12 Maintenance Tips To Keep Your Air Fryer In Top Condition
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12 Maintenance Tips To Keep Your Air Fryer In Top Condition

Aug 12, 2023

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It's hard to fathom that home cooks once viewed air fryers as a novelty. Over the past few years, air fryers have become one of the most beloved kitchen appliances on the shelves, creating crisp, flavorful foods in virtually no time at all. That said, air fryers are also notoriously difficult to clean, thanks to their high cooking temperatures and powerful fans. For many, cleaning the air fryer is an arduous chore that's tempting to skip every now and then.

If you're guilty of 'seasoning' your air fryer between uses, it's time to give this practice a rest. To keep your machine running smoothly and your food tasting its best, it's crucial to properly care for your air fryer. At Tasting Table, we sat down with Becky Abbott and Jen West, air frying experts and authors of the popular blog Air Fryer Foodie and the new cookbook: "Air Fryer All Day" to learn how to do just that.

The pair filled us in on some of the best air fryer maintenance methods, from everyday cleaning concepts to little-known tricks like the "toast test." Whether you struggle with excess grease while cooking or built-up residue in your basket, these proven strategies can help you cut down on cleanup time and enjoy using your air fryer once more. We'll introduce you to our favorite expert-approved ways to clean your air fryer, including recommended tools and easy, time-saving tips.

When using an air fryer, it's best to prevent messes before they start. Using the wrong cooking oil can lead to gummy buildup and hard-to-remove residue. Moreover, it can even affect the functionality of your device. According to Becky Abbott and Jen West, one type of oil you should never use in an air fryer is a nonstick cooking spray.

Though you may reach for nonstick sprays for their convenience, you'll only cause yourself headaches in the long run. "People don't realize that [nonstick cooking spray] is going to remove the coating that's on their basket or in their air fryer," West tells Tasting Table. "This makes cleaning even worse because as they're cleaning it, they're also taking off the coating on their air fryer."

Instead of using prepackaged nonstick cooking sprays, create your own version with a reusable spray bottle. Abbott and West recommend trying oils with a high smoke point, such as avocado. Unlike aerosol cooking sprays, they won't leave stubborn buildup behind or strip your air fryer's nonstick coating.

If you use your air fryer frequently enough, chances are you don't always get around to wiping it down after each use — and cleaning a gunked-up fryer basket is no one's idea of fun. Fortunately, there are several ways to address this all-too-common problem. Protective liners are just one of many tools you can use to keep your machine spotless with minimal effort involved.

From paper liners to silicone trays, numerous options are available to protect your fryer basket without affecting the crispiness of your air-fried treats. If using parchment paper liners, Becky Abbott stresses that you should always fill them with food before heating your air fryer, as a loose paper liner can be a potential fire hazard. "It will fly up into the vent," Abbott tells Tasting Table. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you can even use a standard baking dish instead of a liner in your fryer basket. Beyond casserole, cake, and pie dishes, Abbott suggests trying ramekins or springform pans for delicious air fryer fare with easy cleanup.

There's no denying that air frying is one of the best cooking methods for making extra crisp appetizers and golden-seared meats. But as any air fryer fan can attest, the richest foods often create the biggest messes. Whether the food you're serving is naturally high in fat or contains added oils, too much grease in your air fryer can quickly lead to a hazy, smoke-filled kitchen. Not to fear, however — Becky Abbott and Jen West have just the solution to help minimize the mess when preparing your favorite delicacies in the air fryer.

When cooking fatty foods like duck or bacon, place a small amount of water into the base of the fryer to cut down on oil and smoke. For West, this step is a must when making recipes prone to excess greasiness, like air-fried chicken. "Always add a tablespoon of water into the bottom [of the basket]. It actually helps break that up," she tells Tasting Table. After adding water to the air fryer, you may still see some smokiness, says West, "but it's not near what you'll have if you don't have [water] in there."

A common air fryer mistake that's easy to make is forgetting to clean your machine regularly. While some air fryer users feel it's fine to skip scrubbing sessions every so often, the authors of "Air Fryer All Day" advise against the idea. By giving your air fryer a basket quick sweep after each use, you can prevent stubborn stains, residues, and odors from forming. It only takes a couple minutes, but this quick cleaning ritual can save you a considerable amount of work in the long run.

