If you own an air fryer, you’re probably familiar with the easily stained metal behind the appliance’s heating element that hovers above the basket.
And if you’ve ever tilted your machine up to peek at the area, you might have noticed it’s not as beautiful to look at as you’d expect (read; it gets covered in grease and grime).
You’re not alone. Recently, TikToker justcleanit shared a video of the metal behind the heating element of their air fryer. “Is there a proper way to clean this, or should I just pretend I didn’t notice?” the caption read.
Attempts to wipe the bronze stains off with a spray cleaner were futile. So, I can only imagine how happy they were to watch professional cleaner Ann Russell’s stitch; “I’m putting my money on pretending you didn’t notice,” she said.
There are plenty of reasons, the cleaner argues. “Number one, that brown stuff is polymerised oil and food... it’s on its way to becoming carbon,” she says.
Polymerised cooking oil is oil that has been carbonised by heat, and chemically changes into a hard substance ― as it happens, polymerised oil is how we season cast iron pans.
She then points out that polymerised food and oil are only a problem if it provides a fire risk or if it’s going to contaminate the food.
“It’s above the food,” she says, meaning the element is above a closed basket. That means it won’t touch the food. “It’s brown, so it’s grease that’s started to polymerise... as you can see some, will come off.”
But the problem is that the metal lies in behind the delicate heating element. “It is easier than you think to bugger those things up,” the cleaner shared ― “Especially on things like air fryers.”
After all, in most cases “they’re not designed to be taken apart,” the cleaner says. Of course, you can buy pricier options that ARE designed to be taken apart and cleaned ― but for a standard, cheaper choice, it’s probably not up for the dismantling.
“You can gently give it a wipe if it bothers you,” she finishes, but points out that this panel is a bit like the inside of an Aga. “The inside of an Aga is always hot, and because of that, it’s self-cleaning... to a degree, [the air fryer panel] is self-cleaning.”
“It will get to a certain stage, and [the dirt] will go ‘light brown, dark brown, black’, and then it will kind of burn itself away in time,” Russell explains, “Because heat rises, and it’s above the element.”
Then she gives some of the best cleaning advice I’ve heard in a long time ― “I think pretending you haven’t seen it sometimes is a [perfectly good idea. It’s not doing any harm.”
And with that, you can strike a chore off of your to-do list.