Should You Pile Food In An Air Fryer?

An air fryer is one of my favourite pieces of kitchen equipment. The machine uses hot air with a minimal amount of oil to cook food that you otherwise might fry.

Frying the foods would require them to be soaked in oil which in turn causes your food to be soggy, greasy, and generally unhealthy.

Stacking food in an air fryer is not recommended unless the item is small and lightweight (such as fries) in which case the air is still able to circulate and cook your food. Stacking heavy foods in your air fryer could result in it being cooked unevenly, take longer to cook, or being served raw.

However, there are several things you should consider when deciding whether or not to stack food in your air fryer as well as some handy hints and tips that will help you when you do.

How Much Food Can You Cook In An Air Fryer

The amount of food you can cook in your air fryer depends on two things;

The size of the food

The size of your air fryer

If you’re cooking small items such as fries you’ll be able to cook a larger amount than say a steak. Much like you’ll be able to cook more chips in a larger air fryer and less in a smaller air fryer.

As a general rule you’ll be able to cook;

1.5lb french fries in a 3-quart air fryer

A whole chicken in a 5.3-quart air fryer or larger

12 wings in a 6-quart air fryer

Should You Pile Food In An Air Fryer

An air fryer works by distributing hot air across the food. If the food is large and heavy then the air is going to struggle to distribute and therefore overcook the bottom ingredients and undercook the top ingredients if they are stacked.

If the food is small (such as fries) then the air is able to still circulate between the ingredients and is sometimes able to move them around slightly.

Therefore whether you should pile food in an air fryer depends on what you’re cooking. If the ingredients are small like donuts or fries then yes, you can stack them.

If the ingredients are larger and heavier such as steak or chicken, then they shouldn’t be stacked and instead should be distributed evenly across the bottom of your air fryer.

If you don’t evenly distribute food like this then you could end up with undercooked or even raw food.

Foods You Can Safely Stack In Your Air Fryer

  • Fries
  • Donuts
  • Vegetables
  • Small potatoes
  • Mozzarella Sticks
  • Chicken wings

Foods You Shouldn’t Stack In Your Air Fryer

  • Steak
  • Fish
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Burgers
  • Pork Chops
  • Ribs

How Full Can You Fill Your Air Fryer

The majority of air fryers have a line inside the basket with a label that will say something along the lines of ‘MAX’. You should not fill your air fryer with food beyond this mark.

The line is designed to ensure that air is able to circulate between even the foods you’re able to stack in an air fryer.

If you fill your air fryer beyond the MAX line then you’ll likely struggle to cook your food at all, or at the very least evenly, and potentially damage your air fryer.

If your air fryer basket does not have a ‘MAX’ line and you do not have the manual to check the specified details then I suggest filling no more than half of your basket with food to ensure you get an even distribution of air across your food.

The Best Way To Pile Food In An Air Fryer

The best way to pile food inside your air fryer is by using an air fryer rack (more on that below).

If you don’t have an air fryer rack then ensure that the food cooked inside your air fryer is suitable for stacking and that you’re not over filling your air fryer with food.

Then ensure that your food is evenly stacked in layers with the potential for air to circulate between the layers from the bottom to the top.

Alternatives To Piling Food In Your Air Fryer

There are some accessories and tips you can use to help you stack/pile foods in your air fryer that you would otherwise not be able to cook simultaneously;

Air Fryer Rack

Some air fryers come with an air fryer rack (don’t worry if this wasn’t the case you can buy one separately) which is designed to help you layer food without the food touching.

This allows for the air to circulate the food and for you to cook larger amounts of food from a single air fryer at one time.

Depending on the size of your air fryer you may be able to use a number of these racks to increase its capacity by over 150% for those foods you otherwise couldn’t stack such as chicken breasts and burgers.

The good news is these air fryer racks can be cleaned quickly and easily in the dishwasher or with washing up liquid alongside your air fryer basket. They can be inserted and removed as required and easily transform your air fryer into an incredible cooking machine.

Anything you couldn’t layer naturally in an air fryer can be layered using one of these wire racks. That includes; chicken breasts, burgers, pork chops, ribs etc.

Just be sure that when you layer the food on the air fryer rack it’s still left with some space at the sides for the air to circulate through to allow it to cook both the top of the food and the food on the rack above (if applicable).

I’ve found that air fryer racks are super affordable, especially given the amount of time, money, and hassle they’ll save you when cooking large batches of meat in your new healthy air fryer.

Buying A Larger Air Fryer

If you find yourself continuously struggling for space in your air fryer then it might be time to upgrade to a larger one.

Air fryers are available in sizes from 3-quart up to 16-quart. From personal experience I’ve found that;

  • A 3-quart is suitable for side dishes, solos, and couples

  • A 5-quart is suitable for small families (3 – 4 people) or couples looking to batch cook

  • A 6.5-quart is suitable for the majority of whole chickens, consider upgrading to this if you’re a small family looking to cook a chicken.

  • A 10-quart is suitable for larger families (around 6 people), people looking to cook two items at once (such as fries and chicken wings – yes, this is possible… more below!) and those looking to bake large items such as casseroles in the air fryer.

  • A 16-quart is suitable for larger families who are looking to consistently cook multiple items in the air fryer at once or looking to batch cook and make multiple meals to be reheated and consumed at a later date.

The good news is the price increase from a small 3-quart air fryer to a 10-quart air fryer isn’t quite as much as you might first imagine.

I found that the majority of 3-quart air fryers retail for between $60 and $100 and the majority of 10-quart air fryers retail for between $110 and $150 depending on the brand, the model, and the number of settings and extra accessories.

Therefore if you’re considering buying an air fryer it may be worth investing in a slightly larger one if you think you might need the capacity given the relatively small additional cost.

Can You Cook More Than One Food In An Air Fryer At The Same Time

Some air fryers (such as this Nuwave 6-Quart) come with a separator or multiple baskets that allow you to cook multiple different ingredients inside one air fryer at the same time.

If your air fryer doesn’t include this then you may be able to find a suitable accessory online (this is the best one I could find). Alternatively, you could look to use the air fryer rack although it will depend on what you’re looking as to whether or not that’s suitable.

Without an accessory that allows you to compartmentalize each ingredient, you will be unable to cook both simultaneously in the air fryer.


In conclusion, you can pile or stack some foods inside an air fryer without it impacting the quality or cooking time. However, if you’re cooking more substantial foods, then it’s best to either upgrade to a machine with increased capacity or buy an air fryer rack.