Air Fryer Smoking – Here’s Why & How To Fix It

Air fryers are still relatively new kitchen appliances, and it’s easy to make a few mistakes while using them. For example, smoky air fryers are fairly common but can still be a cause for concern. Fortunately, preventing your air fryer from producing more smoke is often as simple as changing a few habits.

An air fryer can produce smoke due to excess oil, burned food residue, or too much food in the basket. It can also begin smoking because of high temperatures or excessively long cooking times. Preventing smoke means cleaning your air fryer regularly and being aware of cooking settings.

To help keep your home’s interior air clean and smoke-free, as well as prolong the life of your air fryer, it’s crucial to understand why air fryers occasionally produce smoke. So let’s examine some of the most common causes and discuss air fryer smoke prevention. 

Why Does an Air Fryer Start Smoking?

There are several reasons why your air fryer might start smoking. Some of the most common culprits behind smoky air fryers include:

  • Too much oil
  • Old food residue
  • An overcrowded the basket
  • High temperatures
  • Long cooking times

To help you avoid a smoking air fryer, it’s best to check for these issues before turning your appliance on and cooking a meal. Of course, some foods are naturally more prone to producing smoke than others.

Foods that are high in fat or covered in oil, for example, are more likely to cause your air fryer to smoke than lean snacks. If you’re planning to air fry a batch of pre-fried french fries or jalapeno poppers, you can expect a little smoke.

Too Much Oil

One of the primary reasons people switch from deep fryers to air fryers is the lack of cooking oil. However, that doesn’t mean that your air fryer can’t start a small grease fire.

When cooking pre-fried frozen foods or ingredients high in fat, the oils in your food can erupt and begin to collect at the bottom of the fryer. If you don’t clean away this grease, it starts to accumulate. 

A pool of fat or oil at the bottom of your air fryer is a surefire way to create smoke. 

After all, most types of oil begin smoking after reaching temperatures between 390℉ and 450℉ (198.88°C and 232.22°C). At slightly higher temperatures, this fat can catch fire. 

Old bits of food are just as dangerous.

Old Food Residue

The basket inside an air fryer has many holes and gaps to allow hot air to pass through. But these tiny spaces can let bits of food fall into the bottom part of your air fryer.

If you’re not cleaning your air fryer after each use, these tiny bits of food can become a smoke and fire hazard. Of course, little morsels may be more prone to falling through the gaps if you’re overfilling your basket.

An Overcrowded Basket

Air fryers come in many sizes, allowing users to cook either small or large portions at one time. If you’re using a smaller air fryer (two-quart capacity or less), you may be tempted to fill the cooking basket or chamber to the brim.

But it’s vital to leave a little space for the heated air to circulate. Otherwise, you can end up with burned food that’s still cold in the middle. Avoiding burned-yet-frozen snacks is as simple as ensuring you’re filling your basket to the right level. 

It’s also essential to check the placement of your air fryer. 

After all, nearly every type of air fryer is equipped with vents to help keep it from overheating or gathering moisture. If these vents are blocked by walls, cabinets, or other appliances, your device can begin to malfunction.

Still, even a well-placed air fryer with a half-filled basket can produce smoke, which is especially true when cooking foods that require high temperatures. 

High Temperatures

Every air fryer is unique. Some have exact temperature settings that range from 0℉ (-17.77°c) to almost 500℉ (260°C), while others use a more straightforward number-based system.

Still, most air fryers are made of a combination of plastic and metal parts. 

Even though these components are designed to withstand the heat of an air fryer, they can begin to melt or degrade when exposed to consistently high temperatures.

Many air-fried foods don’t need to be cooked at the highest temperature setting. Users attempting to speed up the cooking times of their favourite air fryer snacks by setting a high temperature may accidentally end up with a smoke-filled device. 

If you’re unsure about the proper cooking temperature and time for your air fryer meals, you can refer to your device’s owner manual. 

You can also refer to one of the many helpful air fryer temperature charts available online. 

Long Cooking Times

Did you know that most air-fried foods are ready within fifteen minutes? 

In fact, a short cooking time is one of the most significant benefits of owning and using an air fryer. However, you may be unfamiliar with your device’s proper cooking times.

