Air fryers are a fast way to make all sorts of foods hot and crispy, without all the oil of deep fryers. But can you put water in an air fryer without damaging it?
We use our air fryer all the time. Like, several times a day. It’s great for heating up frozen hash browns for breakfast or for making air fryer chicken tenders for lunch. And for dinner, you can use it cook up everything from air fryer whole chicken to air fryer salmon.
But is it safe to use water in an air fryer?
Yes, you can use water in an air fryer under certain circumstances. You just don’t want to use a lot of water, as that could damage the appliance.
In this post, I’ll cover topics, including: ways to safely use water in an air fryer, whether you can steam foods in an air fryer, if you can boil water using an air fryer, and if it’s okay to heat up other liquids in an air fryer.
- What is an air fryer and how does it work?
- When to use water in an air fryer
- How to use water in an air fryer
- Will using water in an air fryer cause damage?
- What happens to water in an air fryer?
- Can you use an air fryer to steam foods?
- Can you use an air fryer to boil water?
- Can you put oil in an air fryer?
- Can you use other liquids in an air fryer?
- Can you use an air fryer for sous vide cooking?
- What if you add too much water to an air fryer?
- What’s the best way to clean an air fryer?
- More air fryer answers
What is an air fryer and how does it work?
An air fryer is a countertop kitchen appliance that works by circulating very hot air from an internal heating element. It can make a wide range of foods crispy and hot on the outside while keeping them moist on the inside — with little or no oil.
You simply place the food you want to cook in the air fryer basket (or baskets if it has 2), set the temperature and time, and start the cooking process.
When to use water in an air fryer
One of the best reasons to use water in an air fryer is to help create a bit of extra moisture in foods that have dried out. This is especially useful for things like leftovers that may have become dry in the fridge.
Simply adding a few drops of water to the outside of the food directly, then placing it in air fryer to heat up, can help open up the food and rehyrdate it.
You could also add a little bit of water to the drawer of the air fryer itself to yield similar results.
A little water in the air fryer can also help prevent foods from becoming too hot and eventually burning. Plus, it can help reduce excess smoke if you’re cooking greasy or fatty foods.
How to use water in an air fryer
In most cases, the main heating element or heating coil is located at the top of the air fryer. You want to avoid water coming in contact with it, so it’s best to add a bit of water to the bottom of your air fryer before you start cooking. Just make sure the air fryer is unplugged first.
Or you can add some water directly to the food that you plan on cooking.
It’s also important to add only small amounts, as too much could damage the appliance. Usually, 1-2 tablespoons of water will be plenty. You don’t want to flood the basket or have it overflow. That could cause water to reach the heating element and result in a short circuit or damage to the air fryer itself.
Note: While most models can safely handle a small amount of water, check your air fryer’s user manual beforehand in case there are any potential issues. The instruction manual should also detail how much water you can safely add to the fryer. And it should display where the heating element is located, so you can keep water away from it.
Will using water in an air fryer cause damage?
If you use only small amounts of water and keep it away from the heating coil, that shouldn’t damage your air fryer. However, if your user manual warns against using any water at all, do not add water to it as damage could occur or it could pose a fire hazard.
And since an air fryer is an electrical appliance, you always want to make sure it’s off and unplugged before placing water in it.
What happens to water in an air fryer?
Since air fryers circulate hot air, much of the water will evaporate. The rest will be absorbed by the food that you’re cooking.
However, some foods like vegetables can absorb or trap more water than others. That’s another reason why you don’t want to use too much water, as the food could become soft and mushy rather than crispy.
Can you use an air fryer to steam foods?
In most cases, you cannot use an air fryer to steam foods. Whereas air fryers use circulated hot air to cook foods, steamers use heated water. And as we’ve seen already, too much water can be unsafe with air fryers.
That said, some air fryer models do come with a steam function. They work by adding water or liquid to the bottom of the air fryer basket, then adding foods you want to steam over it on a steam rack. The steam adds moisture to foods and is released during the cooking process.
These models can handle large amounts of liquid, as much as 2 cups. They’re great for steaming things like veggies or shrimp. Just be careful about opening the lid while steaming as that hot steam can escape quickly.
So if you want to steam with an air fryer, your best option is to use models with a separate steam function.
