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Cooking Tips

How to Prevent Food from Sticking to Your Air Fryer

A nonstick surface is a great start, but you might need to take an additional step or two.
By Published Mar. 30, 2021

The appeal of air fryers isn’t only their ability to “fry” food with a minimal amount of oil. It’s also the ease with which they do it: You just add the food, turn it on, and wait. So, cleaning a mess of stuck-on food afterward? That doesn’t jibe with the air-fryer allure.

When our ATK Reviews team tested air fryers, they preferred models with nonstick inserts because they clean up effortlessly. The nonstick surface also prevents food from sticking. But depending on what you’re cooking, you might need to take an additional step or two.

Here are tips on how to stop the sticking, from our cookbook Air Fryer Perfection.

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Air Fryer Perfection

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1. Use a Small Amount of Oil

One thing you should do both for crispy texture and to prevent sticking is use a small amount of oil. Cooking without any oil whatsoever may sound appealing, but fat promotes browning and can help food crisp up. It also makes it less likely to stick.

For example, before placing trimmed boneless, skinless chicken thighs into the air fryer in our Air-Fryer Thai-Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps, we dry the chicken and then rub it with oil. We use the same dry-then-oil technique with the steaks and pork chops in our Air-Fryer Spice-Rubbed Steaks with Snap Pea and Cucumber Salad and Air-Fryer Roasted Bone-In Pork Chops recipes, respectively.

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2. Spray the Basket Lightly with Vegetable Oil Spray

The next protective measure you can take is an obvious one: spraying the basket lightly with vegetable oil spray. We recommend doing this with foods that are prone to sticking, including fried chicken, chicken Parmesan, and our better-than-boxed fish sticks.

3. Make a Foil Sling

Finally, the ultimate barrier against sticking is a foil sling. Folding a sheet of aluminum foil and cooking the food on top of it not only prevents sticking but also makes the removal of foods such as fish fillets, mini turkey meatloaves, and cheesy potatoes much easier. Here’s how to do it.

making foil sling in air fryer
  1. Fold one long sheet of aluminum foil so that it is 4 inches wide. Lay the sheet of foil horizontally across the basket, pressing the foil up and into the sides of the basket.
  2. Fold the excess foil as needed so that the edges of the foil are flush with the top of the basket.