7 Foods You Should Avoid Cooking in Your Air Fryer

While this countertop appliance can handle a lot, these seven foods will turn out much better with a different cooking method.

Air fryers have a reputation for being an almost-magic kitchen appliance–you can cook pretty much anything in them, and somehow it turns out crisp, golden, and utterly irresistible. But while your air fryer can expertly cook a wide variety of foods–including whole chickens, crunchy veggies, pizza, chicken wings, and even chocolate chip cookies–there are a few foods that just don’t hold up as well in the fryer. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come out inedible, but some foods can create an annoying mess, or may just taste better if you use an alternate cooking method. As you experiment with your air fryer, leave these foods off your to-try list for the fryer, and stick with other kitchen tools instead.

Foods Coated in a Batter

Plenty of breaded recipes will cook up just fine in the air fryer, including chicken tenders and fried pickles. But if you’re trying to make something that’s coated in a wet batter (think corn dogs) without any outer coating like bread crumbs, it probably won’t get as crispy and delicious as you’d expect. Since the food has to sit on a rack in the air fryer, a wet batter is likely to stick to the fryer. Before it completely cooks, it may also drip all over the inside of the air fryer unless you use a liner.

Instead, cook wet battered foods in a traditional deep fryer. The hot oil will set the coating a lot faster than an air fryer, so it won’t leave as much of a mess behind, and you’ll still get a golden, crispy crust. 

Kale and Other Leafy Greens

It’s definitely possible to successfully cook kale in an air fryer. The main issue with leafy veggies is that they’re lightweight, so as air circulates through the fryer, it can blow the leaves around. This might leave you with some crispy veggie chips, and other shriveled-up leaves. If you are going to try greens in your air fryer, make sure they’re completely coated with oil and seasoning to help prevent them from taking flight. Unlike most other foods, you can’t really cut down on the amount of oil you use on greens when you air-fry them, which eliminates one of the benefits of the appliance.

You might have more success making leafy veggie chips in the oven. In a traditional oven, there’s no circulating heat, so there’s no danger of the leaves getting blown around. The consistent heat can still get greens nice and crispy, and they’re more likely to cook evenly, too.

Most Grains Including Pasta

Some grains, like bread for French toast, can be cooked in the air fryer. But anything that’s traditionally cooked in boiling water–like pasta, quinoa, and rice–doesn’t fare well in the fryer. If you have rice that’s already cooked, for example, you can add a little oil and make a delicious fried rice (as long as you have a pan that will fit in the cooking basket). But cooking raw grains in the fryer just doesn’t work out, since they need to absorb water as they cook.

Instead, use the classic stovetop method for making pasta, rice, oatmeal, and other grains. Or, if you want to use a countertop appliance, most grains will quickly become tender in a pressure cooker, or can simmer away in a slow cooker.

A black air fryer on a kitchen counter

Getty Images/CASEZY


Though they might seem like a natural choice, popcorn kernels have the same problem as leafy greens when you try to cook them in an air fryer. The circulating heat may blow them all over the fryer, leaving you with a big mess to clean up (and they could even damage the appliance). You could also end up with a bunch of unpopped kernels, since popcorn does best at a high heat.

Microwave popcorn is always a tried-and-true option, of course, but if you’re looking to cook kernels from scratch, use a pan on the stove. You can check to make sure the pan is hot enough before you pour in a cup of kernels, and can control how much oil and seasoning you use.

Some Cheeses

Not all cheese is an enemy of your air fryer–if you add a coating, like for mozzarella sticks, and keep the cooking time short (less than 5 minutes), you can fry up some cheese, no problem. But most cheeses melt very quickly, which means they’ll just melt away if you stick them in the air fryer without any coating or a liner to protect them from the heat. It can also burn and stick to the basket, making an unpleasant mess.

If you’re just looking to melt cheese for a dip or fondue, use the stovetop or a slow cooker. But if you have a cheese with a high melting point that can be grilled, like halloumi or bread cheese, you could cook them in the air fryer with gooey, crispy, delicious results.


They’re not automatically a no-go, but there are usually better ways to make eggs than your air fryer. You can place eggs in a small casserole dish and “bake” them in the fryer, or cover hard-boiled eggs with sausage to make air-fried Scotch eggs. But if you’re looking for a gooey poached egg or tender scrambled eggs, the stovetop is still your best bet. Most air fryer foods cook with minimal stirring and flipping, but a lot of egg recipes need a little more attention than they’ll get in the fryer. They also have the potential to make a big mess if they’re not cooked properly.


Some cooks swear by air fryer bacon, but be prepared for a lot of clean-up. Bacon is a high-fat food and releases a lot of grease as it cooks, which can coat the bottom and inside of your air fryer (and isn’t fun to scrub out). Too much grease can also start smoking in the fryer, which is never what you want to see when you’re cooking. And since bacon is already fatty, it doesn’t benefit from one of the air fryer’s main selling points, which is cooking with less oil.

There are plenty of other options for cooking crispy, delicious bacon. Your stovetop, microwave, oven, and even the grill are all better choices. It’s also easier to monitor the bacon as it cooks and flip it when needed.

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