If you have an air fryer, you may be wondering, “Can you put foil in an air fryer?” Read on as we break down the safety of cooking with aluminum foil and the best ways to use your air fryer safely. 

A black air fryer filled with carrots and potatoes. White text overlay reads "Is foil safe in an air fryer?"

I am completely in favor of the air fryer craze. It’s one of those fun gadgets that actually gets the job done, and mimics that crisp texture most of us associate with a less-healthy deep fryer or fast food run. In the attempt to make dinnertime quick, easy, and fun, I have fully embraced the use of the air fryer when recreating my family’s favorite meals. That is when I’m not using the Instant Pot

Remember– even though it’s a lot of fun, creating recipes for you comes with a lot of responsibility. As somebody who cares very deeply about what my family is consuming, it’s important for me to do the research on the ingredients and materials that go into preparing a recipe. 

One of these common kitchen supplies– aluminum foil– is up for debate. While it is commonly used to grill or bake items with the convenience of an easy clean-up, can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer? Keep reading to find out. 

A plate filled with golden French fries that were cooked in an air fryer.

Crispy Air Fryer French Fries

How an Air Fryer Works

According to a recent survey, air fryer sales increased a dramatic 81% in 2020. More and more families are embracing the convenience of this countertop appliance. 

Now a common household item, the very popular kitchen gadget is very similar to a convection oven. Air circulates throughout the compartment after being generated from a hot coil, providing an even and crisp finish. Temperatures can reach higher than 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is unique to an air fryer is that it mimics the results of a deep-fryer with just the circulation of air. It’s amazing– and so much healthier than the alternative. My kids use it all the time for Frozen French Fries

When you use an air fryer to cook your food, hot air rushes down and around the basket from the top heating mechanism and fan.  It is this rapid circulation that makes the food crisp. No need to use pans of oil! I love using our air fryer to make homemade Pita Chips with hummus

Air fryers come in a variety of sizes, and usually contain preset options to take the guesswork out of your favorite recipes. 

When cooking, it is important to remember that air fryers provide limited space. If you are cooking for a large group or are short on cleanup time, you might want to modify your recipe before reaching for the aluminum foil. 

Roasted vegetables in a foil packet.

Aluminum Foil as a Kitchen Tool

Aluminum foil has been a packaging and kitchen product since the early 1900s. Although this is true, it wasn’t until 1948 when all-foil food packaging containers became available to purchase at the supermarket for personal storage. From there, consumers leaned into the product for the convenience of food preparation and an organized kitchen. 

Common uses include: 

  • Wrapping items prior to grilling or baking in a conventional oven
  • Storing leftovers
  • Cleaning (like a steel brush)
  • Keeping items warm 
  • Lining and creating makeshift pans out of foil
  • Stabilize or balance items prior to cooking 
  • Prevent freezer burn 
  • Avoiding baked-on messes

Aluminum foil is not always conducive to the way that an air fryer functions. Because the hot air is intended to circulate around the perforated basket, wrapping your food in aluminum foil may result in an uncooked dish. 

Since air fryers function on the principle of convection, there has to be enough space between the items placed in the basket for the hot air to flow evenly around them. Though it may make for an easier cleanup, filling this space with aluminum foil may interfere with the air flow. 

Potential Hazards of Aluminum Foil

Our knowledge of cooking safety and the potential toxicity of chemicals has come a long way since the 1900s. Though it is still widely available for use, we’re learning to restrict our use of aluminum foil in the kitchen to manage potential health risks. Limitations like acidic foods, air fryer malfunctions, and possible toxicity are important to keep in mind as we learn to use our new gadgets.  

Air Fryer Malfunctions

You may feel the impulse to put aluminum foil in the bottom of your air fryer to catch all of the extra oil and drippings. I totally get it! However, this can be potentially dangerous and pretty bad news for your appliance. 

If the heating coils are located on the bottom of your particular air fryer, your food will likely cook unevenly. 

