Five foods you shouldn’t try cooking in an air fryer

Air fryers can save you time and money in the kitchen – but you can’t quite cook everything in them. Photo / Getty Images

If you’re like me, you stubbornly waited for months to start using an air fryer when they first became popular, and now you simply can’t live without it.

There are countless ways it comes in handy, whether I’m craving homemade hot chips without the liters of oil and mess, chicken tenders or fakeaway burgers, crunchy falafel or perfectly crispy tofu.

Not only is it convenient, saves you time and helps you multi-task in the kitchen, it heats up fast and can save you money on your power bill if you use it instead of your oven. You can even use it to ripen avocados – who knew?

There are countless things you can cook in an air fryer - but there are a few exceptions.  Photo / 123rf
There are countless things you can cook in an air fryer – but there are a few exceptions. Photo / 123rf

But while it seems like you can cook just about anything in this handy appliance, there are a few exceptions.


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Some of these may be fairly obvious, or maybe you’ve already found out the hard way what doesn’t work in an air fryer. Case in point: I had the bright idea of ​​air frying frozen dumplings, only to be left with sad, crunchy little rocks that taste like dried Play-Doh. Not even lashings of sweet chilli or soy sauce could salvage them.

When it comes to figuring out what will and won’t work in an air fryer, it’s important to know that anything that normally needs to cook in water or very hot oil probably won’t turn out great.

Here are just a few foods you might want to think about twice before trying.


Veggies like spinach won’t cook evenly in the air fryer because it uses high-speed water, and foods that don’t stay still will probably just burn.


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Instead, go for a veg like broccoli or zucchini, something you could pop on the grill and char fairly quickly. You could try kale chips, if you coat them in enough oil to keep the leaves still – just make sure you pop them on a layer of baking paper to avoid the mess.

You can air fry most frozen veggies because they retain moisture from ice, like frozen bagged roast veg – a lifesaver for a quick dinner.


Even if you manage to fit an entire roast chicken in your air fryer, it probably won’t turn out great. The hot air in an air fryer needs room to circulate, and if you try to cook a large cut of meat, it won’t cook evenly and parts of it could burn before the rest of it is cooked.

You can, however, roast smaller pieces of meat like chicken breast – if it’s skin-on then cook with the skin facing up since the heat comes from the top of the air fryer.


You can get nice crispy fried rice in the air fryer, but you’ve got to cook it in water on the stove top first. That’s also why pasta is off the air fryer menu, since air fryers are designed to dry cook food.

Anything that needs to be covered in water to cook generally won’t work, and even if you have an attachment that can hold water in an air fryer, it won’t get hot enough to boil.

While we’re on the topic of grains, popcorn won’t work in an air fryer either because it doesn’t get hot enough. So stick to cooking it in a covered pot on the stove with a dash of oil, or the easier microwave version.

Burger patties

Unless you like your beef burgers extremely well done, the air fryer isn’t the best place for a barbecue.

Air fryers can cook red meat to medium-rare relatively quickly, but the outside won’t brown at the same pace to balance it out, so your patties will end up overcooking.

Battered foods

Anything coated in wet batter will just make a mess in the air fryer rather than creating that heavenly crunch.


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If you’re into making homemade fish and chips, try a crumb coating instead. Frozen battered nuggets or fish are a different story – just make sure you spread them out evenly in the air fryer and turn over halfway through cooking so they are crisp up evenly.

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