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Are Air Fryers Toxic? An In-Depth Look

By GreenPan Australia

Are Air Fryers Toxic? Are Air Fryer health concerns real or urban myth? Join GreenPan as we explore whether Air Fryers are safe for your family


Are Air Fryers Toxic? An In-Depth Look At Air Fryers & Health



If you’re engaged with health news, you could be forgiven for frequently feeling somewhat dizzy. It seems like every week, another groundbreaking study proves that something we thought was healthy is actually killing us all. Before you can say, “Holy zombie apocalypse, Batman”, another peer-reviewed study conclusively proves that eating the same food is the secret to eternal life.


Remember eggs? First, they were nature’s perfect protein and multivitamin pills. Next, they were a marauding horde of cholesterol-laden barbarians leaving a deadly trail of clogged arteries in their path. Now, we have it on good authority that the world is once again safe from those little oval orcs, and an egg a day is perfectly healthy. See what we mean?



Air Fryers: A Healthier Way To Cook?


When air fryers hit the market, they were quickly lauded as a healthier way to cook. For an in-depth overview, you can check out our blog on how air fryers work, but here’s a quick refresher:


Despite their name, air fryers are essentially mini benchtop convection ovens. An element generates heat that it blasts at food with powerful fans, utilising something known as the Maillard Reaction (more on this later) to cook and crisp the food. Air fryers achieve this culinary feat using a fraction of the oil required for frying. The result is crispy, delicious food with far less fat and fewer calories. You don’t need a degree in food science - or, indeed, any kind of science - to know that this means healthier food on the table. More nutritious food means reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.


Air fryer enthusiasts swear by their little magical machines, and virtual acres of cyberspace are devoted to extolling their virtues. There are few things that you can’t cook in an air fryer. So for those craving the taste and texture of their favourite foods and snacks, they are a boon.


So, what’s the catch? Like most things that sound too good to be true, there must be a downside, right?


Recently, there have been growing rumblings about nasties lurking in our precious air fryers and purportedly causing serious health issues amongst its unsuspecting users.


One of these silent enemies is relatively well known to us. The other, you may be hearing about for the first time. Let’s look at these in our quest to determine whether your air fryer is toxic or is it as safe to use as you’ve been told?



Part 1: Non-Stick Coatings


Are Non-Stick Coatings Safe?


Where would we be without non-stick cookware? These nifty staples of the culinary world have revolutionised cooking and made clean-up a breeze. However, there may be an invisible enemy lurking beneath the non-stick coating of your favourite pan, or in this case, air fryer.


In a previous blog, we did a deep dive into the dangers of PFAS in non-stick cookware. PFAS are a group of toxic compounds nicknamed “The Forever Chemicals” for their incredibly slow degradation rate. This means that they can linger in the environment for hundreds or even thousands of years.


PFAS chemicals have been linked to a staggeringly long list of health issues5. Despite their grim reputation, PFAS chemicals are literally everywhere. The same stability that makes them so toxic makes them exceptional at resisting water, oil, heat and stains. These characteristics make them useful in a seemingly endless array of products, from takeaway containers to rain jackets and, of course, cookware.


Despite various government attempts to crack down on Forever Chemicals, PFAS keep popping up everywhere you look. An estimated 99% of humans have PFAS lingering in their bodies6. They’ve even been detected in unborn fetuses! That’s a truly sobering thought.



Do Air Fryers Contain PFAS Chemicals?


The simple answer to this question is Yes and No.


Like any other cookware item, non-stick coatings have proven a convenient and desirable selling point for many brands of fryers. Who doesn’t like mess-free cooking and quick, easy clean-up?


However, as we’ve learned more about the dangers of PFAS, many manufacturers have moved away from non-stick coatings that contain PFAS in favour of safer options. As a consumer, it’s as simple as finding a PFAS-free air fryer to keep your family safer.



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Part 2: Acrylamides


Acrylamides & Air Fryers - What Are The Risks?


Reader, meet Acrylamides. Acrylamides are chemicals that form the base of acrylic and are present in a multitude of industrial and consumer products. Unfortunately, they are also neurotoxins that may contribute to a terrifying laundry list of health issues.


The problem is that acrylamides form during cooking due to complex chemical reactions occurring on your food's surface. Remember the Maillard Effect mentioned above? It’s time to get to know it a little better.



