Smoke that arises from an air fryer while cooking is something that needs to be addressed promptly to minimize any impact. It can also involve performing some basic detective work since smoke can occur in an air fryer for a number of reasons. Fortunately, in most cases the problem can be solved relatively easily. And once the culprit has been found, you can take preventative action to help keep smoke from developing in the future.
Read Your Owner’s Manual
As a preliminary step, it’s always a good idea to read through the owner’s manual associated with your air fryer. This should help to ground you in the basics of safe, smoke-free air frying. But as you begin to use your air fryer for various foods, you may find it essential to modify some of your cooking techniques.
Safety should always be a priority. You want to make sure the air inside your kitchen and home is as healthy and smoke-free as possible. If you notice smoke coming from your air fryer, your first step should be to turn the machine off and unplug it. Pull it away from the wall and do not panic. If it continues to smoke, make sure there’s adequate ventilation by opening a window and turning on the range hood to help vent any smoke outdoors.
The worst kind of smoke is black in color. Should you notice any degree of gray or black smoke coming from your air fryer – take action immediately. Open the windows and turn on any exhaust fan to help disperse the smoke. Black smoke is typically indicative of faulty wiring that could lead to an electrical fire. It’s unlikely (though not impossible) that an air fryer manufactured today will overheat. Especially the way products are cranked out in mass volumes these days. Once the emergency is under control, your next step should be to have a technician look at your air fryer as you contact the manufacturer.
The good news is that this type of problem is extremely rare. But at the same time, you need to be on guard should an electrical problem occur.
Smoke or Steam?
While smoke of any sort is never a good sign, it’s always important to distinguish between smoke and steam. If it’s steam that’s emerging from your air fryer, well that’s a normal part of the cooking process with some foods. Activate the range hood or other exhaust fan to help the steam escape from the room. But if you determine that it is indeed smoke coming from your air fryer – don’t ignore it.
Smoke is usually the result of an oversight, like cooking with butter, or oil with a low smoke point. Or it could be caused by the food you’re cooking and what can happen inside a hot air fryer. In either case, as you gain familiarity with how food cooks in an air fryer, you can take corrective action to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
Common Reasons an Air Fryer Can Start Smoking
There are a number of reasons why an air fryer could start emitting smoke. The most common reason is that there’s food residue or splattered grease that wasn’t removed. When that happens, those particles begin to burn, producing smoke. Another possibility is that oil or grease splashed onto the electrical element – resulting in a smoking air fryer.
Other common causes of smoky air fryers include:
– Adding too much oil to your foods
– Placing too much food in the basket at once (overcrowding can be problematic)
– Cooking at excessively high temperatures
– Excessively long cooking times
Resolving the Smoke Issue
You only need a little bit of oil on the food in your air fryer. If you add more oil than necessary, it obliterates one of the biggest benefits air fryers offer and that is cooking delicious foods while using way less oil. When you use too much oil, that oil has to go somewhere and chances are it’s going to drip from the food basket into the bottom of the air fryer, causing it to produce smoke.
If you stuff too much food into the air fryer basket – your food may be too close to the heating element. Any particles or splatters that make contact with the heating element are going to cause a smoking affect.
It’s important to learn to monitor your foods as they cook. Air fryers are efficient cooking devices. So if you’re used to doing most of your cooking in an oven – your natural tendency might be to leave your food in the air fryer too long that it starts to burn and as it does it’s going to produce smoke.
Greasy foods like meats and cheese can trigger the spewing of excess fat or grease onto the heating element. When that happens, smoke is inevitable as that grease or oil burns on the element.
Only Use a Small Amount of Oil
When using your air fryer, try to use as little oil as possible. We recommend an oil sprayer or spritzer for this purpose. It helps you to lightly spray your food and mix it thoroughly in a bowl before adding it to the air fryer basket. You’ll use far less oil this way versus adding oil by the teaspoon or tablespoon.
Keep in mind that whenever you’re cooking frozen foods like pre-cut fries or chicken fingers, oil has already been added to these products so there’s no need to add anymore. These foods can go right into the basket of your air fryer and cooked as is. Once you’re done with your air fryer and it’s time to clean up, you’ll quickly discover how the appliance handles these pre-prepared foods. Allow the air fryer to completely cool down and then remove the pullout tray and basket. Notice any grease or oil that has accumulated in or around the basket.
It’s All About The Air Flow
Air fryer baskets have many different holes or openings of varying sizes. This provides adequate space for the heated air to circulate around the food, which is essential to the air frying process. But those very holes or gaps provide spaces where small food particles, grease or oil fall to the bottom of the air fryer. When that happens, it often produces smoke.
It’s important when cooking in an air fryer to allow adequate space for this heated air to circulate. Don’t fill the basket to capacity or you’ll be defeating the purpose. You’ll end up with some food burned and some under cooked. Remember, the air needs to circulate in an air fryer and the more pieces of food that air can flow over – the more of those pieces that will crisp up to the perfect texture.
Give Your Air Fryer Enough Space
Another point to keep in mind is that wherever you set up your air fryer, allow for adequate venting. Typically air fryers vent out the back and therefore should not be placed against the wall, other appliances or cabinets. Allowing for the room air to circulate freely helps the air fryer work as it was designed.
Remember that most air fryers designed for the home are made of a combination of metal and plastic parts. Although they are engineered to withstand significant heat – they cannot hold up to that heat over extended periods of time without causing issues. Once the components begin to break down, your air fryer may not be the same again.
