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Air fryers are becoming so popular that mostly everyone has heard of them. People who own one, say the best things about them. For everyone else, it seems like it’s high on their list of things to buy. Air fryers are easy to use, promote healthier frying, easier to clean, much safer than a deep fryer and much cheaper. The most commonly known benefit of an air fryer is being able to get that nicely crisp brown finish, while leaving your foods inside juicy and tender without the use of oil (sometimes a small spray of oil can be helpful with certain foods and recipes).
Many of my friends have gotten one, but they all ask me the same question, “can I use aluminum foil in an air fryer”? I think people are apprehensive because of the dangerous light show you get from putting tin foil in the microwave. The good news is that air fryers are completely different than microwaves. Microwaves uses a microwave heating method; those microwaves can travel to the aluminum foil which is metal and conducts electricity causing it to spark or even burst into flames. Air fryers uses more of a convection heating method which heats air and circulates that heated air to evenly cook or fry your food.
The simple answer if you can use aluminum foil in an air fryer is yes. Using tin foil in your air fryer can bring you some benefits while cooking certain foods and make cleaning up easier. However, refer to your specific air fryer’s owner’s manual for instruction or if that particular manufacturer does not recommend it. With technology constantly evolving, you should always check. There could be a new mechanic in your air fryer that does not allow aluminum. Check your manual for what is allowed, safety comes first.
Aluminum foil will make using an air fryer easier in many instances. It also helps keep your food tastier, especially for certain foods where you want to keep the juices a little closer, allowing it to lock in all its flavors.
Lined properly, the aluminum foil will add to the heat distribution which reduces cooking times. Aluminum foil will really come in handy for soft foods you don’t want to fall apart when you take it out of the air fryer. Salmon is a great example of that, and you can also use the sides of the foil to lift it out of your air fryers basket, keeping it beautiful and ready for plating. I think that for most people the biggest reason they put foil in an air fryer is it helps making cleanup a breeze, especially for really fatty foods. Foil works particularly well for toaster oven air fryer combos which can be slightly more difficult to clean than stand-alone fryer. Toaster Oven-Air Fryer combos generally have the largest capacity as well.
The way an air fryer cooks is heating and circulating air. It is built specifically for that function and engineered to maximize that function. Aluminum foil was not in the blueprints, so you have to know how and when to use it.
When your recipe calls for using aluminum foil, you should only line the bottom of your food in a piece of foil that is slightly larger than the actual dish itself. You should not line the entire bottom of the basket and never block the sides. The holes in the basket are there so your air fryer can do its job, blocking them would block the air flow which is what is needed to cook the food properly. You should not cover the food in aluminum foil for the same reason, it will block out the convection. The tin foil you use needs to be stable in the basket and not be loose or it risks getting sucked into the heating unit. Use the weight of the food to hold the aluminum foil in place. You can wrap your food tightly in foil if you want, but that will mostly defeat the purpose of the air fryer. If you insist on using a larger lining of foil, punch holes in it so the air can still circulate. All experts agree to never put foil under the basket in the base of the air fryer where the grease and food particles fall.
-Tip- fold ridges into the aluminum foil to place under your dish in the air fryer. This allows the bottom of your food to breath more and not get soggy or mushy from the released juices. Never over crowd your basket to ensure even heat distribution for perfectly air fried foods. My air fryer has a basket size over 5QT which gives me enough space to make larger meals without overstuffing.
*Using aluminum foil the wrong way can lead to a broken machine, bad smell, smoke and even fire. Refer to the Owner’s Manual of your Air Fryer for proper instructions of using aluminum foil in your machine.
Using aluminum foil for certain foods are great, and for other specific groups of food, you want to stay away from using it completely.
Meats, chicken, and fish are all foods you probably want to use some aluminum foil to help catch some of the juices for flavor and make cleanup easy. A small lining of foil works perfectly for a baked potato, no need to wrap it although you can if you want to. You will surely need a small lining of foil if you’re baking things like cookies.
The most important knowledge for aluminum foil use with foods is when not to use it. Cooking foods with high acid content with aluminum foil will decay the foil into your food and onto the machine itself. You may have noticed the dark spots on aluminum foil before if you ever stored or reheated leftovers that may be acidic or citrusy. Some of these foods include tomatoes, fruits, vinegar-based foods and sauces. Using tin foil with the wrong foods will leave aluminum particles in your food and will have the taste of metal. The EFSA has many peer reviewed studies on this topic and cite some other foods that have a high absorption rate to accumulate aluminum like tea leaves, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli. Not to worry though as the NIH established the small amounts of aluminum our bodies absorb are safe, and the amount of aluminum from foods is small compared to the amount of aluminum found in things like antacids.
If you’re like me and prefer not to use aluminum foil, you can easily use parchment paper instead. Although it does not conduct heat like aluminum foil, it will serve its purpose of holding your food in place and reducing the mess. Besides, a good air fryer will perfectly cook your food, you don’t need the foil for heat. I still recommend punching holes into it for larger pieces.
This method is quite popular, companies have even started producing specially shaped parchment liner with holes specifically for air fryers.
Another alternative is to use nothing! A good air fryer will have a nice antistick coating that lasts and they’re easy to clean even without foil.