11 Smart Tips You Need to Know About Cleaning Your Air Fryer, According to Cookbook Authors

published Jan 25, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whether you’re making personalized pizza, herb-buttered steak, or gooey grilled cheese, air fryers have made weeknight dinners so much easier. (Not to mention tastier!) These brilliant countertop appliances are beloved for their ability to quickly cook and crisp up “fried” food. And while they certainly make less of a mess than a splatter-y pot of oil, our hard-working air fryers can still get downright grubby. 

What’s the best way to clean an air fryer? Are there any secret rules we should know? We chatted with two cookbook authors who really know their way around air fryers for answers. Here are their top tips for cleaning your new favorite kitchen gadget.

Credit: Photo: Danielle Acken | Food Styling: Aurelia Louvet

1.  Soak the fry basket.

The fry basket is where all the action happens in an air fryer. It’s also the area where the most mess accumulates. Here’s how recipe developer Jamie Yonash, the author of Ultimate Air Fryer Cookbook: Your Essential Guide to Crispy, Juicy, Roasted Perfection and Air Fryer Cookbook for Weight Loss: 100 Crave-Worthy Favorites Made Healthy, handles that sticky (and greasy) situation: “I like to clean my air fryer basket in a sink filled with warm, soapy water. If there is an abundance of food residue in the basket or on the crisper plate, then I will let them soak before cleaning.” Yonash sometimes even soaks the pieces overnight.

2. Wipe down the air fryer top immediately after use.

“You can eliminate the need to wash the top of the air fryer just by wiping it down after each use,” says food blogger Laurie Fleming, the author of The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook for Beginners: Easy, Foolproof Recipes for Your Air Fryer. As with stovetop cooking, it’s best to tackle grease and mess while the unit is still warm — but, of course, not scalding hot. 

3. Use a non-abrasive sponge. 

Both Fleming and Yonash agree: A non-abrasive sponge is best. Although heavy-duty scrub pads will make quick work of messes, they can also take off the protective coating on your fry basket, shortening its lifespan. Yonash reaches for non-scratch Scotch-Brite to get the job done. 

4. Tackle crusty messes with a bristle brush.

If that sponge doesn’t quite cut the mustard, Yonash has another idea: “I use a non-abrasive dish brush to get hard-to-clean messes taken care of. The bristles do a great job cleaning the crisper plate.” A brush with a handle will give you more leverage and help you tackle all of those hard-to-reach spots.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

5. Be sure to check the heating element. 

“Sometimes lightweight foods can fly around and get stuck to the heating element in the air fryer unit,” says Yonash. In that case, you’ll want to unplug the air fryer, and let it cool completely before using that bristled brush or another tool to dislodge any solid items. “You don’t want to let food particles remain on the heating element or it will cause unpleasant smells and possibly smoke when the fryer is being used,” Yonash explains. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

6. Skip the dishwasher.

Hand-wash the fry basket and crisper plate — even if your unit is labeled as dishwasher-safe. Why go through the extra trouble? “Over time, the dishwasher will take off the protective coating,” says Fleming. Without that coating, you’ll start to see stuff stick to the basket.

7. Use the right detergent.

If you’re washing by hand, the right dish soap really matters. When it comes to hot messes and grease stains, both Fleming and Yonash reach for Dawn. “Dawn Original does a fantastic job of cutting through the oil and grease,” Yonash notes. (Psst! Pro chefs recommend Dawn too.) Fleming is a fan of magical Dawn Powerwash. But whatever you use, Fleming has a helpful reminder: “Never, ever use oven cleaner.”

8. Line the basket with special parchment paper.

Yonash lines her unit with parchment paper specifically created to work with air fryers. The papers are nonstick and have perforations to encourage even cooking. The real plus to using them? They make cleanup a snap. Just pull it up, crumble it, and toss it. Your basket will only need a quick rinse.

9. Or with a slice of bread.

Really? Yes, really. Take a page from Fleming’s playbook. “The biggest messes happen with fatty foods, such as bacon. When cooking anything with fat, I put a piece of bread in between the basket and crisper plate. As the fat drips off, the bread soaks up the oil.” So you’ll have less grease to clean up when mealtime is over.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

10. Mist the basket with olive oil.

Yes, a little olive oil can be your air fryer’s friend. Yonash explains, “This will decrease the chances of the food sticking to the basket.” When cooking foods that tend to caramelize and get sticky, Yonash doubles down with an oil-misted parchment sheet. It’s easy: Just spritz the paper with a little olive oil spray.

11. Never submerge the air fryer unit in water.

No matter how dirty, greasy, or crusty the air fryer gets, it should not be submerged in water. Only the removable parts should get the soaking treatment. Yonash suggests cleaning the unit itself with a damp rag.

What’s your favorite product for keeping your air fryer squeaky clean? Tell us in the comments below.