Can An Air Fryer Steam Food?

Steaming food is a healthy way to cook because you preserve more nutrients during the cooking process, unlike other forms of cooking, where the nutrients are often cooked out of the food. 

The best way to steam food is with a food steamer

However, if you don’t have a food steamer, you might be tempted to use another vessel, such as an air fryer. 

So, can an air fryer steam food?

What Is An Air Fryer?

First, you need to know that an air fryer is more or less a small countertop oven that uses convection to cook food. 

Convection can recreate the effects of a deep fryer without having to use all that oil.

It is called an air fryer because it uses minimal oil and a unique air circulation system to cook food. 

The result is the food resembles something deep-fried. However, most air fryers have functions other than baking, broiling, rotisserie, and more.

See also how economical air fryers are.

What Is Steaming Food?

Steaming food

You are using hot steam for cooking when you steam food. 

Instead of submerging your food in water and heating it, you place it above the water and use steam for cooking it. 

Many people prefer steaming their food over boiling it because it helps preserve many nutrients that would otherwise be removed.

Boiling food breaks down various nutrients and causes many water-soluble nutrients to come from the vegetables and go into the water. 

These are problems you will not face when using a food steamer. 

The trick here is that your food never gets too hot and comes into direct contact with the water. 

As you can tell, a food steamer’s function is very different from that of an air fryer.

Can An Air Fryer Steam Food?

The short answer is that an air fryer cannot steam food. Yes, some people may add a little water to the bottom of an air fryer basket to help food cook faster and more evenly. However, technically speaking, this is not recommended.

An air fryer is not designed to hold as much water as is required to steam food, nor are they capable of doing so. 

This is true both for functionality and safety reasons. If you want to steam food, you cannot use an air fryer; instead, you have to use an actual food steamer. 

Let’s move on and talk about why an air fryer cannot be used to steam food.

Why Air Fryers Cannot Steam Food

There are a few reasons why air fryers cannot steam food, so let’s take a quick look at these reasons.

An air fryer is not ideal for steaming food because air fryers get much hotter than food steamers. 

Air fryers can reach up to 450° Fahrenheit, which is just as hot as a standard oven. 

However, a food steamer only gets through around 240° Fahrenheit, which is the proper temperature for steaming. 

There is no way to set an air fryer as low as is needed for steaming.

Air Fryers Cannot Steam Food

The second reason why using an air fryer to steam food is impossible is that it is not designed to do so. 

A steamer requires a lot of boiling water to create the steam, which means there needs to be a separate water reservoir and section for the water to end. 

However, there is no separate section for water in an air fryer, and you can’t just pour water into the drawer of the air fryer. 

Therefore, there is nowhere for an air fryer to hold water.

The next reason you cannot use an air fryer to steam food is that it may damage your air fryer. 

Too much steam getting into the electrical components of your air fryer may break it.

The fourth reason why an air fryer cannot be used to steam food is that air fryers feature vents to let steam out, which is very important when using an oven. 

However, a steamer is designed to keep in as much steam as possible to cook the food. 

Therefore, an air fryer cannot hold enough steam inside it to steam food.

You may also notice that air fryers make your food much crispier and dryer than food steamers, which you might want to avoid. 

Nobody likes dry and brittle vegetables.

Different Air Fryer Cooking Methods

If an air fryer is not designed to steam food, what can you do with an air fryer? 

Air fryers are designed, as the name implies, to air-fry food without excessive oil, such as is required for deep frying.

However, many air fryers have other functions, such as rotisserie, baking, grilling, and broiling. 

Although air fryers are not ideal or designed for steaming food, they can cook your food in many other ways.

A good air fryer will likely also have settings to defrost food and reheat it. 

In addition, some air fryers have dehydrating functions for fruits and vegetables. 

That said, if you need to steam food, you need a food steamer, not an air fryer.

What Can You Make In An Air Fryer?

Also, read how to use an air fryer for fries.


Air fryers are handy tools that can perform many different types of cooking. 

Unfortunately, steaming food is one of the few things you can’t do with an air fryer. 

So if you want steamed food, you need a steamer. 

Luckily, decent food steamers don’t cost very much money.