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Can air fryer fry everything?

Air fryers have become increasingly popular in recent years as a healthier alternative to deep frying. Their ability to make crispy fried foods using little to no oil has many home cooks curious about how versatile they really are. Here we’ll explore what foods are best for air frying and whether an air fryer can truly fry everything.

How Air Fryers Work

Air fryers are small countertop convection ovens that circulate hot air around food to produce a crispy, fried finish. A mechanical fan and heating element rapidly blow the air around the food to essentially “air fry” it. This rapid air circulation coupled with the convection heat allows the outside of foods to quickly crisp up while retaining moisture on the inside.

Best Foods for Air Frying

While air fryers can make a variety of foods, the following are particularly well-suited for these appliances:

  • Frozen foods like french fries, chicken nuggets, fish sticks
  • Fresh or frozen chicken wings, drumsticks, thighs
  • Fresh or frozen fish fillets or shrimp
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables
  • Homemade breaded foods like chicken cutlets or eggplant parm
  • Cookies, scones, granola
  • Fruit chips
  • Egg rolls
  • Empanadas
  • Potstickers

Foods that are thin and have a large surface area crisp up nicely in an air fryer. Battered and breaded items also get an extra crispy outer layer from the circulated air. Moderately fatty meats like chicken wings and thighs render out fat for a crispy skin. Sturdy vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower also develop a nice fried exterior.

Can You Fry a Turkey in an Air Fryer?

While air fryers excel at cooking smaller foods rapidly, most are too small to accommodate larger items like a whole turkey. The average air fryer has a 3-5 quart capacity, which is only big enough to cook around a 3 lb chicken.

Turkeys for Thanksgiving are typically 12 lbs and up, far too large to fit in a standard air fryer basket. Some extra large air fryers designed for entire chickens may fit a small turkey up to 10 lbs. However, it is not recommended to try cooking anything much bigger than that in an air fryer.

Air fryers simply do not have enough interior space or power to properly crisp up and cook an entire turkey. The turkey would have to be cut into parts in order to fit and cook evenly. At that point, you’re better off using your regular oven to avoid overcrowding.

Can You Fry a Steak in an Air Fryer?

Steaks can absolutely be cooked in an air fryer with delicious results. The hot circulated air will give the exterior of the steak a nice crispy crust in just a few minutes. Follow these tips for the best air fried steaks:

  • Choose thinner steaks like sirloin, flank, or skirt. Thick cuts won’t cook evenly.
  • Pat steaks dry and season well with salt and pepper or steak seasoning.
  • Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
  • Cook 4-6 minutes per side for medium doneness.
  • Check periodically and flip once with tongs.
  • Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

The air fryer can rival a grill or cast iron pan when it comes to getting an excellent sear on steaks. Just be mindful of overcrowding and stick to 1-2 steaks at a time.

Can You Fry Bacon in an Air Fryer?

It is possible to cook bacon in an air fryer, but it doesn’t produce the crispiest results. The circulating air does help to cook and crisp the bacon evenly. However, cooking bacon in the oven or on the stovetop allows the bacon to fry in its own rendered fat for best texture.

If cooking bacon in the air fryer, use thin sliced bacon and cook at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through. You may need to finish cooking in a skillet to reach desired crispness. The air fryer does work well for reheating leftover bacon though.

Can You Fry an Egg in an Air Fryer?

Making fried eggs in an air fryer is doable but a bit tricky. Eggs need a vessel like a muffin tin or silicone mold to contain their shape. Follow these steps for air fried eggs:

  1. Spray 4 holes of a muffin tin with oil or use a silicone egg bite mold.
  2. Crack an egg into each hole, taking care not to break the yolks.
  3. Add seasonings like salt, pepper, or cheese.
  4. Cook at 300°F for 4-6 minutes until whites are set.

The tricky part is getting the whites fully cooked while keeping the yolks runny. Keep an eye on them through the air fryer window. For a fried egg effect, simply slide them out of the molds onto a plate.

Can You Fry Donuts in an Air Fryer?

Air fryers can absolutely be used to cook homemade donuts. The circulated hot air will crisp up and brown the outside of donuts for a delicious fried texture. Here’s how to fry donuts in an air fryer:

  1. Cut out and shape yeast or cake donut dough.
  2. Let rise if using yeast dough.
  3. Fry for 4-6 minutes at 350°F, flipping halfway.
  4. Brush with butter, cinnamon sugar, or glaze.

The donuts will develop a crisp, golden brown shell on the outside while remaining tender on the inside, just like deep fried donuts. Air fryer donuts are much healthier and can be customized with different flavors and glazes.

Can You Fry Vegetables in an Air Fryer?

