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Plus, how often you should be cleaning your appliance.

By Krissy Brady
March 02, 2021
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ninja air fryer
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When you're a fan of fried, well, everything, an air fryer isn't just a trendy kitchen gadget—it's a game-changer. Air fryers require very little oil to get the job done, so not only do you get to enjoy all of your fried favorites with less fat and fewer calories, there's not as much grease and grime to clean up afterward. Because of how convenient and efficient air frying is, cleaning your air fryer might not feel as urgent as the cleaning required following traditional deep-frying methods. (We feel you.) But cleaning at least the basic components of your air fryer after each use is important in maintaining these perks.

"If an air fryer isn't cleaned after each use, the leftover food particles can get stuck to places they shouldn't be and potentially mess up the appliance," says Cyrus Bedwyr, kitchen and oven cleaning expert at Fantastic Services. A dirty air fryer will heat up slower, consume more energy and require way more elbow grease to clean.

You're also more likely to get a foodborne illness if you're using dirty kitchen equipment: "If you don't clean your air fryer regularly, old food particles and germs will build up in the basket and contaminate the food you put in it," says Janilyn Hutchings, certified professional in food safety and food scientist for StateFoodSafety.

What Not to Do When Cleaning an Air Fryer

When cleaning your air fryer, never use utensils to remove stuck-on food. "Your air fryer comes with a nonstick coating, which is very easy to scratch and wear away when scraped by utensils," says Bailey Carson, head of cleaning at Handy. The same goes for steel wool, metal scrubbers or abrasive sponges.

You shouldn't use disinfectant to clean your air fryer, either, as disinfectants aren't typically safe for food-contact surfaces. "If you choose to use a sanitizing solution to keep your air fryer germ-free, double-check the label to make sure it's been approved for food-contact surfaces," says Hutchings. "A few approved sanitizers are chlorine, iodine and quaternary ammonium."

The high heat of a dishwasher is another great way to sanitize your air fryer—just make sure to check your air fryer's manual to confirm your basket, tray and pan are dishwasher-safe before popping them in, Hutchings adds.

You also want to make sure your air fryer is unplugged before wiping it down, and avoid submerging the main unit in water, so as to not shock yourself or short-circuit the unit.

How Often You Should Clean an Air Fryer

Ideally, your air fryer should be cleaned after every use in order to avoid charred food and gunk buildup. But there are certain parts where an occasional clean will suffice.

"The parts of your air fryer that must be washed after each use are the basket, tray and pan," says Bedwyr. "These can either be washed by hand, or depending on the particular model of air fryer, added to your next dishwasher load." Wiping down the interior after each use is also a good idea.

Since air fryers require a minimal amount of oil in order to work, there isn't as much greasy residue left behind after each use, so you don't need to clean the appliance's exterior as often as its interior, says Bedwyr. Feel free to wipe down your air fryer's exterior after every few uses.

Your air fryer's heating coil can be checked every couple of months for oil residue. "If you notice it's become a bit dirty, unplug the appliance and clean the coil with a damp cloth," says Bedwyr, letting it thoroughly dry before using your air fryer again.

How to Clean an Air Fryer from Start to Finish

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you start cleaning your air fryer, first gather all of the necessary tools and supplies.

These include:

Step 2: Let Your Air Fryer Cool Down

Unplug your air fryer and let it cool for a minimum of 30 minutes. Once cooled, take all of the removable parts out of the appliance (basket, tray, pan).

Step 3: Clean the Removable Parts

Wash the removable parts in warm soapy water. "If you notice there's some baked-on grease or charred food on the parts, let them soak in hot soapy water for about 10 to 15 minutes, after which you can scrub them using a nonabrasive sponge," says Bedwyr. (Or, provided they're dishwasher safe, you can pop them in the dishwasher.)

For any hard-to-wash parts of the fryer or super-stubborn food residue that won't come off, you can make a cleaning paste of baking soda and water. "Scrub the paste onto the residue with a soft-bristle brush and wipe clean," says Carson.

Step 4: Clean the Interior

Wipe down the interior of your air fryer using a damp microfiber cloth or nonabrasive sponge with a splash of dish soap on it. Then wipe any soap residue off with a clean damp cloth.

Step 5: Check on the Heating Element

Turn your air fryer upside-down and use a damp cloth or nonabrasive sponge to wipe down the heating element.

Step 6: Clean the Exterior

Just like the interior, wipe down the exterior using a cloth or sponge with a bit of dish soap. Wipe away any remnants of the soap with a clean damp cloth, then polish the outside up with a paper towel.

Step 7: Reassemble Your Air Fryer

Check to make sure every nook and cranny of your air fryer is thoroughly dry. Assemble all of the removable parts into the main unit and voilà! Your air fryer is ready to rock.

This story originally appeared on eatingwell.com