Is It Safe To Put Water In An Air Fryer?

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Water in an air fryer immediately sounds like a no, no. However, a splash of water can save you almost an hour of clean-up, depending on what you are cooking. Adding a little liquid to the right type of air fryer meal will prevent smoke flare-ups and the noxious fumes and flavors produced while hydrating the food just enough to leave you wowed. Is it okay to put water in your air fryer? Sometimes! Learn exactly which times and foods are best suited to air frying with water by following our upcoming guidance, and there’ll never be a regret in sight. 

Key Takeaways

  • While a little water added to an air fryer can help to catch oil and fat drippings, thus preventing smoking which stops food from being tainted by foul-smelling odors, too much will ruin the consistency of air-fried food. When opting to add water, only add two to three tablespoons to the inner pot or drip tray at the most. 

So, Can You Put Water In Your Air Fryer?

It is perfectly safe and highly beneficial in certain situations to put a small quantity of water in an air fryer. However, one must remember that air fryers were designed to operate without any additional liquid being added. There’s no receptacle for water built-in to most air fryers which means that if you add too much, there’s a very good chance you’ll end up damaging your unit. With this being said, a splash of water added will improve the consistency and flavor of certain foods while at the same time making your air fryer easy to clean after use. 

Why Water In An Air Fryer Is Sometimes Beneficial

The grease from oily or fatty food often accumulates in the bottom of an air fryer, gradually saturating it to the point where cleaning becomes difficult. Other than making time-consuming degreasing necessary, this fat build-up also gets superheated to a higher point than the food and releases fumes that taint the flavor, aroma, and crispy exterior of any food being cooked. By adding a little water to the bottom of your air fryer, it catches any excess fat, thus preventing offensive odors while at the same time making clean-up a cinch. The water also provides a small degree of hydration which thus prevents air-fried food from drying out excessively. 

When To Add Water To An Air Fryer

Add water sparingly to your air fryer whenever you’re cooking any food with a high fat or oil content. If there’s a risk of drippings falling through to the inner pot, add water. Water must never be added with the intention of steaming food. A few tablespoons will increase the moisture content in the air being circulated, but this does not mean that the water level should be high enough to cause copious quantities of steam.  

How Much Water To Add To Your Air Fryer

Firstly, inspect the inner pot of your air fryer and confirm whether or not there’s a water level indicator present or an insert for holding water that slots in just beneath the basket. The overwhelming majority of air fryers will not have an indicator or drip tray, but if one is there, this shows the maximum quantity of water that can be added. Otherwise, add no more than two to four tablespoons of water to the inner or, preferably, the drip tray depending on the size of your air fryer to the inner pot. In most cases, no more than two are needed. 

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Using Water In Your Air Fryer


  • Add Water When Air Frying Greasy, Fatty & Oily Food
  • Add Water When Air Frying Food Prone To Drying Out
  • Add Water To The Drip Tray If One Is Available
  • Add Water To The Inner Pot If No Drip Tray Is Present
  • Add The Bare Minimum Needed To Catch Drippings


  • Don’t Overfill The Air Fryer With Water
  • Don’t Add More Water Than Is Necessary To Prevent Smoking/Grease Accumulation
  • Don’t Discard Liquid And Drippings Until The Cooking Process Is Finished
  • Don’t Leave The Water Sitting In The Air Fryer For Too Long, As It Can Lead To Rusting Or Corrosion
  • Don’t Add Water When Moisture/Steam May Ruin The Consistency Of Fried Food
  • Don’t Use Harsh Or Abrasive Chemicals, Or It Will Damage The Non-Stick Coating

Foods Suited To Cooking With Water In An Air Fryer

While some foods, like fries and chicken wings, are air fryer classics, adding a little water to the inner pot or drip tray can expand the possibilities of what you can cook. Here are some of the best types of food to cook in an air fryer with a little water added. If you’re looking for detailed info about air fryer reheating as well, be sure to check out our guide to the best and worst foods to reheat in an air fryer

Fresh Vegetables

Vegetables can be tricky to cook in an air fryer, as they can easily dry out. Adding a little water to the inner pot or drip tray can help keep them moist and tender. Try cooking broccoli, asparagus, or sweet potatoes in the air fryer with a splash of water.

Fresh Seafood

Seafood is another great option for air frying with water. Fish filets or shrimp can be cooked to perfection in the air fryer with a little bit of water, which helps to keep them from drying out.


Meats like pork chops, steak, and chicken breasts can all benefit from a little added moisture in the air fryer. Adding a splash of water to the drip tray can help keep the meat succulent while at the same time catching the fat and preventing off putting odors from tainting the meal.

Baked Goods

Surprisingly to many new owners, air fryers can be used to make baked goods like cakes and muffins. Adding a bit of water to the inner pot or drip tray can help keep the texture moist and tender.

