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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 super-popular appliance.

air fryer donut egg pie
Last updated: 08 July 2020

Need to know

  • The huge popularity of air fryers has inspired countless recipes and hacks for users to try. 
  • Results can vary dramatically depending on the food cooked, and the taste and texture may be different. 
  • CHOICE has tested over 15 air fryer models and rated them on cooking performance and ease of use. 

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, air-frying everything from pies to pizza to eggs and more.   

While it's easy to get caught up in the hype, remember just because you can cook something in your airfryer doesn't mean you should, or that it's going to taste as good. CHOICE has been testing air fryers for years (see our reviews), and our kitchen experts have found you're probably better off saving your money and using a normal oven to get better results.

With this in mind, we asked our chief air fryer tester Fiona Mair for her take on some of the more unconventional recipes popping up all over the internet.

Fry hard: 7 foods fried and tested

You probably already know you can air-fry frozen foods like chips, chicken nuggets and spring rolls, but there's plenty of other things you can cook that you may never have considered. The question is: will you actually get decent results? Here's Fiona's verdicts: 

1. Donuts

Donuts are usually made by deep frying sweet dough in oil, but while it's possible to do this at home, 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 okay, 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 airfryer," she adds.

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 once towards the end of the cooking process for even browning.

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

2. Pies

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

Fiona says air-fried pies will work well but because there is no bottom heating element, you may not get a brown crisp 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 waiting for your oven to warm up.

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 pie a try.

3. Hard boiled eggs

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

"An airfryer 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 airfryer than on the stovetop.

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

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 airfryer might do the job just as well. It should produce a nice crispy sandwich without squeezing out the fillings like toasted sandwich makers sometimes do.

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 an edible pizza with nicely browned toppings, but it won't have a crispy base because there's no heating element in the bottom. 

mini pizza

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

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

Verdict: Stick with the oven for that crispy finish. 

6. Popcorn

While there's 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.

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."

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 airfryer if your model can get over 200 degrees. Then you may need to play around with the temperatures a little to get a good level of browning. 

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

Verdict: Go for it.

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