5 foods to avoid putting in the air fryer

Air fryer with foods around it on the table
Degiga resultat, torrt kött och brandrisk - här är 5 typer av mat som inte hör hemma i din airfryer. (Image credit: Shutterstock / lenakorzh)

Air fryers are the new(-ish) wonder in the kitchen appliance world. That’s saying a lot, seeing as they’re kind of competing for that lofty spot with slow cookers and multicookers, both of which have had their time in the limelight. 

It’s a well-deserved honor. Air fryers offer folks a healthier alternative to frying with oil. They tend to consume less energy than traditional ovens. They cook food faster, saving users time and energy. They’re very versatile as far as what they can cook. And, they offer a much more affordable alternative to getting food delivered if you don’t have a lot of time to actually cook. Plus, they’re also affordable themselves, with even the best air fryers regularly getting price cuts during big sale events.

Simply put, they’re just the ticket for most households, especially during this time of inflation. In fact, PRNewswire reports that the “United States air fryer market is anticipated to project robust growth” from now through 2028.

But, of course, like with everything else, air fryers also have their limitations. As an occasionally overzealous air fryer user myself, I’ve learned that there are some things you shouldn’t do when using an air fryer. I’ve also learned that there are things you shouldn’t even be cooking in one – no matter how many “hacks” those so-called TikTok influencers post to convince us otherwise.

Here are five foods you shouldn’t cook in an air fryer, lest you risk an uncleanable mess or worse.

1. Wet batter, dry seasoning

Tempura veggies

(Image credit: Shutterstock / ARENA Creative)

Wet batter – like beer batter or tempura batter – needs a hot oil bath to set quickly. That’s what makes those corndogs and tempura veggies crispy on the outside. Since an air fryer works by circulating hot air, it doesn’t have the capability to cook your favorite crispy foods the way they’re supposed to be cooked. Instead, you’ll end up with a chewy or soggy mess that’s also uneven because chances are, some of that batter would have dripped off during the cooking process.

Don’t air fry foods with a layer of dry seasoning, either. That circulating air will blow that seasoning right off, especially if you’re using large ones like cornflakes. If you must, be sure to rub that seasoning well or coat your food with a bit of oil to help them stick.

2. Raw rice

raw rice in a wood bowl

(Image credit: Shutterstock / PENpics Studio)

Just like a wet batter needs hot oil to set, raw rice needs water to cook. And, unfortunately, air fryers are not designed for this type of cooking. I’ve seen some people do tutorials doing so in an air fryer, and it sounds like a pain. One recipe has you finding an appropriate container like a cake pan, boiling water first, putting the rice and the boiling water in the pan, covering the pan tight with aluminum foil, then setting the timer for 30 minutes! 30 minutes!

Honestly, you’re better off cooking raw rice the way you’re supposed to, which is to put it in a saucepan with water, bring to boil, stir, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes until all that water is absorbed. It’s so easy and so much less of a hassle. If you’re not comfortable with that, invest in a rice cooker.

3. Whole roast chicken

roast chicken

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Sergii Koval)

Again, an air fryer uses hot air to cook things, and putting a whole chicken to roast in there means that there’s considerably less space for that air to properly circulate and cook things evenly. That’s even if you’ve got one of the bigger models.

More to that point, the part of the chicken that’s closest to the heat source will also likely end up cooking faster than the bottom, which means you’ll end up with a burned top and a bottom that still needs a bit more time to cook. Or worse, a soggy one! If you want the ability to cook roast chicken in an air fryer, you might want to invest in an air fryer oven like the Ninja DT201 Foodi 10-in-1 XL Pro or the Corsori Air Fryer Toaster Oven.

4. Burger

burger on a plate

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Sergio Mak)

Ok, it’s one thing if you like your burgers well-done – although, also, why?! However, if you want perfectly cooked medium-rare burgers, which is how beef should be cooked and consumed so that it’s still beautifully juicy and flavorful, you might want to skip cooking burger patties in an air fryer.

Keeping a burger patty at medium-rare means that you’ll have to cook it for less time, which means that it might not be enough time for the outside to brown and have a bit of that charring. If you do cook it long enough for the outside to brown, that inside is going to be well-done and dry.

5. Popcorn


(Image credit: Shutterstock / Chamille White)

Popcorn kernels need between 400 and 460 degrees to pop, and most air fryers don’t get that high, unfortunately. But, if you happen to have one that does reach 400F, like mine does, you might also risk starting a fire.

Popcorn does what it’s supposed to do, which is to pop, which means some of them could accidentally get lodged within the heating element at the top, whether because a piece jumped high enough to get stuck there or there wasn’t enough space to accommodate all the popped kernels in the basket. That’s a potential fire hazard, especially if that piece is still lodged in there while you’re cooking another dish.

Of course there are plenty of tasty meals you can cook beautifully in an air fryer, so why not check out our guides to making french fries in an air fryer, french toast in an air fryer and even fudgy brownies in an air fryer. We can also help teach you the 9 things you need to know about your new air fryer and 6 common air fryer mistakes to avoid

Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is the former Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.