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7 foods you can cook in an air fryer – but should you?

To fry or not to fry? Kitchen expert Fiona Mair reveals which surprising recipes work best in the popular appliance.

air fryer donut egg pie
Last updated: 28 March 2022

Need to know

  • The huge popularity of air fryers has inspired countless recipes and hacks to try
  • Results can vary dramatically, depending on the food cooked – and the taste and texture may be different
  • CHOICE has tested and reviewed more than 15 air fryers to find the best

Air fryers are all the rage right now and if you believe the internet, you can cook almost anything in them. 

Inspired by their versatility and low price points (Kmart Anko sells one for $69, Aldi for $40), clever home chefs are getting creative with new ways to use the appliance, frying everything from pies to pizza to eggs and more.   

It's easy to get caught up in the hype, but remember, just because you can cook something in your air fryer doesn't mean you should, or that it's going to taste as good. And there are other common mistakes people make when cooking with air fryers, too.

Our kitchen expert Fiona Mair has been testing air fryers for years (see our reviews), so we asked her for her advice on some of the more unusual recipes popping up on the internet.

choice tester fiona mair with two air fryers tested

High fryer: Fiona has tested countless air fryers in our lab.

Fry hard: 7 foods fried and tested

You probably already know you can air-fry frozen foods such as chips, chicken nuggets and spring rolls. But there are plenty of other things you can cook that you may never have considered. 

The question is: will you actually get decent results? Here are Fiona's verdicts: 

1. Pies

Pies cook perfectly well in a normal oven, but you can also try them in your air fryer.

Fiona says air-fried pies will work well, but because there is no bottom heating element, you may not get a crisp brown base. You'll also only have space to cook one or two at a time, but it will be faster than waiting for your oven to warm up.

meat pie

Air-frying a pie will be quicker than an oven.

Pie tips

"For a homemade pie, line a foil pie tray with the pastry and bake the base first," says Fiona. 

"Place a sheet of baking paper over the pastry case and add some dried beans or rice to weigh the pastry down so it won't rise or bubble. Then add the filling and pastry top to guarantee a cooked base."

Verdict: Give a fried pie a try.

2. Donuts

Donuts are usually made by deep-frying sweet dough in oil. Yes, it's possible to do this at home, but it's messy, time-consuming and quite unhealthy. You can bake donuts in your air fryer instead, using just a light coating of oil.

According to Fiona, air fryer donuts will taste OK, but they'll have a "cakey" texture and won't be as crispy as the deep-fried real deal. They may also look a little different. "They will probably be a bit flat on the bottom from sitting on the surface of the air fryer," she says.

Donut tips

Teflon-coated air fryers are best suited to donut making. But if you've got a model with a basket, line it with foil to stop the soft dough getting stuck in the cracks. Fiona also suggests turning the donuts once or twice towards the end of the cooking process for even browning.

Verdict: Worth a try, but don't expect crispy, shop-quality donuts.

3. Hard-boiled eggs

Boiling an egg in a saucepan is pretty easy, but it will also work in an air fryer. Just put the eggs in the air fryer, set the temperature and timer – and wait.

"An air fryer is good for hard-boiled eggs, but if you want a soft or runny yolk, you're better off using the traditional stovetop method," says Fiona. She also notes that eggs will actually take longer to cook in the air fryer than on the stovetop.

Hard-boiled egg tips

Fiona advises using room-temperature eggs and placing them in the air fryer while it's preheating. "A sudden change in temperature may crack the shell, so don't use eggs straight from the fridge," she says.

Verdict: The stovetop method is quicker and better if you want a softer or runny yolk. 

4. Toasted sandwiches

There was a time when a toasted sandwich maker was a kitchen staple, but your air fryer might do the job just as well. It should produce a nice crispy sandwich without squeezing out the fillings, the way toasted sandwich makers sometimes do.

Toastie tip

Spread a layer of butter on the outside of the bread and flip your sandwich halfway through for an evenly browned, crunchy result.

Verdict: Fry away!

5. Pizza 

If you want to make full-size pizzas, you'll have to use a normal oven – but you can use your air fryer to make mini pizzas. The result will be a decent pizza with nicely browned toppings, but it won't have a crispy base because there's no heating element in the bottom of an air fryer. 

mini pizza

Air-fried mini pizzas will taste good, but lack a crispy base.

Pizza tips

For the best results, Fiona suggests using a thin dough and putting the toppings on once the dough is already in the air fryer to prevent spillage inside the unit. 

Verdict: Stick with the oven for that crispy finish. 

6. Popcorn

While there are already plenty of ways to make popcorn – with a stovetop, microwave or dedicated popcorn machine – some online recipes suggest you can air fry it too. To make it, they recommend lining the basket with foil and placing the kernels and oil inside.

But Fiona doesn't recommend you try this one at home. "Kernels can pop out of the basket and end up becoming trapped in the fan or heating element, which can cause burning and smoking," she warns.

Popcorn tips

If you're going to try it, make a foil pouch to keep your kernels contained, and stick to small quantities. "You need to make sure the kernels are evenly spread out on the base of the basket to allow them to pop evenly," says Fiona. 

Verdict: Not worth the risk.

7. Bread 

Baking your own bread has never been trendier, so why not try using your air fryer as a bread maker? You should be able to make a decent loaf of bread in an air fryer if your model can heat up to more than 200 degrees. Then you may need to play around with the temperatures a little to get a good level of browning. 

Bread tips

If you don't have a bread tin small enough to fit in your air fryer, you can just put your dough straight in the basket. Fiona recommends preheating your air fryer and avoiding opening the lid/drawer during the baking process. 

Verdict: Go for it.

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