Can you use an air fryer to boil water?
No, you shouldn’t use your air fryer to boil water. If you simply added a large quantity of water to the basket, it could overflow and damage the unit. And it could be dangerous to get out without spilling.
Plus, the fast-circulating heat inside the air fryer would just whip the water around anyway, making it difficult to boil in the first place.
The same would hold true if you added water to a heat-proof container and tried to boil it in the air fryer. So bottom line: trying to boil water in your air fryer is not a good idea.
Can you put oil in an air fryer?
One of the benefits of cooking food in an air fryer is that you don’t need to add oil. So air frying is often touted as a healthier cooking option as opposed to deep frying. Essentially, you still get a crispy texture on foods like with a deep fryer, but without needing all the cooking oil.
One good use for oil in an air fryer is adding it to the basket to help prevent foods from sticking. Usually, the best way to do this is with cooking spray.
That said, you can add a little oil directly to your air fryer if you wish to add extra crispiness. But like with water, only use small amounts. And it’s best to use one with a high smoke point like avocado oil or sunflower oil. Those with lower smoke points will break down at high temperatures, which can give foods a burnt flavor.
Can you use other liquids in an air fryer?
For the most part, excessive liquids and air fryers don’t mix. For example, if you’re making air fryer chicken wings, you want to add any sauces after you’ve cooked them. That’s because adding the sauce on the wings before can cause it to burn in the fryer.
You also may want to think twice before using an air fryer to heat up other types of liquids like soups and stews. While it’s possible to do by placing the soup in individual containers like ramekins, this method can be messy. And it can be difficult to safely get the hot ramekins out of the air fryer. Plus, it’s simply not as efficient as using the stovetop or a microwave.
Can you use an air fryer for sous vide cooking?
Sous vide style of cooking involves vacuum-sealing foods and immersing them in warm water to cook at low temperatures over longer periods of time. This method allows for precise cooking temperatures, and the idea is that it prevents foods from overcooking. It’s commonly used with meats like steak or lamb.
Some air fryer models come with a sous vide function. To use it, vacuum seal your food first, then place the pouches into the air fryer basket. Next, top with water until they’re completely submerged, set the time and temperature, and let cook. Needless to say, these types of air fryers are equipped to handle large amounts of water.
Sous vide can take several hours of cooking time, so if you’re in a hurry, this may not be the best method. But it can result in very tender, perfectly cooked food.
Again, if you want to sous vide with an air fryer, your best option is to use a model with a sous vide function.
What if you add too much water to an air fryer?
If you’ve added too much water to your air fryer and you’re worried it may be too close to the heating element, carefully turn it off and unplug it.
Once it’s safe to do so and the air fryer has completely cooled down, remove the water. It’s best to use a small bowl or a cloth towel, rather than picking up the air fryer and trying to dump the water out. That can lead to water seeping into other parts of the appliance.
Let any remaining water air dry on its own. After it’s dried, plug it back in and test out the air fryer to make sure it works properly. If you sense it’s malfunctioning or not working as expected, it’s a good idea to bring it to a professional to repair rather than trying to do it yourself, as they can include complicated electrical components.
What’s the best way to clean an air fryer?
Here’s where water and air fryers mix well. To clean your air fryer, first make sure it’s fully cooled down and unplugged.
Then remove the air fryer drawer (and tray if it has a removable one) and clean with warm soapy water. Air dry in a drying rack.
To clean the exterior of the air fryer, make sure it’s unplugged first. Then use a damp cloth or a disinfectant wipe to wipe down the external surfaces. You can dry with a paper towel.
Try not to shift the main unit any more than necessary or turn it upside down as that could dislodge components. And don’t dip the air fryer in a bucket of water, which could result in serious damage.
Just as air fryers don’t require oil to cook foods, they don’t really need butter either. You can add a bit of butter to the outside of your foods before air frying them, but excessive amounts can burn and start to smoke during cooking.
Spraying a bit of oil on your air fryer tray or basket can help prevent certain foods from sticking. And you can use olive oil spray for this purpose. But extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point — as low as 350° Fahrenheit. That means it can start to break down more easily and give foods a burnt flavor. It’s better to use alternatives with higher smoke points like avocado spray or canola oil spray.
More air fryer answers
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