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.
In this post, I’ll detail the safe way to use tin foil in an air fryer and answer some common questions.
Air fryers have shot to fame in the last couple of years and I’ve happily joined the cult of cooks using them for easy meals.
They’re simple to use, cut cooking times down by a significant amount and incredibly consistent in their results.
Since air fryers are essentially just mini-convection ovens, I think they’re most impactful for those whose ovens don’t have a convection setting.
And while my oven does, I still find myself gravitating to the air fryer for certain recipes.
From larger meals like air fryer skirt steak to easy side dishes such as air fryer mushrooms and everything in between, it’s one of the few kitchen countertop appliances I deem worth the space they take up!
With each new air fryer recipe I post, I often get asked if you can use aluminum foil in the air fryer for easy clean up.
Interestingly enough, this is a heated topic of conversation in the air fryer world and one we’re going to dive into today.
CAN YOU USE ALUMINUM FOIL IN AN AIR FRYER?
Short answer: yes.
Longer answer: read on, however, for lots of nuance and how to do so safely.
There are two main considerations – the type of air fryer you have (basket vs. oven model) and what kind of food you’re cooking in it.
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.
REASONS TO USE ALUMINUM FOIL IN THE AIR FRYER
When people ask if it’s safe to use aluminum foil it’s usually because they want a way to minimize clean up of the appliance after cooking.
It’s akin to lining a baking sheet with foil when baking in the oven.
There are a few ways aluminum foil can be used in an air fryer:
- To line the bottom tray if you have an oven model air fryer and collect any drippings (great when making frozen chicken breasts in the air fryer).
- To wrap the food itself in for both easier cleanup and better flavor.
- Preventing the food from sticking to either the basket or trays in the air fryer.
I’ve found reason #1 to be the most appropriate use of tin foil in an air fryer. Especially, if you have an oven type air fryer with a bottom grease tray.
HOW AN AIR FRYER WORKS
As mentioned, air fryers are purely mini versions of a convection oven. Meaning, they circulate the air around the food as it cooks.
The constant circulation of hot air allows the food to crisp up on all sides.
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 important to know which type of air fryer you have as using aluminum foil in it is dependent on this.
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
I personally have a Pampered Chef deluxe air fryer.
It’s essentially a small version of my oven with two wire mesh cooking trays and a grease tray that sits on the bottom. It also comes with a rotisserie attachment for making whole chickens or air fryer Cornish hens.
The best use of tin foil in my air fryer oven is to simply line the grease tray with it.
This way, any drippings or seasonings that fall off whatever I’m cooking deposit on the aluminum foil and I can simply throw it away after cooking.
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 air flow nor impact cooking.
If you want to cook a food item in foil (such as this foil packet sriracha salmon), you can, just make sure to not let the foil cover up the entire 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.
Remember, the whole point of an air fryer is for crispy results! Using too much foil can negatively impact that.
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, you just need to make sure the foil doesn’t cover all of the holes in the basket.
Those holes are what allow the heat and air to push up from the heating element into the basket and then back down again as it cooks.
If foil blocks all the openings, the food will not come out crispy and you can also potentially damage the appliance itself.
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.
WEIGHING THE FOIL DOWN
Since air fryers blow air around the food while cooking, you may notice that if the food isn’t sitting directly on the foil or if it’s just not heavy enough, the foil might get blown about.
This happened to me with apple slices while making air fryer apple chips!
A simple way to avoid this issue with foil is to simply weigh it down.
Either wrap the food more tightly with the aluminum (this will also keep the juices in place resulting in a tastier/moister outcome) or use something air-fryer safe to keep the foil from being blown about.
If you happen to have pie weights, I find they’re a great way to do this!
ACIDIC FOODS AND ALUMINUM FOIL
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.
If the foil is not touching the food but rather sitting on the bottom to collect grease, there’s nothing to worry about.
IS IT TOXIC TO USE ALUMINUM FOIL IN AN AIR FRYER
There’s been recent debate as to whether cooking directly on aluminum foil is safe for consumption.
Aluminum is a toxic heavy metal and not something that should accumulate in human’s bodies. There have been studies showing an association of Alzheimer’s with aluminum intake.
Since air fryers are such a new appliance to the market, there is no current data as to whether or not they exacerbate the toxicity of aluminum foil through the air frying process.
So while foods can be prepared on aluminum foil, it’s likely best to limit this type of preparation and only use foil on occasion rather than every day.
If you choose to continue to do so, it’s best practice to at least avoid acidic foods.
This post on the safest cookware is also a great resource for limiting toxins in your cooking.
ALTERNATIVES TO ALUMINUM FOIL IN THE AIR FRYER
Parchment paper is a wonderful alternative to aluminum foil for both oven baking/roasting and air-frying.
Unbleached parchment paper carries none of the toxicity concerns of aluminum foil and can be used in all the same applications as foil.
The one thing to be aware of when using parchment paper in an air fryer is its propensity for flying around if not weighed down appropriately. It’s even lighter than tin foil and will easily blow about if untethered.
Parchment paper is not only environmentally more friendly than aluminum foil but there’s also no reactivity with acidic foods. It also acts as a great natural non-stick surface!
BEST TIPS FOR USING ALUMINUM FOIL IN AN AIR FRYER
To recap, using aluminum foil in your air fryer can be safe if done properly.
Not only can it help with clean up but it can also be using to keep the flavorful juices around the food you’re cooking. I love using it with air fryer chicken leg quarters for that exact reason!
- If you have a basket air fryer, don’t cover all the holes with foil. This will result in uneven cooking, a mushier than desired outcome and can even damage your appliance.
- Don’t combine foil with any acidic foods. This includes marinades with vinegar.
- You can use crumbled up foil to set a food on top of and bring it closer to the heating element for a nice golden brown crispy result. This works well for proteins like these air fryer lamb chops.
BEST FOODS FOR THE AIR FRYER
I find the air fryer to be most impressive with vegetables. It does a tremendous job at crisping them up in a way a traditional oven just cannot.
Most air fryer vegetables are also safe for use with aluminum foil.
Some of my favorite recipes are:
When I make air fryer frozen broccoli, I always line the tray at the bottom of my air fryer with foil since the broccoli will release a decent amount of liquid as it thaws and cooks.