If you’ve been setting your cook times at thirty minutes or more, you may be unintentionally burning your food and your air fryer. For example, even a raw steak can reach medium doneness in as little as fifteen minutes inside an air fryer—when set to 400℉ (204.44°C).

Remember, air fryers are designed for fast cooking. 

You should never need to leave one on for more than thirty minutes at any given time. Even with preheating, your air fryer shouldn’t operate for longer than a half-hour at a time, especially when set to high temperatures. 

Can Air Fryers Catch Fire?

Though it rarely happens, an air fryer can catch fire. That’s because air fryers are electric devices that contain powerful heating elements. And, if the cord is frayed, there is a better chance that your air fryer will catch fire.

Leaving your air fryer on for a prolonged period, such as an hour or more, can result in melted components, smoke, or fire. An electrical overload can also spark a fire, though it’s less common than simple user error.

Still, there are quite a few ways to prevent air fryer fires and smoking. Taking a few straightforward precautions before turning your air fryer on can help keep you and your home safe.

What Should You Do if an Air Fryer Starts Smoking?

If your air fryer starts smoking, the first thing you should do is turn it off or unplug it. But it’s essential to avoid panicking if you spot smoke streaming from your air fryer. 

Solving the issue is often as simple as wiping out excess grease or altering your air fryer cooking technique. 

When your air fryer begins producing smoke, you’ll want to:

  1. Unplug the air fryer.
  2. Turn on an exhaust fan.
  3. Remove the basket.
  4. Let the device cool down.
  5. Clean the air fryer.
  6. Prevent further problems.

By following these steps, you can prevent excess smoke and help keep your home and kitchen safe from accidental fires. You can also improve the effectiveness of your air fryer and the quality of your air-fried meals!

1. Unplug the Air Fryer

If your air fryer has a power-off button, you can go ahead and select that. However, you’ll likely want to unplug your device before doing anything else.

A plugged-in air fryer can continue to cook foods and produce smoke, even after being turned off. Besides, you’ll want to ensure that you’re safe when you begin cleaning the device. If it’s plugged in, you might touch the wrong button during cleaning, causing injuries and burns.

2. Turn On an Exhaust Fan

But the second thing you’ll want to do is protect yourself from any smoke that might be lingering in the air. If your oven has an exhaust fan and hood, now is the time to use it. After getting a headstart on clearing the air, you’ll need to remove your air fryer’s food basket. 

If necessary, use a protective glove to keep your hands safe from any hot metal or plastic.

3. Remove the Basket

The last thing you want is for your air fryer to continue producing smoke while you’re airing out your kitchen. That’s why you’ll want to carefully remove the cooking basket after turning on your exhaust fan.

If possible, place this basket on a bed of paper towels or in a dry sink. 

Dunking it straight into cool water can cause hot oils on the basket to jump off, potentially burning your skin or damaging your countertops.

You’ll also want to be careful about cleaning your air fryer. Not only can hot oils inside the fryer cause problems, but if the heating element inside is still cooling down, you could accidentally burn yourself while cleaning. 

4. Let the Device Cool Down

After removing the basket and allowing the air fryer to air out, you’ll need to let the device cool down. Air fryers have heating elements that can reach skin-blistering temperatures. Never attempt to clean an air fryer while it is still warm or plugged in.

5. Clean the Air Fryer

Once the air fryer has cooled down, it’s safe to remove any burned bits of food or oil that might be clinging to the basket area. According to Consumer Reports, you can use warm soapy water to clean your air fryer.

Having a toothpick or sewing needle on hand is also helpful.

Of course, it’s challenging to maintain a clean air fryer if you do not remember to wipe it down after each use. But one of the best ways to counteract a smoking air fryer is proper prevention, including regular cleaning. 

6. Prevent Further Problems

Once your air fryer is grease-free and ready for use, it’s time to double-check your cooking technique. Are you primarily cooking oily or fatty foods in your air fryer? Are you cooking your meals at the proper temperatures and for the right amount of time?

These are the kinds of questions that you’ll want to ask yourself when using your air fryer. After all, oily foods are prone to producing smoke, and overcooked foods can lead to smoky kitchens. 

It’s a great idea to get into the habit of cleaning out your air fryer after each use, especially if you typically use it for cooking greasy foods. And remember, your air fryer needs at least five inches (12.7 cm) of space on all sides to ventilate during use.