How Long To Let Your Air Fryer Cool Before Cleaning It

Air fryers are a relatively new addition to the world of kitchen appliances, but they have quickly become one of the most indispensable. While they are predominantly meant to fry food, there are very few things that an air fryer can't do: it can bake warm cookies, crisp up strips of bacon, roast entire chickens, reheat leftovers, and even make hardboiled eggs. Not to mention, its ability to fry food with minimal oil can make fried foods just a touch healthier, and there's no hassle of disposing hot oil afterward.

But for an air fryer to work its magic, it needs to be cleaned after each use. That's right: an air fryer must be thoroughly cleaned whenever any food is cooked inside. But to do so, it's important to let it cool down first. To get your air fryer ready for cleaning after food has been removed, you should unplug the appliance and let the insides cool down completely. This typically takes about 30 minutes or so, but don't wait any longer — letting the air fryer cool for hours will only make the cleaning job harder.

How to clean an air fryer

There's a difference between a freshly cooled and a cooled-last-night air fryer. While it's important to let the air fryer cool lest it lead to burns, the key is to find the sweet spot between a cool and a too-cool air fryer. Letting the air fryer sit for too long will harden all the grease, grime, and food drippings, making them stubbornly stick to the insides and, consequently, harder to remove. This is why you should ideally clean an air fryer as soon as its insides are cool to the touch.

To get started with the cleaning, make sure to wipe off any loose dirt with a damp cloth. Next, remove the basket and its base, and rinse them in warm soap water with a gentle, non-abrasive sponge that won't wear off the non-stick coatings. You could soak them in soapy water if there's more stubborn gunk or pop them in a dishwasher if the air fryer's manual says it is safe to do so.

It's also important to wipe the insides of the air fryer, including the bottom and the heating coil on the top. Spraying a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water on the inside and gently scrubbing it with some baking soda will help dissolve stubborn grime whereas the heating coil can simply be wiped down with a damp towel. Once everything is clean, wait until all the parts have dried completely before you assemble them and switch on the air fryer again.

What happens when you don't clean your air fryer

Cleaning your air fryer after every single use can be a nuisance, especially because one of the highlights of the appliance is its convenience. Nevertheless, it must be done. Cleaning and sanitizing an air fryer ensures that you've gotten rid of harmful bacteria after each use, which would otherwise grow on the surface and significantly increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. For example, bacteria like campylobacter and salmonella that are present in uncooked poultry can linger inside your air fryer for four and 32 hours, respectively, infecting any food cooked in it after as well (via USDA). Not cleaning an air fryer also increases the risk of cross-contamination. Any peanuts, gluten-laced foods, or allergens cooked in an air fryer can transfer to the next batch of food if not thoroughly cleaned in between, triggering a chain of allergic reactions.

But it's not just bacteria and cross-contamination — food particles stuck inside a dirty air fryer will also prevent the appliance from working at full capacity and cooking your food properly. To make things worse, the build-up of grease, along with stray food particles, can burn and make your air fryer smoke. In some cases, it can even start a fire! Considering the havoc that an unclean air fryer can wreck, it's easier to simply clean the appliance preferably right after it cools down at that.