Can You Put Parchment Paper in an Air Fryer? All of Your Air Fryer Questions Answered by Experts

There are a few tricks to making the most out of the trendy kitchen gadget

People/Tara Donne Air fryers
People/Tara Donne Air fryers

No matter how little (or how much) counter space someone has, a lot of people make room for an air fryer. Despite the kitchen appliance’s massive popularity over the years, many users still question how to use the cooking tool properly.

To explain exactly what an air fryer is, PEOPLE turned to Ninja’s global head of marketing, Kaitlyn Hebert.

“An air fryer combines a heating element and a powerful fan to circulate hot air,” says Hebert. “The rapid air circulation gives off that signature crisp, similar to fried foods, without the use of heavy oils.

PEOPLE got the scoop from America's Test Kitchen’s equipment expert, Lisa McManus, about how to make the most of air fryers. When asked about what food is best cooked in an air fryer versus any other appliance, McManus says it’s all about the texture.

“Anything that you'd normally roast or bake in an oven works really well in an air fryer and cooks faster; you're going to get a crisp, browned surface and moist interior,” says the food tester.

<p>i'am/ Moment/ Getty Images</p> Roasting chicken in an air fryer

i'am/ Moment/ Getty Images

Roasting chicken in an air fryer

Between an air fryer and a microwave, McManus says that an air fryer tends to cook food more evenly. She adds, “You can reheat leftovers in an air fryer very nicely, too, including a slice of pizza — if you've ever done that in a microwave, you know it's disappointing.”

Beyond just warming up last night’s dinner, McManus says there are plenty of unconventional things to make in an air fryer like scones, trail mix or cheesecake.

“Really, air fryers are small convection ovens, where you're circulating very hot air around food to cook it,” says McManus, adding that it’s more like roasting than frying. “I think ‘air frying’ sounds more exciting than ‘air roasting,’ so that's what they called it.”

Related: Easy, Weeknight Recipes to Make with Your Air Fryer

Even with “fryer” in the name, air fryers produce “crispy and crunchy results with little to no oil” compared to deep frying, says Hebert — which translates to less mess.

Speaking of cleanup, both experts had insight into air fryer upkeep.

Lining the basket with foil or cooking paper is safe to do but not typically necessary, according to McManus and Hebert. If cooking food that's small enough to fall through the grates of the air fryer basket, parchment paper, aluminum foil or reusable liners can be used with caution.

Related: Experts Weigh in on Restaurant Etiquette — from Tipping to Stacking Dirty Plates

“If you want to make a liner out of parchment, be careful to cut and fold it so that the ends of the paper can't reach the heating element on top of the compartment, because you could start a fire,” suggests McManus.

Even without using any liner, air fryers are not as complicated as they may appear when it comes to cleaning. Hebert even says you can just wipe the tool down with a damp cloth a lot of the time.

“If there is food residue on the basket or crisper plates, place them in a sink filled with warm, soapy water and allow them to soak. Use a soft sponge to help remove any remaining residue.” advises Hebert.

Sometimes the baskets and metal trays are dishwasher safe — but it's best to check your machine's manual before proceeding.

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