Air fryers have become increasingly popular in recent years as a healthier way to enjoy fried foods. However, there has been some concern about whether air fryers may leach harmful chemicals into food during cooking. Here is what you need to know about air fryer toxicity and how to determine if your model is safe to use.
What Makes an Air Fryer Potentially Toxic?
There are a few key factors that can contribute to an air fryer being potentially toxic:
- Chemicals used in non-stick coatings – Many air fryers have non-stick coatings on the food basket and interior to prevent sticking. Some older non-stick coatings like PTFE (Teflon) could potentially release chemicals into food at high heat.
- Plastic components – The main housing and parts like the basket, drip tray, etc. are commonly made from plastic. There are concerns that harmful chemicals could leach out of plastic components.
- Overheating – Excessively high heat over time could potentially cause plastic or non-stick coated parts to break down and release chemicals.
- Lack of ventilation – Poor ventilation could lead to chemicals leaching out and having nowhere to escape.
Signs Your Air Fryer May Be Toxic
Here are some signs that your air fryer may have a toxicity issue:
- Plastic smells – If you notice odors of melting plastic or other chemical smells, this could indicate a problem.
- Chipping/peeling – Damage to the non-stick coating that causes flaking or chipping could release material into food.
- Visible wear – Look for visible cracks, scratches, thinning, warping, or deterioration of plastic components.
- Overheating – If the fryer is burning food, smoking, or feels excessively hot, it could be overheating and damaging parts.
- Older model – Air fryers made over 5 years ago are more likely to have outdated coatings and plastics.
How to Test an Air Fryer for Toxicity
Here are some tips for testing the toxicity of your air fryer:
- Smell test – Heat up the empty air fryer and take note of any chemical odors.
- Visual inspection – Check all components for signs of damage, wear, flaking, or cracking.
- Cocoa powder test – Place a small amount of unsweetened cocoa powder in the basket and run a short cooking cycle. Check to see if it smells burnt or chemical-like.
- Scrape test – Use a wooden spoon to scrape the non-stick coating and see if any material flakes off.
- Overheat test – Run the air fryer for 30+ minutes at max temperature to check for overheating issues.
- Ventilation test – Place tissue paper at the vents while running to check airflow.
While these tests aren’t foolproof, they can help pinpoint any glaring issues. When in doubt, consider replacing older air fryer models.
How Material and Age Impacts Air Fryer Toxicity
The materials used in manufacturing the air fryer along with its age are key factors impacting the toxicity risk:
- Non-stick Coatings – Older coatings like PTFE/PFOA may release fumes when overheated. Newer ceramic and diamond coatings are less risky.
- Plastics – Cheaper, lower grade plastics are more likely to leach chemicals with heat and wear.
- Metals – Stainless steel and coated aluminum are less risky than other metals which may leach into food.
- Under 2 years old – Not likely a major risk if from a reputable brand and well-maintained.
- 2-5 years old – Monitor for wear and look for signs of overheating or damage.
- Over 5 years old – Higher risk for non-stick and plastic breakdown. Safer to replace.
Safest Air Fryer Brands and Models
Here are some of the top brands and models that tend to rate well for safety and low risk of toxicity:
|Ninja||AF100, AF101, AF160 Max|
|Instant Pot||Vortex Plus, Vortex|
|Philips||Avance, TurboStar, XXL|
|Cosori||Max XL, Smart WiFi, Dual Blaze|
|Chefman||6.5 Quart Digital, TurboFry|
|GoWise||7-Quart, 5.8-Qt 8-in-1, USA 8-in-1|
|Breville||Smart Oven Air, the Combi Wave|
Key things to look for are good quality non-stick coatings like ceramic, stainless steel designs, advanced digital controls, and leading safety certifications.
Protecting Yourself from a Potentially Toxic Air Fryer
Here are some top tips for protecting yourself if you’re concerned about your air fryer being toxic:
- Avoid overheating – Don’t exceed recommended temperatures or cook times.
- Hand wash – Gently hand wash parts instead of harsh dishwasher cycles.
- Proper ventilation – Always operate in an open, ventilated area.
- Use liner – Place food in a heat-safe bowl or liner before air frying.
- Avoid coatings – Use models with stainless steel or ceramic interiors when possible.
- Limit plastic – Choose BPA-free plastic components made from materials like polypropylene.
- Research brands – Stick to reputable brands with a track record of safety.
- Monitor condition – Routinely check for damage and discard if wear is detected.
- Upgrade older models – Consider replacing air fryers over 4-5 years old.
Warning Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Air Fryer
Here are some clear warning signs indicating it’s time to stop using your air fryer and consider a newer, safer model:
- Strong chemical smell or burning plastic odor
- Visibly deteriorating basket coating with flaking or chipping
- Warping or melting of plastic components
- Excessive smoke or burning food
- Frequent overheating that triggers auto shutoff
- Cracks or damage to interior cooking surface
- Older model made before 2018
- No longer under warranty or certified safe to use
If you notice any of these red flags, discontinue use right away. The risks to your health are not worth taking a chance.
Following safety precautions, choosing quality models, and being aware of signs of damage can help minimize the risk of toxicity with air fryers. Pay close attention to your particular model’s materials, age, and condition. Stay vigilant about proper use and maintenance as well. If in doubt, replacing older air fryers after 4-5 years is advisable. With a little care, you can enjoy the convenience of air fried foods safely.