Air fryers have Teflon-coated food baskets and pans, so you don’t have to add grease. However, if you want to remove the grease from your food while it’s cooking in an air fryer, can you line the food basket with paper towels?
You should never place paper towels or other inflammable objects in an air fryer. The heated air in an air fryer will further dehydrate paper towels, which can cause them to burst into flames unexpectedly.
However, you can use safer alternatives to collect grease from inside your air fryer food basket while your food is cooking. I’ll explain what those are and a lot more in the following sections.
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
Since air fryers are relatively new kitchen appliances, people have all sorts of questions regarding how to use them safely.
Some people look at air fryers as miniature convection ovens, and they’re not wrong at all. Air fryers work on a simple concept involving heat and air. Heating coils increase the temperature inside a food basket, and a fan circulates the heat to cook food from all directions.
What makes air fryers so popular is their ability to crisp up food without added fats and oils. These machines do so by circulating heated air within a small cavity, cooking your food evenly from all sides to give it a crispy exterior.
However, you can add a few pats of butter or tablespoons of oil to your food if you want to further enhance its flavor. It’s not a necessary step, but since fat is a flavor vehicle and it can add much-needed moisture to certain foods, please feel free to butter your food up before sticking it in an air fryer.
Can You Put a Paper Towel in an Air Fryer?
So, if this is the case, should you put a paper towel in an air fryer to capture the run-off and excess grease? No, you shouldn’t.
There are two very good reasons why you shouldn’t use paper towels in an air fryer:
If you place a paper towel or anything else that isn’t food in an air fryer, you may possibly prevent heated air from circulating properly. When this happens, portions of your food may be undercooked, while other parts are cooked to perfection. This is the main reason that food pans come with perforated bottoms.
I don’t have to tell you that paper and heating coils are a bad match. Even if you placed the paper towels on the bottom of the food pan, there’s a chance that the fan blows a corner upward and directly into the heating coil. When this happens, the paper towel can catch fire, which won’t just ruin your food but also possibly destroy the air fryer from the inside.
Can become soggy and ineffective
As your food cooks and renders fat, the paper towel will become too soggy and possibly tear inside the air fryer, creating a whole other problem you have to deal with. When the paper towel becomes too soggy, it won’t soak up any more moisture, making it virtually useless. Instead of using paper towels to soak up moisture, you should look for air-fryer-safe alternatives.
Alternatives for Catching Grease in an Air Fryer
Assuming your food is dripping with grease after it’s done baking, you might want to figure out a way to get rid of the excess oils and fats before serving your food. Of course, you could pat the food dry with a clean paper towel (outside the air fryer, mind you), or you can get a drip pan for your air fryer.
An air fryer drip pan sits beneath the food pan. When your food leaks moisture and grease, it will fall into the awaiting drip pin below. After cooking your food, simply remove the drip pan from the air fryer and dispose of the accumulated juices. Or you can save them from making a delicious gravy from scratch!
How to Remove Grease from an Air Fryer
There will eventually come a time when the inside of your air fryer becomes soiled with slick grease and solid food remnants. When this happens, here’s what you can do to get rid of them.
- Shut off your air fryer and let it come down to room temperature.
- Remove the food basket and food pan and soak them in a basin of soapy water for 10 minutes.
- Using a soft-bristle brush, scrub the food basket and pan to remove the grease and solid food particles.
- Rinse the food basket and food pan before air-drying them in a dish rack. Alternatively, you can stick the food basket and food pan in a dishwasher.
- Take a paper towel and wipe down the exterior of the air fryer’s base.
- When the inside of the base is cool, use a paper towel and wipe off the residual moisture and food remnants from the floor and heating coils.
- Use a soft-bristle brush or a bamboo skewer to loosen and remove caked-on debris.
If you’re having trouble loosening solid food remnants from your air fryer, you can create a paste by mixing 3:1 parts of baking soda and water. Smear some of the paste on the caked-on food particles, let the paste sit for 5 minutes, then go back and scrub off the paste with a moistened toothbrush or microfiber cloth.
When Can I Use Paper Towels on an Air Fryer?
The only time you should use paper towels on an air fryer is when you want to clean it. Moisten a paper towel sheet and use it to wipe down the exterior and inside of the air fryer base. Other than that, you should keep paper towels away from your air fryer as much as possible.
What About Wet Paper Towels?
When grilling skewered food, it’s generally a good idea to soak the bamboo skewers overnight. That way, they won’t catch fire on a hot grill. Surely, the same principle applies to paper towels, right?
Not exactly. Again, paper towels will do nothing but block heated air from cooking your food from the bottom. Also, a pre-dampened paper towel sheet will not absorb much moisture, if any. Basically, the paper towel will serve as an air blocker and nothing else. Stick to one of the alternatives mentioned in this guide, or don’t use any liner at all.
Can You Line an Air Fryer with Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper?
If you want to prevent your air fryer food basket from becoming overly soiled with old food particles, you can use two common baking sheet lines—aluminum foil and parchment paper. Neither of these materials is flammable, at least not in 400°F environments. As long as you keep the liners at the bottom of the food basket and as far away from the ceiling-mounted heating coils as possible, you should be fine.
That said, it’s not advised that you use any kind of liner in your air fryer, even non-stick silicone liners you can pick up separately for the food basket. Remember, an air fryer crisps the bottom of food by circulating heated air throughout the tiny food basket. If you use a liner, you may prevent air from penetrating your food from underneath, giving your food a soggy, unappetizing bottom.
However, there may be certain times when aluminum foil or parchment paper will come in handy, such as when baking cookies and reheating last night’s leftovers. If you’re cooking raw food in an air fryer, avoid using any liner when possible.