Why is My Air Fryer Smoking and How to Stop It?

Cooking with an air fryer makes it easy to turn out great meals in a little time. Have you ever popped something in to cook, only to see smoke coming out of the unit? You may ask yourself why is my air fryer smoking and of course how do I stop it from happening again.

Generally speaking, your air fryer is most often smoking because something is burning to create the smoke. It could be the item you’re cooking, or something has come in contact with the heating element directly.

why is my air fryer smoking and how to fix it dinners done quick featured image

Different Air Fryer Smoke Colors and What They Mean

  1. Black. Black smoke is actual “smoking” caused by burning food or grease. This is what will set off your smoke alarm and what you want to avoid
  2. White. White “smoke” is just steam being released during the cooking process, which is normal and not to worry about
  3. Blue. While rare, blue smoke emanating from the air fryer indicates an electrical malfunction and damage to the unit. Unplug immediately to prevent fires and more severe issues

Why is My Ninja Air Fryer Smoking?

That’s just the question I asked myself when I walked into the kitchen: why is my Ninja air fryer smoking?  The culprit turned out to be a piece of cheese I had put in to melt on top of a cheesesteak. Instead of melting, the cheese flew upwards in the convection air – right into the heating element.

See, the Ninja air fryer, like some other brands, has heating coils in the top of the air fryer. The cooking basket is open at the top, providing a way for wayward foods to reach the heat coils. Add lightweight foods with powerful air circulation, and they’ll contact the heating element. There, it promptly burns and that’s likely why your Ninja air fryer is smoking. 

If you’re wondering if your air fryer is built this way, simply pull out the cooking basket. Then, look into the space where the basket fits, all the way up at the top. Is it completely contained, or do you see heat coils up there?

Ninja Foodi Dual Zone 8qt Air Fryer

Why Else Could My Air Fryer Be Smoking?

Generally, your air fryer is smoking for one of a few reasons:

  • Grease or fat buildup in the cooking basket is catching on fire
  • Old remnant food particles in the basket bottom are charring
  • You’re overcrowding the basket causing poor air circulation or direct contact with heating element
  • The temperature and time is wrong for what you’re cooking, causing it to burn
  • Adding sauces or finishers too soon. Especially anything with sugar content will burn rapidly
  • Pieces of food are breaking loose. Think breading or similar that hits the heating element or just gets overcooked quickly when it’s separated from the main food piece

So, let’s talk a little bit more about how to stop this from happening.

How Do I Stop My Air Fryer From Smoking?

If your air fryer is smoking, first stop and unplug the unit for safety. Then, to stop your air fryer from smoking, try one or all of these actions:

  • Clean the heating element thoroughly of any food that has come in contact with it
  • Make sure to regularly clean the cooking baskets, removing excess food particles and grease buildup
  • Turn down the temperature and/or cook for a shorter period of time
  • Cook in smaller batches and don’t overload the baskets
  • Don’t put very lightweight foods on top in the basket. For example, no cheese slices, marshmallows, etc
  • Spray down loose breading. If your breading is loose, spray down with oil or batter instead so it stays in place
  • Add sauce later. Put your sauces on about halfway through when you flip you food to prevent burning

Make sure to read your recipe carefully too and not just blindly assume it will work in your air fryer or with your specific unit. I’ve definitely had to adjust before, like in the case of my cheesesteak blunder!

For helpful tips and easy air fryer cleaning advice, please review the following guides that I put together:

My Air Fryer is Still Smoking While Cooking Chicken

If you tried all the normal maintenance items and tips and your air fryer is smoking while cooking chicken, you may need to do some mid-cooking cleanup. Dark meat chicken in particular tends to create a lot of fat buildup while cooking.

Over the cook time, this liquid grease will begin to smoke at the high temperature in your air fryer. So what should you do?

If you want to cook a whole chicken, check out list of the best air fryers with rotisserie for a unit safely equipped to do just that!

Here is how to stop an air fryer from smoking while cooking chicken:

  1. Pause your air fryer at the normal cooking time to flip your chicken
  2. Remove your chicken to a plate instead
  3. Then, dump the grease from the cooking basket into a cup
  4. Use a paper towel on a pair of tongs if need be to do some finer cleanup. The basket is hot, so be careful 
  5. Once that is taken care of, place the chicken (don’t forget to actually flip it) back into the basket and continue cooking

This will help alleviate the buildup of grease that will cause smoke. Once the fat has cooled, you can safely dispose of it later. Note that you need to be very careful during this process to avoid burns, as both the air fryer basket and grease will be hot.

Cooking chicken breasts is a much safer venture, as they contain less fat and grease.

Why Does My Air Fryer Smoke When Cooking Bacon

Your air fryer smokes when cooking bacon because bacon has a naturally high fat content. As it cooks, just like on the stove, it will sputter and spatter grease all over. Naturally, sometimes it’s going to hit the heating element in your air fryer, causing smoke from the burning grease.

So, how can you stop that from happening?  Here’s a few ideas to stop bacon from smoking in the air fryer:

  • Reduce heat to 350 degrees to lower temperature
  • Cook no more than 2 slices of bacon at a time, even if your basket holds more
  • Place a piece of bread at the bottom of the basket to absorb grease

While I’ve seen some recommendations to add water to the basket, I just don’t prefer it. It’s hard to get the “mix” right, and often the reaction between grease and water causes even more spattering than just being left alone.

However, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying some crispy bacon or some of these best pork belly air fryer recipes!


There are a number of reasons your air fryer may be smoking. It’s most often caused by buildup or food or grease in the cooking area. Proper cleaning and maintenance will alleviate most issues. For very fatty foods, you may need to get creative during cooking to keep things on track.

Always use caution around the hot baskets, and follow manufacturer guidelines to ensure you’re caring for and using your unit correctly.

Even if your air fryer isn’t smoking yet, if your air fryer smells then some attention may still be required!

Katie Vine