11 common air fryer mistakes to avoid, according to the experts

If you've invested in an air fryer, it pays to ensure you're using it correctly

Air fryers line up from testing day
(Image credit: Future Photostudio / Philip Sowels)

Everywhere you go it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll encounter the mention of an air fryer. However, is it possible that in purchasing this sought-after appliance, you may unknowingly fall victim to air fryer mistakes?

The best air fryers guarantee to make your mealtimes quicker and easier, as well as help you save energy. Air fryers aren't new per se, but there's no denying that they've certainly shot up in popularity in recent years.

Irrespective of whether you've opted for the best small air fryer or the best dual-zone model, it's natural to make some mistakes and get lost in the sea of fancy presets. If you've taken the time to research, it pays to ensure you're using your air fryer correctly  – even more so if you're only planning on joining the air fryer train this month in hopes of scoring a Black Friday air fryer deal.

That's why we've teamed up with experts to discuss some of the most common air fryer mistakes people make and how you can avoid them to help protect your investment for longer.

air fryer cooking chips on countertop

(Image credit: Future Photostudio / Philip Sowels)

11 air fryer mistakes – and how to avoid them

We know that there are plenty of questions still yet to be answered about the air fryer, and while we may not cover them all, we can at least be aware of what not to do with this holy grail appliance.

Appliance experts both in-house and from some of our favourite brands have given us the lowdown on some of the most common mistakes they've seen people make when using an air fryer, in the hopes of guiding us so we don't fall into the same trap.

Millie Fender
Millie Fender

Millie is the Head of Reviews for Ideal Home, working to ensure that the products we feature have been thoroughly tested before we recommend them to you. Previously Small Appliance and Cookware Editor, she remains our go-to expert for all things air fryer related. She's constantly reviewing the latest and greatest kitchen appliances, and has tested the large majority of options in this guide to tell you exactly what you need to know about them. 

1. Following oven instructions

Have you finally weighed out the pros and cons in the age-old air fryer vs oven debate and crowned air fryers the winner? If you're transitioning from using a traditional oven to an air fryer, you might be taking some old habits into this new kitchen venture. However, Ideal Home's Head of Reviews, Millie Fender warns us that this is one of the first mistakes people make when using an air fryer.

'When following the recommended oven cook times, you'll often end up with burnt food,' she says. 'As a general rule of thumb, take 20% off the recommended time and then check it. You can usually expect food to cook quicker in an air fryer.'

Lakeland air fryer on kitchen countertop

(Image credit: Philip Sowells / Future Photostudio)

2. Not washing it after every use

'This is a common mistake and can also be a costly one,' warns Emily Mies, household appliance buyer at Studio. 'Just like you would a frying pan, you should remove any crumbs or grease from the baskets after each use. The longer you don’t clean the residue, the worse it will get, which could ultimately cost you your machine.'

Graham Speake, UK & Ireland's country manager at Princess Appliances adds, 'Leaving crumbs and the coating of old oil can lead to a smoky machine in the future.'

There are various air fryer models that employ the use of removable baskets to make the job of cleaning an air fryer more bearable, therefore, there isn't any reason to leave your appliance dirty after using it. Some of our favourite models that we've tested with dishwasher-safe baskets are the Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer and the Ninja AF100UK Air Fryer.

Ensuring good practice with keeping your air fryer clean will ensure its longevity in your kitchen. 

air fryer insert being hand washed in kitchen sink

(Image credit: Future Photostudio / Philip Sowels)

3. Not cleaning it correctly

Following the last point, while it's important to clean your air fryer after every use, it's important that you clean your air fryer the right way.

'There's no need to fill the machine with water and washing up liquid,' explains Graham. 'Give it a good clean all around with a damp microfibre cloth (like these from Amazon) while the machine is still warm – not hot!'

Emily at Studio warns, 'You should never add water to any electrical equipment – especially an air fryer. This is another costly mistake that can damage the air fryer beyond repair.'

4. Using too much oil

Another big mistake people make when using an air fryer is treating it like a frying pan or deep-fat fryer. Millie Fender warns against utilising the appliance in this way 'because it'll only fall through the cracks!'

When cooking with an air fryer, Millie recommends only using a 'dribble or a spritz of oil.' Even better yet, Graham at Princess Appliances says it's 'better to use pre-coated food if possible' to avoid runny batter or sauces dropping off into the base.

Additionally, Zoe McClean, senior home economist at Breville says 'skin on chicken or sausages, for example' will also not need oil. However, she advises that 'you might like to add a little to homemade chips, roast potatoes, raw meat, and certain fish.'

'This helps the cooking and browning process, but keep this to a minimum.'

cooking with air fryer on countertop

(Image credit: Future Photostudio / Philip Sowels)

5. Overcrowding the air fryer basket

This is an air fryer sin that many people make, and while it might seem like a time-efficient way to cook, more often than not you'll just end up with soggy, unevenly cooked food. Yum. Yeah, no...

'The most common mistake you see with people using their air fryer is overfilling the food tray,' warns Thea Whyte, small appliances expert at AO.com. 'Overcrowding the basket causes food to cook unevenly and it can end up spoiling your meal.'

