Paper towels in the air fryer - Family Guide Central
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Can Paper Towels be Used in an Air Fryer? (We Tested It!)

Air fryers can be an awesome tool to create a wonderful meal for friends and family. But sometimes, the fat dripping from your food that lands at the bottom of the basket becomes a horrible mess. By this point, you’re probably fed up and thinking about using paper towels underneath your air fryer basket to soak up the fat.

Is it okay to use paper towels in an air fryer? Is this a safe approach? What can go wrong?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not a good idea and you’re putting yourself at risk.

We tested using paper towels to cook some raw marinated chicken thighs. The paper towel was left at the bottom with the chicken thighs resting directly on top of it. We found that at the center (where the chicken thighs made contact with the paper) ended up being soaked with oils and fat that dripped from the chicken. However, the areas of the paper that were hanging loose from the chicken ended up being burnt brown.

If you’re interested in understanding why and what we recommend, then read on.

Can you put paper towels in an air fryer?

It is not recommended to use paper towels inside an air fryer. Paper towels are much too lightweight and therefore may end up flying around inside the air fryer chamber. These paper towels can end up obstructing the air and causing your food to cook unevenly. What’s worse, is that the heat can potentially set the paper towel on fire which can be extremely dangerous.

What temperature do paper towels catch fire?

Paper towels are understood to ignite in temperatures of as low as 420 degrees Fahrenheit. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will immediately catch fire the moment the environment reaches 420 degrees.

It ultimately depends on the quality of the paper and how long it’s been sitting in that environment.

Why might you put paper towels in an air fryer?

Even though it’s highly not recommended to use paper towels in an air fryer, you’re probably wondering why someone might want to do it anyway.

  • It can absorb the extra oils and fat that drip out of the food
  • It can help alleviate the cleaning of the bottom basket
  • It’s convenient to reach for paper towels rather than looking through your kitchen draws for the appropriate liner

Why is it a bad idea to put paper towels in an air fryer?

Paper towels are too lightweight

Your air fryer relies a lot on the vents and fans directing where the hot air should move. Not only are paper towels prone to damage, but they are also really lightweight.

Paper towels heated in an air fryer can eventually cause a fire

Paper towels can easily burn when placed at the right temperature. Once placed in the air fryer, the paper will become super dry and thus there’s an opportunity for it to smoke and catch fire.

Not to mention that if a piece of the paper towel so happens to tear off and is pushed by the air making it contact the activated heating element for just a few seconds, a fire can occur.

Paper towels might fly around and block airflow

This means that any pieces that tear off the air fryer could end up flying around the chamber of the air fryer and get stuck in the vents or fan.

It won’t occur after the first meal you use paper towels with but over time, the build-up will be enough to clog and damage your air fryer and its functionalities.

What can go wrong when using paper towels in an air fryer?

  • The food would not be cooked evenly in an air fryer
  • A potential fire could break loose from the air fryer
  • The paper towel might block up the air vents or the fan

Materials you can and can’t use in an air fryer

There are many things that you can’t put into an air fryer. Some of those are:

  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • Plastic
  • Sauces

When it comes to things that you can put into an air fryer, those materials include:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking paper
  • Parchment paper
  • Frozen foods
  • Wax paper
  • Toothpicks
  • Pyrex trays
  • Iron skillets
  • Steel bowls Pam oil
  • Food grade silicone

What can you use in your air fryer instead of a paper towel?

When it comes to a good alternative to paper towels in an air fryer, it all depends on what you are trying to do with it.

Aluminum foil for example is actually really good for reheating your leftover Foods. It’s also a really good way to protect the bottom of your basket from getting fat leaking into it. The only thing that we would recommend you do is make sure that your aluminum foil sheet is securely fastened down so that it doesn’t move during the cooking process.

Baking paper is also a pretty good alternative to paper towels. Just make sure that the baking paper is securely attached to the cooking basket. Don’t allow it to hang over or stay loose. You don’t want it to be anywhere near the heating element, nor do you want it to fly around inside the air fryer. You also don’t want it to fully cover the bottom of your air fryer because this will prevent the flow of heated air from evenly cooking your meal. However, we didn’t find this to be a big problem especially since we usually flip our meal over midway in the cooking process.

Parchment paper works very similarly to aluminum and baking paper. We recommend at 4 any of these three items, it’s best to place your food on top of these sheets so that they don’t move around when the fan circulates the air.

Silicone liners are actually an excellent choice to replace paper towels. They are incredibly heat resistant and oftentimes capable of withstanding up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the quality of the silicone. They are considered nonstick material with no scent or smell. They are also reusable and very easy to clean. However, no matter how easy or non-stick a material is it’s always helpful to add a little bit of oil to help keep the food from sticking.

Paper towels vs all the rest

Why Is parchment paper better than paper towels in an air fryer?

