Are Air Fryers Bad for you?

With the explosion of air fryers around the country, it’s now estimated that 60% of US households own one. While on the path to becoming oil-free, using an air fryer can be a great step. Air fryers use less energy (and cost less) than a regular convection oven. When compared with deep frying, an air fryer is considered a more healthy way to cook, but there have been reports that for a variety of reasons, air fryers may have some hidden dangers. Let’s take a look at how air fryers work, how to choose the best ones, and how to make sure to use them in a way to benefit your health and wellbeing.

What is air frying?

Air frying isn’t really “frying” at all; it’s more like using a convection oven, which circulates hot air to cook food evenly. Cooking in a convection oven is typically 25% faster than cooking in a traditional oven, due to both the circulation and the drier heat. Air fryers are smaller in size than convection ovens and heat up quickly to high temperatures. Because they are smaller, they also circulate the air more quickly.

So where did the term “air fryer” come from if no frying is taking place? The patent holder, Philips Electronic Company, claimed that the results obtained from this tabletop gadget are similar to those obtained by deep frying, but with little to no oil.

 How does it work?

Air fryers have several components. The top section holds the heater and fan, Below that is a removable basket into which you place the food. It’s best to not overcrowd the basket, and space things out so that the air can circulate freely around each piece. You may need to flip or turn the food over to ensure even cooking.

We recommend NOT using any oil in the air fryer. It’s not necessary for cooking, and commercial edible oils are often contaminated and contain unhelpful processing ingredients.

To ensure your appliance works optimally, be sure to preheat it before use, and move it away from walls and other gadgets to give it room to pull in the air it needs to operate properly. When done, you’ll want to clean it well.

Hidden dangers

Some models of air fryer are made of potentially endocrine-disrupting plastics that could leach into our foods while cooking. These plastics also have been linked to infertility, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Even “BPA-Free” models may use other plastics that are equally harmful.

Other air fryers have Teflon® and other non-stick coatings on some of their internal components. At high temperatures these coatings can release harmful chemicals into your food which can lead to a variety of health concerns.

Finally, the type of food you cook and how you cook it can also be problematic. A compound called acrylamide can form when starchy foods, like potatoes, are cooked at high temperatures. Acrylamide is known to increase the risk for various cancers. The good news is, air frying potato chips or fries produces 90% less acrylamide than cooking them in a traditional deep fryer. You can reduce the risk of acrylamide formation even further by cooking items only until done (not overcooking), and by pre-soaking starchy vegetables in water for five minutes prior to air frying.

Another type of hazardous chemical, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), are created when fats and juices from cooking meats drip, causing smoke and flames. The released PAH chemicals adhere to the food and, when ingested, can lead to cancer and other toxicological effects. A recent study found that air frying meat significantly decreased the amount of acrylamide and PAH formed when compared to deep-fat frying.

Choosing well

The best way to ensure that your air fryer is not bad for you is to choose one that is free of plastic and non-stick coatings. Do your research before purchasing, and look for non-toxic appliances made with stainless steel, glass, and/or ceramic components. We particularly like the high-end Breville BOV900BSS, which is made of stainless steel and is Teflon-free and nontoxic. As a bonus, this air fryer is also a toaster, dehydrator, and convection oven.

Using Wisely

To summarize, here are the top things to consider when purchasing/using an air fryer:

  • Purchase a non-toxic model, free of plastic and non-stick components that can leach unhealthy chemicals into your food.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions by moving the air fryer away from walls and other appliances to ensure adequate air flow while cooking.
  • Preheat appliance before using.
  • Do not overcrowd the basket, making sure to allow adequate airflow around food.
  • Pre-soak starchy foods in water.
  • Cook only until items are done, flipping over halfway through cooking. Do not overcook, or over brown starchy foods.
  • Enjoy!

Did you enjoy this post? We post new content regularly! Click here to see our latest blog posts and click here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.