Foods That Should Not Be Cooked With Water In Air Fryer

Generally, foods that have a high water content or that are coated with wet batters or liquids should not be cooked in an air fryer with water added. The water will prevent the hot air from crisping and browning the food properly. Here are some examples of foods that are best cooked in an air fryer without water.

French Fries

Whether fresh or frozen, French fries are a classic air fryer food that can be cooked without any added water. They will crisp up nicely and become golden brown and delicious without a drop of additional liquid – their inherent moisture is enough. 

Frozen Fish

Frozen fish filets can be cooked in an air fryer without water. The air fryer will cook the fish to perfection. Any extra water would oversaturate the delicate fish, causing it to become mushy. 

Frozen Vegetables

Many vegetables can be cooked in an air fryer without water, such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and zucchini. The high heat and hot air will roast the vegetables and give them a crispy texture while the inherent moisture supplies enough hydration for an even cook. 


Small quantities of bacon can be cooked in an air fryer without water, and it will come out crispy and delicious. However, if there’s an excessive amount being cooked, causing a risk of fat amassing and exploding from the heat, add a little water or cover the inner pot with a layer of tin foil or parchment paper.  

Toasted Sandwiches

Toasted sandwiches shouldn’t be cooked in an air fryer with water added because adding water to the inner pot, or drip tray can cause the bread to become soggy, ruining the texture. Additionally, the water may cause the cheese or other fillings to become watery and leak out of the sandwich, further compromising the quality of the dish. 

Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs don’t need a drop of water to come out perfect, regardless of which consistency is preferred. The average air fryer can cook twelve eggs simultaneously in 13 to 20 minutes at 250°F.

Roasted Nuts And Seeds

Roasted nuts and seeds require no water or oil in an air fryer. Aim for 6 to 10 minutes at 325°F without any preheating period needed. 

Safety Precautions When Using Water In Air Fryer

Using water in an air fryer can be a safe and effective way to cook certain foods, but it’s important to take proper safety precautions to avoid accidents. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when using water in your air fryer.

  • Only add water to an air fryer while it is off and not while in operation by any means. 
  • Make sure the water doesn’t come into contact with the heating element or other electrical components of the air fryer.
  • Only add water to the drip tray of the air fryer or the inner pot if there’s no tray available, and only ever use a few tablespoons of water at the most.
  • Be cautious when adding or removing the water tank or drip tray to avoid spills or burns.
  • Do not add cold water to a hot air fryer, as this can cause thermal shock and damage to the appliance.
  • Use heat-resistant gloves or mitts to protect your hands when handling the air fryer and dispensing the liquid after cooking.

Using Water In An Air Fryer – Frequently Asked Questions

Have you been left wondering anything about using water in an air fryer? These should be the answers that you’re looking for. 

What Happens If You Put Water In A Fryer?

Adding water to a fryer can have disastrous consequences if done incorrectly. Firstly, water and oil don’t mix, which is why a small quantity of water should only be added to a cold air fryer. If water is added to a hot air fryer, the water droplets are likely to sink to the bottom and cause the oil to splatter, creating a miss of the food and air fryer itself. Using too much water will also cause the food to steam, resulting in sogginess instead of the desired crispy texture. With this being said, a few tablespoons of water added before cooking will collect oil/fat drippings, thus preventing grease build-up and smoking while improving internal hydration and the consistency of certain foods.

Will Water Damage The Air Fryer?

The only way that water will damage an air fryer is if a large quantity of water is added or if water splashes over the exterior of the unit itself, thereby damaging the electronics and/or power circuit. A little bit of water goes a long way in catching excess fat and preventing offensive odors, so while adding up to two cups of water won’t cause any physical damage, using too much water will ruin your food.

Can You Steam Food In An Air Fryer?

No. Food cannot be steamed in an air fryer. Air fryers are designed to circulate hot air around food, creating a crispy texture. Adding excess water will saturate the exterior of your food, causing it to become mushy, and if you add too much water, there’s a very good chance that you’ll damage your air fryer. It simply isn’t designed to accommodate that much moisture, thus putting the electronics and power at risk. 

Can You Add Oil To An Air Fryer?

An air fryer doesn’t require oil to function. In fact, there are many foods that come out better without any added oil. However, in the vast majority of cases, rubbing or basting the food with oil or giving it a light coating of oil using a spray bottle improves the results, developing more depth of flavor and a crispier exterior. We suggest giving our overview of when to use oil in an air fryer a look so that your fried food always comes out perfect.

Can You Put Water In An Air Fryer And Turn It On To Clean It?

Yes, you can put water in an air fryer and turn it on to clean it, but it depends on the model and make of the fryer. While some fryers have a self-cleaning option that allows you to add water, others are not designed for it and can get damaged. For models that allow adding water, ensure you add the appropriate amount and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. Most air fryers come out sparkly clean after a 3-minute run with two cups of water, and a little dishwasher detergent added. Never immerse the air fryer in water or use abrasive cleaning agents to avoid damaging the appliance.

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