5 signs you bought the wrong air fryer, according to experts

It’s not you… it’s the air fryer

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

Can’t quite get on board with the air fryer hype? Unimpressed with the air fryer that's gathering dust in your cupboard? Still choosing the oven over your air fryer? Well, it’s not you… it’s probably the air fryer. And these are the 5 signs that you bought the wrong air fryer. 

Of course, you probably don’t need us to tell you that the best air fryers are having a big moment right now. For the past few years, air fryers have taken the kitchen appliance world by storm, with customers falling in love with this quick and easy cooking tool. But if you’re struggling to maintain this air fryer love affair, you’re not alone. 

While millions of people are on the air fryer hype train, some just can’t get excited about the best dual-zone air fryers or the best air fryers for a family of four. But as air fryer aficionados (and with the help of air fryer experts), we’re here to tell you that the reason behind this is probably because you’re using the wrong one.

Signs you bought the wrong air fryer 

‘If I had a pound for each time someone told me they had bought the wrong air fryer, I would be a millionaire,’ explains Sam Milner, co-author of the best-selling air fryer cookbook, The Complete Air Fryer. But are you one of those people? Below, we’ve explained the 5 signs you bought the wrong air fryer. 

1. It’s not big enough for a full meal

There are so many different air fryer sizes on the market, from mini air fryers to much larger air fryers with huge basket litreage. But if your air fryer isn’t big enough to fit a whole meal, there’s a high chance that you bought the wrong one. 

Sam says, ‘There are several types of air fryers on the market, and what many people don’t realise is that they are tailored to different types of people and people's air fryer needs.’

Image of Ninja Dual Zone during testing at test centre

(Image credit: Future/Molly Cleary)

‘The smaller air fryer came to market for the widow/widower that only eats small portions and maybe has a tiny kitchen. But the problem is, it won't hold a lot of the trendy air fryer foods such as a whole chicken and he or she wouldn’t be able to use the air fryer for the whole meal. Instead, it would be just the chicken or just a salmon fillet or a single portion of chips.’

Because of this, it’s always a good idea to check the size of the basket and how much food it can hold before buying a new air fryer. In fact, this is something that the Ideal Home team checks when we test air fryers

Buying a too-small air fryer can teach an important lesson. ‘Many upgrade from the small air fryers (usually 2l) for the bigger 5.7l) and fully regret the first air fryer. But they do say it gives them experience and gets them used to the air fryer,’ adds Sam. 

We have seen a recent surge in flexi-drawer air fryers on the market such as the Ninja Foodi Flex drawer and even Lakeland has launched its own version. These allow you to adjust the size of the basket if you're still not sure how big an air fryer you need, or if your needs change day to day.

2. Your food isn't cooking correctly

Are you constantly opening up your air fryer to find burnt chips or undercooked meat? If the food you cook in your air fryer is always undercooked or overcooked, you’ve probably bought the wrong air fryer. 

Incorrectly cooked food could result from two potential problems: 1) Your air fryer isn’t the correct size, or 2) Your air fryer isn’t modern enough to deal with the intricacies of cooking. In fact, many people buy their air fryers for aesthetics over practicality - including appliances with a manual timer dial that makes it impossible to set a cooking time correctly.

AO’s air fryer expert, Thea Whyte, explains why this might not be the best option for you (or your food). She says, ‘Looking out for a timer function on your air fryer means you’ll never have to worry about overcooking your food. Models with this will either let you know when your food’s done, or they’ll simply turn themselves off.’

If you really want to make sure that your food is perfectly cooked, it may even be that a connected air fryer is the right option for you.

Chips in the open basket of COSORI Turbo Blaze air fryer

(Image credit: Future PLC/Sara Hesikova)

3. Your food is taking too long to cook

Most people buy into the air fryer hype because this appliance promises faster cooking for busy families or on-the-go workers. Of course, anyone with a quality air fryer will know that to be the case. 

