Air fryer & foil: A crispy conundrum

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Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer? While the short answer is yes, there are a few things to consider and know before doing so. This comprehensive guide details the safe way to use foil in an air fryer and answers some common questions about doing so.

An air fryer with chicken wings on top of aluminum foil.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

The rise of air fryers

Air fryers have shot to fame in the last couple of years, and many home cooks have eagerly joined the trend, using them for easy and quick meals. They’re simple to use, cut cooking times down by a significant amount and produce incredibly consistent results.

Since air fryers are essentially just mini-convection ovens, they’re most impactful for those whose ovens don’t have a convection setting. But, even if your oven does, you may still find yourself gravitating to the air fryer for certain recipes.

From larger meals to easy condiments, like air fryer roasted garlic, it’s one of the few kitchen countertop appliances worth the space it takes up. With so many great uses, the question of whether aluminum foil can be safely used in the air fryer pops up often among its biggest fans and is worth exploring in detail.

Using aluminum foil in an air fryer

Before unraveling if you can put aluminum foil in an air fryer, there are two main considerations:

  • The type of air fryer you have — basket or oven model.
  • What kind of food you’re cooking.

Both of these things can impact the decision of whether or not to use tin foil in the appliance. Specific brands will also detail in their instruction manuals whether or not aluminum foil is recommended.

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Reasons for using aluminum foil

Much like using parchment paper on a baking sheet for oven cooking, the most common reason for wanting to use foil in an air fryer is to simplify cleanup. However, aluminum foil has a few different uses in the air fryer:

  1. Lining the bottom tray in an oven-model air fryer and collecting any drippings — this is great when making recipes like air fryer cod.
  2. To wrap the food itself, creating a packet-like meal for both easier cleanup and better flavor.
  3. To prevent the food from sticking to either the basket or trays.
A roll of aluminum foil on a white surface.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

How air fryers work

Air fryers work by creating a constant circulation of hot air around the food as it cooks. Every air fryer has a heating element in it, just like an oven. If you have an oven-type air fryer, the heating coils are likely on the top of the air fryer, whereas a basket model air fryer heats from the bottom, below the basket.

It’s imperative not to block the heat from circulating in an air fryer; otherwise, the effectiveness of the appliance will be compromised. For that reason, using aluminum foil in a basket air fryer can be a little trickier than an oven model.

How to use aluminum foil in an oven model air fryer

The best use of tin foil in air fryer ovens is to line the grease tray at the bottom with it. This simple use allows drippings that fall off the food while cooking to deposit on the aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Since the heating element is located at the top of the air fryer oven, using aluminum foil on the bottom like this does not interrupt the airflow nor impact cooking.

To cook foods in foil — such as sriracha honey salmon vegetable packets — just make sure not to let the foil cover the entire surface area of the tray. Air needs to be able to flow around the food from bottom to top. If the tray is completely covered in foil, it will block the movement and result in unevenly cooked food.

Instead of using foil to keep food from sticking to the trays in an oven-model air fryer, it’s a better idea to lightly grease the trays ahead of time instead. You can do this with butter, oil or a spray.

How to safely use foil in a basket model air fryer

Basket-model air fryers are a little trickier. Since the heating element is located underneath the basket, there is no foolproof way to use foil to collect grease or drippings. You can use tin foil in an air fryer basket, but you need to ensure the foil doesn’t cover all of the holes in the basket, as they’re what allow the heat and air to push up from the heating element.

If foil blocks all the openings, the food will not come out crispy, and you also run the risk of potentially damaging the appliance. Unlike oven models, aluminum foil cannot be used on the very bottom beneath the basket of the air fryer to catch excess oil and drippings.

A plate of meat patties and a salad.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Weighing the foil down

As mentioned, air fryers blow air around the food while cooking. Therefore, if the food isn’t sitting directly on the foil or if it’s just not heavy enough, the foil might get blown about. To avoid this issue:

  • Wrap the food more tightly with the aluminum
  • Use something air-fryer safe to keep the foil from being blown about — pie weights can work well for this.

Acidic foods in an air fryer

It’s best to avoid cooking acidic foods with aluminum foil. Things like tomatoes, citrus and vinegar can cause a chemical reaction with the foil and allow the aluminum to leach into the food.

The final word on aluminum foil and air fryers

If you’re one of many who have hopped on the air fryer train in the last few years, now you know that you can put aluminum foil in an air fryer safely if done properly. Not only can it help with cleanup, but it can also be used to keep the flavorful juices around the food you’re cooking to result in the tastiest meal possible.

Gina Matsoukas is the photographer, writer and recipe creator of Running to the Kitchen. Focusing on healthy, seasonal, whole-food recipes, her work has been featured in various online and print publications including Food Network, Prevention Magazine and Women’s Health. Gina lives in central New York where she enjoys an active outdoor life.

This article originally appeared on Running to the Kitchen.

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