scorecardYes, you can put foil in an air fryer — here's how to do it safely
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Yes, you can put foil in an air fryer — here's how to do it safely

Antonia DeBianchi,James Brains   

Yes, you can put foil in an air fryer — here's how to do it safely
Insider Picks4 min read
  • Aluminum foil can be used in an air fryer, but it should only go in the basket.
  • Acidic foods react with aluminum, so avoid using foil when air frying tomatoes, peppers, or citrus.

For many home cooks, the best 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 are handy.

As with other beloved kitchen tools, the first thing you should figure out is what can — and subsequently, cannot — go in an air fryer, including a common household item: aluminum foil.

How does an air fryer work?

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."

When to use foil in your air fryer

There are two main reasons to use foil in your air fryer: simple clean-up and easy food removal. When you use foil, you keep the basket and drawer from coming into contact with food and thus don't need to clean them.

Foil is particularly helpful when cooking items that may stick to the basket, such as meats, eggs, and breaded foods. You can simply lift these items out by the edges of the foil.

If you're cooking several batches of food, foil is a huge time saver. Keeping the basket clean means you don't have to stop to clean the air fryer between each batch.

How to use foil in your air fryer

"If you can put something in an oven, you can put it into an air fryer, " says Laurence — including aluminum foil. However, there are two golden rules:

  • Only put the foil in the air fryer's basket, not the drawer. Otherwise, it could get blown around and cause a fire hazard.
  • Never preheat the air fryer with a foil-lined basket.

Here are three tips for using aluminum foil in your air fryer safely and effectively:

  • Don't cover the holes. "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."
  • Create a foil sling. 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."
  • Crumble up the foil. 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."

Avoid placing acidic foods on foil in your air fryer

When you're using foil with any heating appliance, steer clear of highly acidic ingredients. "They react with the foil and start to break it down, so you'll actually have aluminum in your food," she says. "Aside from the fact that that's not palatable, it's also not very good for you." These foods should not go on aluminum foil in your air fryer:

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

Aluminum foil vs. parchment paper vs. wax paper

Laurence recommends using parchment paper instead of foil when possible since it's not a reactive surface and food is less likely to stick to the paper. "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.

Parchment paper is better for the environment. Retailers even sell perforated parchment paper with circles specifically designed for air fryers. Just make sure to never use wax paper in your air fryer because it's heat-sensitive.

Silicone air fryer liners are another smart option. They are reusable, easy to clean, and unlikely to cause a fire hazard. If you like making eggs and other bite-sized treats in the air fryer, consider air fryer egg molds.

How to clean your air fryer

Always consult your user manual for the most accurate cleaning instructions. The user manual takes precedence over the tips we give here.

First, unplug your appliance and let it cool. Then, after each use, wash all removable accessories that come in contact with food. This might include the basket and drawer, which are usually dishwasher-safe or can be washed in warm soapy water. Use a damp cloth or soft sponge to wipe down the interior and exterior regularly. Dry all items before using them again.

Check out our article about how to clean an air fryer for more details.

Insider's takeaway

Putting foil in an air fryer is completely acceptable if you adhere to certain safety protocols.

But ultimately, foil isn't the ideal material for an air fryer. Perforated parchment paper, a silicone liner, or a bare basket are all better options.