Air fryers have taken the kitchen appliance world by storm, rising sharply in popularity over the last few years. These convenient little machines have gained a reputation for churning out perfectly crisp chicken nuggets, French fries, and other such fried comfort foods.
Perhaps burned by the relative complexity of the Instant Pot, consumers may be wondering if the use of an air fryer is in any way dangerous or complicated. One such question that new air fryer owners commonly research is whether or not an air fryer can overheat.
Can An Air Fryer Overheat?
In short, an air fryer CAN overheat, but with the proper safety precautions taken, you should be able to avoid this issue. The most common causes for the overheating of an air fryer include the use of too much oil and the overfilling of the fryer pot.
Luckily, these issues are easily fixed, and fires in an air fryer are extremely rare.
What To Do If An Air Fryer Overheats?
If your air fryer overheats, it may begin to emit smoke and even set off your smoke detectors.
Here is what you will need to do if you suspect your air fryer has overheated:
Turn It Off
As with any other potential kitchen emergency, the first thing you want to do is unplug and/or turn off your appliance at its source. This will allow the appliance to immediately begin to cool off and will keep the issue from getting worse while you troubleshoot.
It can be easy to panic and not know what to do in a kitchen emergency, so removing your air fryer from its power source is a simple first step to take while you figure out what else to do.
After this, leave it alone for a few minutes to let the heat and the smoke subside. (Unless the unit is actually on fire in which case you will want to call 911 and attempt to put out the fire with baking soda or a kitchen extinguisher. Never use water for an electrical fire.)
Clear Excess Grease
The next step is to clean inside and around the machine, especially near its heating elements, in order to remove any excess oil or grease that may have started to overheat. If you are experiencing any smoke in your kitchen from the appliance, excess grease is the likely culprit.
Use a dish rag or paper towels to carefully mop up any moisture or oil from around, under, or inside the air fryer. If you overfilled your air fryer pot with too much oil, dropping a piece of bread inside can help soak up the extra oil quickly without a mess.
It is important to note, however, that some amount of smoking is considered “normal” with high-fat, greasy foods. Think about how much bacon grease splatters when you cook it. This is because some of the grease and oil can splatter on the heating element.
Placing a piece of bread in the bottom of your air fryer at the beginning of the cook time can also potentially help absorb some of these splatters before they happen.
Check The Vents
Was a towel or other nearby blocking your air fryer from venting properly? Was your air fryer located too close to the wall or another solid object? Did you overfill your air fryer with so much food that the vents are not able to function? Remove any of these obstacles or obstructions before attempting to run your air fryer again.
Heavy seasoning, cooking residue from previous dinners that weren’t cleaned properly, and pieces of food from overfilling your air fryer can all cause an issue if they are lodged in the vent or heating element.
NOTE: With any of these steps, make sure you wait until your air fryer and its contents have had a chance to cool down before you touch it, as hot oil can easily cause burns.
How To Stop An Air Fryer Overheating
Air fryers are essentially countertop convection ovens that function similar to a toaster oven. They are designed to offer similar results to a deep fryer without the hassle, mess, or smell. In addition, they are designed to function with less oil for a healthier meal.
However, they generally do not get as hot as your regular oven or toaster oven. In fact, most air fryers are limited to a maximum temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because they do not require as much oil as you may be used to for frying your food in other ways, it can be very easy to overestimate how much oil is required and create a situation where your air fryer overheats.
To prevent your air fryer from overheating, here are some best practices for all your air frying adventures:
Don’t Use Too Much Oil
Remember, your air fryer is not a deep fryer. In fact, oil is optional in many cases for your air fryer recipes. Even in those recipes where oil IS necessary, you will want to use a very small amount, typically no more than 1 TBSP.
Although it may be counterintuitive at first and may take some getting used to, remember that not using as much oil is one of the benefits of cooking with an air fryer. It has been designed this way to make cooking easier and healthier for busy families.
Apply Oil Correctly
With an air fryer, the oil is placed directly on the food, not on the basket. You can use a basting brush to accomplish this with your regular cooking oil. A better option may be to use a spray oil like this one instead of dealing with liquid oil.
Recipes that call for a minimal amount of oil include some frozen foods, roasted vegetables, and any meat dish that you would typically use oil for when cooking inside an oven. Situations that do not call for any oil at all include most fresh meats, frozen foods that already include oil such as French fries, and frozen appetizers like Hot Pockets or Pizza Rolls.
NOTE: Do not use PAM oil as it contains an ingredient that will ruin your air fryer.
Don’t Overfill Your Air Fryer
Another situation which can quickly lead to the overheating of your air fryer is if you overfill the container with too much food. Though it can be tempting to try and cook everything all at once, the cooking time of an air fryer is short enough that you can run your food through in multiple batches without being inconvenienced.
So, do not load too much food in one batch. You need to make sure that you leave enough room inside your appliance for the vents and heating elements to remain clear.
Keep Your Air Fryer Clean
It is crucial to properly remove old food residue, oil, and grease between each use of your air fryer in order to keep it running smoothly. Also, be sure that your air fryer is completely dry before running it once again.
If you don’t keep your air fryer clean, food and grease can quickly accumulate inside, causing a smoke or fire hazard. Similarly, if you run the appliance before it has had a chance to completely dry off, that can be dangerous and even start a fire.