Secondly, blocking air flow will cause all of the hot air to go somewhere else. This pressure may damage your appliance or cause a dangerous amount of heat. 

Finally, aluminum foil may blow around your air fryer if the food isn’t heavy enough to weigh it down. Consider the type of food you are placing in the air fryer before you create a potential mess or fire hazard. 

Aluminum Toxicity 

As far as kitchen safety is concerned, awareness of what you are putting into your body should be number one on the list of priorities. Any time you use aluminum foil, there is a potential for aluminum to seep into your food and put your health at risk. The risk for aluminum toxicity increases when: 

  • Cooking at higher temperatures
  • Cooking with acidic foods
  • Using salts and spices

Even if you don’t taste a metallic difference, however, aluminum contamination may still occur. Aluminum toxicity may be linked to conditions like: 

  • Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Prenatal defects

Because the migration of aluminum tends to be above the World Health Organization’s permissible limit when cooked regardless of method or food type, it may be best to avoid altogether. This includes your day-to-day baking and grilling routines.

For this reason, I opt for unbleached parchment paper rather than foil. We also discussed this in our post all about How to Roast Beets without Foil

Acidic and Salty Foods

Though aluminum leaching can occur regardless of food type, acidic and salty foods create a chemical reaction with aluminum foil that increases the amount of aluminum getting into your food. You may also notice a slightly burnt or strange flavor if air frying items in aluminum foil, as the metallic transfer occurs. 

Cooking acidic foods in your air fryer is still possible (I love air fryer roasted cherry tomatoes)– just leave the aluminum foil out of the equation! This is the same reason many nutritionists don’t use canned tomatoes. 

An open air fryer basket lined with aluminum foil and filled with a chicken and potatoes.

Foil can be used sparingly to line an air fryer basket if needed, though I don’t recommend it. Image: Shutterstock

Using Aluminum Foil Safely 

I hear you– aluminum foil will continue to be a convenient way for some of us to keep things clean in the kitchen. Common benefits include: 

  • Potential for better flavor as the food cooks within its own drippings and spices
  • Distribution of heat throughout the foil (when used correctly) 
  • Keeps the air fryer basket ready to go for the next recipe (no stickiness or cooked-on messes) 

As long as you take care to avoid a few common scenarios and food types, aluminum foil could be your friend! 

Foods to Avoid When Cooking With Aluminum Foil 

When used responsibly, the human body can excrete a small amount of aluminum safely. But because it is present in many of the foods we already consume, it’s important to control our exposure when we can. Avoid cooking foods like:  

  • Lemons
  • Cabbage
  • Rhubarb
  • Limes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Extremely salted items (salt once you pull out of the air fryer!)

Be mindful of what you are cooking in your air fryer, and consider whether or not it can be done safely. Try alternate cooking methods if you are set on cooking with any of the above ingredients. 

Foods That Can Withstand Aluminum Foil Methods

The risk of aluminum foil methods really depends on the model of your air fryer, and the type of food you are cooking. As long as a small amount of aluminum foil remains in the basket and away from the holes that circulate the hot air, you can safely cook foods like: 

  • Weighted vegetables like peppers, zucchini, squash
  • Frozen breaded foods (no messy batters!)
  • Potatoes

Most of these foods can be cooked in an air fryer without aluminum foil. Why not avoid the material altogether, just to be safe? Cleaning up isn’t so bad! 

Can You Put Aluminum Foil In An Air Fryer? 

So– can you put foil in an air fryer? The answer is that it depends. If you follow proper food safety measures and consider the kind of food you are cooking in your air fryer, you may be able to use aluminum foil as a convenient tool for easy cleanup. 

How to be sure? Keep it in your air fryer basket, and use it sparingly. In doing so, you’ll keep your air fryer (and your family) in better health. 

To avoid leaching from aluminum, I prefer to use a little cooking spray rather than foil. For really messy or drippy foods, a small amount of foil inside the basket only should be safe for most air fryer models. 

Air fryers work by circulating air around the food, and using foil can interfere with this, resulting in less crispy dishes.