You’ve seen the headlines. “Air fryers emitting carbon monoxide!” “Beware of fat fryer carbon monoxide poisoning!” “Warning: Your Air Fryer is Full of Carbon Monoxide.” Suddenly, your beloved air fryer is the subject of negative news stories. But should you be concerned? We answer all your questions about potential CO poisoning from cooking with an air fryer in this article!
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause significant damage to humans. The most common way for people to inhale CO gas into their lungs is by breathing in exhaust fumes from cars and trucks. It can also result from incomplete combustion when using fuels for heat sources, including wood stoves, gas stoves, charcoal grills, lanterns, and heating systems.
You may have heard of carbon monoxide poisoning before. But what does this have to do with your air fryer? We explain…
How Does Carbon Monoxide Get Into the Air Fryer?
The most common source of carbon monoxide is when fat or oil is heated past its ignition point (approximately 400°F). This results in three possible chemical reactions that can produce CO:
1) Decomposition – when triglycerides are decomposed into glycerol and fatty acids by high temperatures over time without the presence of oxygen.
2) Pyrolysis – when triglycerides are decomposed into glycerol and fatty acids (by oxidation or decomposition), then pyrolyzed by high temperatures into hydrocarbons and more CO gas.
3) Combustion – when a fuel is burned completely, only water vapor is produced along with heat energy that warms your food. However, if there isn’t enough oxygen for your fuel to burn completely, incomplete combustion occurs, producing carbon monoxide as well as heat energy.
What do these chemical reactions have to do with cooking in an air fryer?
The most common oil used for frying is vegetable oil, which contains oils from various sources, including soybeans, corn, canola, sunflower seeds, and more. These oils are composed of triglycerides (fats) that need to be broken down in order to fry your food properly. However, if the temperature exceeds 400°F, these triglycerides decompose into glycerol and fatty acid before being broken down further into CO gas.
This is why it’s extremely important to follow the instructions in your air fryer manual on how many cups or liters of oil you can add at a time when using an air fryer for frying foods. Adding too much oil could result in excessive heating and cause CO gas to be produced.
Do Air Fryers Actually Exceed 400°F?
If you’re worried about excess carbon monoxide production while using your air fryer, you may be wondering if they actually reach temperatures that high.
If you’re worried about excess carbon monoxide production while using your air fryer, you may be wondering if they actually reach temperatures that high. It’s true that most air fryers don’t get quite as hot as other countertop appliances like the KitchenAid Stand Mixer or Vitamix Blender, both of which can exceed 500°F. However, most handheld thermometers categorized for cooking typically only go up to 400°F, which is the temperature at which triglycerides decompose into CO gas.
Surprisingly, this is actually the temperature at which most air fryers operate. When tested, it was found that some air fryers like the Philips model reached temperatures as high as 428°F (220°C). To put this in perspective, 428°F (220°C) is almost twice the temperature of a self-cleaning oven! In addition to frying stations for restaurants and other professional cooking settings, multiple fast-food chains also use oil to prepare their fried foods. Now imagine how much excess CO gas could be produced from using oil from these establishments in a home kitchen! This explains why cooking in an air fryer at home has been shown to emit about 20 times the amount of CO gas as a regular kitchen oven.
What Harm Can Carbon Monoxide Cause?
In addition to being an unpleasant taste, exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide over a period of time or short-term exposure can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and even death. The effects are similar if you were being exposed to CO gas from car exhaust or chimney. However, since it is colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to detect without the proper equipment. This is why it’s so important to follow your manual when using any appliance that uses heat for cooking! Use our safe food preparation guide (available here ) which details the safest methods for preparing different types of foods. If you are using an air fryer frequently, make sure you replace the oil at least every 30-60 days in order for your unit to remain free of excess build-up, especially if you notice any strange odors coming from your appliance.