Air fryers have become incredibly popular in recent years as a healthy way to cook fried foods with little to no oil. Their convenience and ease of use have made them a staple in many kitchens.
But when using any new appliance, questions arise about what you can and cannot put inside it.
One common question is: can you put paper towels in an air fryer? The short answer is no, you should not put paper towels in an operating air fryer.
Why You Should Not Put Paper Towels in an Air Fryer
There are a few important reasons why paper towels and air fryers don’t mix well:
- Fire hazard – Paper towels are flammable. Air fryers operate at very high temperatures, often close to 400°F. This combination creates a serious fire risk if paper towels are placed inside the air fryer basket.
- Uneven cooking – Paper towels can disrupt the smooth flow of hot air in an air fryer. This can lead to food cooking unevenly. The paper towel may also insulate the food from the hot air, preventing it from crisping up properly.
- Messes up cleanup – Any oil or crumbs that get soaked up by the paper towel will make the cleanup process more difficult. It defeats the purpose of using the towel to simplify cleanup.
- Manual warnings – Most air fryer manuals warn against putting paper products or liners inside the appliance. They canPose a fire or functional hazard.
Key Takeaway: Putting paper towels in an operating air fryer creates a fire hazard and can lead to uneven cooking.
Alternatives to Using Paper Towels in an Air Fryer
Luckily, there are a few good alternatives to using paper towels:
1. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper, also known as baking paper, is one of the best paper towel substitutes for air fryers. The key differences are:
- Parchment paper is non-stick, unlike paper towels that can stick to food.
- It’s designed to withstand high oven temperatures up to 420°F.
- The paper is perforated with small holes that allow air flow.
- Cut a sheet of parchment to fit your air fryer basket.
- Place it in the bottom of the basket before adding food.
- It will catch any drippings and make cleanup easier.
- Replace between batches as needed.
Parchment paper is inexpensive and widely available. It’s a handy accessory to keep on hand when cooking with your air fryer.
2. Silicone Baking Mats
Silicone baking mats are reusable, non-stick liners that are heat resistant up to about 480°F. They provide an easy release surface for air fryers.
- Simply place a mat in the bottom of your air fryer basket.
- Add your food as usual.
- Remove mat and wipe clean after cooking.
The non-stick surface helps prevent food from sticking to the basket. Baking mats are a bit more expensive than parchment initially, but you can wash and reuse them many times.
3. Metal Liners and Containers
Small oven-safe metal tins or baking cups work well in air fryers. The metal helps conduct heat and crisps up food nicely.
- Choose metal tins or cups that fit in your fryer basket.
- Lightly coat them with oil spray if needed.
- Add individual food portions to each container.
The metal also makes removal easy after air frying. Metal conducts heat better than paper and is the optimal liner material for air fryers.
Pro Tips When Using Liners in an Air Fryer
If you opt to use parchment paper, silicone mats, or metal liners in your air fryer, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t cover the entire basket bottom with a liner. Leave space for air flow.
- Avoid lining that is thick or multilayered. Single sheets only.
- Keep liners 1-2 inches away from the heating element.
- Monitor the first few minutes of cooking closely.
- Remove immediately if you see dark speckles on the liner or smoke.
- Replace liners between batches to prevent food waste buildup.
With proper precautions, using alternative liners can make air fryer cooking more convenient. Just avoid paper towels and anything that can obstruct airflow.
Safe Uses for Paper Towels With an Air Fryer
While paper towels shouldn’t go inside a hot air fryer, there are some safe uses for them:
- Seasoning the basket – Rub a small amount of oil on the basket with a paper towel to season it before first use.
- Cleaning the basket – Use a paper towel moistened with dish soap and water to scrub the basket after cooking.
- Drying foods – Place fried foods on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess grease after cooking.
So paper towels can still play a supporting role in your air frying process. Just keep them out of the hot appliance itself.
Can I use paper towels if I don’t turn on the heat?
No, you should avoid putting paper towels in the air fryer even when it’s not actively heating. The heating elements can turn on automatically at any time during normal operation. It’s best not to take any risks by putting paper products inside the cooking chamber.
What about wax paper or foil?
Wax paper and aluminum foil are also not recommended in air fryers. Wax paper can melt from the heat. Foil can transfer heat unevenly. Both can pose ignition and airflow hazards like paper towels. Stick to alternative liners made specifically for high heat like parchment paper or silicone mats.
Can I layer paper towels underneath food in the basket?
Layering paper towels underneath food is not a good idea. The towels can shift around, block airflow, and create uneven heating and cooking. It’s safer to place food directly in the basket and use alternate liners if needed to catch drips and splatters.
Should I avoid paper plates too?
Yes, it’s best not to put paper plates inside an air fryer either. While not as risky as paper towels, they can still pose a fire hazard if touching the heating element. Use oven-safe dishes when needed, but the standard fryer basket works great on its own in most cases.
While paper towels may seem harmless, they have no place inside a hot air fryer. The fire and functional hazards outweigh any perceived benefits.
With a few simple accessories like parchment paper, silicone mats, or metal tins, you can enjoy the same convenience without risking safety or performance.