What You Can & Can’t Cook In An Air Fryer

Air Fryer Tips: What You Can & Can’t Cook In An Air Fryer

Author: Annabelle Blair

Air fryers are known for their versatility, with countless recipes a quick Google search away. But while an air fryer can cook almost anything, there are a few things off-limits. In this article, we look at what you can cook in an air fryer, as well as what you can’t.

There is no doubt that air fryers have taken the kitchen appliance world by storm. Claimed to offer one of the healthiest methods to ‘fry’ foods, these time-saving miracle workers have become a staple gadget for many Kiwi households.

Essentially, an air fryer circulates hot air to heat food, giving you the crispy texture of deep-fried food without the oil, and in a fraction of the cooking time. There are countless recipes you can cook (and bake) in an air fryer, including roast chicken, fries, steak, cakes, muffins and more. However, there are some foods best left to more traditional cooking methods.

To help you avoid cooking faux pas, we’ve gathered a list of some foods that you can and can’t cook in an air fryer.

What are the best foods you can cook in an air fryer?

Frozen foods

Whether you’re serving up tasty appetizers to party guests, cooking a side of fries to accompany a homemade meal or craving a late-night bar snack, air fryers are the perfect option for cooking any frozen food that you would usually put in an oven. The circulation of hot air in the unit will help you achieve your desired crispiness and flavour, using little to no added fat. Plus, it’s an easy clean-up job afterwards. What’s not to love?

Cooking times may vary depending on the frozen food, but most will be ready in about 10 minutes. With appropriate pre-heating, some frozen snacks can take as little as six minutes to cook, which cuts the oven time by half!

Baked goods & pastries

Contrary to popular belief, air fryers aren’t just for savoury foods. Prepare to have your mind blown − an air fryer can bake cupcakes, cookies, brownies, lava cakes, cheesecakes, doughnuts and many more indulgent desserts! As an air fryer does not have the same capacity as a traditional oven, preparing certain baked goods may require you to cook in multiple batches. Just make sure you follow an air fryer-specific recipe, and get a fryer that comes with a baking dish to avoid a kitchen nightmare.

Raw meats & proteins

Air fryers that come with accessories such as a grill pan or baking cage allow you to cook certain meats and proteins. Air frying raw meats and proteins can take around 10 minutes, depending on their thickness and how well done you want your roast pork, steak or fish. Bacon, sausages, and eggs (hard-boiled or fried), similarly, take about eight to 10 minutes, meaning you can have a stress-free full English breakfast to start your day.

Cooking raw chicken in your air fryer is claimed to produce much juicier results than either an oven or a cooktop, and in just 15 minutes. However, it’s best to avoid entire roasts or whole chickens. Other than the obvious question of whether an entire roast will fit in your machine, a whole chicken may not cook evenly, leaving you with a half-cooked bird.


The air fryer is a champ when it comes to making veggie-based dishes and sides with a crisp texture. You can roast certain types of vegetables in the machine if they are the kind you can grill or fry. Common veggies like potato, tomato, capsicum and cauliflower can be grilled in the machine, along with peppers, corn, zucchini, brussels sprouts and asparagus.

Reheated food

How many times have you reheated last night’s leftovers in the microwave or oven, only to be greeted with food that’s soggy, overcooked, tough or not at all crispy? For many foods, the re-heating process can be just as time-consuming as the original cooking method, and often nowhere near as good. The air fryer can make certain leftover foods palatable in a matter of minutes, saving them from going to waste. Leftover pizza, potato gems, French fries, fried chicken and steak all (arguably) cook and taste better reheated in an air fryer!

What foods can’t you cook in an air fryer?

Battered or liquid-coated foods

You’ll definitely want to avoid putting foods with wet batters (frozen is fine) in your air fryer if you don’t want to make a mess of your machine. For example, tempura seafood and corndogs are a big no, as the batter will likely drip off the food and stick to the bottom of your air fryer.

→Related article: Top Air Fryer Mistakes To Avoid

Certain vegetables or greens

As mentioned above, air fryers are great for the types of veggies you would usually roast or fry. In addition to frozen savoury foods, an air fryer can turn frozen veggies into a delicious side dish. However, if they’re greens you’d rather have steamed (such as beans) then the air fryer isn’t the appliance for the job.

Rice and pasta

The primary purpose of an air fryer is frying, so foods that are typically boiled or need to absorb lots of liquid – like rice and pasta – are unsuitable to place in an air fryer. It’s best to stick to the traditional method of boiling water or buying a rice cooker. Alternatively, you can opt for a multi-cooker with both air frying and rice cooking functionalities.

Fresh cheese

If you’re thinking of using your air fryer to bake something with fresh cheese as a topping, or by itself, we recommend otherwise. Unless you start with something frozen with an outer crust (like mozzarella sticks), putting fresh cheese in your air fryer may cause a mess that you won’t want to be scraping and scrubbing off your machine later.

What are the pros & cons of air fryers?