Air fryers do an exceptional job of cooking fresh or frozen vegetables. The hot air surrounds the veggies from all sides to quickly roast them while retaining moisture. Almost all vegetables turn out crispy on the outside while tender inside when air fried. Here are cooking times for common veggies:

Vegetable Cook Time at 400°F
Broccoli florets 8-10 minutes
Brussels sprouts (halved) 10-12 minutes
Carrots (chopped) 8-10 minutes
Cauliflower florets 10-12 minutes
Asparagus (trimmed) 6-8 minutes
Bell peppers (sliced) 7-9 minutes
Green beans (trimmed) 8-10 minutes

Toss veggies in a small amount of oil beforehand and shake the basket midway for even cooking. Air fried veggies make great sides or can be added to main dishes like frittatas and pasta.

Can You Fry Bone-in Chicken in an Air Fryer?

Bone-in cuts of chicken like drumsticks, thighs, and wings excel in the air fryer. The key is making sure not to overcrowd the chicken pieces, which prevents even crisping. Here are some guidelines for air frying bone-in chicken:

  • Use 1 to 1 1⁄2 pounds of chicken drums, thighs, wings, or a mix.
  • Toss in a tablespoon of oil and seasoning of choice.
  • Arrange in a single layer in the basket, not touching.
  • Air fry at 380°F for 18-22 minutes.
  • Flip halfway through for even cooking.
  • Brush with barbecue sauce in last 5 minutes if desired.

The hot circulating air will make the skin extremely crispy and allow the chicken to cook through fully. Air fried chicken is ideal for weeknight meals, game day appetizers, or whenever you crave that crispy fried taste.

Can You Fry Frozen Foods in an Air Fryer?

One of the most popular uses for air fryers is cooking frozen convenience foods like french fries, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks. The circulating hot air quickly crisps up the outside of these frozen items for a satisfying crunch. Here are some tips for air frying frozen foods:

  • Use frozen fries, nuggets, pops, etc. right out of the freezer.
  • No need to thaw first.
  • Spread in a single layer on the basket, not overlapping.
  • Spritz with oil for more crispness.
  • Cook at 400°F, shaking basket periodically.
  • Check a few minutes early as they may cook faster than oven instructions.

One of the benefits of the air fryer is not having to wait for frozen convenience foods to thaw before cooking. The intense heat of the circulating air crisps up the outside while heating the inside rapidly. Enjoy your favorite frozen treats in a hurry with the air fryer.

Can You Fry Mozzarella Sticks in an Air Fryer?

For a quick and easy appetizer, mozzarella sticks are right at home in the air fryer. The hot air will melt the cheese inside while crisping up the battered exterior to perfection. Here’s how to make air fried mozzarella sticks:

  1. Cut mozzarella into 3⁄4 inch sticks.
  2. Coat in flour, egg, then breadcrumbs.
  3. Freeze for 1 hour to help breading adhere.
  4. Air fry at 400°F for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Flip halfway through and move sticks around.

The air fryer yields crunchy, melty mozzarella sticks in just minutes. Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping to get that classic appetizer taste. Make extra because they will go fast!

Can You Fry Pizza Rolls in an Air Fryer?

Pizza rolls make for fun finger foods, and cooking them in the air fryer takes them to the next level. The circulating hot air will crisp up the outside dough while melting the cheese interior. Here’s how to perfectly air fry pizza rolls:

  • Use thawed frozen pizza rolls.
  • Arrange rolls in a single layer on the basket, not touching.
  • Spray tops lightly with oil.
  • Cook at 400°F for 6-8 minutes until browned.
  • Shake the basket halfway through.

The air fryer yields golden brown pizza rolls on the outside filled with melted cheesy goodness. Enjoy dipped in marinara or ranch sauce for a party pleasing snack or appetizer.

Tips for Air Frying

Follow these tips whenever using your air fryer for the best cooked and crispiest results:

  • Don’t overcrowd – Cook in batches if needed.
  • Brush or spray food with oil before cooking.
  • Flip or shake food halfway through.
  • Use recommended cook times as guide.
  • Check food a few minutes early.
  • Let cooked food rest 1-2 minutes before eating.


While air fryers excel at making many foods crispy and delicious, there are limitations in what they can accommodate and properly cook. Very large foods like whole turkeys won’t fit and may not crisp up evenly. Foods that need to fry in grease like bacon can turn out chewy. However, an air fryer can fry up a wide variety of foods from steaks to veggies to donuts for a quick and healthier meal.

Just avoid overcrowding the basket, give foods a light coating of oil, and adjust cook times as needed. With some experimenting, you’ll discover which of your favorite fried foods turn out best in the air fryer. In many cases, you can absolutely achieve similar crispy fried results as deep frying, but in a faster and healthier way.