'Instead, try spreading out your food or even reduce the amount you place into the basket.'

Alternatively, if you always find yourself with the need to fill the basket to the brim or often cook in batches, it might even be worth investing in a dual-zone model, like the Amazon exclusive Ninja dual-zone air fryer.

air fryer cooking chips on countertop

(Image credit: Future Photostudio / Philip Sowels)

6. Forgetting to shake the basket

On the note of ensuring even cooking in an air fryer, shaking the basket is a must. 'Some air fryer models don’t do the stirring or mixing for you, so remember to give your food a good shake during the cooking process to ensure even cooking,' says Adele Brennan, home electricals buyer at VonHaus.

Graham advises, 'Give the basket a good shake two to three times while cooking.'

Even better yet, some air fryers will even beep halfway through your scheduled cooking time to remind you.

7. Thinking you can 'set it and forget it'

Following on from the previous mistake, many people also think that an air fryer is an appliance that you can just 'set and forget' – and while you technically can do this, it's not the best practice.

Graham warns that customers who don't check the food until the timer has finished will often end up with uneven cooking. He recommends checking your food 'two or three times while cooking.'

People might even opt for a model with a see-through cooking window to cut the job in half and have all eyes on their cooking without having to pull out the basket.

Image of Instant Vortex 6 in 1 on countertop

(Image credit: Future Studios/Phillip Sowels)

8. Forgetting to preheat

Preheating an air fryer is a far quicker job than preheating your traditional oven, but many still forget to do it. Graham spots this as one of the (if not the most) common air fryer mistakes people are making, saying that 'people often do not preheat the oven enough and end up with undercooked food.'

'Remember, the air fryer is much smaller than a conventional oven so it will heat up much quicker and at a much lower cost. Preheat it properly.'

9. Ignoring the pre-sets

'Sometimes food can look lovely and brown on the outside but can then be cold or even worse – raw on the inside. This is because the oven is too hot for the food you are cooking,' warns Zoe at Breville.

'Make use of the pre-sets built into your air fryer for chips, chicken, vegetables and meat. These are set to the recommended cooking temperature and are fully interchangeable, allowing different-sized foods to cook evenly.'

Alternatively, you can use an air fryer conversion chart to figure out temperatures and timings from a traditional oven, if that's more your style.

10. Not utilising air fryer accessories

There are countless air fryer accessories on the market that will come readily available with your air fryer or as a separate purchase. These accessories have been specially designed to streamline your air fryer experience further, so don't turn your nose up at them.

'Most air fryers include a removable air flow tray. These are designed to allow air to circulate and pass under your food allowing even cooking so don’t forget to pop this in before use,' says Zoe. 'These are easy to remove if you want to make a stir fry or curry.'

Additionally, some of our favourite accessories include a spray bottle for oil, castor wheels to help glide your air fryer in and out of place, and silicone tongs. Recently, we've also been turning to the best air fryer cookbooks to elevate our cooking experience.

Image of Dreo air fryer on countertop

(Image credit: Future Studios/Phillip Sowels)

11. Buying a model not best suited to you

There are air fryer models to suit anyone and everyone, whether you're cooking for just yourself or preparing meals for a large household. From recommended air fryers for a family of four to the most affordable models under £100, there's something on the market that will suit whatever lifestyle you lead.

If you're someone who can't give your air fryer a glowing review, it might be because you haven't bought a model best suited to you.

'Many people buy the smallest, simplest machine they can and are disappointed that they can't cook enough food or types of food to directly replace their conventional oven,' says Graham. 'There are many types and sizes of air-fryer, make sure you do your research to get the machine you need.'

We know deciding on an air fryer can be a tricky thing to do, so we recommend making a list of features to look for in an air fryer that are important to you to funnel your search. And if in doubt, browsing through our pick of the best air fryers isn't a bad place to start either.

Image of air fryers from Tefal, Lakeland and Dreo during an air fryer testing day at the Future testing facility

(Image credit: Future/Phillip Sowels)


Will an air fryer save me money?

Yes, an air fryer will save you money. Switching from an oven to an air fryer means you will be using less energy, and subsequently, your energy bills will go down.

Can you put foil in an air fryer?

Since air fryers work in the same way a fan oven does, yes, you can put foil in an air fryer. However, there are certain models that warn against putting foil in an air fryer due to the possibility of limiting correct air flow to your meals.

Alternatively, we recommend opting for air fryer liners instead if you're trying to limit mess when cooking things like pasta bakes or lasagne.

Which air fryer is the best?

The best air fryer is all down to personal preference and your specific needs. However, our #1 rated air fryer that we've tested and reviewed at Ideal Home is the Ninja Foodi FlexDrawer Air Fryer.

It has a generous capacity, doesn't need to be preheated, and can easily be switched between being a single or dual-zone model to suit flexible cooking needs.

People often say that knowledge is power, and we agree. Being aware of these most common air fryer mistakes you could be making is the first step to correcting them so you can ensure you're using your trusty air fryer to the best of its capability.

This means you can protect your investment and save time, money, and energy in the kitchen for longer. It's a win-win all around.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.