Are air fryers toxic? Expert medical advice on TikTok panic

 COSORI Air Fryer Dual Blaze, one under investigation for the question 'are air fryers toxic '
COSORI Air Fryer Dual Blaze, one under investigation for the question 'are air fryers toxic '

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.

Testing nuggets in the Instant Essentials 4 Quart Air Fryer
Testing nuggets in the Instant Essentials 4 Quart Air Fryer

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.

Paris Rhône Air Fryer
The Paris Rhône air fryer is powerful and compact. It's a great entry-point appliance, with a good temperature and function range.

There's more detail in our full Paris Rhône 5.3QT air fryer review.View Deal

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’.

Chicken in a black air fryer
Chicken in a black air fryer

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.

Our Verdict

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.