The 5 foods you should avoid cooking in an air fryer

We've rounded up the top foods that are best cooked without the aid of an air fryer

Lakeland air fryer on kitchen countertop
(Image credit: Future Studios / Phillip Sowels)

Air fryers are the must-have accessory for your kitchen and have been hailed as the go-to appliance that’s even better than your oven. While they can deliver quick and tasty food AND save energy bill. Even the best air fryer is not suited to cooking every type of food. 

For both safety reasons and to ensure the longevity of your air fryer, there are certain foods to avoid cooking in an air fryer. 

Foods to avoid cooking in an air fryer

Ideal Home’s Ecommerce Editor Molly Cleary says, ‘An air fryer basically works like a super quick countertop oven, so anything that you wouldn't put in there probably won't fare super well in an air fryer either.'

If you've recently invested in an air fryer or one of the best dual zone air fryers these are a few of the foods we'd recommend steering clear of to avoid falling foul of any air fryer mistakes.

Molly Cleary
Molly Cleary

Molly is the Ecommerce Editor for Ideal Home and is always on the lookout for the next must-buy product for your home. Covering all things appliance related, with an emphasis on floorcare and air fryers, she regularly joins Millie at Future's Test Facility in Reading to thoroughly put products through their paces. 

From this list she has extensively tested the Instant Vortex Plus and the Salter EK4750BLK at home, and has received three Tower dual basket air fryers to test out for full reviews in order to include in this guide.

1. Popcorn

cream pan containing popcorn

(Image credit: Future PLC / Polly Eltes)

If you’re looking to create this sweet snack in your air fryer, think again because the appliance doesn't actually get hot enough to cook popcorn. The temperature in an air fryer isn't high enough for the kernels to pop and they can actually get stuck in the heating element which may cause the appliance to short which is a major fire hazard.   

2. Saucy foods

Avoid putting in saucy foods such as bolognese, curries or stews into an air fryer because as the hot air circulates it can cause the hot liquids to splatter and make a serious mess and even be dangerous. 

‘Through personal experience, the thing I've found won't work super well is too-saucy foods,' says Molly Cleary. 'If you're using a grill plate, the sauce that you've applied to your food will mostly seep through, and you'll lose all of the flavour that was in the sauce.

‘There are ways around this. For example, I struggled with cooking tofu in my air fryer due to the sauce issues, so I battered it instead (coating in flour, milk, then breadcrumbs) and then applied a glaze to the breadcrumbed tofu, and the results were much improved!’

3. Broccoli

Image of COSORI air fryer during testing

(Image credit: Future/Molly Cleary)

This one is not so much a 'never' put in an air fryer, but for taste purposes we'd advise against it. There are some vegetables that become lovely and crisp in an air fryer but broccoli is sadly not one of them. 

It contains less moisture so when placed in the air fryer broccoli gets very dry, bitter and chewy. This is a food that tastes much better with traditional cooking methods such as roasting in the oven.  

4. Rice

As a raw grain, rice cannot be cooked from scratch in an air fryer, rice needs to be boiled in water for it to be cooked. You can add a few drops of water into your air fryer basket but not the amount of water that would be needed to steam or boil an item of food like rice. 

The best way to cook rice is on a stove or in a rice cooker, but once the rice is cooked it can be added to your air fryer for a crispy finish.  

Open shelving in small kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC)

5. Cheese

We're not talking about the viral cheese toastie, mozzarella sticks, or even baked camembert (provided it is still in its wooden casing). What we mean is chunky chunks of cheese into your air fryer as it'll just lead to a big gooey mess. 

The high temperature melts the cheese too quickly and causes it to burn to stop you from indulging in your cheesy fantasies. As a general rule of thumb if the cheese has a casing, breadcrumb or anything keeping it contained in the air fryer you are good to go.

Imani Cottrell
Content Editor

 Imani Cottrell is Ideal Home’s Content Editor, she graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from Nottingham Trent University in 2018.

She then went on to join the Royal Television Society and worked on their digital team writing about all things TV. In 2022 she joined the Ideal Home team and is getting to express her passion for all things interior design. In her spare time she loves discovering new homeware brands and travelling to new places for design inspiration.