"Wipe the basket out with a sponge as soon as you're done using it," says Becky Abbott. "Just like your stove or microwave, if you let that sit, it's going to harden. Then it's going to be really hard to get out." When cooking particularly greasy or saucy dishes, such as air fryer BBQ ribs, it's crucial to clean your air fryer immediately after it cools down. Additionally, the author cautions against heating soap or cleaning products in the air fryer to soften stuck-on debris. "You're mixing chemicals with grease and heat, and you don't know how they will react. So we don't advise people to do that."

When most of us clean our air fryers, we focus on the fryer basket. The fryer basket, or the lower portion of the machine, is where food rests and tends to accumulate debris and residue quickly. But in addition to cleaning the air fryer basket, you'll also want to scrub your machine's vent or heating element. "Before the grease and things cool off, harden, and become an issue, I would make sure to wipe it down after cooking," Jen West tells Tasting Table. The air fryer vent may not get dirty quite as quickly as the basket, but it's a good idea to clean it just as frequently for optimal performance.

If you neglect the vent, you may notice strange odors or smokiness when operating your air fryer. "Having gunked-up food on your heating element can cause it to smoke and have unpleasant smells. So keeping it clean is obviously really important to do," explains West. Each air fryer is a little different, but Becky Abbott and Jen West suggest cleaning your fryer's vent using warm, soapy water on a dampened sponge or cloth — taking care to avoid getting water inside the machine itself. "Making sure that it's unplugged, flip the air fryer upside down and take a toothbrush and some soap and warm water to help clean the heating element," West suggests. In terms of soaps, sponges, and scrubbers to clean your air fryer with, look for non-abrasive products.

We love our air fryers but can't say the same about the odors they sometimes take on. Lucky for us, Becky Abbott and Jen West have found an easy solution for fighting pungent air fryer smells. A common citrus fruit can mitigate any lingering stench, from plasticky "new air fryer" aromas to old, stagnant grease.

Per Abbott and West's advice, using a hint of lemon is the best way to eliminate air fryer odors. "Take a little ramekin and put some vinegar or lemon juice in there. And then, air fry it with water for about two minutes. Just leave the air fryer closed for about half an hour, and it'll absorb the smells, especially when they're new."

If any unwanted scents remain, a deep clean may be in order. Be sure to clean both the fryer vent and basket thoroughly — first, with dish spray to loosen any hardened grease, followed by some gentle soap and warm water.

For all their merits, air fryers have their share of downfalls. One of the worst situations air fryer users can face is the thick, smoky haze that comes with cooking high-fat foods. But you don't have to stop making sumptuous dishes like crispy roast duck or chicken in your air fryer just yet. As it turns out, Becky Abbott and Jen West have a simple strategy to keep your kitchen clean and smoke-free, no matter what recipe you prepare.

By lowering the temperature on your air fryer, you can obtain crunchy, mouthwatering results without plumes of smoke. "350 degrees F is the maximum grease point of bacon. So, don't make your bacon much higher than that. If you put it in at 400 degrees F, it's going to smoke," Abbott points out.

Furthermore, it can be helpful to research the smoke points of cooking oils, whether you use refrigerated fats like butter or pantry staples like olive oil. "All oils have different smoke points. So depending on what kind of oil you plan on using with your food — if you're using an oil — double-check the smoke point and then adjust your temperature and time," adds West.

Not all dishes will air fry the same way. Some foods just generate more grease than others, like fried chicken, bacon, and lamb, to name a few. But did you know you can cut down on air fryer grease while cooking without getting your hands dirty in the process? It's true — and both "Air Fryer All Day" authors are big fans of this handy tip.

To reduce smoke and grease splatters, pause the air fryer and drain the oil from your basket as you cook. From there, you can preserve used cooking oils for later or pour them into a clean container for recycling. "I did a small duck in the basket because duck is so fatty," recalls Becky Abbott. "There was so much grease coming out of it, and it was smoking, but I write that in the recipe: Just keep draining that grease as you go," By using an air fryer in place of a traditional oven, Abbott notes, you can achieve a crisp exterior on dishes like roast duck while minimizing excess oiliness.

