Because no one likes a soggy French fry

By Stacey Ballis
Updated September 11, 2020
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I was very late to the air fryer game. Part of me dismissed it as an appliance for families with kids, and part of me was just skeptical. It took some chef friends touting the benefits of this countertop appliance and giving me some advice on how to use it before I was willing to give it a shot.

And while I will still be making my fried chicken and frites in oil on the stovetop, I have found that certain things really lend themselves to this cooking method. I love dehydrating summer herbs and vegetables to preserve them for the coming winter, and air-roasting fresh veggies like green beans to crispy perfection, for example. I’m all in on my air fryer now, in other words, but I’ve also discovered there are some mistakes that can hurt your countertop, ruin your food, and even threaten your safety. Here are the top 5 air fryer mistakes and how to fix them.

1. It can wreck your countertop

Your air fryer is going to generate some serious heat, and if yours doesn’t come with feet to elevate it, that heat can damage your counters—certain materials can actually crack, scorch, or warp with the heat from these units.

How to fix it: Place your air fryer on a thick cutting board or on a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down to prevent intense heat from concentrating under the machine. Further, your air fryer will work best if it has plenty of air space around it, so don’t put this baby in the corner.

2. It turns into a fire hazard

While cooking with so much less oil is overall a pretty clean way to cook, dirt and grease can still build up in the machine, and it does get very hot, which can either be a fire hazard, a danger for contaminating future dishes, or can bake on the grunge and make it more difficult to clean later.

How to fix it: It’s a smart step to clean your air fryer as soon as it cools off from using, and many have parts that are dishwasher safe.

3. You end up with soggy or dry food

Low-oil cooking isn’t no-oil cooking. If you are following a recipe, be sure to use the amount of oil called for in order to get the ideal results: Adding too little will get you food that doesn’t crisp properly or eats dry; too much will get greasy.

How to fix it: The key to great air frying is to think like baby bear, not too much, not too little. You want it just right!

Credit: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

LauriPatterson/Getty Images

4. You can’t get things crispy

Just like your oven, an air fryer works best if you preheat it properly before cooking. if you add your food before the machine is at temperature, you risk either drying out your food because it will take so long to be fully cooked, or never getting the proper crisp on the outside that you are looking for because the lower heat will draw moisture to the surface.

How to fix it: Always preheat and remember that patience is a virtue. The end results will be worth the wait!

5. You overcrowd things

The single most common mistake people (and by people, I mean me) make when they start air frying is letting their eyes be bigger than their basket. Overcrowding your baskets or shelves blocks the convection movement of the heated air that the machines are designed to create, and you will end up with food that is cooked unevenly, not crispy all the way around, or will take much longer to cook than the recipes call for.

How to fix it: Be sure to give anything you put in the air fryer on shelves some space. Fill baskets loosely to the recommended level. If using an accessory with a spinning basket, make sure all the items have room to move around as it turns.

Top air fryer pick

Don’t have an air fryer yet? Grab the one I have, the Chefman 6.3-quart Digital Air Fryer. It comes with all the bells, whistles, and accessories; has a large capacity for families; and is super easy to use.

Buy it here: Chefman 6.3 Quart Digital Air Fryer ($127.99), amazon.com