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Is Air Frying Healthy? Exploring the Health Benefits and Risks of Air Frying

air fryer chicken wings

By Kelley Herring

Are you ready to embark on a culinary adventure that will satisfy your deepest cravings for crispy, golden delights?

Imagine the mouthwatering crunch of perfectly fried chicken… the irresistible allure of golden French fries… or a decadent Crème Brulé with a crackled crust and creamy interior.

When we’re health-conscious, these delectable foods put us in a culinary conundrum, torn between the flavors we adore and the well-being we strive for.

But what if I told you there is a solution that can satisfy your cravings for crispy, golden fried foods…. without compromising your health?

Get ready to meet the kitchen superhero that will change the way you think about fried foods forever: The mighty Air Fryer.

Air Frying: Magically Making Golden Fried Food… Good for You!

The secret behind the air fryer’s virtuous charm is its unique ability to practically eliminate the need for added oils altogether.

That’s right: Crispy, delectable morsels that don’t rely on a bath of bad fats for their tantalizing appeal.

But there’s many more benefits to the air fryer than just omitting excess oil. It’s a culinary marvel that employs cutting-edge technology to deliver exceptional culinary results – each and every time.

The air fryer’s powerful fan propels the currents of air with precision, enveloping ingredients in a swirling vortex of heat. This rapid circulation guarantees even cooking, ensuring that every corner of your food receives the attention it deserves.

And that illusive tender-on-the-inside-crunchy-on-the-outside thing we all know and love? The air fryer is unparalleled in its ability to create that mesmerizing symphony of textures.

The magic lies in the way the air fryer seals in moisture, preserving the tenderness of the food’s interior while producing a beautifully crisp exterior.

From crispy chicken wings that rival your favorite sports bar’s signature dish to guilt-free sweet potato fries that tantalize your palate, this kitchen marvel allows you to savor the flavors you adore while making healthier choices.

How Does an Air Fryer Work?

Despite its name, the air fryer doesn’t “fry” at all. It’s actually a lot like a compact convection oven.

When the air fryer is preheated, a heating element generates intense heat, which is then rapidly circulated by a high-powered fan. This circulating hot air envelopes the food placed in the air fryer’s cooking chamber, cooking it evenly from all sides. The rapid air movement creates a crispy outer layer while sealing in moisture, resulting in food that is tender and juicy on the inside… and crispy on the outside.

The air fryer uses only a small amount of oil, typically sprayed onto the food or brushed on its surface, which helps to enhance browning and texture.

And because the air frying process mimics the results of deep frying – but with significantly less oil – it gives us a healthier alternative for enjoying crispy and flavorful dishes.

Benefits & Risks of Air Frying

Since air frying requires little to no oil, recipes made in the air fryer will turn out significantly lower in calories and fat than deep-fried foods.

For instance, a 3.5-ounce serving of chicken deep-fried in vegetable oil has about 240 calories and 14 grams of inflammatory fat, while the same amount of air-fried chicken has only 140 calories and 4 grams of native healthy fats.

The air fryer may also help to reduce some of the harmful byproducts of cooking that can pose health risks. For example, acrylamide is a cancer-causing chemical that forms when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures, such as deep-frying, baking, or roasting.

Acrylamide has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, infertility and other health problems. A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that air frying significantly reduced the acrylamide levels in French fries compared to deep frying. Keep in mind – the higher heat levels in the air fryer still produce acrylamide in carb-rich foods, but just to a lesser degree.1

Similarly, air frying may also be a better option to grilling. That’s because the direct heat of grilling can produce harmful compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that air frying reduced the levels of HCAs and PAHs in chicken compared to grilling. 2

With that said, air frying has its health risks too…

When unstable cooking oils are heated to high temperatures, they can break down and release harmful compounds like aldehydes and other free radicals. This can happen with any higher-heat cooking method that uses oil, including air frying. To minimize the production of these harmful compounds, always choose stable native fats like tallow, lard, duck fat, coconut oil, ghee and avocado oil. 3

Longer cooking times in the air fryer can also reduce delicate nutrients in food – especially vitamin C and the B family of vitamins, so don’t overcook! 4

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Choosing The Best Air Fryer: Materials Matter

There’s another health risk that comes with air frying. And it has to do with the device itself.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), found in nonstick coatings, is used in the interior of some air fryer vessels, as well as in air fryer baskets and trays.

Exposure to PFOA has been linked to numerous health concerns. According to studies, prolonged exposure to PFOA may contribute to damaged cholesterol, liver damage, and an increased risk of certain types of cancers.5,6

To reduce the potential risks associated with PFOA, be sure to choose air fryers with nonstick coatings that are labeled as PFOA-free. Many manufacturers have transitioned to safer alternatives for nonstick coatings, such as stainless steel, ceramic or silicone-based materials. Carefully read the product description, labels, and user manuals to ensure that the air fryer you choose does not contain PFOA or any other harmful substances.

My favorite choice for air frying is the Instant Pot, which offers a stainless-steel vessel, which can then be topped with a glass air fryer lid attachment.

Easy Air Fryer Recipes for Your Best Health

The air fryer will revolutionize your kitchen, transforming your dreams of crispy perfection into a reality that will leave you both satisfied and nourished.

