Aluminum Foil in Air Fryer

I’d never considered if it was possible to put aluminum foil in an air fryer until I was visiting our daughter, Annie. She loves cooking in her air fryer but she hates cleaning up. So, she buys pre-cut sheets of aluminum foil at Costco and uses them every time she makes something in the air fryer. Genius.

After trying this out successfully in her kitchen, I wanted to try it on my own. However, I wanted to do a little more research ahead of time. I discovered that there are a few things to consider and know before putting that foil in the air fryer and hitting the on button. So, I put together this comprehensive guide to help you know the safe ways to use foil in an air fryer. Also, while answering my own questions, hopefully I’ve answered yours, too.

An air fryer with a foil-wrapped stuffed apple inside, resting on the fryer basket.
Photo credit: Adobe Photos.

The rise of air fryers

Since air fryers are essentially just mini-convection ovens, they’re most impactful for those whose ovens don’t have a convection setting. But, even if your oven does, you may still find yourself gravitating to the air fryer for certain recipes.

One of the reasons we love our air fryers — plural — is not only for their convection features but because they don’t get hot. Or, rather they don’t make our kitchen hot if we want to cook something during summer. We used to bring everything outside to the grill to avoid turning on the oven. Now we have the air fryer and it’s become one of our kitchen tools. Now we can cook everything from salmon in the air fryer to steak in the air fryer.

The air fryer even works for side dishes, such as fries or to make to easy condiments, like air fryer roasted garlic. Also, you’ll never microwave leftover pizza again once you try it in the air fryer. The end result is a crispy, reheated slice that tastes as good as when you brought it home from the pizzeria.

In my opinion, it’s one of the few kitchen countertop appliances worth the space it takes up. However, we don’t store our air fryers on the countertop. We have a metal bakers rack in the kitchen which is where we store ingredients and our small appliances, including the air fryer.

Using aluminum foil in an air fryer

Before unraveling if you can put aluminum foil in an air fryer, there are two main considerations:

  • The type of air fryer you have — basket or oven model.
  • What kind of food you’re cooking.

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.

We only have basket-style air fryers. Same with Annie. So I was surprised to learn that the oven-style air fryers have different rules.

Reasons for using aluminum foil

Much like using parchment paper on a baking sheet for oven cooking, the most common reason for wanting to use foil in an air fryer is to simplify cleanup. However, aluminum foil has a few different uses in the air fryer:

  1. Lining the bottom tray in an oven-model air fryer and collecting any drippings — this is great when making recipes like air fryer cod.
  2. To wrap the food itself, creating a packet-like meal for both easier cleanup and better flavor.
  3. To prevent the food from sticking to either the basket or trays.

How to use aluminum foil in an oven model air fryer

The best use of tin foil in air fryer ovens is to line the grease tray at the bottom with it. This simple use allows drippings that fall off the food while cooking to deposit on the aluminum foil for easy cleanup. 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 airflow nor impact cooking.

To cook foods in foil — such as sriracha honey salmon vegetable packets — just make sure not to let the foil cover the entire surface area of the 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.

Of course, if you’d rather not risk things, you can always lightly grease the trays ahead of time instead. You can do this with butter, oil or a spray. We keep a spray bottle of Pam at an arm’s reach at all times, just in case.

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, but you need to ensure the foil doesn’t cover all of the holes in the basket. Like with the oven, they’re what allow the heat and air to push up from the heating element.

If foil blocks all the openings, the food will not come out crispy. Also, you also run the risk of potentially damaging the appliance. 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.

This part about air flow was news to me. Previously, I’d left the aluminum foil as a flat sheet when putting in the air fryer. However, after learning about this, I’ve started balling up the foil so I can get the effects I desire without affecting the fryer’s ability to cook the food.

Weighing the foil down

As mentioned, air fryers blow air around the food while cooking. Therefore, if the food isn’t sitting directly on the foil or if it’s just not heavy enough, the foil might get blown about. To avoid this issue:

  • Wrap the food more tightly with the aluminum
  • Use something air-fryer safe to keep the foil from being blown about — pie weights can work well for this.

Acidic foods in an air fryer

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. No one wants that!

The final word on aluminum foil and air fryers

If you’re one of many who have hopped on the air fryer train in the last few years, now you know that you can put aluminum foil in an air fryer safely if done properly. Not only can it help with cleanup, but it can also be used to keep the flavorful juices around the food you’re cooking to result in the tastiest meal possible.

Also, if you like the idea of buying precut sheets of aluminum foil at Costco like my daughter Annie does, then check out this Costco deal.

Costco deal

The best deal on a Costco Membership right now is through Groupon. When you sign up, you’ll get your one-year membership plus a $40 Costco Digital Shop Card for free.

In case you didn’t know, the Costco Shop Card is the store’s gift card. You can use it in store or online.

This offer is for new Costco memberships only or for former Costco members whose membership expired more than 18 months ago. So, if you’ve moved, there wasn’t a Costco nearby and you let your membership lapse for more than 18 months, you’re good to go to sign up for this deal again!

Portions of this article originally appeared on Running to the Kitchen.

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