Seriously, Clean Your Air Fryer Between Each Use

Air fryer in kitchen
Air fryer in kitchen - Hazal Ak/Shutterstock

Now ubiquitous on kitchen countertops, air fryers add a crispy outer layer to everything from baked potatoes to Brussels sprouts. These handy appliances utilize baskets that slide into a traditional convection oven, exposing food to the constant movement of hot air. The basket construction is crucial — allowing air to circulate underneath the food — but creates a compartment that harbors food residue. After chowing down on deliciously crunchy chicken tenders, it's easy to slide the basket back in place and forget about it until your next meal; however, you should always give the appliance a quick clean.

Like any good kitchen workhorse, air fryers should be cleaned frequently with the proper equipment. Forgetting to scour the inside of these machines can damage the appliance in the long run and potentially even spread harmful bacteria and create a haven for kitchen pests. Unless you want your air fryer overrun with ants or mildew buildup, it's essential to thoroughly clean the basket after each use.

Read more: The Best Kitchen Gadgets You Can Buy

The Dangers Of Infrequent Cleaning

Wiping down air fryer
Wiping down air fryer - SalmySaznira/Shutterstock

Speaking with EatingWell, food safety expert Janilyn Hutchings warned about the main danger of not cleaning: Contamination. "If you don't clean your air fryer regularly," she noted, "germs will build up in the basket and contaminate the food you put in it." What seems like a harmless grease smudge might be the perfect medium for bacteria to flourish.

The next time you toss a chicken wing or a bunch of veggies into the basket, the fresh food will be exposed to anything harmful growing in the basket. While the high temperature of the fryer will likely kill the harmful bacteria, it's best to just avoid the possibility of contamination altogether with a quick clean.

Even if the leftover oily gunk doesn't get you sick, it can still do something equally alarming — attract bugs. Pests like ants and roaches rely on open food sources to thrive in a kitchen, and the savory drippings of your latest air fryer masterpiece are more than enough to invite an infestation. Again, a basic cleaning after each use will prevent this from becoming an issue.

Finally, leaving crumbs and debris in the air fryer can even reduce the quality of the appliance itself. Cyrus Bedwyr, who works for an oven-cleaning company, told EatingWell that stray food bits "can get stuck to places they shouldn't be and potentially mess up" an air fryer. The most common result? A fryer that takes a long time to heat up.

How To Clean Your Air Fryer Properly

Air fryer liner
Air fryer liner - e_beraat/Shutterstock

Most air fryers separate into the main appliance body and a basket. The main body, which houses the heating unit and electronics, should never be submersed with water. This can be simply wiped down with a rag and cleaning solution. The basket itself is usually what contains the most debris and it is safe to use soap to clean this part of the air fryer. Simply use a sponge to scrub soapy hot water across the surface of the basket or let the solution soak for more extensive messes.

While you can typically wash air fryer baskets like any other dish, you should never use metal to clean your air fryer. Steel wool or a rigid utensil might seem like the right tools to pry a stubborn glob of hardened cheese from the basket, but they will damage the non-stick surface that lines the interior of the fryer.

If you're planning to cook a particularly messy dish, you might try using air fryer liners. These liners are made of parchment paper and shaped to fit different air fryer models. The liners are meant to catch drops of grease and food particles. After cooking, you can simply dispose of the liner instead of scouring the inside of the fryer. Even when using liners, it's still a good idea to wipe down the interior of the fryer before your next meal.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.