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Deep-frying can cause quite a mess. Sure, the food tastes good, but oil tends to splatter—and then there’s the spent fat to dispose of. An air fryer, on the other hand, uses hot air and very little oil, so cleanup, by comparison, is a cinch.
But you’re not off the hook completely.
During air-frying, any oil or fat rendered from the food drips down into the bottom of the pull-out basket drawer.
You might not notice it after a few batches of fries, but over time that grease can build up in the drawer and on the heating element, and you may start to smell odors or even see smoke as your food cooks. Those bits trapped in the basket’s holes will keep on cooking and can burn to a crisp.
That’s why you should clean your air fryer after every use.
Our testers found that the nooks and crannies on some air fryer components are quite difficult to clean, and the crevices on the exterior take effort, too.
Only one of the 34 models currently in our ratings snags an Excellent rating in our cleaning test and only a dozen more score Very Good on this category, as reflected in our air fryer ratings. The majority earn a Good rating or lower in ease of cleaning, meaning they require some elbow grease.
How to Clean an Air Fryer
Many of the air fryers we’ve tested, 23 out of 34 to be exact, claim to have dishwasher-safe components, and we note this in our ratings. The owner’s manual will offer cleaning tips specific to your air fryer, but in general, here’s what Larry Ciufo, who tests air fryers for CR, suggests you do:
1. Don’t delay cleaning, or you’ll come to regret it. “Do not allow the crumbs and bits of food to sit overnight, or the basket and drawer will be a nightmare to clean,” Ciufo says. “When you’re done cooking, unplug the air fryer, let it cool, and then empty out the oil from the pullout drawer and dispose of it.”
If you’re air-frying food with a sticky sauce, such as marinated ribs, clean the grate or basket and drawer while they’re still somewhat hot—the mess will come off easier.
2. Clean the removable components with warm, soapy water. Use a soft sponge or cloth—no abrasives. If food is stuck on any of the parts, soak them in hot water and dish detergent to loosen the food, then clean.
3. Use a wooden skewer or toothpick to poke out food that may be stuck in the basket or grate. Dry the components separately.
4. Clean the inside of the air fryer using a damp cloth dipped in warm soapy water. The basket and drawer should still be removed. Check the heating element for grease and food debris and wipe clean. (Some manufacturers say you can use a soft brush—but not steel wire—to remove stuck-on food.) Dry, then reassemble.
5. Wipe the exterior. Use a damp cloth or sponge, then dry the appliance.
How to Deal With Lingering Odors
When a food gives off a strong smell while cooking, the odor may linger in your air fryer, even after cleaning. NewAir, maker of Magic Chef air fryers, recommends soaking the food basket and drawer in soapy water for 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning again. If the smell persists, cut a lemon in half and rub it over the basket and drawer, let it sit 30 minutes, then rewash.
Be Careful With Nonstick
Consumers have complained on our website and elsewhere that the nonstick coating on some air fryer components flakes off over time. We haven’t seen this (our tests evaluate performance right out of the box), but our advice regarding other nonstick cookware holds true here, too: Do not use metal utensils, steel wool, or any other abrasives, because they can scratch or chip the nonstick coating.
And if the nonstick coating is flaking, don’t use the air fryer. Instead, call the manufacturer’s customer service and ask for a new basket, or try to return the air fryer to the retailer.
5 Impressive Air Fryers That Are Pretty Easy to Clean
These mini convection ovens make clearing crumbs and food debris a fairly simple job.