When you purchase a new appliance, it can be hard to determine whether it is behaving correctly or not.
Is the sound it makes normal? When is it time to call the manufacturer?
Air fryers are solid little machines, but as with any appliance, things can go wrong. It could have a defect before you even buy it, as some manufactured items are just lemons, an accident could happen, or problems could be due to improper use.
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Much of what goes wrong with an air fryer can be traced to human error. Its a new kitchen gadget, and mistakes are going to happen, especially as air fryers have a few quirks, and it isn’t likely that the new user is versed in all of them. Here are some problems that are usually due to user confusion and how to correct them:
Problems that are probably linked to user error:
1. “White smoke”: This would alarm anyone, surely, as any smoke coming from a machine should. In the case of air fryers, the most likely cause is too much fat or oil in the appliance.
Note on smoking air fryers: Many tutorials discuss white, black, and blue smoke with varying explainations. Try to determine if the smoke is actually steam, and to identify how it smells. Does it smell like food, or a burning clutch, or an electrical fire? Proceed from your observations, and always take smoke seriously.
To put briefly what has been explained at length elsewhere, air fryers do require a little oil, but it’s not applied directly to the air fryer. The oil should be lightly sprayed on the food, for crispness and browning.
Also, some foods, such as bacon, have a very high natural fat content. There is a trick, often used by professional Chefs, of laying the bacon flat on parchment paper to absorb some of the grease it emits, but whether one should use an air fryer to cook bacon at all is questionable.
A novice air fryer cook can’t be blamed for thinking that air fried bacon will be less fatty and giving it a try, but that white smoke will teach them. Also, people new to air frying often think that if it cooks so well without a pan of hot oil, adding a little extra oil or fat will lead to even better results. It doesn’t.
No appliance ventilates smoke well. That’s why ovens have hoods. An air fryer emitting smoke indicates that fat is burning off. It’s unclear why the pamphlets insistently say that the smoke is ‘white’. We did find one that claimed that the smoke is black.
Oil smoke generally smells like a grease fire, not an electric one. If the smoke is black and the smell electric, or of burning plastic, the cause probably isn’t over oiling.
2. Steam: Less alarming than smoke, steam simply means that your cooking method, or the food you are cooking, is too wet. Air fryers aren’t suitable for soups or stews. They work by using a very dry heating method, which is why you need to spray foods with oil to protect their natural moisture and achieve the right crispness.
An air fryer will not work for steaming veggies, unless you use a very specific technique to do so, involving a covered pot and a few spoonfuls of water, which we have never demo tested. Boiling veggies won’t work any better in an air fryer than it would in an oven.
Also, foods dripping with very loose, wet batters like tempura are doomed in an air fryer, even if such a batter magically crisps in hot oil.
So if your air fryer is steaming, think about what might be too wet. Even cleaning your air fryer and leaving the parts quite damp when you reassemble them could cause steam. Happily, this won’t lead to any permanent damage.
3. The machine won’t turn on: You checked that the machine is plugged in, right? Right. We all miss that once in a while.
With an air fryer, you must press the Power On button before you have selected the temperature and time, or chosen a preset, then press Power On again, and allow it to preheat. Air fried foods usually need to be shaken, stirred, or flipped, but don’t turn the power off when you do so, or you need to power it back up to continue.
4. Difficulty sliding outer basket into place: Similar to smaller kitchen appliances such as food processors, juicers, and mixers, all of the parts of an air fryers have to be inserted correctly or the appliance won’t fit together. This is probably for your safety. If the basket won’t slide in, reassemble the other parts, making sure they fit snugly and try again. Lift the basket a little while sliding to position it correctly.
5. The air fryer is hot to the touch: As with any cooking appliance excepting microwaves, air fryers become hot to the touch while in use. Warn your friends and children about this if necessary.
6. Undercooking or overcooking of food: A major complaint about air fryers is that the suggested cooking times and temperatures are not always accurate, and in our view it is rarely wise to rely on presets, be it programmed into any cooking appliance. Even the best, most usable recipe can’t predict how big your ‘large’ eggs are, or at what altitude you live, or how wet or dry your veggies are, or whether you put the ingredients in the air fryer at room temperature or refrigerator cold.
On top of this, air fryers vary by make and model. You simply have to learn to adjust your air fryer’s times and temperatures so they work for yo
7. Other cooking issues: Especially fries. Let’s look at this issue from afar for a moment. Air frying is a new concept, and what better to introduce it with than the most familiar and beloved of fried foods, the french fry?
And fries are the first dish that most people try to cook in their new air fryer, which unfortunately leads to mixed results because fries are also the poster food for using correct technique in an air fryer. We’ve noticed that the manufacturer response that people are using the wrong kind of potatoes is far from helpful. It’s probably not your potatoes.
Since fries are so popular, they come in many different forms, and people have their particular favorites, only a few rules apply to all air ‘fried’ fries. One rule is to never overcrowd your basket. This is true of any cooking method, as is that you must shake the basket, just like you see professional fry cooks do.
If you use precooked fries, they should be sprayed with a little oil before air frying, as most air fryer ‘fried’ food should be.
Personally, we always boil raw, cut fries for a few minutes before frying them.
Raw potatoes should be dropped into a bucket/pan/bowl of water as they are cut. Most people know that this prevents discoloration, but it also rinses away excess starch and potato liquid. A freshly cut, very moist potato verges on one of those wet foods you shouldn’t try to air fry if you want crisp results.
If you are determined to cook raw, potatoes straight from your cutting board, do choose a drier variety of potato (russet), and hope for the best, because potatoes vary from crop to crop just like any vegetable does.
As for other cooking problems, if your food cooks unevenly, flip it, or stir it, and don’t forget that spritz of oil to help with even cooking and browning.
8. Lingering food odors: The air fryer needs to be cleaned. Convection cooking sprays tiny particles of food around more than conventional cooking does.
Common Cooking Problems
1. Black or blue smoke: An air fryer emitting black, noxious fumes is in trouble. Unplug it right away. This is very uncommon, but it could be dangerous, and you should immediately consider returning the machine.
If you are not faint of heart, you might examine the air fryer, once it has cooled of course, to see if there is a visible cause for the smoke. Did something get stuck in the motor somehow? Did a lot of grease build up unnoticed? Did your children try to air fry their Barbies or dismantle the machine to see how it works?
2. Air fryer won’t power up at all. Since you’ve consulted number 2, above, and know that your air fryer is plugged in and that you turn it on correctly, you may have an electrical problem in your machine, and should call the manufacturer.
3. Timer and temperature control issues: There are complaints of this defect on the web. It would be best to call the tech support number for the maker of your machine to resolve this issue. We did not see any at home resolutions offered online.
Need help with your air fryer? Post the problem you’re having below and we’ll try to help!
featured image source: Fiona Moore