But if your food is taking longer to cook than you’d like, you've probably bought the wrong type of air fryer. To be more specific, Sam has seen this repeatedly with those who have bought an air fryer oven. 

‘It’s sold as 3 shelves, but the problem is due to the air technology circulation. If you cook more than one shelf at once the cooking time is very slow and you have to keep swapping the shelves and you then realise you are quicker with the air fryer basket,’ she says.

Cheesecake being cooked in air fryer oven

(Image credit: Cuisinart)

However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get an air fryer oven at all. The type of air fryer you choose depends on your needs, and Sam herself has (and loves) her air fryer oven. She says, ‘But for us, we love the air fryer oven because of its rotisserie – which, if you like date nights in, girls' night in, or summer food, is perfect for you.’

Our Ideal Home tester was also a huge fan of this Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Multifunction Oven Air Fryer, giving it 4.5 stars out of 5 in her review

4. It’s impossible to clean

Knowing how to clean an air fryer is something every air fryer owner needs to have in their locker. And while there are so many air fryer cleaning hacks out there (including the tea bag hack), you may still struggle to get into the nooks and crannies of your air fryer basket. 

If that’s the case, it’s probably not your cleaning technique that’s leaving residue on your appliance. Instead, it’s probably the air fryer itself! 

Thea says, ‘Many air fryers come with dishwasher-safe components. They’re removable, meaning nothing gets in the way of wiping the inside, and putting everything in the dishwasher makes the clean-up easy.’ But that doesn’t mean that all of them are easy to remove. 

It’s incredibly important to keep your air fryer clean, so if you’re not able to clean it as thoroughly as you’d like, this is a clear sign that you’ve bought the wrong air fryer. In our experience, the Ninja dual zone air fryer is up there as the easiest to clean and use so could be worth the upgrade.

Millie Fender testing the Ninja Dual Zone air fryer

(Image credit: Future)

5. It’s costing you too much

Like any other kitchen appliance, the cost of running an air fryer all depends on the wattage and the power of the appliance. 

However, one of the biggest air fryer mistakes you can make is buying an air fryer without considering these factors. While a higher wattage will ultimately result in a more powerful air fryer that cooks your food in record time, a higher wattage also means that it’ll cost you more money. 

Because of this, you may find that using your air fryer costs you too much money, and you may fall out of love with it. But the key to buying a new air fryer is finding a balance between a high-quality air fryer that offers impressive power while also offering energy-saving features. 

The Category Marketing Director EMEA at Ninja explains, ‘With consumers looking for more efficient and cost-saving ways to cook food, air fryers offer a more energy efficient way to cook than a standard oven. For example, our Ninja air fryers save users up to 75% on their energy consumption compared to a conventional oven.’

So, make sure you check the specs of a new air fryer before pulling the plug. 


What to avoid when buying air fryer?

You should avoid buying an air fryer that doesn’t suit your needs and that can be separated into a few different categories.

For starters, you need to make sure that you’re buying the right size. If you’re living solo and prefer basic meals, a smaller air fryer should suit you just fine. But if you’re a large family with multiple needs and tastes, a larger air fryer with multiple baskets and multi-zone functionality will suit you better. 

You also need to think about functionality. Do you just want an air fryer? Or do you want an air fryer that also has the option to dehydrate, roast, bake, and more. If you go too basic, you may just end up regretting your decision.

So, always do your research and read the write-ups and reviews of an air fryer before you buy. 

When should I throw away my air fryer?

If you regularly use an air fryer, you should expect it to have a lifespan of around 3 to 5 years - but there’s no exact science when it comes to the longevity of an air fryer. Instead, you should look out for a few key features to see when you should throw it away. They are:

  • Decreased performance.
  • Inconsistent cooking.
  • Strange noises or smells.
  • Visible wear and tear.
  • You’re bored of it! 

If you can resonate with the signs that you bought the wrong air fryer, it’s probably time for an upgrade. 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.