Over the years, I’ve discovered that it’s best for my needs to not invest in a ton of kitchen appliances. That’s largely because I *love* the healing power of a clear kitchen countertop… and most of my bulky equipment ends up collecting dust tucked away in drawers. (Out of sight, out of mind.)

However, IMHO, air fryers are worth their weight in gold. They seemingly do it all, from convection cooking and reheating foods to generating a satisfying crunchiness that I can’t wait to bite into. Additional benefits of air frying “include reduced oil content and faster cooking times compared to deep frying, making it a healthier option for many dishes,” adds Corrie Duffy, a professional chef and food blogger at Corrie Cooks.

Yet as the ‘80s ballad warned us, every rose has its thorn. There are some dishes that are best left to other cooking methods—check out the what and why on foods to avoid air frying below.

4 foods to avoid air frying

1. Battered foods

You might think that all standard fried fare would be fit to throw into an air fryer, but Duffy says that’s not always the case. “Definitely avoid putting anything wet or batter-covered directly into the air fryer without some prep. This could cause splattering or smoking,” he warns. Moreover, the cooked batch is unlikely to rival deep frying and pan frying. “Foods like tempura or heavily battered items can become too dry and lose their signature crunch in an air fryer,” Duffy adds.

2. Popcorn

Just as wet, battered foods have the potential to cause a safety hazard when air fried, so can popcorn. “The hot air circulation can blow the kernels all around, making it messy and potentially causing a fire hazard,” Duffy warns.

3. Cheese

According to Duffy, melting cheese in an air fryer can result in uneven cooking (and potentially a big gloppy mess). “Use a microwave or oven for even, gooey results on dishes like nachos,” he suggests.

4. Raw meat

“Foods that require a long cooking time—such as a whole chicken or large cuts of steak—are better suited for traditional roasting, grilling, or slow cooking methods,” Duffy explains. If you opt for air frying, you run the risk of uneven cooking and dryness.

That said, reheating certain types of meat in an air fryer gets the green light. “It’s not only totally doable, but actually excels when it comes to smaller cuts like sausage slices, meatballs, fish sticks, and popcorn chicken,” he continues. “These little bites heat through super quickly, often allowing you to skip the preheating step altogether.” Warm, crispy foods that make it into my belly in record time? Yes, chef!

“Foods that require a long cooking time—such as a whole chicken or large cuts of steak—are better suited for traditional roasting, grilling, or slow cooking methods.” —Corrie Duffy, chef and creator of Corrie Cooks

Foods you *might* want to avoid air frying, depending on your goals

Leafy greens

I’m a huge lover of kale in any form. From green juices and smoothies to salads and sides, it’s always a staple in my dietary lineup. While Duffy notes that it’s possible to make a great batch of kale chips in the air fryer, other variations of my leafy green of choice get a no-go from the chef. “Delicate greens like spinach and kale can become too brittle in an air fryer, leading to a less appealing texture,” he explains.

Fruit

“Fresh fruits like apples or pears may dehydrate excessively in an air fryer,” says Duffy. Unless your goal is to make your own air fryer dried fruit (which, BTW can help reduce food waste and save you some money), he recommends baking or grilling fruits to yield a caramelized texture.

The takeaway

All things considered, air fryers are pretty genius—but they can’t do everything. “While air frying is versatile and convenient, understanding its limitations and the best-suited foods for this method is crucial,” Duffy explains. “Experimentation is key to finding the perfect balance of taste and texture in your air-fried creations.”

When cooking foods that are air fryer-friendly, Duffy reminds us to:

  • Preheat the appliance
  • Avoid overcrowding the basket
  • Shake or flip the food halfway through to ensure even crisping (and optimal yumminess)
  • Enjoy!
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