We have already talked about whether or not you should put aluminum foil in your air fryer, but there is another common kitchen material that people often wonder whether they can put in their air fryer or not. Paper towels! Should you put them in your air fryer?
No, I wouldn’t recommend that you put paper towels in your air fryer. An air fryer uses circulating hot air to cook, and this air can easily push a light paper towel around your air fryer. This could cause the minor inconvenience of blocked airflow and even cooking performance. In the worst case the paper towel could get stuck in the heating element and become a fire risk.
If you want to dive into the details about this issue, please read on…..
Why Might You Put Paper Towels in an Air Fryer?
Most people think about putting paper towels in their air fryer to soak up excess fat or oil that could come out of the food cooked in the air fryer. People often don’t like cleaning up the fat and oil that may build up at the bottom of your air fryer (when cooking bacon for example), so they may think about putting paper towels on the bottom of the cooking compartment to soak this up.
Some people may want to put the paper towels directly under food that can be oily rather than putting it at the bottom, but the reason for using it is the same. Paper towels are super absorbent so are often thought of when it comes to soaking up excess fat or oil.
People might also think of placing paper towels under food to stop it sticking to their air fryer and causing a sticky mess to clean up after!
Is it a Good Idea to Put Paper Towels in an Air Fryer?
Before you go ahead and start lining your air fryer with paper towels lets think more about whether it is a good idea or not to do so.
They are Too Light!
If you think about how an air fryer works, it is constantly circulating hot air around the cooking compartment in order to cook your food. This is quite an aggressive process that can cause even some relatively heavy items to move around inside your air fryer. As paper towels are light in nature, they simply have no chance when it comes to the power of an air fryer’s circulating hot air.
If you were to put a paper towel in your air fryer unsecured, it would simply fly around all over the place! One of the potential ways to get around this would be to place an extra wire rack over the top of the paper towel. If you are directly placing food on top of the paper towel, as long as the food is heavy enough it could also potentially stop it flying around the cooking compartment.
It’s a Fire Hazard
As the air fryer was designed to take over from the frying done by a deep-fat fryer, the cooking method they use it aggressive in nature. The heating element inside an air fryer gets very hot, as does the hot air it produces and is blown around the appliance.
This means that putting paper towels in your air fryer is a potential fire hazard that I personally wouldn’t recommend. Even if you secure the paper towels in the air fryer somehow, you never know when it might come loose. If the paper towel starts moving around the cooking compartment, it may get lodged in the air fryer’s heating element and start a fire. Paper towels are highly flammable when put on or very close to a heating element.
This is the main reason to NEVER use paper towels inside your air fryer!
They Block Airflow!
Air fryers heavily rely on the circulating hot air that comes from the heating element (and a small fan) to cook or ‘air fry’ your food. If anything is placed in the way of this circulating hot air, you will see a loss in cooking performance.
Unfortunately, paper towels don’t have any holes or perforations big enough to allow hot air to flow through. So if you place it anywhere close to your food it will stop the air flow in your air fryer and lower its cooking performance.
What Can I Use Instead of Paper Towels in my Air Fryer?
What most people use is perforated parchment paper if they want to place something inside their air fryer to catch grease or to stop food sticking to their air fryer basket or racks. As long as you buy oven safe parchment paper then it will only darken and not catch on fire. And the perforated variety will still allow good air flow around your air fryer. Do not use wax paper (although it can look very similar), as wax paper can still melt and even catch on fire.
Below is an example of some good air fryer parchment paper I found. Click the image to view it for yourself over at Amazon.
What Can I Use Paper Towels for Around my Air Fryer?
Although I never place paper towels inside my air fryer whilst it is cooking, I do find them very useful for quick cleanup of air fryer related messes. For example, when I cook a rotisserie chicken in my air fryer oven a lot of chicken oil gets ‘splatted’ all over the cooking compartment. And you can’t simply take the cooking compartment out and rinse it in the sink when you have an air fryer oven, so instead I will start by soaking up a lot of that excess fat with paper towels! Makes the whole cleanup process way easier 🙂
I also use paper towels to season the inside of my air fryer’s cooking compartment and accessories, especially when they are new. Simply place some oil on the paper towel and wipe around the area you want to season. This helps to improve the air fryer’s non-stick coating and makes it less likely food will stick.