Hi there fellow air fryer guys and gals, and welcome to the Air fryer bro’s first article! (and hopefully not his last!) Today, we will be answering one of the questions I have heard more times than I care to remember! Why does my air fryer smoke? Why is my air fryer smoking? And more importantly, how to stop it? We don’t mean that we come home to find our air fryer puffing on a freshly lit cigarette! We mean white smoke coming out of our machine when it is cooking! An Air fryer is quite a new kitchen appliance, so a lot of users still seem to need help with this problem.
An air fryer will start smoking due to excess fat and/or oil that can build up whilst cooking. This is particularly the case when cooking high fat food types, such as hamburgers or air fried bacon. Usually, this extra fat or oil will build up in the bottom of the air fryer’s cooking compartment, and will start smoking due to the high temperatures inside the air fryer making it burn. You may also see this smoke if the element in the top of your air fryer has food particles burned onto it from a previous round of cooking too.
So, now that we have detailed the cause of this problem, we can talk about how you can refine your air fryer cooking process to stop it! I can remember my own personal horror the first time my air fryer started billowing white smoke. Many questions started running through my head, such as whether this smoke was normal for an air fryer, and whether my air fryer was broken?? No-one wants white smoke coming out of their air fryer, right!!
Not to mention that it stunk out my kitchen and half of my apartment!
As stated above, an air fryer is quite a new kitchen appliance, so it seems not to be common knowledge about what to do in this situation.
And the white smoke problem is one which can affect even the best air fryers. It’s more about the way the air fryer is used than a problem with the actual appliance.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. What can we do about it? I hope to offer some answers here.
What can we do about a smoking air fryer?
Before we get into the answers, I will say that I have owned two air fryers in my life. The first was a generic Chinese brand, and the second is my current air fryer, a Philips variety. The tips I will give worked great for both of these models, and I would assume they would also work well for other brands of air fryers too.
In my experience, as stated above, the cause I have seen for an air fryer to emit smoke is a buildup of oil or fat whilst cooking particularly fatty foods or air fryer recipes. There may be other situations where your air fryer smokes, but for me personally, this is what I have experienced.
How can I tell if food is fatty or not?
Some food, such is bacon, is obviously going to be fatty. For some others, it isn’t so clear (are french fries fatty, for example?). For those items, this is what you should do.
After cooking an item for the first time, take out the air fryer’s cooking compartment and take a look at the bottom. When you tilt it to one side, if you see a defined pool of oil that has built up then the food is either fatty or a lot of fat comes out of it when cooked (weirdly, chicken also does this for me if it has skin on it). You can only check this straight after the food is cooked, and the oil is hot. Otherwise, it will solidify and will be much harder to define the quantity of oil, and whether it is enough to worry about!
Simply by reducing recipes with excessive amounts of fatty smoke making ingredients, we can already have less of a problem to deal with!
With that out of the way, let’s get on with the best tips to reduce smoke:
Tip 1: Soak Up That Oil!!
Essentially, the main ways to solve white smoke coming out of your air fryer are pretty straight forward. This first method involves using something to soak up the excess oil or grease that is collecting in the bottom of the air fryer’s cooking compartment (under the air fryer basket). The best way I have found to do this is to add a slice of bread to the bottom of this compartment.
When you do this, the oil and grease is soaked up and it should prevent any white smoke action with whatever you cook.
I suppose any food stuff or natural material that can soak up liquid could be used, as long as it doesn’t easily catch on fire from the heat. You can totally experiment with this!
The only thing I don’t like about this method is the fact that it will waste food, as I wouldn’t recommend eating the bread when done with this method!
Tip 2: Dilute that oil!!
The other school of thought with this hot oil burning problem, is to dilute the excess oil that has gathered. The easiest way to do this is to add some water to the bottom of your air fryer’s cooking compartment.
Then you will automatically dilute any excess oil and stop it burning and smoking.
Which Method is Best?
So, let’s cut to the chase here. Out of the two methods that I am sharing to reduce your air fryer’s smoke, which one is best?
Personally, I always default to putting bread in the bottom of the air fryer’s cooking compartment. This is because it seems to soak up a lot more oil without requiring any further input from me.
This can’t be said of the water method. If you don’t add enough water, the water/oil mix will still get to a temperature that will make it start smoking again. I have struggled with always adding enough water, and have still found that smoking can happen more than I would like.
