Here's what to know before you tear off any foil.
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Credit: Dotdash Meredith

Aluminum foil is a workhorse in the kitchen. The heat-conducting sheet can drastically reduce cooking times and messes, and it can be utilized to clean the bottom of your oven, your stovetop, and even your grill grates.

Plus, it doesn't just help you make dinner at home; anyone who has made a foil packet meal on a camping trip can testify to aluminum foil's use as a culinary tool far outside your home.

But is it OK to use aluminum foil in smaller, extremely hot appliances like your air fryer? And how, exactly, does one go about air frying with aluminum foil?

Read on to learn whether it's safe to put aluminum foil in the air fryer and the best uses for aluminum foil when air frying.

Is It Safe to Use Aluminum Foil in the Air Fryer?

It is absolutely safe to use aluminum foil in your air fryer. In fact, it can make cooking with the air fryer easier.

Put aside your worries about your air fryer catching on fire, and focus on all the ways using aluminum foil there can help you: Utilizing aluminum foil in the air fryer will cut down on mess and significantly reduce overall cleanup time. Those pesky crumbs and sticky sauces will never stand a chance.

How to Use Aluminum Foil in the Air Fryer

First, check your air fryer model's instruction booklet. "You do want to be mindful of your appliance," says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. The machine's creators may have tips on the best ways to use aluminum foil. They may also provide a list of things to avoid.

Then, consider your machine. Aluminum foil in an air fryer toaster oven could line the baking sheet or drip pan. In a toaster oven with a drawer or basket, you could line the bottom of the drawer, or you could line the tray that sits in the drawer.

If you are using foil, here's how to insert it:

  • Fold the sides of your aluminum foil so it is smaller than the basket and fits snuggly.
  • Insert the foil or wrap it around the part you want to cover.
  • Don't place foil over the fan or heating element. This will block the airflow and heat and prevent the device from cooking properly.

When to Use Aluminum Foil in the Air Fryer

Adding a sheet of foil to the air fryer is especially great for foods that are prone to stick, like eggs.

"Aluminum foil may help if you're cooking eggs in the air fryer, but don't have a small enough metal tray to put in," Jones says. Creating cups with aluminum foil keeps the eggs compact and on the foil to cook without getting messy or slipping through mesh baskets.

"It's also good for reducing cleanup from items like wings that may easily stick, or foods that have breading that can fall through spaces in the basket and overcook," she says. Think: chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, or onion rings.

To be fair, sometimes aluminum foil isn't an option due to the model or size of the air fryer, so in those cases, you'd want to upgrade to a larger model or just use a different material.

"For smaller air fryers, if you're concerned with cleanup, it may be better to use parchment paper when possible so as to not interfere with airflow and the cooking process," she suggests. You can't always fold the sides of the aluminum foil easily due to lack of space within the air fryer unit.

However, the parchment paper won't work for all kinds of foods, so you may want to go with an alternative cooking method instead. "This wouldn't work for items like eggs or anything with more liquid," she says. Or, head to the store and buy a larger air fryer that can accommodate the foil.

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