Can you cook frozen food in an air fryer?

You clearly belong there. With the vast majority of ‘air fryer’ owners still trying to figure out what goes into their appliance and what doesn’t.

So here is a decent guide to get you started, but before that, let’s answer your question (in depth) of whether or not you can put frozen foods in the air fryer.

Can you cook frozen food in an air fryer?

Whatever frozen food you can pop in the oven and bake, you most definitely can cook it in an air fryer appliance, often.

The latter version will taste almost reminiscent of its oven baked counterpart with subtle differences to notice overall, maybe in the final aesthetics.

That’s because the air fryer is really no more than a regular kitchen oven neatly packaged into a portable container. So it’s no magic that it cooks almost anything a regular oven is able to cook.

When a frozen food calls for baking in the oven, feel free to use an air fryer as a decent substitute (with some adjustments in cooking temperature and time: see below), but when a frozen food calls for the deep fryer rather than the oven, you’ll have a better luck sticking with that method than using an air fryer for the same purpose.

Additionally, you can also have a frozen food packaging printed with the instructions for a microwave oven and even for cooking inside a toaster oven.

For these, you can easily substitute with an air fryer without imparting any noticeable difference in the final quality of the cooked item, if not improving on it.

That’s all thanks to the cooking appliances being very forgiving of one another when used as substitutes.

But while the instructions for a toaster oven can readily be substituted and used in an air fryer appliance (using a simple conversion techniques that even a two year old can easily understand), the same isn’t the case for a microwave oven.

There’s a significant difference in the way these two mediums heat up food which makes it very difficult to create a conversion formula that works for all or a majority of food items.

For me, if the recipe instructions says to microwave only, i just place it in the microwave and get going with my day!

If for the type of frozen food you have, there’s a different type of cooking method printed there on the packaging, it’s best to stick with it especially when you forked out a shit ton of money for the product.

A lot can actually go wrong when you attempt to go otherwise. This is especially true for recipes using a combination of methods for preparation, i.e. combining microwave cooking and a stovetop.

Homemade frozen items

For items that you specially prepared and popped into the freezer to store i.e. chicken breasts, thighs or doughs for cookies and biscuit, they’re still similar to any frozen food you can buy from the convenience store, and you can definitely prepare them with an air fryer until they get all nice and cooked, except that you may loose on some of the original texture since it’s almost impossible to match the type of freezing consistency imparted on store bought frozen items.

The manufactures of these products have their own special way of freezing using liquid nitrogen that results in the formation of very tiny ice crystals within the foods which gives textures almost similar to the original item prior to freezing.

Below is a detailed guide on how to properly cook frozen foods in an air fryer. At the end is lengthy chart showing the estimated cooking times for popular frozen foods bought from the convenience store and those prepared and kept at the freezer at home.

How to cook frozen foods in the air fryer

While it’s true that putting frozen foods in the air fryer and cooking them until doneness is everything more than possible, it’s still not as easy as dropping them inside the air fryer basket and guesstimating any time and temperature for cooking.

There are certain things that must be considered if at all you fancy cooked items that are aesthetically pleasing and most importantly, edible.

First is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on preparing the frozen item and not just any cooking guide you find online.

If you’re lucky and you have a frozen food with an air fryer instruction, then you’re safe and all good to go. If not, you’ll have to do some quick math and conversion to knack the correct cooking times and temperature for the item. This is especially crucial for the final texture of the food which directly dictates its edibility.

How to convert cooking times (for frozen foods) from convention or conventional oven to air fryer

Most frozen foods (appetizers, side dishes or breakfast) usually come with their recipe instructions printed boldly at the back for conventional and convection oven, and thankfully, the conversion of these cooking times to ones that are perfectly suited for the air fryer is not too far from possible.

Here is what you need to know.

The air fryer is generally 20 to 25 % faster than the convention oven which is equally faster than the conventional oven for the same temperature.

So the general rule of thumb is to use 25 F less the cooking temperature and then lower cooking time by 20 to 25 percent when converting from convention oven to an air fryer, and then use anywhere from 40 to 50 F less the cooking temperature and up to 50 percent less the cooking time if converting from a conventional oven to air fryer.

An alternative is to use the same cooking temperature for the oven (whether convention or conventional) and then cut the cooking time by a minimum of half.

Check for doneness and if it’s still not there, cook at brief bursts of 2 minutes until the food is completely cooked through. That’s a safe and sound strategy that works every single time.

When the recipe doesn’t recommend using the oven or toaster oven either by a strict warning or, simply omitting them as part of the cooking methods, but rather gives instructions for the stovetop or microwave and recommends it, then it’s usually a sign that you shouldn’t air fry, but it’s not that you can’t. Try out a small portion and see if you like it. If not, better to stick with the instructions.

For frozen foods that you prepared and froze yourself like chicken breasts and biscuit dough, you’re obviously not going to have a recipe instruction printed boldly on the storage container (because it’s actually homemade stuff), but i’m certain you’ll have a recipe at hand when it’s time for cooking. So look for the cooking time and convert accordingly, when appropriate.

After determining the cooking time, it’s time to air fry some home-styled waffles for breakfast, and here are the steps and the things to consider. (Not for the waffles, it’s just my way of writing!)

  1. Follow the instructions provided for the oven. If none is provided, use the guideline below and you should be fine.
  2. Slide out the air fryer basket and pop the frozen items into it. You want to make sure you give enough spaces between items for even cooking. When stacking, make sure to not use more than half of the basket space. The air fryer normally does a good job at even heating with or without spacing or stacking, but I still recommend you do this to zero out any possibilities of an uncooked item.
  3. Cook for half way the cooking time, and then usually as a good practice, shake the fryer basket to turn the items for even cooking. For items like chicken parts or those with breading, it’s best to use a tong to manually flip them. Also, now is the perfect time to drizzle some oil if you like, or if appropriate, (i.e. breaded chicken parts, dough etc.) to crisp them up and rid any flour reside.
  4. If you’re cooking food from frozen, which i recommend and most manufacturers of frozen foods usually recommend, then cook for the exact amount of time, if not, and after thawing in the refrigerator, cook for half the amount of time and then work from there until you achieve a perfectly cooked food.

Common frozen foods and their estimated air frying times

s/n Item Cooking temperature (in F) Cooking time (in min) Other instructions
1 Chicken breast (6 ounce) 380 F 18 to 20 minutes Turn with a tong half way cooking.