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Air fryers have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. Air fryers provide a healthy alternative to other deep fryers. Plus, they cook food in a snap, making dinner even easier to get on the table. If you’re not familiar, air fryers aren’t “actually fryers at all but more like a countertop convection oven using a bit of oil. The device circulates hot air using an internal fan for faster cooking times than most standard convection or household ovens,” according to Mashed.

As amazing and useful as this kitchen appliance is, there are limitations. Some foods will get too dry or overcook, while others can make a mess or potentially ruin the appliance altogether. Check out the list below for what you should never cook in an air fryer.


Broccoli florettes

Broccoli is one of those veggies you either love or hate. In my experience, it has a lot to do with how it’s prepared. If boiled, the broccoli can turn into a mushy mess. Equally as unappetizing is broccoli that has been burnt. The after taste is enough to pass on the veggie altogether.

Unfortunately, cooking broccoli in the air fryer as is will likely end with burnt-to-dust florets. The good news is, there are a few tips to help in this endeavor if you’re determined to use your air fryer. First, make sure to cut the broccoli up into equal-sized florets so they cook at the same speed. The real trick, however, is to add one tablespoon of water to the bottom of the air fryer. This will help keep the broccoli tender.


aisle of cheese in the grocery store

While air fryer grilled cheese or air fryer jalapeño poppers may sound like an excellent idea, it can be problematic if you don’t take precautions when cooking with cheese. For starters, soft cheeses will melt much faster than it takes the rest of the food to cook, which will end in burnt cheese and a messy air fryer.

If you must use cheese, it would help to freeze it first to prevent it from melting too quickly under the intense heat. You can also line your air fryer with aluminum foil to ensure an easy clean-up if anything goes wrong.

Whole Chickens

whole rotisserie chicken

While the air fryer can do many things, you might want to stick to the oven or slow cooker for roasts and whole chickens. The key to cooking anything in the air fryer is to ensure lots of space for the hot air to circulate. Otherwise, your food will turn out burnt on the bottom and uncooked on top.

This is especially true of roasts and whole chickens. The drawer in the air fryer is significantly smaller than a slow cooker or an oven. You probably won’t even be able to fit a whole chicken in it, but even if you can, it’s not recommended.


Plate of fried rice

Rice, along with most other grains, won’t fare well in an air fryer. Much like a convection oven, air circulates to cook the food evenly. Not only does rice need to be submerged in water to cook, but the water also needs to boil. Since the air circulates evenly, no one spot or coil will ever be hot enough to make water boil, even with a pan insert. It’s best to stick to the stovetop or rice cooker!

Dry Seasonings


We’ve discussed how the air fryer cooks food by circulating hot air. And how does it circulate that air? With a tiny but high-powered fan that essentially creates a whirlwind. For this reason, using dry rubs and spices is a no-go. Not only will the spices be blown around the chamber rather than stick to the food, but it could clog your air fryer.

You can still use seasonings, but it’s recommended you coat the food in a bit of oil to help the spices stick. Also, make sure to season sparingly!


Cooked salmon

Fish, and salmon, in particular, are not the best match for an air fryer. For one, fish is very easy to overcook. Depending on the kind of fish, that can mean an expensive meal turned into cat food! The key to perfectly cooked fish is to check it often. With the air fryer, most people treat it as a “set it and forget it” device, which it is most of the time. However, with food you have to keep checking on, this isn’t ideal.


Bacon strips

Now, this is a tricky one. Theoretically, the air fryer is perfect for cooking bacon. Hot air heats the grease enough to cook the meat to the same glorious crispiness you’d get on a griddle. And while the finished product might come out well, what it leaves inside the air fryer can diminish the entire experience.

Remember that little fan doing all the work of circulating hot air? It blows the bacon grease all around the air fryer, leaving a nightmare of a mess to clean up. You can still cook bacon in the air fryer if you want, but plan on spending the rest of the morning cleaning out your appliance!


Chocolate cake

While air fryer aficionados may have success with baking an air fryer cake, the rest of us might find it frustrating and not worth the effort. Once again, the trouble comes in with the small but mighty fan circulating the heat. Since you have to stick cake batter in the air fryer, you’ll need to cover the dish with aluminum foil to prevent it from flying all around. This can mess with the cook time and also cause uneven baking. Case in point, cakes belong in the oven!


Popcorn and hot chcolate

While it might seem picturesque to pour some kernels in the air fryer with a bit of oil and have fresh popcorn for your movie night, the reality is a whole different story. You might think making popcorn in an air fryer is similar to the old way of making popcorn on the stove. However, the kernels need to be heated up to 400 degrees to pop – a temperature most air fryers just don’t reach.

Wet Batter


Despite its name, the air fryer is not ideal for wet batter for fried foods. With a deep fryer, the oil sets the batter by flash cooking it, giving corndogs and other fried foods that signature crispy outside. With the air fryer, there isn’t any oil to set the batter. What ends up happening is that the batter melts while the food still cooks, ending in a disappointing meal and a mess to clean up after.

Some home cooks have gotten creative with this limitation. You can use the dredging method of coating, typically consisting of eggs and cracker crumbs. The outer layer of crumbs helps keep the food together while cooking.

Find out 5 things we didn’t know we could make in an air fryer here!

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