Korean Study: Overcooking with Air Fryers Creates Toxic Substances

When you deep fry food, you probably need around 5 cups of cooking oil which is over a liter. However, if you’re using an air fryer, two tablespoons are usually sufficient. 

In addition to helping lower the presence of oil in foods, air fryers are also reducing the amount of acrylamide which is a toxic carcinogen in foods. One study found that air fryers can lower acrylamide formation by up to 90 percent. 

However, this isn’t always the case especially if the air fryer isn’t used cautiously. In a 2020 study, the Korea Consumer Agency concluded that overcooking food in air fryers contributes to the formation of toxic compounds like acrylamide.

Acrylamide & Why It’s Dangerous 

Acrylamide is a compound that forms during high-temperature processes like broiling, baking, frying, and roasting. Acrylamide is the product of the so-called Maillard reaction between an amino acid known as asparagine and some reducing sugars. 

It forms when foods are heated at 248 degrees F or higher. Acrylamide, according to the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, acrylamide is on their list of human health concerns. 

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority confirmed that acrylamide is a potential cause of cancer. In high concentrations, acrylamide is a neurotoxin. 

In one study, it was found that acrylamide could cause cancer in animals in concentrations several times higher than those in food.

But, it’s not clear what the effects of acrylamide on humans are. So, it cannot be said that it’s 100 percent carcinogenic. But, there are several indicators of a higher risk of certain types of cancer due to acrylamide. 

The 2020 study conducted by the Korea Consumer Agency found that overcooking with air fryers contributes to more acrylamide. 

2020 Korea Consumer Agency Study on Acrylamide from Air Fryers 

For the study, the team used ten different air fryer brands to check the formation of acrylamide in the foods cooked inside them. 

Per the manufacturer’s instructions, the team cooked french fries in small batches for the longest available cooking setting at a temperature of 392 degrees F. 

The models used emitted up to 1,720 mg/kg of acrylamide which is beyond the EU and Korean standard by 3.4 times and 1.7 times respectively. But, the acrylamide emissions lowered to safer levels when the foods were cooked in large batches. 

How to Lower the Emissions of Acrylamide 

Overcooking food with air fryers elevates the risk of acrylamide formation. But, the same can also be said for other cooking methods like baking and roasting. Boiling and steaming creates less acrylamide,  according to studies. 

The lower temperature and the shorter cooking time contribute to the reduced acrylamide presence. Here are a couple of useful tips to reduce the presence of acrylamide in the foods you prepare and eat:

  • When you’re cooking potatoes, soak the potatoes in water for 15 to 30 minutes 
  • Don’t eat burnt food because the darker it is, the higher the level of acrylamide
  • The FDA advises refraining from storing potatoes in the fridge as more acrylamide is formed during the cooking process 
  • It’s best to keep potatoes in a cool and dark area like a pantry 
  • When you’re roasting, frying, or baking food, avoid overcooking it but try to keep the golden and yellow, lighter color