If you’ve heard the buzz around air fryers and are wondering about buying one, first consider whether an air fryer will meet your cooking needs. While there are some major benefits to using an air fryer, there are also some downsides.

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros of buying an air fryer Cons of buying an air fryer
Can cook foods quicker and more efficiently compared to most ovens and cooktops Limited capacity to cook larger amounts of food, which may not suit larger households
Comes with different user-friendly automatic functions Cooking results typically differ between models, settings and temperature functions
Can cook a wide variety of foods, including both savoury dishes and desserts Air-frying produces high temperatures quickly, so foods must be monitored while cooking
Reduces the amount of oil typically needed to cook foods, offering a healthier alternative to deep-frying Can be loud and noisy
Compact size Some models can be bulky
Often more energy-efficient to run Thicker/bulkier items may not cook evenly

5 reasons why you should buy an air fryer

There are benefits to buying an air fryer, whether for convenience or to reduce the amount of oil in your cooking. Here are a few advantages that might make an air fryer worth purchasing:

  1. Can save you time and energy
  2. Easy to use and clean
  3. Versatile enough to cook all types of foods
  4. Provides a healthier alternative to traditional frying
  5. Compact and easy to store away

1. Saves time and energy

It’s no secret that an air fryer can cook food in record time. But something you may not know about this miracle worker is that it can be energy-efficient as well. Due to its compact size, it typically doesn’t require as much power to run as an oven.

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2. Easy to use and clean

Most units are designed to be very user-friendly and easy to operate – just place your food in the basket, set the temperature and time, and walk away (with the occasional check-up, of course). A typical air fryer doesn’t have dozens of cooking options, just simple controls that are basic and easy to understand.

Because air fryers don’t use much oil, they’re also typically very easy to clean. Win-win.

→Related article: How To Clean Your Air Fryer

3. Versatility

If you want a machine that will do more than just fry food, then an air fryer is the appliance for you. An air fryer will cook your favourite frozen snacks, roast meat and veggies, reheat last night’s dinner and bake some pretty cool desserts.

4. Healthier alternative

A little bit goes a long way when it comes to using oil in your air fryer, meaning you can easily reduce levels of fat in your meal while ensuring food comes out tender inside and crispy on the outside. Unlike a traditional oven, speedy air-frying cooking times are said to ensure excess oil doesn’t soak into your food.

5. Compactness

Typical air fryers are small and usually no larger than a coffee machine. Some small-scale and super compact units are perfect for households with limited benchtop space, like dorm rooms, apartments and kitchenettes. Essentially, an air fryer can replace an oven when you find yourself in a situation that lacks one! You can also buy an air fryer for under $100, which is not too shabby for such a versatile gadget.

4 reasons why air fryers aren’t worth buying

It may be the case that you’ve already got everything you need in your kitchen. We’ve listed several potential disadvantages that you should be aware of to avoid getting burned by an air-fryer purchase

1. Limited volume

A smaller model may mean you will have to cook in batches, which is not ideal, especially if you’re cooking for a large family. Essentially, the smaller the air fryer, the more limited you are by the size and shape of the basket, so it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing your ideal model.

2. Trial and error

As with regular ovens, cooking results vary between air fryer models. Most owner manuals come with recipes, guides and instructions, but it may take trial and error to achieve the perfect cooking results you desire. Don’t be afraid to experiment with cooking times and temperatures to suit your needs!

3. Monitoring

Few air fryers come with a viewing window, meaning you can’t have a quick peek from the outside like you can with an oven. Also, their short cooking times can throw off a lot of beginner air-fryer cooks. A few minutes can spell the difference between perfectly crisp fried food and overcooked flavourless solids. So, you’ll need to closely monitor your food to prevent it from drying out or burning.

4. Space and storage

While air fryers are compact appliances, they do take up some bench space. If you’re only planning to drag it out of a cupboard to make an occasional batch of fries, then the loss of space in your kitchen may not be worth the expense.

Common mistakes you’re probably making with your air fryer

Cleaning it incorrectly or infrequently: Not many of us look forward to cleaning up post-meal. But, to keep your air fryer in decent condition, crumbs should not be left behind. Generally, washing the air fryer with hot soapy water after each use, combined with an occasional soak and light scrub, will help keep your appliance squeaky clean.

Not checking on your air fryer while it’s cooking: For the best results, you should periodically check on your food as it cooks, which means opening up your air fryer. Most units are designed so you can open them, check on your food, and shake the basket, allowing food to cook evenly and crisply without burning or drying out.

Overcrowding the basket: A mistake a lot of first-time users make is filling their air fryer to the brim with food, and expecting it all to magically cook evenly and thoroughly. It’s recommended you should never fill your basket more than halfway, so larger portions of food must be cooked in batches.

Not pre-heating: When using an oven to bake or cook, you would usually pre-heat before cooking. Well, the same goes for an air fryer. Spending a few extra minutes waiting for the machine to reach an optimum cooking temperature will potentially help you avoid under-baked choc chip cookies or unevenly cooked potato gems.

For our latest Air Fryer Awards click here!

author andrew broadley

About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.

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