A recent recall for several defective air fryers by kitchen brand Cosori might have you wondering if your favorite kitchen device is safe. The answer is yes: A properly functioning air fryer shouldn't pose a risk of fire, but dirty air fryers or those left on for too long and unattended could make problems of the flammable sort.
When used and cleaned properly, air fryers aren't particularly dangerous or prone to fire. In fact, using an air fryer is safer than using natural gas stoves, which have flammable gas flow and an open flame. (Two recent studies have also shown that gas stoves can leak toxic gas when not in use and contribute to childhood asthma.)
And we love to hear that, since air fryers can cut down on fat and calories compared to deep-frying and are an excellent kitchen contraption for eating more healthily. They can also save money on your energy bill if you use one instead of the big oven.
One key task for keeping a clean and hazard-free air fryer, which you might not be doing, is to clean the coils on the underside of the hull. You might also be wondering if the chemicals used in nonstick air fryer baskets are unsafe. I'll address that, too.
If you're thinking of buying one of these trendy cookers for the first time, here's my complete guide to air fryers, including how they work and what to consider when choosing one. In this post, I'll explain the potential dangers of using an air fryer and how to mitigate the risk.
Clean your air fryer basket after every use
Air fryers are great for cooking chicken wings, mozzarella sticks (OK, not all air fryer food is healthy) and other crave-able snacks. If you don't add any cooking oil or spray, you might notice a pool of oil or film left in the basket when you lift out the eats. That oil, and any other food bits, should be thoroughly cleaned after every use. Residual oil and small burnt bits of food will increase the chance of a fire inside the basket.
The good news is that most air fryer baskets are nonstick so all it takes is a few vigorous scrubs with a warm soapy sponge to get them ready for the next session. Some air fryer baskets are advertised as dishwasher-safe, but I suggest washing them by hand. The pummeling your basket will take inside the dishwasher can erode the nonstick coating over time.
Clean the coils above the basket
A less-obvious but equally important part of the air fryer to clean is the coils and the area surrounding them inside the hull of the fryer and above the basket. During cooking, oil, sauce and even bits of food can spatter up and onto those coils. You likely won't notice this buildup unless you tilt the air fryer back or turn it upside down completely.
When cleaning the inside of an air fryer, it's best to avoid the use of soap, since residual soap could taint food the next time you cook. And saturating it with too much water could potentially damage the functionality of the coils. Instead, use a damp scrubby or the rough side of your sponge. If you do it often enough, it shouldn't be difficult to get those coils clean.
Aside from lowering the risk of fire, cleaning this section will keep your air frying humming along and cooking with optimal power.
Give your air fryer its own outlet, and unplug it after use
Air fryers use a good amount of voltage and thus have the potential to cause an electrical fire. It's always best to unplug them when not in use. Some air fryers are rather quiet, so this also ensures the air fryer isn't still running or won't be accidentally turned on by a passing cat or the curious hand of a toddler. (Plus, this can save you some money over time, as appliances can still draw power even when they're turned off.)
Kitchen appliances, including toasters, air fryers and microwaves, should also be plugged directly into an outlet rather than into an extension cord or outlet extender since they add more resistance to the flow of electricity. You should also avoid running your air fryer through an outlet with other appliances plugged in, especially those in use, as it can put stress on the circuits.
In truth, any electrical appliance can cause a fire if there's a faulty electrical outlet or bad wiring. Call an electrician if you hear a crackling or see sparks. Speaking of damaged electrical outlets, try to position your air fryer so the hot air blowing out the back is not hitting an electrical outlet in your kitchen. Over time, this can cause problems.
Do air fryer baskets contain harmful chemicals or PFOAs?
Most air fryer baskets are coated with a chemical nonstick surface. Depending on how old you are, you've probably heard about Teflon and may be wondering if it's safe. A chemical called PFOA used in the original Teflon was linked to cancer and banned in 2014.
New and purportedly safer materials such as GenX are now used for nonstick-coated cookware and air fryer baskets. There is still some skepticism and an ongoing debate about the safety of nonstick but, to date, no major studies have linked modern cookware use to negative health outcomes in those who use nonstick or Teflon cookware. Although GenX, when consumed in higher quantities and when found in drinking water, has been deemed toxic by the EPA.
If you're trying to avoid nonstick altogether, there are options for air fryers with nonstick baskets, such as this model that has a glass basket. Most air-frying toaster ovens come with wire racks instead of baskets and present another good alternative to nonstick.