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What Is The Maillard Effect?


While you don’t find too many scientists in the Master Chef kitchen, all cooking is, at its essence, chemistry. The flavours, textures and aromas that make cooking (and eating) so seductively satisfying are all created through incredibly complex chemical processes. Chief among these is the Maillard reaction2.


The Maillard reaction occurs when sugars and proteins in food begin to bond through exposure to high heat. These molecules are responsible for the distinctive tastes and aromas that cooked foods emit and the browning process that makes them visually appealing. Next time you’re marvelling at how a couple of minutes in the toaster transforms bland bread into crisp, delicious, fragrant toast, you have old Maillard to thank!


Many factors influence the final culinary result of your kitchen creations. The main contributors are the kinds of sugars and proteins, their relative quantities, moisture content, pH, temperature, and length of cooking time.


What does this have to do with acrylamides? Enter asparagine. Asparagine is an amino acid (protein) that occurs naturally in an enormous range of grains, potatoes, vegetables, nuts, meat, seafood, eggs and dairy foods3. It’s the dominant amino acid found in asparagus, hence its name. Asparagine itself is perfectly healthy. However, when exposed to high heat, like a Mogwai fed after midnight, it bonds with adjacent sugars and morphs into the dastardly Gremlins we know as acrylamides.


The higher the temperature and the longer you cook your food, the more acrylamides you produce. If you’ve ever wondered why people say burned food is bad for you, this is why!



Do Air Fryers Release Harmful Toxins?


After reading the above, you could be forgiven for running to your air fryer and smashing it to pieces. However, put that cricket bat down and take a few deep breaths because the news is far rosier than it seems.


The seemingly dangerous Maillard reaction occurs whenever food is heated to at least 176oC, which is pretty much any time you cook. The only exception is boiled food. The Maillard reaction requires moisture on the surface to evaporate before it can occur. This is why boiled food does not brown and usually tastes blander than the same items roasted or grilled.


It should now be clear that virtually every cooked food contains some amount of acrylamides. Fortunately, the human body can process small amounts of acrylamide easily and safely4. It’s only when the food surface is charred or burned that the levels of acrylamide start to take off and exceed safe levels that there is any risk.


What does that mean for air-fryer users? As long as you follow the manufacturer’s recommendation and don’t burn your food, you have absolutely nothing to worry about!


In fact, air fryers typically operate at far lower temperatures than deep frying, for example. So, there is strong evidence suggesting that they can significantly reduce the amount of acrylamides produced during cooking7.


When we factor in the health benefits of using so much less oil than virtually other methods, air fryers remain firmly entrenched as one of the healthiest ways to cook delicious, full-flavoured food.



Conclusion - Are Air Fryers Safe?


Rejoice, air fryer lovers! Your beloved countertop miracle worker is safe to use - as long as it doesn’t have a PFAS-laden non-stick coating!


As we’ve discovered, while acrylamides form with any cooking mode, your air fryer carries far less risk than frying, grilling or baking, delivering satisfying tastes and textures with far fewer calories and less fat. While the urban myth creators might be staunchly holding on to their delusions, all that talk of air fryers being toxic has been summarily debunked.


At GreenPan, we’re incredibly proud that our extensive range of traditional cookware and electrical cooking appliances never contain PFAS chemicals. We developed a revolutionary healthy ceramic coating called ThermolonTM that delivers all the ease and convenience of non-stick cooking with none of the toxic nasties.


Our stunning air fryers are no exception. Not only do they look and perform beautifully, but they are also coated in ThermolonTM to ensure you can enjoy all the fantastic benefits of air frying with peace of mind.


Check out our stunning range of air fryers today, and happy cooking!



End Notes

1. Nutrition and Cancer Vol 6, 2014 - Issue 5 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01635581.2014.916323

2. International Journal of Food Science 2015 https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijfs/2015/526762/

3. Science Info https://scienceinfo.com/asparagine/

4. USFDA https://www.fda.gov/food/process-contaminants-food/acrylamide-questions-and-answers

6. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry Oct, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.4890

6. Chemtrust: PFAS the “Forever Chemicals” - Invisible threats from persistent chemicals https://chemtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/PFAS_Brief_CHEMTrust_2019.pdf

7. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies Vol 83, Jan 2023 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1466856422003186