11 Air fryer mistakes you’re probably making — and how to avoid them

A chicken with potatoes in an air fryer basket
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We all love using one of the best air fryers to cook up some of our favorite recipes. They produce delicious results time after time, with a crisp and tender texture which no other cooking method can seem to achieve. But, even if you use the best air fryer recipes, there are several mistakes you could easily be making which might ruin the meal. 

We’re not just talking about things you should never put in an air fryer; these are errors you could be making throughout the cooking process and avoiding them can make an air fryer last longer. Here, we will take you through 11 air fryer mistakes everybody makes as well as what you should do to fix them. 

If you love baking bread as well, be sure to check out these 8 bread maker mistakes you never knew you were making.

11 Air fryer mistakes — and how to fix them

The temperature on an air fryer being adjusted

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1. Forgetting to preheat — If you forget to preheat your air fryer, your food will not be cooked to the correct temperature for as long as necessary. As a result, food can be undercooked, or at least not as crisp as you’d like. 

Make sure you leave adequate time for your air fryer to preheat. We recommend setting it before you start preparing your food so you don’t have to wait. 

An air fryer with chicken nuggets laid out evenly across the basket

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2. Overfilling it — This is one of the most common mistakes. Because air fryers come with a deep basket, it can be all too tempting to fill it to the brink — but you should avoid this. The way air fryers cook is by circulating hot air, and if you block that circulation, the food will not be cooked evenly.

The best practice is to place your food in a single layer across the basket with space between each item for the air to flow. Smaller items such as French fries can be stacked, but you should watch the capacity here as well. If overcrowded, the fries will come out soggy and uneven. If you’ve got lots to cook, do it in a couple of batches, or purchase an air fryer with a larger capacity.

An air fryer basket being rinsed with water

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3. Not cleaning it — If you’re wondering how to clean an air fryer, it’s not just about hand washing or machine washing the accessories after each use. You can in fact deep clean an air fryer, and you should take the time to do this if you use it regularly.

Deep cleaning your air fryer will inevitably make it last longer and will get rid of any lingering smells as well, so there’s little reason not to. 

Crispy pork being picked up by a fork in an air fryer

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4. Forgetting to shake — Most of us assume the air fryer will do all of the work, but giving it a helping hand will produce better results. By shaking the basket, or flipping the food during the cooking process, it will cook more evenly. 

Don’t be afraid to take a look in the basket as your food cooks as well. It’s a small cavity, so it won’t take long to reheat. Plus, keeping an eye on your food will help achieve the perfect finish. 

A grilled cheese sandwich

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5. Putting things in it you shouldn’t — There are several things you should never put in an air fryer. These include lightweight items which may get blown around in the air current, such as herbs and seasoning, and things which can drip and burn, such as cheese and wet batter. 

This counts for things which are too large to go in there as well, such as whole chickens. Unless you have one of the best toaster ovens with a dedicated chicken program, this should not be attempted. 

Molasses Ginger Cookies

(Image credit: Steven Asarch/Tom's Guide)

6. Limiting yourself — Air fryers can do so much more than crisp up some chicken nuggets and French fries. Baking in an air fryer is entirely possible. Fresh cookies, mini pies and even brownies can be prepared from scratch. Take a look at some of our best air fryer recipes for some inspiration.   

An air fryer sitting on the counter in a kitchen

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7. Positioning — Make sure your air fryer has space to breathe on your countertop. Check the manual for guidance on the recommended distances. If your air fryer doesn’t have this space, it could overheat and even lead to a fire hazard. 

Make sure your air fryer is also sitting on a stable surface so it doesn’t travel or tip over from the vibration. 

Cosori Smart Wifi Air Fryer 5.8qt review

(Image credit: Cosori)

8. Using the wrong air fryer — Most of us are guilty of this one. Make sure the air fryer you're using is best suited to the amount or type of food you're cooking. If you're feeding an army, then you'll want a larger model that can cook more at once, which will save you from having to do multiple batches. Whether you’re looking for a compact model, or need to feed a family, there’s an air fryer in our list to suit every kitchen. 

Oil being poured into a spoon

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9. Using the wrong amount of oil — Some of us forget that air fryers require very little oil to run; that’s one of the main attractions. Most recipes will only need one-to-two teaspoons of oil; pouring in more on top of this won’t do anything for the results. 

Having said that, don’t be afraid to lightly coat your food in oil to help it crisp. Oil can also help seasoning stick if you don’t want the air fryer current blowing it away. 

Carrots being washed at a sink

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10. Air frying wet foods — If some of your recipes are coming out soggy, you might be frying them while wet. If your meat and veg has a wet surface, it will produce steam in the air fryer and take longer to crisp.

The answer to this is simple; pat the surface of the food dry with a paper towel prior to air frying.  

ThermoWorks Thermapen One

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11. Not checking the temperature — If you’re cooking something larger than anticipated in the recipe, or you’re winging it in terms of the cooking time, you’ll want to be sure of the final temperature. 

Using one of the best meat thermometers can take doubt out of the equation. With one of these, you know exactly when your meat is cooked and to what level.  

Be sure to check out what else we learned after owning an air fryer for a month.

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.