Air fryers are great. Pizza is great. The combination seems obvious. Pizza needs dry heat, and an air fryer can provide it.
As a starting point, I used this crust recipe:
With the dough shaped and toppings applied, it was time to perform the big experiment.
Problem 1: Getting It In
A pizza is a flat, floppy thing with other things placed carefully on top. Well-suited for sliding from one flat surface to another. Putting into a basket? Not so much. The first problem was how to get a raw pizza, toppings and all, into the air fryer.
Solution: parchment paper. I slid the uncooked pie onto a sheet of parchment paper, grasped the sides, and lowered the whole mess into the basket. And a mess it was. The toppings kind of slid to the center and had to be rearranged.
Then I worked on getting the parchment paper out — which might have been a mistake. The dough and the paper didn’t want to let go of each other, and the air fryer basket didn’t give much room to work. Eventually, I accomplished the task, but at what cost?
Problem 2: Getting it Hot
Some people will tell you it takes 800° Fahrenheit (427° Celsius) to make a good pizza. Those people are absolutely right. Yes, you can kind of sort of do it with your home oven at 550° F (288° C). But the air fryer only goes up to 450° F (232° C).
Here’s what that looks like:
What makes the miracle of pizza possible is a very specific combination of heat and time. Fast, high heat crisps the outside of the crust very quickly, and the short duration ensures that the cheese melts but doesn’t burn.
Because the air fryer’s heat is low, the crust needs more cooking time. This has two unfortunate effects. One, the heat is able to penetrate deeper into the dough, making for a tough texture instead of the light, crispy, chewy cornichone that is the hallmark of a great pizza. Two, the cheese has plenty of time to overcook, becoming brown and smoky instead of soft and runny.