Some people have reported that the water method may make the food soggy or wet in some way. I have never had any such problems when using this method. The food still comes out really nice and crispy.
I would encourage you to try both methods, and let me know which one you like the best!
Anything else to remember?
We have already gone over my tips on preventing a smoky air fryer, but is there anything else important we should bear in mind? Although you only need the tips above for the more extreme oil generating foods or recipes, there are still situations where you should be aware of any oil build up.
This is especially the case if you are cooking multiple loads in the air fryer. Even a pretty small amount of oil residue per load can build up over time and result in smoking.
So get into the habit! Make sure to regularly empty out any excess oil or leftover grease that builds up, even with foods that are less fatty.
Often, I will cook food in the air fryer in short bursts, to make sure all items are well cooked and crispy. After each short burst, I will turn or shake the food to ensure this. I have even gotten into the habit of checking for excess fat in between each of these bursts, emptying out any that I find.
Especially, as I like to walk away from my air fryer while it is cooking, and I don’t want to return to a room full of white smoke!!
The other thing to remember is that oil can even build up on the top heating element of your air fryer. Be sure to check it out regularly and clean your heating element before it starts, causing another reason for white smoke!
Finally, you might want to make sure any oil you use inside your air fryer has a higher smoke point, just to make sure you are not contributing to the smoking! I have an article on this site about the best oil for use in air fryers. A lot of people swear by avocado oil, for example.
Once you are aware of this smoking problem with your air fryer and what causes it, you will start automatically doing things to prevent the problem arising again. This is certainly what I have found, anyway! And if all else fails, simply cook at a lower temperature!
I wish air fryer makers would….
Now that we have gone over this problem of smoking air fryers and what to do about it, I want to address the bigger picture of air fryers in general.
I almost feel like this problem shouldn’t occur. To me it’s is the result of a design fault or limitation in air fryer technology. This is why many people seem surprised or even shocked when their shiny new air fryer starts billowing white smoke faster than a Jane Austen Steam train (a what??).
I feel like air fryer manufacturers could totally get rid of this problem if they designed into their best air fryers a way for this excess oil to filter out of the main cooking compartment and into a small tray underneath. A simple drain would do the trick.
Would this compromise the ability of the air fryer to cook? Would it mean it can’t reach such high temperatures as heat would escape too? Or is it just an oversight on the part of the air fryer manufacturers (certainly of the air fryers I have seen).
I am not an engineer or expert in design. If you are, I would love to hear all about your ideas in the comments section below. We would also love to hear from you if you have your own alternative remedy to the smoking problems described in this article. I will keep adding any new tips (that work) to this article as we find them!
Happy air frying!!
Air Fryer Bro over and out!
Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQ to you!!)
Here are some answers to questions I see frequently pop up around this topic of smoking air fryers!
Can my air fryer overheat?
It is very unlikely that a modern air fryer will overheat if used as instructed. These are modern appliances with electronically controlled heat chambers, after all. The only possible exceptions to this would be if you buy a sub par or low quality air fryer. Always buy a good, well-known brand!
Just be careful not to cover up the air vent at the back. This is to vent hot air out of your air fryer. Also, only use very small amounts of oil inside your air fryer. Make sure food is not too close to or on the air fryers heating element. Often, this is because of overfilling.
Can you use foil in a air fryer?
Yes, you can. Just be sure that it doesn’t end up flying around your air fryer (potentially jamming inside the heating element and causing a fire hazard). Also, an air fryer relies on good air flow. Do not cover up the holes of your air fryer accessories to prevent this good air flow.
Do air fryers set off smoke alarms?
Normally, air fryers are not supposed to emit any type of smoke and won’t set off a smoke alarm. However, users have found that adding some oil to their food can make it more crispy. When this is not done with due care and attention, we can start seeing white smoke coming out of an air fryer (which WILL set off a smoke alarm). Also, particularly fatty foods can have a similar effect! By using the tips in this article, you should be able to avoid this.
What if we see black smoke coming out of our air fryer?
When you first smell smoke coming out of your air fryer, more often than not, this will be black smoke. Black smoke should never come out of an air fryer, so if you see this, your appliance has a fault. Please switch it off and return to the manufacturer as soon as possible (hopefully, when it is still under warranty).
Can air fryers catch fire?
Although it is very unlikely in my experience, it is still possible. Although usually this is down to a technical fault with the air fryer or user neglect (such as walking away from the air fryer when in use). Read my full article on the potential of air fryer fires if you want the full lowdown.