They’re compact, powerful, and efficient, but are air fryers toxic, too? While we swear by air fryers for making crispy food quickly, we’re seeing thousands of people questioning if they're toxic. There's lots of misinformation about the materials that air fryers are made from and how intense, high temperatures affects your food.
We have assessed some of the best air fryers on the market and often celebrated their high temperatures, speed, and non-stick features. However, there are potential health concerns in the unlikely event that you ingest the non-stick coating.
After speaking with industry and medical experts, there’s no need to throw out your air fryer. If you are responsible and follow guidance, you'll be fine.
Is the non-stick coating toxic?
If you’ve seen one of the many sensationalist TikToks, it's understandable to be concerned about your air fryer.
The biggest worry surrounds the non-stick materials that are also known as ‘forever chemicals’. These are PTFE, PFOA, PFOS, and BPA. In less scientific terms, these are proprietary materials like Teflon.
‘When heated, these materials can release chemicals into the air and your food, especially if your air fryer is scratched or damaged’ says Pam Hartnett, a Nutritionist and Public Health expert. Once these chemicals are in your food, they can interfere with our hormones. Pam has seen links to several health issues, including reproductive and developmental issues.
Pam Hartnett MPH, RDN, owns The Vitality Dieticians. She is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist with a Masters in Public Health and a Certificate in Functional Nutrition. She has years of experience teaching nutrition, providing nutrition counseling, and implementing large-scale public health interventions to improve disease outcomes. She has contributed to US News Health Magazine, Forbes, Eating Well, and SHEFinds.
However, this is only an issue if the material is damaged. It doesn't mean that we shouldn’t use air fryers; Pam simply advises that we avoid using air fryers with scratched non-stick coating.
‘Damaged non-stick coating in an air fryer can cause toxins to be released into the air and food’. In short, if your air fryers is in good condition and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, there should be no issue. There are a number of scientific papers from the National Institutes of Health which show there is limited evidence that exposure to these chemicals through cookware will have adverse health effects.
If you’re really worried about the non-stick, manufacturers have to label the non-stick materials, so you can see what is being used. Some of our favorite air fryers use ceramic and stainless steel. This includes the Paris Rhône and Instant Pot Duo, both of which are in our roundup of the best air fryers on the market.
Is the food toxic?
The chemicals formed when foods are heated to high temperatures is another concern raised by users. Oil can produce smoke and other potentially harmful chemicals at high temperatures. Starchy foods may form acrylamides, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer believe is 'likely to be carcinogenic to humans'.
Dr. Michelle Pearlman, a board-certified gastroenterologist, told me that air frying poses a risk of producing these chemicals. She explained that ‘these by-products have been shown to be linked with heart disease and other chronic health conditions’.
Michelle Pearlman, M.D., is the co-founder of Prime Institute. She is a board-certified gastroenterologist and obesity medicine specialist. She uses food as medicine in her approach to treating patients, so carefully scrutinises scientific articles and reviews on health trends.
However, Michelle is quick to point out that this happens in a range of cooking processes. It's simply how food is cooked, and ‘the amount [of acrylamides] in air fryers is less than in the deep-frying technique’.
Acrylamides are a natural by-product of cooking and are already found in lots of the foods that we eat: chips, fries, toast, cakes, and coffee. Michelle advises that we use high smoke point oils, such as avocado or coconut and avoid using sprays that contain propellants, which could break down the non-stick too.
Which air fryers use ‘forever chemicals’?
Most of the best air fryers use non-stick materials in one place or another. If you want an air fryer that doesn't use 'forever chemicals', we liked the ceramic coating on the Paris-Rhone 5.3QT air fryer.
If you are diligent with gently cleaning and maintaining your air fryer, the non-stick coating shouldn’t be a problem.
What is the best air fryer to use?
We love the Instant Vortex. The Instant Pot Duo uses stainless steel, which is a good alternative material, but it will need more oil to stop your food from sticking. The Paris Rhône has a ceramic plate, another one of the alternatives to non-stick ‘forever chemicals’.
How do I stop my non-stick from peeling?
Be as gentle as possible when using your non-stick appliances. Use wooden or silicone utensils with non-stick materials and be wary of abrasive sponges and cloths. Wash them gently using warm, soapy water.
When used as intended and properly maintained, I’ve been assured by medical experts, scientific papers, and air fryer companies that these appliances are considered safe and non toxic. They’re still a much healthier alternative to deep fryers. It’s important to choose a model made with safe materials and to maintain it well. If the non-stick is peeling, stop using it.
The potentially harmful chemicals caused from cooking foods at high temperatures are not unique to air fryers. If that is a concern, follow guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture to ‘limit consumption to prevent its adverse effects’. They also suggest blanching, microwaving, and only frying foods until they're golden yellow. In short, your air fryer is safe.
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Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.
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