The good news is that most foods do not need to be cooked at the highest temperature. And they do not need to be cooked for a long time. Most air fried foods are ready in 15 – 20 minutes. Spread out your food in a single layer (if possible) and flip your food halfway through cooking. That’s the best way to attain perfectly air fried food.
Troubleshooting a Smoking Air Fryer
Double check to make sure the device is unplugged. Remove the basket and tray from inside the device and if it’s still warm, place it on a wooden chopping block – or similar safe surface. Do not place a hot basket or tray directly on an exposed countertop or you’ll damage the surface. Allow the air fryer to cool down completely.
Clean the air frying following proper instructions. This means washing the basket and pull-out tray and as well as wiping down the interior and exterior with a soft, damp cloth. After cleaning, dry all components completely with a tea towel. Equipped with a thoroughly cleaned air fryer, you should find that most smoking problems will have vanished.
You can help avoid future problems by regularly cleaning your air fryer in the same way. Part of your routine maintenance should be to inspect the heating element. If you cook a lot of meats in your air fryer, chances are pretty good that grease from some of those meats is going to make its way to the heating element of your air fryer.
A lot of common smoking problems arise from air fryers that not been properly cleaned and maintained. Proper and regular cleaning and correct cooking techniques will help minimize any smoke.
Remember that oily or greasy foods are naturally prone to producing smoke. For example, fatty meats can spew plenty of grease when cooked at temperatures of 350° or higher. If you’ve ever tried to cook bacon in an air fryer – you can appreciate how grease can spread. But it’s not just bacon that can be problematic; the same thing can happen with a number of different meats including chicken legs and thighs, burgers, sausage, pork chops and more.
One way to help control splatters from greasy foods is to wrap that food in foil or parchment paper before adding to the air fryer basket. Wrapped foods won’t drip – at least to the same degree as unwrapped foods do.
Clean Every Time
I have got in to the habit of every time I cook in my air fryer, I take the basket out and leave it in soak in detergent, that way it cleans up very easily.
Use a Liner in your Air Fryer
The best way to alleviate the nuisance of burning drippings is to use parchment paper or aluminum foil in the bottom of the basket. This can serve to collect drippings and keep them contained in the basket, rather than have them drop to the bottom of the air fryer where they’re likely to cause the air fryer to smoke. Using an aluminum or parchment liner can go a long way to keep any smoke down.
Breaded foods can also cause some problems as bits of the breading or batter break free and then get spread around the air fryer via the forced hot air that’s circulating in order to cook the food in the basket. When these crumbs land on the heating element they can burn and smoke badly. Be on the lookout whenever using marinades and sauces – particularly those with a fair amount of sugar inside. Most BBQ sauces fall into that category and can create a smoky situation. Once again, a liner can dramatically reduce the amount of drippings and crumbs thus keeping smoke to a bare minimum.
Soak Up the Grease
When you anticipate a grease problem you can take additional corrective action in advance. If your air fryer has a crumb tray, place a couple of pieces of bread on the tray that sits just below the cooking basket. This will help to capture the grease and prevent it from accumulating or being blown onto the heating element. Bread works much like a sponge and will absorb the grease splatters rather than allowing them to accumulate and burn off.
Steam is generally odorless and may be a normal part of the air frying process. This is particularly true with high moisture content foods. So steam is nothing to worry about.
And a small amount of smoke might be OK as long as you have adequate ventilation. But if that smoke persists – you’ll need to take more action.
Another possible solution some people use is to pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of water in the crumb tray before starting to cook. The water helps dissolve grease drippings making it less likely to produce smoke.
If you’re trying the water in the tray technique, be sure not to add too much water as this can alter the cooking process. In fact, you’ll be steaming your food rather than air frying it – which can make your food somewhat soggy.
Handle With Care
Whenever you inspect the element, make sure the unit is unplugged and away from the outlet. Once completely cooled, you can flip your air fryer upside down to get a better look at the heating element. If there’s any sign of greasy splatters, wipe them down carefully with a dampened soft cloth. Wash and rinse the removable parts by hand. But be careful how you handle it. These parts can be delicate and easily damaged.
Use the Right Oil (One With a High Smoke Point)
Choose a better kind of oil for cooking with heat. That means choosing oil with a high smoke point. One of the best oils we found is avocado oil. With a higher smoke point, the oil itself won’t cause smoke when used at normal operating temperatures – which for air fryers is around 400°F.
As much as we love our air fryer, it may not be the best appliance to use for some foods. Some foods simply do not cook well in an air fryer and can cause excessive smoke.
Don’t Forget To Flip Your Food
The best thing you can do while using your air fryer is to remember to flip the food in the basket. You don’t have to do this often – once per load will usually do the trick. Just stop the cooking cycle halfway and flip the food. If it is well-spaced, you should have no problem getting a nice crispy coating on every morsel. This also allows you to cook in shorter bursts where you can keep a close eye on your food to make sure it’s as crispy as you want it to be.
Another “best practice” approach is to clean the air fryer after each use. If you neglect your air fryer and fail to clean it routinely, food left from previous cooking can make your air fryer smoke when you use it the next time.
Keep in mind that it’s not at all uncommon to have smoke coming out of the air fryer. It’s annoying yes, but fairly common in different situations. Equipped with this knowledge however, you can now better manage and control any smoky situation and prevent them from happening again in the future.