8 air fryer mistakes I made – and how you can avoid them

I share the common air fryer mistakes I was guilty of making and explain how you can avoid them for the best-tasting food

An open air fryer with waffle fries inside
(Image credit: Alamy)

I have gone on and on about how much I love my air fryer in the past, however, despite my love for the popular kitchen appliance, I am still guilty of making some mistakes with it and, while I like to think I am now a seasoned pro, I am sure there are many more I will likely make in the future. While I am here, however, I wanted to share the eight biggest air fryer mistakes I have made in the past so that you can avoid them with your own machine. 

Even if you own the best air fryer on the market, or understand all the important things to know about air fryers, mistakes are inevitable. I found that owning an air fryer takes a lot of trial and error despite the instruction manual. 

Here, I explain where I went wrong so that you can hopefully learn a little more about these cult-favorite gadgets.

The air fryer mistakes I made, and how you can avoid them 

An air fryer basket with freshly cooked chicken

(Image credit: Alamy)

1. Overcrowding my basket

Now, this mistake is one still made occasionally to this day. I can't help myself when I am super hungry and I just want to double up my portions. Overfilling my basket, however, has certainly led to many a disappointing meal. 

Don't get me wrong, I know how to use an air fryer correctly to get crispy food and I understand that it works by circulating hot air around the small drawer – but we all succumb to temptation (and 'hanger') sometimes. Putting too much food in all at once meant that most of my food came out soggy and not crispy, or worse, some of my leftovers were slightly cold in the middle. 

Avoiding this mistake is easy enough, simply make sure your food has enough space to move around and that you can slightly see the bottom (at the very least). Even if it means a quick two batches of food instead of one. 

2. Not cleaning my air fryer often enough

Again, I know how to clean an air fryer, but as I mentioned briefly when I explained how I use vinegar to shift baked-on grease on my air fryer, I can be a bit lazy on occasion. This meant I sometimes did not clean my air fryer quite often enough, or well enough when I was first starting out. 

While I luckily never left my air fryer to get bad enough to start smoking, I learned fairly quickly that any residue from past meals would burn and smell horrendous, often giving my new meal a slightly burnt taste too. 

While cleaning the heating elements is a pain, it is important to wipe the components down between cooking as soon as they have cooled down, to prevent fires and permanent damage. 

Cleaning an air fryer also helps reduce the costs of running an air fryer by making it more efficient. 

3. Not patting foods dry before frying

Given this was something I rarely had to do before putting food in my standard oven, patting my wetter foods down such as chicken and so on was not something I would have thought of doing until I saw this trick on the internet. 

As strange as that sounds, frying wet or damp foods such as proteins or washed veg can leave them soggy rather than crisp (which is the whole point of an air fryer after all. I found that it would steam my foods rather than roast them. 

4. Not flipping my food half way through

Unlike my fan oven, an air fryer pushes hot air down across the surface of my food to help crisp it up. It is this direct method that makes it so magical. 

After a few weeks of wondering why the bottom of my food was soggy and nowhere near as nice as the surface did I realize that I should have been flipping the food halfway through every time. This was not very convenient, and is something I think my fan oven will always have up on this little appliance, 

I suppose it is a small price to pay for better-textured food.

5. Not using enough oil 

When air fryers first came out one of the biggest questions was 'are air fryers healthy?' or is it just a marketing trick? 

I have found that, generally, my air fryer is much healthier for me than deep frying or cooking with oil in a pan or oven. Having said that, however, I definitely still need to use some oil. While it was touted for a while that an air fryer was an oilless device, food is rather bland without some kind of fat to aid in the cooking process. Not adding any oil at all was just disappointing, and nearly had me getting rid of my fryer completely. 

To remedy this, I found that a lecithin-free spray oil was a nice change to simply adding a glug of oil my food would sit in. Spraying the oil over the surface of my food or on the bottom of the air fryer tray just added that little bit more flavor and helped my food cook more evenly than without. 

6. I forgot to preheat my air fryer a few times

Despite being touted as some form of wonder machine, an air fryer still needs to be preheated. There have been times that I have been blinded by the sheer convenience of the quick cooking device that I have forgotten to preheat my air fryer for at least a few minutes before putting my food in. 

My food was always slightly undercooked when I rushed to make my dinner so taking the time to preheat the machine to the correct temperature will always ensure safe, tasty food. 

7. Putting loose herbs in

When I say that I put loose herbs in my air fryer, please don't picture me just pouring a herb bottle into the machine and closing the drawer. 

What I mean by loose herbs is the smaller flakes that were not fully adhered to my food such as chicken breasts or fries. These small particles ended up flying around my machine, making an utter mess of the heating elements and even burning! The air current was just a little too strong. 

I found the best way to remedy this is to add the seasoning outside of the machine before lightly shaking my food to allow any loose herbs to fall off onto my cutting board. I could then dispose of the loose bits and rest assured that a rough piece of dried oregano wasn't going to burn down my house. 

8. Only using it for frying foods

Despite the name, there are so many things you can cook in an air fryer that are not just limited to traditionally fried foods. 

As a keen baker, I was thrilled to hear that I can try making fresh cookies in my machine too, something that I still need to try. So long as the food is not a wet or loose batter, it is worth giving it a shot. 

The food I am most excited to try is air-fried doughnuts! I have never trusted myself to make these oily desserts at home with gallons of hot oil, but my sweet tooth is just aching to try this out.

Why is my food not crispy in an air fryer?

If your food is not crispy when coming out of an air fryer, you may not have patted it dry before putting it in to cook. Meat or proteins, or foods you may have washed, will fry better without the added moisture. 

Another reason for only partially crispy food is not rotating or flipping your food mid-way through cooking, leaving the bottom unexposed to the hot air flow. 

Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer?

It is completely safe to use aluminum foil in our air fryer, so long as it is not covering the heating elements. Foil can actually make cooking and cleaning easier in an air fryer, just as it does in a traditional oven. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.