Exploring the Feasibility of Steaming Food in an Air Fryer

Can you steam food in an air fryer?

In recent years, air fryers have gained popularity as versatile kitchen appliances that offer the convenience of quick cooking and the promise of crispy, delicious meals. However, if you’re considering using an air fryer to steam food, you may be wondering if it’s possible. In this article, we will explore the question, “Can you steam food in an air fryer?” and provide insight into how air fryers and steamers work.

The difference between air fryers and steamers

Air fryers and steamers work on fundamentally different principles, making them suitable for different cooking methods. Air fryers work by circulating hot air to crisp and cook food, while steamers generate steam by heating water to cook food through a gentler process. These differences in functionality mean that air fryers are not designed to steam food.

Why you can’t steam food in an air fryer

The main reason you can’t steam food in an air fryer is that there is no water reservoir or dedicated steaming compartment. Air fryers rely solely on the circulation of hot air to cook food, and introducing water into the unit could potentially damage it or pose safety risks. Steamers, on the other hand, are specifically designed to generate and contain steam for cooking purposes.

Steaming vegetables in an air fryer

When it comes to steaming vegetables, air fryers are not the ideal choice. Steaming vegetables requires the gentle cooking method provided by steamers, which helps retain their natural moisture and texture. Air fryers, with their focus on producing crispy results, are better suited to cooking methods that use dry heat and circulating hot air. If you want to steam vegetables, you should use a special steamer or use traditional stovetop methods.

Using an air fryer for other cooking purposes

While steaming may not be an appropriate cooking method for air fryers, these appliances offer a number of other cooking options. Here are some alternative ways to use an air fryer:

Air frying vegetables

Air fryers excel at producing crispy and delicious vegetables without the need for excessive oil. By using hot air circulation, air fryers can achieve a satisfying crunch while reducing the amount of oil required. Popular air-fried vegetables include French fries, potato wedges, broccoli, green beans and asparagus.

Dehydrating Fruits and Vegetables

Many modern air fryers have a dehydration feature, which is especially useful for making dehydrated snacks like kale chips. Dehydrating fruits and vegetables in an air fryer can produce crispy results that are superior to traditional oven methods. You can also use fruit purees to make homemade fruit roll-ups or preserve excess garden produce for tasty dried fruit snacks.

Dehydrate excess herbs

If you have an abundance of fresh herbs, using an air fryer to dehydrate them can be a great way to extend their shelf life. Drying herbs like dill, mint, and thyme allows you to enjoy their flavors year-round. Spread the herbs out in the air fryer and let the appliance do the work of removing the moisture, leaving you with dried herbs for use in various culinary creations.

Use the rotisserie function

Select air fryer models feature a rotisserie function, allowing you to cook meats such as chicken to perfection. Rotisserie cooking in an air fryer results in juicy, crispy chicken that is a healthier alternative to fried options. If you enjoy the taste and texture of rotisserie-style meats, consider investing in an air fryer with a rotisserie function.

Steam Cooking Alternatives

If steaming is your preferred cooking method, but an air fryer is not suitable for the task, there are alternatives. Here are two common methods of steaming food:

Cooktop Steaming

Stovetop steaming is an easy and accessible method that requires basic kitchen equipment. To steam vegetables on the stovetop, you’ll need a pot of water and either a steamer basket or a smaller pot with holes in the bottom. Place the steamer basket or pot over the boiling water, making sure it fits snugly to prevent steam from escaping. Add the vegetables to the steamer, cover, and cook until the vegetables reach the desired texture. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. When cooked, season to taste.

Electric Steamers

Electric steamers are a convenient and efficient way to steam food, especially when preparing large quantities. These appliances feature multiple layers so you can steam different foods at the same time. By placing harder vegetables closer to the steam source and softer vegetables farther away, you can achieve consistent results. Electric steamers typically have a water reservoir that heats the water to produce steam. Place food in the designated steaming compartments, set the desired cooking time, and let the steamer do its work. Electric steamers often come with additional features such as timers and automatic shut-off for ease of use and peace of mind.

Bottom line

While air fryers are versatile appliances that offer a variety of cooking options, they are not designed to steam food. The lack of a dedicated water compartment and the focus on circulating hot air for crispy results make air fryers unsuitable for steaming. However, air fryers excel at other cooking methods, such as air frying vegetables, dehydrating fruits and vegetables, and using the rotisserie function for meats.
If you prefer steaming as a cooking method, you may want to consider alternative options such as stovetop steaming or electric steamers that are specifically designed for this purpose. These alternatives provide the necessary infrastructure and functionality to generate steam and gently cook food, resulting in moist and flavorful dishes.
In conclusion, while you cannot steam food in an air fryer, understanding the capabilities and limitations of different cooking appliances can help you choose the most appropriate method for your culinary needs. Whether it’s the crispy texture of air-fried vegetables or the moist tenderness of steamed foods, there are several options to help you create delicious meals in your kitchen.


Can I use an air fryer to steam food?

No, air fryers are not designed to steam food. They rely on circulating hot air for crispy results, while steamers use water to create steam for gentle cooking.

Why can’t I steam food in an air fryer?

Air fryers do not have a dedicated compartment for water or the infrastructure to contain and generate steam. Introducing water into an air fryer can damage the appliance and pose a safety risk.

What is the purpose of steaming food?

Steaming is a cooking method that uses steam to gently cook food while retaining its natural moisture and nutrients. It is often used to cook vegetables, seafood and delicate ingredients.

What are the alternatives to steaming food in an air fryer?

If you want to steam food, consider using traditional stovetop steaming methods. You can use a pot with a steamer basket or a smaller pot with holes in the bottom to cook food over boiling water. Alternatively, electric steamers are designed specifically for steaming and offer convenience and precise control.

Can I air fry vegetables instead of steaming?

Yes, air fryers are great for frying vegetables. They can produce crispy and delicious results with less oil than traditional frying methods. Air frying vegetables can provide a satisfying crunch while retaining their natural flavors.

Are there other cooking functions I can use in an air fryer?

Absolutely! Air fryers offer a number of cooking functions in addition to air frying. You can use them to dehydrate fruits and vegetables, use the rotisserie function for meats, and even bake certain foods. Be sure to check the specific features and capabilities of your air fryer model.