Can you put foil in an air fryer? An expert suggests it could save time if done right

Using foil in an air fryer can make cooking surprisingly simple – so long as you do it right

A white air fryer plugged in on a kitchen side
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Air fryers have become a staple appliance in most kitchens, allowing us to cook food with half the effort. But a common query is whether or not you can put foil in your air fryer to make cleaning an air fryer speedier too.

Even some of the best air fryers can be a hassle to clean properly, so the ability to add a quick, disposable liner such as aluminum foil to make the task easier would certainly be beneficial  – especially when cooking greasy foods or breaded bites that leave crumbs everywhere.

Homes & Gardens' Reviews Editor Millie Fender has had countless hours of experience testing and reviewing air fryers, so we asked her for her thoughts on using foil in an air fryer.

Millie Fender
Millie Fender

Millie has been reviewing products for Homes & Gardens since the beginning of 2021, covering all things product-related. A lover of al fresco dining, Millie is a big fan of useful home appliances and has established herself as a consumer expert on everything from air fryers to stand mixers.

Can you put foil in an air fryer? 

A black air fryer being filled with raw fries

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Once you know how air fryers work, then your machine will really start to open new doors for you in the kitchen,' says Millie Fender, head of reviews at Homes & Gardens. 'It has also taught me that you can 100% use aluminum foil in an air fryer – as long as you use it correctly. 

'An air fryer uses a fan to disperse hot air and cook your food, similar to a traditional fan oven, making it just as safe to use foil in,' Millie continues. 'It is important to distinguish an air fryer from a microwave, which you should not use foil in. Although they both cook food quickly they are entirely different appliances.

'When using foil in an air fryer, ensure that you have checked your machine's instruction manual first, however, as some models warn against using foil altogether,' she warns. 'Models such as the Phillips Essential Air Fryer XL that I reviewed earlier this year, say not to use foil or parchment paper at all, while the Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 air fryer I reviewed suggests using foil to make the clean-up easier. Every machine is different.'

Clean-up certainly takes some practice to perfect, especially around the heating elements and fan, however, aluminum foil can help to limit the amount of scrubbing you need to do to get your machine looking new again. 

'What's more, using foil in an air fryer can offer new options for what you cook in an air fryer too,' Millie adds.

How to use foil in an air fryer safely 

A back air fryer turned on to 180 degrees in a kitchen

(Image credit: Alamy)

When using an air fryer with aluminum foil, there are a few basic rules you should follow to make sure that your appliance is safe during the cooking process. 

1. Make sure the foil is weighed down by food before cooking

An air fryer works by blowing hot air onto and around the food in the drawer, if you have loose aluminum foil that is not weighed down by either a tray, dish, or weighty food, then the foil could blow around your machine and come into contact with the heating elements, causing a malfunction. 

'Anything that comes into contact with a hot heating element can cause a fire,' says Millie Fender, head of reviews. 'One of the biggest mistakes air fryer owners make is allowing loose liners or even lightweight foods to bounce around inside the machine.'

2. Never fully cover your food in an air fryer with foil

One of the main appeals of an air fryer is the ability to make food crisp without deep fat frying, so covering a food entirely with aluminum foil will only work to make your air frier less efficient. 

Covering food completely, top and bottom, will steam the food rather than fry it, leaving whatever it is you are cooking pale and soggy rather than golden and crisp. 

3. Make sure the foil is cut to the right size before putting it in your air fryer 

Although it might be easier to throw some foil into the base of your air fryer and push it down to size, tin foil that is too large can easily come into contact with heating elements. Conversely, foil that is too small won't have any effect on making an air fryer easier to clean out afterwards. 

Using one of the removable base trays, cut the foil to perfectly fit the footprint of your drawer before adding it to your cooker. If you want to make this even easier, then it is often possible to find pre-cut foil liners for air fryers on Amazon

4. Avoid cooking acidic foods on foil in air fryers

'An air fryer can cook a wonderful variety of foods, but aluminum foil can limit what you cook,' warns Millie. 'Acidic foods such as tomatoes, peppers, or citrus, can react with the aluminum when heated and contaminate your food making it dangerous – and far less enjoyable – to consume.' 

Instead of using foil, consider swapping it out for parchment paper or some disposable air fryer liners like these on Amazon, or even some reusable silicone liners (also from Amazon) when cooking acidic foods, checking your machine's manual before use. 

Can I put a paper towel in the air fryer?

It is generally not considered safe to put paper towels in an air fryer. Although they can be used to help collect fat and grease, paper towels are flammable and prove to be a fire hazard when inside any cooking device whether it be an air frier, broiler, microwave, or traditional oven. Consider using aluminum foil instead of a paper towel to help collect grease. 

Can I put a metal plate in an air fryer?

It is safe to put a metal plate in the air fryer so long as it is safe for cooking on generally. Metal plates and trays designed for use in a traditional oven can easily withstand the heat of an air fryer – just make sure the plate is not obstructing the drawer from closing completely, or the metal heating elements at the top of the device before turning on. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.