What Happens If You Put Too Much Food In Your Air Fryer?

Air fryers have surged in popularity over the past few years, fueled at least in part by the desire to cook at home during the pandemic. According to The NPD Group, 25.6 million air fryers were sold in America between January 2020 and December 2021 — a whopping 76% increase in sales from the prior two years.

Per The New York Times, the gadgets are beloved for their ability to mimic the taste and texture of fried foods — but with a fraction of the oil. Additionally, as The Kitchn notes, cooking with an air fryer is typically "faster than roasting or frying," making it the ideal appliance for busy families and last-minute meals.

However, as is the case with any new kitchen tool, air fryers have a learning curve. One common mistake? Trying to cram too much in an air fryer at once. According to Insider, overfilling your appliance will likely result in uneven cooking and a soggy final dish.

Why overfilling your air fryer leads to soggy food

In order to understand why you should avoid overfilling your air fryer, you need to know a little bit about how air fryers work. According to The Spruce Eats, air fryers work by "blowing hot air around" a basket to create "a convection effect." This, in turn, browns and crisps ingredients in the basket using very little oil, if any at all.

However, if the basket of the appliance is too full, the hot air will not be able to properly reach each ingredient, as Insider explains. As a result, some areas will achieve the desired texture while others will remain undercooked and soft.

Luckily, there's a simple way to avoid this problem: cooking in batches. Because of the air fryer's speedy cooking time, results are often better when you "[cook] smaller batches back-to-back," per The Kitchn. To aid the convection process even further, Simply Recipes recommends occasionally shaking the air fryer basket (or flipping its contents) throughout the cooking process.