Another way to reduce unnecessary mess is to understand the best settings for certain recipes. Always be mindful of cooking instructions for picture-perfect dishes and easy cleanup — they're there for a good reason. Contrary to the popular device's name, not all recipes made in an air fryer must be "air fried."

"If the recipe says to air fry it, press the 'air fry' option. If it says to bake it, press the 'bake' option. It still cooks it the same — it's the speed of the fan that changes how it's cooked," says Becky Abbott. "An [air fryer] fan might not go as fast on 'bake' as it might when it's on 'air fry.' I have a cake recipe, but I air fry it." Abbott also emphasizes the variations in power across different air fryer models. In other words, the air fryer in your kitchen may have a lower or higher output than the one used in a recipe. If the recipe you're using lists the wattage of the air fryer it is written for, you may be able to adjust your fryer's settings to match it. If not, Abbott suggests you pause the fryer to check your dish's progress every few minutes or so the first time you make it.

Inside your bread basket lies the key to masterful air frying. That's right — the "toast test" can help familiarize you with your air fryer's settings. Use the toast test when trying a new air fryer for the first time or to experiment with different settings on your machine. "If you're unsure of a recipe because you've never done it before, you can do what's called a toast test," states Jen West. Just as you might expect, it involves placing a piece of bread in the fryer basket and checking how long the air fryer takes to toast it to completion.

On the other hand, a piece of plain bread placed in the fryer basket can help keep your air fryer recipes crispy. Becky Abbott and Jen West learned about the sliced bread trick from fans in their Facebook group, Easy Air Fryer Recipes. Per the authors' instructions, simply set a piece of bread into the base of the fryer. Like an edible sponge, the sliced bread will absorb excess grease during cooking. You can also witness this effect when reheating breaded foods like fried appetizers in your air fryer. "I had leftover onion rings, and I put them in the air fryer the next day for my daughter. It actually pulled some of the grease and oil from the onion rings," says West. As for the flavor? That stayed put.

We've all been there: faced with a particularly grimy piece of cookware, we opt for nuclear options such as oven cleaner. Yet Abbott and West strongly advise against using harsh stripping agents on your air fryer, as they can wreak havoc on the nonstick surface of your machine or, worse, damage it beyond repair. "There are people that have used Easy Off Oven Cleaner, and that's a no-no — you can't do that," warns Jen West.

According to the air fryer experts, the best way to clean your air fryer is with soapy water. What's more, both authors agree that Dawn Powerwash or similar dishwashing sprays are a safe and effective alternative to grease-cutting products like oven cleaners. Use Dawn Powerwash or another gentle dish spray before deep cleaning your machine by spraying it onto the fryer basket after it cools. After a few minutes, you can wipe down any dissolved grease. Though dish spray should remove a good amount of residue, you'll still need to scrub with soap and water afterward to clean the rest of the machine.

Even with perfect maintenance, you might find that your old air fryer requires a replacement. According to the authors of "Air Fryer All Day," newer air fryers have many advantages over their predecessors, from better nonstick surfaces to updated cooking functions. "A lot of the older baskets, one of the biggest problems that we've seen is that when you scrub, it'll destroy the inside of the basket," says Becky Abbott.

So, what air fryer brand do the experts themselves use? Abbott and Jen West have many favorite models, but at the time of writing, the authors are enjoying the Cosori Dual Blaze 6.8 Quart Smart Air Fryer. "I feel like it's indestructible," Abbott tells Tasting Table. "It doesn't scrape, it doesn't scratch, the coating doesn't come off. As she mentions clearly, choosing an air fryer model depends entirely on your personal needs and budget.

While the best air fryer may be up for debate, both experts agree that a 5.8-quart-sized model is suitable for the needs of the average home cook. "Everything that's in our cookbook was made in a 5.6-quart or a 5.8-quart air fryer," explains Abbott. To learn more air fryer tips from Abbott and West, look for their upcoming book "Air Fryer All Day," available at select bookstores nationwide.