If there’s one kitchen appliance that has gained immense popularity in recent years, it would have been the air fryer. As with every celeb (in our case the air fryer) there are going to be some haters. Many influencers and random people on the internet have outright stated that air fryers are not healthy and dangerous.
It is completely understandable therefore, that many are concerned about the potential health dangers. With this in mind, more and more people are looking for a nontoxic air fryer. But is there such a distinction or all air fryers are nontoxic?
Although I am a great fan of the air fryer so you might think this won’t be a unbiased analysis of the issue, but I’ll try to keep this article as unbiased as possible and point you to all the resources I gathered the information from.
But as always I must emphasize that I am not a health professional or a chemical engineer, just a guy who likes to cook with an air fryer. So please make your own research on this issue too.
For sure, you’ve heard about the many advantages of an air fryer, for example they are healthier because they use no or minimal oil. So if this is the main reason you buy an air fryer (to be more healhty) it is totally understandable that you are concerned if they are toxic or not.
Are Air Fryers Toxic?
As mentioned above air fryers are heavily advertised how it brings a healthier lifestyle to you. But are they toxic in any way?
So the short answer:
Air fryers are not toxic!
However, as everything in life it is more complex, than that. In this article we have to put on our chemical engineer hat a little bit and talk about some material that were used in the past or are still used today in cookware technology. These 3 materials are namely:
- BPA – Bisphenol A
- PFOA – Perfluorooctanoic Acid
- PTFE – Polytetrafluoroethylene
If you have never heard about these materials don’t worry. Even I didn’t know of their existence until recently. It’s even hard to pronounce them…
So these materials are used to make non-stick coating. 2 of them are already banned but one of them are still legal to use.
Collectively we refer to these materials as Teflon. This is where things get tricky. What is Teflon? Is it a material? Is it collectively used for non-stick materials? Is it dangerous? Let’s see.
The Issue With Teflon (aka PTFE)
Does air fryer have Teflon? Many of you ask this. In fact a lot of air fryers (and other cookware) still use Teflon.
The non-stick material itself that we call Teflon is actually just the branded name for PTFE. This is a non-stick material that is still in use. It is basically a plastic that is sprayed on a cookware (in our case the air fryer basket) and then baked into the material, which creates the non-stick surface.
According to various source (e.g. WebMD) PTFE is actually safe and won’t harm you (and it is also FDA approved). The only time PTFE can cause potential health hazard if you heat it up above 570°F. Above this temperature the material starts to destabilize and will fume. If you inhale this fume you might get a flu like symptom (headache, fever chills etc.) but usually they go away.
On the other hand even the highest temperature air fryers don’t go above 510°F. So regardless of the material it is safe to use Teflon non-stick air fryers.
Many people are concerned about the scratched surface of a non-stick air fryer basket. People are worried that the little particles can go into your body where it can cause health problem. According to the Scientific American these particles just go through your body and doesn’t posses any risk.
Nevertheless it is best to not scratch your non stick basket just to be on the safe side. Also your food will stick to the basket eventually. To prevent this don’t use any metal utensils (only wood or plastic) and don’t clean the basket with a metal sponge. Another pro move is to use parchment paper or a silicon pot.
There’s a lot of bad press surrounding Teflon nowadays. There was even a Netflix documentary about it that stresses the potential health hazard of non-stick materials, so it’s understandable that Teflon and non-stick coating in general doesn’t get good marketing nowadays.
PFOA – Perfluorooctanoic Acid
Meanwhile, Teflon used to have a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). It was used to make PTFE, but the manufacturers assured everyone that in the process the PFOA (that is toxic) will evaporate, so it is totally safe. Well it didn’t evaporate and it wasn’t safe.
Nonetheless, there’s no reason to ditch air fryers! In recent years, manufacturers found a way to make non-stick coating healthier. The use of harmful chemicals for non-stick coating was banned in 2008 in Europe and 2014 in the United States. Even in other areas, it’s no longer used. So, if you have air fryers made after those years, you might be safe.
But it is not banned everywhere in the world! So it is best thing to check the label. Look for a lable that says PFOA free, like this one:
If you want to go a 100% Teflon free you should check out some ceramic air fryers. Its a new trend and they don’t use any of these hard to pronounce materials. Although I must say that according to current understanding, Teflon coating is not harmful and it is FDA approved. I think it is important to emphasize this. If you have some time you can even read the 85 page long Material Safety Summary of PTFE.
