Can You Put a Paper Towel in an Air Fryer? Find the Truth

Air fryers have become incredibly popular in recent years as a healthy alternative to deep frying. Their convection heating technology allows you to make crispy “fried” foods using little to no oil. But there are some questions about what you can and cannot put inside these appliances. One common question is: can you put a paper towel in an air fryer?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using paper towels with air fryers.

What Is an Air Fryer and How Does It Work?

An air fryer is a small countertop convection oven designed to simulate deep frying without submerging food in oil. It uses rapid hot air circulation to produce a crispy, fried texture.

Air fryers have a cooking chamber, heating element, and fan. The heating element heats up the air inside the cooking chamber. The powerful fan then circulates this hot air around the food at high speed, cooking it evenly on all sides.

This rapid air circulation cooks foods similarly to deep frying. The food gets crispy and browned on the outside while remaining moist on the inside.

Picture of an air fryer with the basket pulled out to illustrate what it looks like.

Why Would You Use Paper Towels

There are a few reasons people may consider putting paper towels in their air fryer:

1. Absorb Excess Oil

One of the main reasons is to absorb any excess oil that cooks off the food. Even though air fryers use little oil, foods will release fat and grease when cooked. The paper towel can soak up some of this excess oil.

2. Prevent Messes

Using a paper towel can also help minimize messes. Any grease or crumbs that fall off food can be caught on the towel instead of getting on the fryer basket or chamber. This helps keep the air fryer cleaner.

3. Add Smoky Flavor

Some people claim that adding a paper towel infuses a bit of smoky flavor into foods cooked in the air fryer. As the towel heats up, it can impart a subtle smoked taste.

4. Prevent Food Sticking

Additionally, a paper towel can keep breaded or sticky foods from sticking to the fryer basket. The towel creates a non-stick barrier.

Is It Safe to Put Paper Towels in an Air Fryer?

The short answer is no, it is generally not recommended to put paper towels in an air fryer. Here are few reasons why:

1. Fire Hazard

Paper towels can easily catch fire in the very high heat of an air fryer, which typically cooks at temperatures between 350-400°F. The fiber content of paper towels dries them out quickly, making the towels highly flammable at high temperatures.

2. Toxic Fumes

When paper burns, it releases toxic fumes that you do not want in your food. The chemicals used in paper towels can release chemicals like furans, dioxins, and biphenyls when burned, which can be harmful if breathed in or swallowed.

3. Messy Cleanup

Paper towels could disintegrate or leave behind residue and fibers inside the air fryer basket. This can be extremely difficult to clean up.

Pieces of towel could also get stuck in heating elements or fans and cause damage over time. Using liners like parchment paper designed for oven use would be a much safer option.

3. Poor Cooking Results

Putting paper towels in the air fryer can make the food cook worse. For the air fryer to work properly, the hot air needs to move around freely. Paper towels can block this airflow.

someone looking concerned while reading a paper towel box warning label

Safe Alternatives to Use

Here are some paper towel alternatives for air frying:

1. The Air Fryer Basket

The basket that comes with your air fryer is designed for air circulation and is the best cooking vessel. Be sure to brush it with oil before cooking.

2. Parchment Paper

Parchment paper is an excellent paper towel substitute. It can withstand high heat, adding a nonstick barrier without toxic fumes. Cut it to fit your basket.

3. Silicone Mats

Silicone mats are reusable and withstand temperatures up to 480°F. Lay one in your air fryer basket to add nonstick protection.

4. Aluminum Foil

Heavy duty aluminum foil is heat resistant up to 420°F. Shape sheets into vessels or liners for an effective alternative. Avoid letting foil contact heating elements.

5. Metal Containers

Small metal tins, cups, or pans fit nicely in air fryer baskets. The metal transmits heat effectively to crisp foods.

Tips for Getting Crispy Results Without Paper Towels

Here are some handy tips:

  • Use an oil mister to lightly spray food with oil before air frying. This adds a touch of fat needed for browning.
  • Brush foods with oil for more even and thorough coverage.
  • Toss foods with a small amount of oil. The thin coating helps facilitate browning.
  • Fill air fryer baskets lightly. Don’t overcrowd.
  • Flip or shake foods midway through cooking to expose all sides to circulating air.
  • Finish cooking fatty meats on a rack set in the basket. This allows fat to drip away for crisping.
  • Mist the inside of the air fryer basket with oil before cooking for a light coating.
  • Cut moisture-releasing foods (like fresh chicken) into smaller pieces to aid browning.
  • Preheat the air fryer for 3-5 minutes before adding food.

With the right techniques, you can achieve deliciously crispy “fried” foods without the risks of using paper towels.

someone spritzing food with oil mister to highlight oiling tips.


Paper towels may seem convenient, but they should never be used inside hot air fryers. They can easily catch fire, release harmful chemicals into your food, and damage the appliance. Instead, use parchment paper, silicone mats, or small metal trays to get crispy food without the risks.

Follow the recommended safety guidelines for your air fryer, and you will enjoy perfectly “fried” dishes every time.

Frequent Asked Questions:

What do I line my air fryer with?

You can line your air fryer with parchment paper or a reusable silicone mat. These provide a safe, nonstick barrier and can withstand the high heat. Do not use paper towels or wax paper as they can catch fire.

What can you not put in an air fryer?

Avoid using paper products like paper towels or wax paper in an air fryer. The high heat can cause them to ignite. Please be careful when using the fryer. Don’t put too much food in it, don’t block the air vents, don’t use metal utensils that could scratch it, and don’t put in raw dough that might rise and break the fryer.

Can you put aluminum foil in the air fryer?

Yes, heavy duty aluminum foil is safe to use. Avoid direct contact between the foil and heating element. Shape sheets of foil to create protective vessels or liners.

Can you put anything in the bottom of an air fryer?

The bottom basket should be empty for proper air circulation. If using a liner, use parchment paper or oven safe pans that won’t restrict airflow. Do not put paper towels or other flammable materials in the bottom.

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