I recently air-fried dozens of batches of french fries and chicken Parmesan. No, I wasn’t throwing an air-fryer party—I was reviewing several air-fryer models to see which one performed the best and was the easiest to use. By the end of testing I had found a new winner, and I had also cleaned each air fryer at least five times.
There are a lot of questions out there about how best to clean and maintain air fryers, and after spending several hours cleaning them over the course of a few weeks—not to mention months of personal home use—I’m the guy with the answers.
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What are some basic tips for air-fryer cleaning?
The most important things to remember about cleaning your air fryer are to never submerge the main body of the appliance in water and to avoid getting the heating element very wet.
If you’re using a drawer-style air fryer—such as our winner— you can remove the drawer and any crumb-catching trays or basket inserts inside it for separate cleaning. Most oven-style and flip-top models also have removable baskets and trays.
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Should I use the dishwasher or hand-wash?
The baskets, trays, and other inserts of many air fryers, including those of our winner, are dishwasher-safe. But when I use our winner at home, I rarely if ever wash these parts in the dishwasher. Why? They take up a lot of valuable dishwasher space, and their nonstick coatings are a breeze to wipe clean with minimal scrubbing.
If your air-fryer basket and tray aren’t nonstick and trap lots of stubbornly cooked-on foods, I recommend scrubbing them with our winning heavy-duty scrub brush. And you can always opt for the dishwasher if you have the space; just make sure that your parts are actually dishwasher-safe.
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Do I really need to clean my air fryer with soap every single time?
If you’re heating up only a handful of frozen chicken nuggets for a kiddo’s dinner and there’s no added oil involved, it can be tempting to just wipe down the basket or tray with a wet paper towel or rag and call it a night. I asked our science research editor Paul Adams if this was enough to keep things safe and clean.
The verdict? If you don’t clean with soap, there will be enough residue from the food left over for bacteria and other microbes to grow. The next time the air fryer heats up, if you run it hot and long enough, it will kill off any microbes growing on the unwashed residue, so it’s not very dangerous. However, this residue is tempting for bugs and other pests. It’s best to thoroughly wash the air fryer with soap every time you use it, just in case.
When I cook in my air fryer, I get crumbs everywhere. How do I get them out?
When I was air-frying mountains of chicken Parmesan during testing, I got panko everywhere. Most air fryers have several nooks and crannies where crumbs can get trapped, and it can be maddening to try to remove them.
First off: Check your fryer’s manual to see if any other parts are removable. For example, many oven-style models have doors that are completely removable, allowing you to clean around the hinges. It’s also helpful to have a handheld brush and dustpan, which can fit into larger models to sweep out the crumbs.
Unfortunately, if all else fails, the best method for crumb removal is inverting the entire fryer over the sink or trash can and giving it a good shake.
Is there anything else I need to know about cleaning air fryers?
After every three or four uses, it’s a good idea to let the air fryer fully cool and then inspect the heating element for stains or splatters (you may need to invert the entire body of the air fryer to get a good look).
It’s common for small amounts of grease to accumulate on the element over time; this built-up grease can burn and cause unpleasant odors. If you see any accumulation, wipe the element down with a damp cloth and make sure to dry it thoroughly. It’s also a good idea to give the air fryer’s exterior a good wipe every few uses.