Concerns About BPA
Aside from Teflon, another common health concern regarding air fryers is the use of BPA or bisphenol A. It is a material that is often found in epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics. If you heat plastic to a high level the BPA can go into your food and it could have many adverse health effects that as described by HealthLine.
So many plastic materials (like containers or bottles) have BPA in them. And the outer case of an air fryer is made of plastic usually. So this is why people are concerned that BPA may end up in their food.
But this is not a fact. The inner part of the air fryer is made in a way so plastic won’t go into your food. But I can’t say this for all air fryers. Some air fryers, do emit a plastic smell after many uses as were described by some reviewers. Take a look at this NutriChef air fryer for example. To be honest I’ve never had a problem like this and mine is a plastic air fryer.
But if you want to have a peace of mind, you can choose BPA-free air fryers. It’s easy to find a bisphenol free air fryer since most models don’t contain this harmful chemical, but it still pays to observe due diligence. If you want to be a 100% sure, then go for a stainless steel air fryer.
All About Prop 65 Warning
If you live in California you may have noticed that many air fryers have a Prop 65 warning on them. Since I don’t live there I had to do some digging what Prop 65 is and why do they have it on air fryers.
So there is a list of materials in California that if it contains them or it may contain them it has to have a Prop65 warning on them.
So as for the air fryer it has plasticizers in them that are on the Prop 65 list. Also Acrylamide is on the list that can be formed in plant based goods that are cooked on high temperature.
How to Choose a Nontoxic Air Fryer
We just learned that almost all air fryers are nontoxic that are sold but in the age of importing everything from countries with lower standards of regulation I’m sure a few appliances can get to the market before they are to get banned. So here a few tips how to prevent choosing such an air fryer.
Start With the Material
Perhaps, the most important is the right material. As earlier noted, some things to watch out for are PTFE, PFOA, and BPA. Choose air fryers that do not contain such chemicals.
Whether you’re looking for the best stainless steel air fryer or the best ceramic air fryer, it’s critical to consider the basket construction. This is the part that touches the food, so you must be sure that there are no hazardous chemicals.
Find a Reliable Manufacturer
Choosing an air fryer is overwhelming because of the plethora of options available. If you want one that is non-toxic, it’s best to choose only those made by reputable companies.
Ninja, Cosori, Cuisinart, Philips, and Crux are just some of the names that stand out. Stay away from those that you don’t recognize. Better yet, read online reviews and learn from what other people are saying.
Read the Manual
This is one thing most people are guilty of. Not a lot will take the time to read the manual, especially because it’s often long. However, it would be best if you can consult it.
Before you buy, you can access product manuals online. Look for specific warnings from the manufacturer. They will often indicate the materials used in the air fryer. After reading, do your research and see if such materials are health risks or not.
Aside from the manual, it’s also good to read the reviews from other users. This way, you’ll learn from their experiences. For sure, most people will share if their air fryers are causing them health problems, so it pays to know such information before purchasing.
More so, reading reviews can make it easier to narrow down the choices. This way, you can weigh the pros and cons of the alternatives.
Tips for Healthy Cooking in an Air Fryer
It’s not enough that you have a nontoxic air fryer. It’s also crucial to remember some things, including the following:
- Don’t start cooking on the highest temperature when you are experimenting and shake the basket regularly to prevent burning.
- Avoid using oils with a low smoking point. I usually use olive oil but avocado oil is also great.
- Keep the air fryer clean, especially the cooking surface. Dirt and food particles might not only affect the flavor of whatever you’re cooking but can also affect the quality and be a health hazard.
- Use parchment paper so your air fryer may have a longer life
In conclusion, air fryers are not toxic in general. Many air fryers have Teflon coatings which is a non-stick coating called PTFE. It is said to be safe and it is approved by the FDA. In the past when an additional material was used (called PFOA) it wasn’t healthy but this material has been banned.
BPA is another issue that can get into the food from plastics although again it is not a fact. Luckily there are many bpa free air fryer models.
All in all you can buy a nontoxic air fryer pretty easily if you use our guide and follow these simple tips.