Can You Put Foil in an Air Fryer? How to Use Aluminum Foil in an Air Fryer

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Can you put foil in an air fryer? Read more about how to use aluminum foil in an air fryer here!

crumpled up tin foil.
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Air fryers are all the rage these days—from being touted as a healthier alternative to frying, to the ease with which it makes cooking, it’s become something of a game-changer in the kitchen. As far as kitchen appliances go, an air fryer has proven to be quite the versatile tool for different types of food, helping create better flavor with half the mess. It’s no surprise that air fryers are used often: they’re easy to use, and also relatively easy to clean. 

However, some days, you just might be tempted to skip the washing. You just had to air fry those donuts you’ve heard so much about, and you’re going to use it again to make dinner—do you really need to go through all that effort? Or you’re using it for greasy foods and want to avoid the residue that make it just a tad harder to clean. A little foil won’t hurt, right? But can you even put aluminum foil in an air fryer? Read more about how to use aluminum foil in an air fryer here!

an air fryer.

How Does an Air Fryer Work? 

An air fryer is a kitchen appliance, a lot like a countertop convection oven, in that it doesn’t literally fry your food. Rather, its cooking process works by way of circulating hot air down and around the food. The top section of the air fryer has a built-in heating mechanism, and a fan that allows for this hot air to circulate. This heat circulation is what gives that crisp you look for when frying food, which the air frying basket—usually with slats or holes, depending on the design—supports, much like when you use a deep fryer. 

Because of this whole process, the good news is that oil doesn’t figure as much in the process. Unlike when deep frying, the air circulation ensures evenness and consistency in frying. Little to no oil is needed, hence the health factor. Because you don’t have to aid the process through the use of supplemental oil or other fat substitutes, cooking food in an air fryer is also a great way to lessen the fat content significantly. So if the air fryer works by circulating air, can you still use aluminum foil? 

Can You Put Aluminum Foil in an Air Fryer?

The short answer is yes, with certain benefits. 

The long answer is that, unlike microwave ovens that react to foil, the heating element to the air fryer won’t create the same sparks you would expect to see if using a microwave. In fact, there are some other advantages to using aluminum foil, especially for your more delicate dishes like burritos that might stick and ruin the texture. Using aluminum foil makes it easier to retain the form of your food without having to scrape it off the basket should it stick. This also helps during clean-up, particularly for grease and drippings that leave the air fryer greasy and harder to wash. Lining the basket lessens the clean-up time. 

However, there are certain things to remember when using tin foil. Precisely because it works by circulating heat, remember to use the foil on the air fryer basket (where the food actually sits) and not on the very bottom. Placing it there would severely restrict the air flow, resulting in unevenly cooked food, longer cooking times, or worse, the foil could get blown around and onto the heating element, causing a safety issue such as a fire. It also helps to check with the instructions that come with your air fryer, as some manufacturers suggest holding off. 

Tips for Using Foil in your Air Fryer

With all this in mind, here are a few tips for using foil in your air fryer in the best way possible:

  1. Place a layer of foil directly on the basket. While this has already been mentioned earlier, it bears repeating: don’t put the sheet of aluminum foil directly on the bottom of the entire basket, especially because doing so puts you at risk of overheating the machine and causing a fire. 
  2. Make sure to weigh it down with food. Never pre-heat the air-fryer with the foil on for the same reason you shouldn’t put it directly on the bottom. The airflow might cause it to dislodge and get into direct contact with the heating element. 
  3. Use just the right amount of aluminum foil for the food you’re cooking. Too big, and you risk covering all the holes on the basket, which would restrict the airflow and cause uneven cooking.
air fryer popcorn.
Popcorn made in an aluminum foil lined air fryer.

Foods That Should Not Go On Foil in Your Air Fryer 

While it’s generally safe to use aluminum foil when cooking with an air fryer, there are types of food that are generally a good idea to avoid. This goes especially for acidic foods. Aluminum is an especially reactive material, and it can react negatively to highly acidic ingredients. These generally include:

  • Tomatoes (and other tomato products, such as tomato sauce, juice, or marinade)
  • Vinegar (and vinegar-based sauces or marinades) 
  • Fruits and fruit juices or fruit-based marinades (like lemons or oranges) with high levels of acidity
  • Other marinades with acidic elements
  • Any kind of food with extremely high levels of salt

The aluminum would react to these ingredients and cause it to break down, which makes it likely for your food to leave tiny specks of decomposed aluminum on your food, lending a metallic taste that’s both bad and unhealthy. High levels of aluminum has been linked to alzheimer’s disease and other serious problems.

Foil Alternatives for an Air Fryer

The better option to using foil in an air fryer oven for the reasons outlined above is parchment paper. While aluminum is generally safe, parchment paper is relatively more environment-friendly, and easier to use for all foods as acidic ingredients don’t have a negative reaction to it, and there is less of a chance for food to stick to it, as an added bonus. If possible, opt for perforated parchment paper, or else you can poke holes for more even cooking.

If out of parchment paper, you can also use baking paper, as it is called in some parts of the world. Like parchment paper, acidic foods won’t react negatively, and it’s more likely to be non-stick. You’re also more likely to have it in your pantry, especially if you use your air fryer for baked goods. Perforating the sheets is a quick fix if you have neither aluminum foil nor parchment paper. 

The same precautions remain: remember to weigh these materials down with your ingredients for safety and double check, as an air fryer has a powerful fan and one must always be mindful of a fire hazard.

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