Ticking Time Bomb or Tasty Treats? The Truth About Air Fryer Safety

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Hold onto your frying baskets, folks! The online realm is abuzz with jaw-dropping videos claiming that air fryers, yes, those magical kitchen gadgets we all adore, might just be ticking time bombs. But before we ditch our crispy cravings, let’s dig deeper into this sizzling controversy and find out if these claims hold any weight or if it’s all just a recipe for sensationalism. Get ready to separate fact from fiction as we embark on a thrilling exploration of the air fryer safety saga.

Air Fryers and Acrylamide

air fryer safety

So why are air fryers under heavy criticism now? Well, amidst the air fryer frenzy, a recent video by Time Investors has raised some concerns. They claim that if food is overcooked in air fryers, a potentially carcinogenic substance called acrylamide may be emitted. They quote an experiment done by a Korean agency where the smallest batch of frozen french fries was cooked at the maximum recommended temperature in the product manual. It states that the fries exceeded the permissible acrylamide limit by 3.4 times. However, there’s a twist—the video also suggests that when larger batches of fries are used, the acrylamide content remains within safe levels. Let us delve into this intriguing dilemma and seek a better understanding of the real risks associated with air fryer usage. But first, let us first understand what acrylamide is.

What Is Acrylamide?

Acrylamide is a compound produced when carbohydrates are cooked at a high temperature or for long duration. According to FDA, cooking processes like roasting, frying and baking produces acrylamide. So, as you can see, it is not air frying that produces acrylamide. Rather, it is cooking duration and temperature that are the culprits.

Flaw Within the Experiment

air fryer safety
Fries made in air fryer

As we have tested several air fryers, we were able to outright find a problem with the Korean experiment. By cooking the smallest batch of fries for the longest duration mentioned in the manual, they overlook a critical factor: most manuals provide a range of quantities and cooking times for frozen fries.

Take, for instance, the Inalsa manual, which suggests cooking 300-700 grams of thick frozen fries for 11-20 minutes. This means 300 gm of fries should be cooked for 11 minutes and 700 gm for 20 minutes. It is common sense that cooking 300 grams of fries for 20 minutes would result in dark brown if not burnt fries and significantly increased acrylamide levels. It becomes apparent that the video’s use of attention-grabbing terms like “cancer” and “3.4 times the permissible limit” is nothing more than a fear-mongering ploy.

Other Studies On Air Frying

While one so-called agency claims air fryers are a ticking time bomb, it seems that more reputable organizations have a different tale to tell.

According to FDA, frying causes the highest acrylamide formation, followed by roasting and baking. As you may know, air fryer is essentially a small convection oven and air frying is just a fancy term for baking. So, essentially, FDA says air frying is a comparatively safer method to reduce acrylamide in fries.

Further, a study published in Journal of Food has found that “air-frying reduced acrylamide content by about 90% compared with conventional deep-oil-frying without being necessary the application of a pretreatment.” By pre-treatment, they refer to methods like soaking fries in solutions of nicotinic acid, citric acid, 1% glycine and 2% NaCl. In fact, such pre-treated potatoes, even when deep-fried had 80-90% lesser acrylamide compared to untreated ones.

Reducing Acrylamide in Food

If you are still concerned about acrylamide in food, here are some other tips to reduce them. Note that acrylamide is found primarily in plant-based food and is not a cause of concern in meat, dairy and seafood. French fries, potato chips, coffee, breakfast cereals, cookies and toasts are the larger source of acrylamides.

Image courtesy: FDA
  • Ensure you fry/bake/roast to a golden yellow and avoid getting into the dark brownish zone ( as shown in the above image).
  • Steaming or boiling food ensures no acrylamide in food.
  • Soak potato slices in salt water for 15-30 minutes before frying. (Ensure you bloat it dry to prevent oil from splattering).
  • Store potatoes in refrigerators to reduce acrylamide formation.

Air Fryers And Nonstick Coating

air fryer safety nonstick

Yet another concern about air fryers is their nonstick coated baskets. Manufacturing nonstick coating is an environmental hazard as various chemicals from the process are discarded into water bodies. These chemicals cause adverse health effects and worse, they remain forever without decomposing.

But, cooking in air fryer baskets with nonstick coating doesn’t have a direct effect on the food. Nonstick coating, also known as PTFE and Teflon, disintegrates and emits toxic fumes only when heated above 260 °C. The good news is most air fryers can reach a maximum temperature of just 200 °C. So you don’t have to fret about these toxic fumes.

However, if the coating peels off, it is a different story. They may contaminate your food and ingesting them won’t be in your best health interest. That is why it is important to take proper care of your air fryer. Say no to steel wool and dishwashers for cleaning! Instead, soak it in soapy water and scour with a soft sponge. If in case the coating peels off, replace the basket immediately.

Unfortunately, air fryers with stainless steel baskets are rare in India. So, for now, it’s all about being mindful of the nonstick coating and keeping your air fryer in tip-top shape.

Other Tips To Enhance Safety of Your Air Fryers

  • Air fryers offer precise temperature control. So make use of it and cook food only as per the recommended temperature guidelines to prevent overcooking or burning which can in turn generate acrylamide.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and keep air fryers 2-3 inches away from the wall to let the excess heat and steam escape. This prevents the appliance from overheating or any potential damage to the surrounding surfaces.
  • Read the manual thoroughly to understand the guidelines and recommendations for using air fryers safely.

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