The ignition point of the paper is at a minimum of 420 degrees Fahrenheit, while parchment paper is rated for use at temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. However, in most cases when parchment paper is used in ovens, the temperature inside can reach up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and it will still not release noxious gas or chemicals nor will the paper burn. Parchment paper is actually made out of cellulose fibers from trees and plants.

Why is aluminum foil better than paper towels in an air fryer?

Aluminum foil on the other hand is way out of the typical paper towels League when it comes to burning point temperatures. Aluminum foil can withstand temperatures up to 1,220 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes aluminum foil almost completely resistant to flames. You can also put aluminum foil on top of a campfire grill and it still won’t burn. Aluminum foil is actually considered greaseproof and that it resists chemical splashes. It’s also impermeable to water and gases so that nothing can really go through aluminum foil inside your air fryer. Even though aluminum is an excellent thermal conductor, because of the goodness of how it is manufactured into a foil sheet, the radiation will rapidly cool off very quickly. You’ll notice this, especially when right after taking an aluminum foil tray out of your oven, after a few minutes, you are then able to touch it without burning your hands.

Why is wax paper better than paper towels in an air fryer?

Wax paper isn’t the type of material that will easily burn. Even after high temperatures of over 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the paper may often just turn brown. One interesting thing to note about wax paper is that some professionals would highly advise against using wax paper for baking. The reason for this is that at some point, the wax layer that coats this paper may end up melting off. Wax paper is also known as paraffin paper. Interestingly enough, the most common use of wax paper is in cooking and baking. It’s most likely supported that not all meals made in an air fryer or oven need to be at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Another interesting fact is that microwave ovens don’t have a late effect on the wax on wax paper. This makes it a great alternative and considered microwave safe for use in the microwave.

Why is silicone better than paper towels in an air fryer?

Silicone is a wonderful alternative to either of the three we mentioned. If you’re looking for a heat-resistant and reusable material that almost seems like it was made for air fryers, then this is it. Depending on the quality of the silicone, some of the best versions of silicone liners can withstand up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. It is made out of material that is considered non-stick, and this makes it very easy to clean. It’s also a highly durable material that can last for years if properly cleaned and maintained.

Best paper towel alternative for air fryers

In almost all aspects, we’d give the win to silicone. Silicone is simply more economically friendly being that it is reusable and can be washed in the dishwasher. All the other materials may work for one-time use but ultimately ends up costing more money when you take into account all of its disadvantages.

Paper towels are not designed to withstand high heat so they will be destroyed by the air fryer. And that’s also where silicone shines. Bake-grade silicone is very durable. It bends and stretches but can come back into its former shape almost instantly. It’s highly resistant to heat, cold, and even damage such as tears.

The only real way to really destroy your silicone is in direct flame or actively trying to cut it with a pair of scissors or knife.

Silicone is also considered non-stick and (the high-quality ones) are odorless so it doesn’t have any impact on food cooked in the air fryer.

Can you use parchment paper in an air fryer?

Parchment paper has actually been known to withstand the heat of up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it an excellent alternative to paper towels. The trick here is to make sure you place all your food on top of the parchment paper.

We do this because we don’t want the paper to be moving around. It’s also important to make sure you cut the paper out in exactly the measurements you need. Being short of parchment paper is okay but overfilling your basket and letting the parchment paper hang out Loose can be dangerous. The loose edges of any unhinged parchment paper may end up making contact with the heating element and catching fire.

If you don’t plan to flip your meal over Midway in between the cooking process, then it is also recommended that you punch a few holes through your parchment paper. This will allow the proper airflow to run its course throughout your food.

Can you put wax paper in the air fryer?

If you had a choice to use paper or wax paper, it would be preferred that you use wax paper. This isn’t to say that wax paper doesn’t have its own issues.

The problem with wax paper is that it’s simply just paper that is sandwiched between 2 wax layers and you’ve guessed it. At a certain temperature, that wax can eventually melt right off, or deform the paper.

Wax generally starts to melt around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

The fortunate thing here is that wax is generally not harmful to humans if ingested in small quantities. It probably won’t taste good. But, even if you accidentally ate a lot of wax from your wax paper, your chances of needing to go to the hospital are slim to none.

Tips for using parchment paper or wax paper in an air fryer

  • Do not go past the maximum temperature of an air fryer for your parchment paper
  • Double-check to make sure that the paper you’re using is correct for your air fryer
  • Measure twice so that you only need to cut once
  • You don’t need to use the paper during preheating
  • Protect yourself from any harmful situations that might occur

Best Liners to Use In Your Air Fryer

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Can you put a paper plate in an air fryer?

We highly recommend not using a paper plate in an air fryer… at least for an extended amount of time. Like paper towels, you may be taking a risk when putting paper into a superheated environment.

If you like to learn more about what we do and don’t recommend regarding the use of plates in your air fryer, check out this article we created on plates that are approved and not approved for air fryers.

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