Air fryers are fantastic kitchen appliances that allow you to cook delicious food with up to 90% less oil. They are great if you’re on a health kick or simply hate the taste of oil on your fried or baked goods. In some cases, you might find that your air fryer is beginning to smell.
Air fryers sometimes smell. I found new air fryers often have a plastic smell and old air fryers smell of burning food. The reasons for each smell are different. However, both can be removed quickly by deep cleaning your air fryer or running the air fryer with vinegar inside.
In this article, I’ll be explaining why air fryers smell, what causes the air fryers to smell as well as whether these smells can cause damage to yourself, your food, your air fryer or your home.
In the second half, we’ll be covering how to both fix and prevent a smelly air fryer from taking over your kitchen again in the future.
Do Air Fryers Smell?
Much like traditional ovens, air fryers can smell a little when used. The amount is likely to depend on a number of factors including the type of food you’re cooking, the temperature of the kitchen and how long the air fryer has been cooking for.
There are some additional factors which can cause your air fryer to smell.
This includes food lodged in the air fryer or one of the air fryer components which is causing it to burn as well as the age of the air fryer – surprisingly new air fryers often have a stronger smell than older air fryers which have been used a number of times (more on that below).
What To Do If Your Air Fryer Smells Like Plastic?
One of the most common smells caused by an air fryer is a smell of plastic. Which can be concerning as the machine is cooking food.
This is a common smell, but uncommon for the majority of air fryers (I’ve found around only 1 in 10 have this smell upon first use issue).
The plastic smell is traditionally only found in relatively new air fryers (which have been used less than 10 times) and is often caused by a protective film found on some of the components of the air fryer.
A reference to this smell can often be found in the instructions / manual from air fryers brands who have found it to be a common occurrence.
As this film is exposed to the high temperatures during the cooking process it begins to burn and thus causes a strong plastic smell.
The majority of people have found that this smell (and in some cases taste) fades after anything between two to ten uses of the appliance.
I imagine the number of uses depends on the length of time the plastic film is being burnt. Therefore the best way to get rid of the smell is to simply use the air fryer for longer periods of time until the smell has disappeared.
I recommend doing this on a ‘dry run’ with no food inside to minimise the transference of the smell to the taste of the food (which some people have reported) and with the window in your kitchen open to promote ventilation and minimise smell inside your home.
If your air fryer is found to have this problem, then there may be specific solutions referenced in the manual which will be applicable to your make/model.
How To Prevent Your Air Fryer Causing A Smell
I have found a small number of solutions which should help you to either minimize or prevent your air fryer from causing a smell.
The right solution for your air fryer is likely to depend on what the smell is and what it’s likely being caused by.
Clean Your Air Fryer
Cleaning your air fryer regularly should help to minimise the likelihood of items becoming trapped in any of the components and causing any negative smells. I found that this can also help with the plastic smell, but not as much as some of the other methods discussed below.
I’ve found the best cleaning routine for me personally is once every two weeks (twice a month) however you may want to increase or decrease this depending on the number of times you use your air fryer.
Luckily, cleaning an air fryer is a relatively hassle-free job as the majority of air fryers removable components such as the basket are dishwasher safe (be sure to check your air fryer for direct instructions as to whether or not this is applicable).
The best air fryer cleaning process I have found takes around 20 minutes. I begin by unplugging the air fryer and allowing it to cool down naturally (if it’s just been used to cook a meal).
Then I remove the basket and any loose components and pop them straight into the dishwasher (you can wash them by hand if you prefer).
If you find that some food is stuck in the basket or has hardened over time, simply run the sink with some hot water and some soap and allow the basket to soak overnight before moving to the dishwasher for a more general clean.
The long soak should help remove any of the food that’s got stuck and really help to deep clean your air fryer basket.
Next, I take a damp cloth and some Mrs Meyers soap (just personal preference) and wipe inside of the air fryer. Then I wipe the inside of the air fryer down again with water (to prevent the soap from sticking to the inside of the air fryer and causing a smell or taste on the food).
If you find that there’s any food stuck to the inside of your air fryer I suggest cleaning it off with some elbow grease and a sponge or cloth.
Then I use a fresh cloth and some soap and water to gently wipe down the front of my air fryer. I use a towel to dry that off (it minimises streak marks) before removing the air fryer basket from the dishwasher and allowing that to dry naturally (unless your dishwasher has this function).
Once the basket has dried you can reinsert it into your air fryer and you’re ready to cook!
Allow Your Air Fryer To Breathe After Unboxing
Much like any new product made with a large percentage of plastic, air fryers can give off that new smell as they are opened from the packaging used to distribute to stores and then onto the final customer like yourself.
If you don’t fancy cleaning your brand new air fryer straight away then consider simply unboxing it and leaving it out on the countertop for a couple of days before use. I’d advise removing the draw and any other loose components to allow as much surface area as possible to breathe.
This should allow your air fryer to naturally distribute that new, plastic smell over a period of time rather than instantaneously which can sometimes be caused if you’re looking to simply unbox and use the air fryer straight away.
Use Your Air Fryer Without Food
If you find that after a couple of days your air fryer is still smelling of plastic, or if you find your old air fryer is still smelling after a deep clean then consider running the machine without any food inside.
A ‘dry run’ so to speak should help the full power of the machine to work through any small debris or film that’s causing a smell without damaging the food you’re cooking.
I’d advise that you place your air fryer on a surface near a window and crack the window open during this process to minimise the smell inside your home.
Contact The Manufacturer / Buy A Replacement Air Fryer
If you find that the air fryer still smells after following this guide then I’d suggest reaching out to the manufacturer or the store you purchased the product from and explaining the issue.
In most cases, you should either be able to get a replacement machine (for older machines which are still under warranty) or a refund (for newer machines).
You can then use this money to buy a replacement air fryer which hopefully won’t have the same issues.
Does The Smell Of Your Air Fryer Damage Your Food, Air Fryer Or Kitchen?
Strong, unappetising smells can often be a worry when cooking food in an electrical appliance.
So there are some things to look out for and consider alongside the smell that should help you to determine whether the food is safe and whether the smell is something more sinister that could affect your air fryers function or your kitchen as a whole.
If you are getting the strong smell of plastic then you may sometimes find this transfers onto the food. This isn’t likely to cause you any damage, research shows that there are small particles of plastic in foods we eat all the time.
However, it can be incredibly unappetising. If you’re unsure about the taste or quality of your food due to this smell then I suggest following the instructions above.
Running the machine without food a number of times with the aim of removing the smell and hopefully burning off any of the plastic wrapper or film on the inside of any of the internal components.
Whether the machine is new and smells of plastic or old and smells of general food burning you should look for other warning signs. These typically come in two forms; noise (higher than the regular amount for an air fryer) or smoke.
If you notice either then I suggest turning the machine off at the plug and contact the manufacturer for further instructions.
This could be the signs of a faulty machine which could lead to the air fryer failing all together and / or causing significant damage to your kitchen.
This isn’t anything to be majorly concerned about, nor is it something that should put you off purchasing an air fryer. Much like any other kitchen appliance (or electric appliance for that matter), it’s always the case that a small percentage can either be manufactured with a fault or develop a fault over time.
Hi all! I’m Cora Benson, and I’ve been blogging about food, recipes and things that happen in my kitchen since 2019.