Need some inspiration to get started? Here are a few Paleo and Keto-Friendly recipes to delight your tastebuds and dazzle friends and family with their golden, crispy-crunchy goodness:

Air Fryer Grass-Fed Steak


  • 2 grass-fed steaks (such as ribeye, striploin, or filet mignon)

  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed ghee

  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

  • Optional: Garlic powder, onion powder, or other seasonings of your choice


  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200°C).

  2. Rub the steaks with ghee and season them generously with salt and pepper. Add any additional seasonings you prefer.

  3. Place the steaks in the air fryer basket in a single layer, ensuring they are not touching.

  4. Cook the steaks for 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness and desired doneness. For medium-rare, aim for an internal temperature of around 130°F (54°C). Adjust the cooking time according to your preferred level of doneness.

  5. Flip the steaks halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

  6. Once cooked to your desired doneness, remove the steaks from the air fryer and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.

  7. Serve the juicy and flavorful air fryer steak with your favorite side dishes or sauces.

  8. Note: Cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of the steaks and the air fryer model used. It’s recommended to use a meat thermometer to ensure the steak reaches your preferred level of doneness.

Air Fryer Duck Fat Fries


  • 4 large organic russet potatoes

  • 2 tablespoons pastured duck fat

  • Se salt to taste

  • Optional: Fresh herbs (such as rosemary or thyme) for garnish


  1. Start by washing and peeling the russet potatoes. Cut them into even-sized French fry shapes, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Ideally, use a fry-cutter for consistency in fry shape.

  2. Place the cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water and let them soak for about 30 minutes. This step helps remove excess starch, resulting in crispier fries.

  3. After soaking, drain the potatoes and pat them dry thoroughly using paper towels.

  4. Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for a few minutes. Melt the duck fat.

  5. In a large bowl, toss the potato strips with the duck fat until each piece is well-coated.

  6. Arrange the coated potato strips in a single layer in the air fryer basket, making sure they are not overcrowded. Cook them in batches if necessary.

  7. Air fry the potato strips for approximately 18-20 minutes, shaking the basket or flipping the fries halfway through the cooking time. This ensures that they cook evenly and develop a crispy exterior.

  8. Once the fries are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the air fryer and transfer them to a serving dish.

  9. Season the duck fat fries with salt to taste and toss gently to distribute the seasoning evenly. You can also sprinkle some fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme, for an added aromatic touch.

  10. Serve the hot and crispy air fryer duck fat fries immediately as a delightful side dish or as a tasty snack. Pair them with your favorite dipping sauce, such as organic ketchup, truffle aioli, or spicy Paleo mayo, for a flavor-packed experience.

Air Fryer Keto Fried Chicken


  • 4 bone-in, skin-on pastured chicken thighs

  • 1/2 cup almond flour

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 2 large pastured eggs, beaten

  • Healthy fat for greasing and spraying


  1. Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for a few minutes.

  2. In a shallow bowl or dish, combine the almond flour, grated Parmesan cheese, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, dried oregano, salt, and black pepper. Mix well to combine all the dry ingredients.

  3. Dip each chicken thigh into the beaten eggs, ensuring it’s fully coated.

  4. Roll the chicken thigh in the almond flour mixture, pressing gently to adhere the coating evenly. Make sure all sides of the chicken thigh are coated with the mixture.

  5. Lightly spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray or brush it with oil to prevent sticking.

  6. Place the coated chicken thighs in the air fryer basket in a single layer, without overcrowding. You may need to cook them in batches, depending on the size of your air fryer.

  7. Air fry the chicken thighs at 400°F (200°C) for approximately 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time. Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to ensure it is fully cooked.

  8. Once the chicken thighs are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the air fryer and let them rest for a few minutes.

  9. Serve the keto air fryer fried chicken hot and enjoy the crispy, flavorful coating paired with juicy chicken. It pairs well with keto-friendly dipping sauces or served alongside a fresh salad for a complete meal.

  10. Indulge in the deliciousness of crispy fried chicken while sticking to your keto diet. With the magic of the air fryer, you can enjoy this guilt-free and low-carb version of a classic favorite.

Find more of Kelley Herring’s health, wellness, and nutrition articles on our Discover Blog.

kelley herring

Kelley Herring

Cook healthier meals in a fraction of the time with Kelley’s newest program Instant Pot Keto. Inside you’ll discover 100+ ketogenic recipes made with the magic of the Instant Pot, all designed to provide superior nutrition and metabolic balance. Get your copy of Instant Pot Keto today!


1 Togrul, H., & Arslan, N. (2020). Acrylamide reduction in French fries by different cooking methods. Journal of Food Quality, 2020, 1-9

2 Yuan, Y., Jiang, Y., & Zhu, F. (2021). Evaluation of health risks associated with exposure to heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons through grilled foods. Food Control, 129, 108252

3 Kummer, C., Grieshop, C. M., & Matak, K. E. (2019). Air frying as an alternative to deep fat frying: A preliminary study. Journal of Food Science, 84(11), 3138-3147

4 Samman, S., & Sivarajah, G. (2020). The nutrient composition of air-fried foods is affected by recipe and cooking time. Food & Function, 11(8), 7042-7052

5 M. Longnecker et al., “Association between PFOA, PFOS, and serum lipid levels in adolescents.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 39, no. 8, 2005, pp. 8678–8683. 

6 Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Toxicological profile for Perfluoroalkyls. 2018.