking. Jenny explains, “There are certain foods that will benefit from having small holes put in the foil to allow air to move and circulate above, below, and through the food."
However, it’s important to remember that one of the primary benefits of air fryers (and one of the reasons air fryers are a healthier cooking choice) is their ability to drain away excess oil. "Remember that an air fryer is designed to allow excess fat to drip down into the tray or level below," Jenny told us. "So if that is your objective, you may not want to use foil. However, there’s no reason why you can’t use it with pretty much any food."
Can you put parchment paper in an air fryer?
Similar to tin foil, parchment paper–or wax paper–are also perfectly safe to use in your air fryer. In fact, Dennis explained that “similar to tin foil, parchment paper can also be a great way of locking in flavor.”
However, it too should also be kept out of the direct heat of the air fryer. Dennis advised, “Just make sure you line the bottom of the air fryer with the paper, not the top, to avoid it coming directly into contact with the heat.”
Parchment paper is also considered to be a slightly safer alternative to foil in the cooking world, as it is not reactive in the way that the aluminum in foil is. So it may even be a better option!
Just remember to treat parchment paper in your air fryer in much the same way as you would tin foil. Like tin foil, parchment or wax paper should also be placed into your air fryer at the same time as your food to stop it from coming into contact with the heating element. And again, Jenny advises that poking holes in your parchment paper can also help with the cooking process, to allow the air in the device to circulate as intended.
So in answer to the question can you put foil in an air fryer? It is safe to use both foil and wax/parchment paper in your air fryer. But it's important to be aware that all of the different options have their own pros and cons.
With tin foil and parchment paper, your air-fried food may well be able to lock in flavor more easily – but it may also lock in excess oil, and you may not be able to achieve that textbook 'crunchy' texture we all love from our air fryers.
It's worth bearing in mind that using foil or parchment in an air fryer is absolutely not essential, and you’ll be able to cook great food without it – so only use it if you feel it would benefit your overall dish.