Why is my air fryer smoking and how do I get it to stop? We asked the experts

Don't panic if you discover your air fryer smoking; we've got the answers to help you

An air fryer on a kitchen worktop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is your air fryer smoking? It can be a pretty scary sight at first, but it turns out that there may be more behind why your air fryer is smoking in the first place.

Even the best air fryers can malfunction; if you find your air fryer smoking when you use it, then don't panic. It actually isn't necessarily a sign that you need a new one; in fact, the solution to the problem could be a lot simpler than you'd think.

So, you can breathe a sigh of relief and can hold off clicking 'add to cart' on that new replacement air fryer for now, as we've got some experts to break down why your air fryer is smoking, and what you can do to get it to stop.

Why is my air fryer smoking?

It's never ideal when a household appliance suddenly starts doing something strange, but as Sam Milner explains, it's not always the end of the world (or at least that appliance's lifespan.) 

Sam Milner has been air frying for almost 12 years and is the co-author of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Complete Air Fryer Cookbook: 140 super-easy, everyday recipes and techniques, available on Amazon.

'I first noticed my air fryer smoking back in 2012 when we hadn’t had the air fryer for long and were cooking some sausages,' she recounts. 

'The smoke came out of both sides of the air fryer and the kitchen went foggy with smoke. These were the same sausages we had cooked for many years and were Richmond sausages. We soon realised the reason why our air fryer was smoking was the fat content of food: i.e., sausages that carry a lot of fat will cause a lot of smoke as the fat builds up in the air fryer.'

But it's not just meat that causes this, as Sam adds: 'We also noticed the same with other foods that are high fat such as Beyond Burgers (vegan hamburgers).' 

So, if your air fryer has suddenly started smoking, it could just be that whatever new recipe you are trying out has a higher fat content than what the air fryer can cope with.

To achieve their famously fast cooking times, air fryers get very hot very quickly, meaning fatty foods will spit and smoke inside the air fryer, and make your kitchen seem like something is burning (when it's not!)

Air fryer on kitchen worktop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

But worry not, it may just be that you have to change what you cook in your air fryer, as Sam explains: 'It soon reminded us that the air fryer is there for reducing our fat and that fatty foods like high-fat sausages and burgers would become a thing of the past.' 

After all, using less oil to cook food - and therefore less fat - is the main health benefit to be had from air fryer cooking, so a lot of models won't be intended for cooking fatty foods like sausages. They can also leave lots of oil in the air fryer afterwards, which means more cleaning for you.

But how can you get the smoking to stop? Sam tried the following: 'Beyond cleaning the air fryer halfway through cooking, which is crazy on a 10-minute cooking time, it's something you have to live with if cooking food that is very high in saturated fats.' 

If, like Sam, you find the idea of a mid-cook clean unmanageable, then Sam suggests you could also: 'opt for better quality sausages from the butchers instead.' These would have a higher meat content to fat ratio, and so would smoke less in an air fryer. 

Sam adds that it's also important to note that smoke and steam are not the same thing: 'Another thing I have noticed is that with the dual air fryers such as Ninja Dual Zone, their steam escapes from the front when air frying, whilst with traditional air fryer baskets the steam escapes from the back. This worries many people and they assume the air fryer is broken. It's just a steam release and doesn’t make the air smoky like fatty foods do.' 

Chips in the open basket of COSORI Turbo Blaze air fryer

(Image credit: Future PLC/Sara Hesikova)

We also asked Thea Whyte, an air fryer expert at AO.com, to share her expertise on why your air fryer may be smoking. She said:

 'If smoke is pouring out of your air fryer, then it could be that it’s due a clean. It’s always worth taking the time to clean the appliance so turn the appliance off and unplug this from the socket. Next, ensure there’s next to no dirt or debris present that could hinder your air fryer’s performance. To clean this, simply wipe down the baskets and trays with a soft sponge to remove any dirt and pop back into the base.'

This is the best course of action if your air fryer has been working fine and then suddenly started smoking - you probably need to figure out how to clean an air fryer properly - especially if it gets used a lot.

'Once clean, refrain from adding too much oil to your air fryer as this may be another cause behind any smoke,' Thea explains. 

'Air fryers work by circulating hot air around your food but cooking at high temperatures leads to smoke from excessive oil or fatty foods. Instead, either try to reduce the heat you cook your food or simply remove any oil to stop this from happening again.'


Why is my air fryer smoking?

Your air fryer may be getting smoky during cooking, for any of the following reasons:

  • You're cooking at too high a temperature for the food
  • You're using foods that are high in saturated fats (which don't cook well in air fryers)
  • You've used too much oil to cook your food in

How do I get my air fryer to stop smoking?

Here are some ways that you can get your air fryer to stop smoking: 

  • Reduce the amount of oil you use
  • Reduce the heat setting that you cook at (this may mean food takes longer to cook)
  • Cook foods that are lower in fats
  • Give the air fryer a thorough clean

Of course, your safety is the utmost priority; if after using the methods above, your air fryer continues to smoke, or emits lots of thick black smoke, then it's definitely time to unplug it from the wall and replace it. It may just be that it needs a refurb with the help of an expert; they'll also be able to tell you if you need to buy a new air fryer.  

Olivia Bevan

After graduating from Durham University in 2020, Olivia studied Modern Languages & Cultures, specifically French and German, where she had the opportunity to do a year abroad as part of her four-year course. This saw her living in Heidelberg for six months, then in Strasbourg for five months back in 2019, which has been one of the best experiences of her life so far. As a result of her lifelong passion for languages which started in primary school, Olivia can speak French and German, although not entirely fluently. She hopes to continue learning both and hopefully visit both countries more in the future. In the meantime, Duolingo will have to do.

Whilst at university, Olivia wrote reviews of student theatre pieces for various university publications, as well as writing voluntarily for a digital magazine during the pandemic. It was during this time that she discovered her love of writing reviews, mainly because she enjoys creating content that is helpful and informative for other readers.