THE ALIEN IN YOUR KITCHEN
Revenge of the Killer Air Fryer, a modern horror story
Just how safe is your air fryer? If you believe the scaremongers, dire things could soon be happening in your kitchen of a kind not seen since 1950s B-grade movies first tried to frighten us into the next millennium. If you’re lucky, you might survive the onslaught… if you follow our sensible guide to air fryer safety.
There’s an alien in your kitchen. It’s been there for some time, sitting on the counter, glaring at you. You’re trying to get a handle on exactly what to do with it. Just what kind of a beast is it, really? What kind of a threat does it pose? What is its true agenda? Is it safe? Can you sleep soundly at night? Are we all to be murdered in our beds?
Browsing the internet is not entirely helpful. There are all sorts of horror stories. It’s like a B-grade movie from the 1950s about an alien invasion. Some of the scaremongering stories you read online about air fryer disasters were surely written by former Hollywood schlock-horror screenwriters down on their luck.
Millions of air fryers recalled for burn and fire hazards!
Your air fryer can catch fire and burn your kitchen down!!
Your air fryer can catch fire and EXPLODE!!!
Man found strangled and bludgeoned by his air fryer in a ditch in downtown Detroit!!!!
Okay, I made the last one up, but I could believe it after having done a bit of browsing for air fryer horror stories on the internet.
If we believed all the dire warnings, it surely wouldn’t be long before there’d be an air fryer horror movie in the disaster movie genre of the likes of Airport (1970), The Towering Inferno (1974) and, latterly, Titanic (1996), if three nearly decades ago qualifies for “latterly”. James Cameron’s Oscar-winner had been preceded by A Night to Remember in 1958, which had followed the original Titanic released in 1953. Among the best of them all, this time a fictitious account of a ship capsizing, was the original The Poseidon Adventure (1972).
The genre was spawned much earlier in the 1950s with schlockers such as When Worlds Collide (1951), in which a planet is on a collision course with Earth and Bruce Willis hasn’t been born yet; Day the World Ended (1955), about a world devastated by nuclear war and something of a cult classic; The Day the Sky Exploded (1958), which was released in the United Kingdom as Death Comes From Outer Space, and The Blob (1958), about a jelly-like monster from outer space that eats a small town like, you know, yours.
More recently there’ve been hits such as Stephen Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011), which was to become chillingly realistic a few years later, and The Perfect Storm (2000). The funniest was Airplane (1980) which spoofed the genre hilariously.
In the United States, the kind of lawyers that prey on the uninformed and gullible are touting for business by spreading shock-horror stories about air fryer calamities.
Hundreds of air fryers recalled! Millions of air fryers recalled! Some of this is verified (Insignia air fryer ovens were recalled in the US in April 2022). But some of the shock-horror stories scoop up air fryers along with crock pots and pressure cookers, and multi-cookers have been mentioned in the same breath – on the websites of American personal liability lawyers.
I’m not sure how much store I would place in the advice of personal injury lawyers after your bucks, but what we do need to take from this is that things can go wrong, just as things can go wrong with any appliance, from a toaster to a microwave oven or a slow cooker, although with the last you’d have more time to deal with it, logically.
Every disaster movie starts with someone ignoring a scientist, or so the popular meme goes. So if we want to avoid potential disaster and mayhem and be forced to have our kitchens remodelled in the wake of the horror, the horror, perhaps we should listen to what the experts have to say.
To that end, I have browsed the internet far and wide to find the best and most sensible advice for keeping your air fryer safe, and your kitchen and family safe, while also keeping an eye on the alien front. Just in case.
#Safety factor number 1: Read the guide
Not all air fryers are the same. They differ in size, shape and capacity. The elements in some versions may be closer to the food in one model compared with another, making it potentially more hazardous. So read the safety and operating instructions that come in the box carefully and take note of everything. Aliens are unlikely to be able to read our languages, but store the guide out of sight in case C-3PO sneaks in and tries to hotwire your new appliance. He’s very clever.
#Safety factor number 2: Unplug it after use
Leaving an air fryer plugged in at the wall when not in use is a danger factor anywhere, but especially in South Africa, where we have daily power cuts (a phrase Richard Quest has urged us to use rather than the otherwise saccharine “load shedding”).
Left plugged in, heating components inside your air fryer can spring back to life without your knowledge. While you’re at work, out shopping or having coffee with your mates, something could start burning or fuse. And Daleks will arrive with a pre-programmed mission to eat your air fryer. And you.
#Safety factor number 3: Don’t put anything flammable underneath it
Apparently, some people like to put their air fryers on top of a tea towel or other material to stop them from slipping (they tend to “move” quite easily as they are usually lightweight). Air fryers get very hot in various places, including underneath, and flammable material below them might ignite.
Place it on a kitchen countertop: they are made to be stable and are unlikely to catch fire easily. If you’re worried that aliens may beam themselves in to steal your air fryer, just put it on a flat, stable, hard surface. It’s unlikely to slide off even if it catches a moerse skrik when little green men walk in the kitchen door.
#Safety factor number 4: Don’t put anything on top of it either
Air has to escape through air fryer vents, so as well as keeping the top of it clear, it’s wise to have a kitchen extractor and/or an open window for air to escape.
They’re made, in part, of plastic, which is one reason why they are surprisingly lightweight. The last thing you want is for your air fryer to melt and become a slimy, sticky, hot puddle which may slide off the counter and onto the floor, then ooze out of the door where it will be swallowed up by The Blob which is making its way through your town consuming everything in sight. Unlikely as this scenario may be, are you sure you want to take a chance?
#Safety factor number 5: Don’t even put anything next to it
You were expecting that to be followed by, “just kidding”, weren’t you? But it’s a factor, even if a lesser one than the two previous points.
An air fryer would not be able to do its job if it did not have air vents. And air vents release air and vapours which may contain particles of fat or food from inside. If the air cannot escape it will overheat. Then three-headed beings from Planet Zog will appear through the floorboards and eat your air fryer. And you.
So: pull it away from the wall (the air fryer, not the three-headed alien), leave space on either side of it for air flow, and make sure there’s nothing too close to the top, such as the lower end of a kitchen cupboard.
In a nutshell: air fryers need space, just as humans and some aliens do (aliens need a lot of space). Respect their needs.
#Safety factor number 6: Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket
From a cooking perspective, allowing space between items in an air fryer basket helps air to circulate, just as, when frying things in a pan on the stove top, you need to leave space between them so that they don’t release their juices too quickly and stew rather than fry.
But in an air fryer there’s another reason. Crowding the basket is a factor known to cause fires. While this may be as unlikely as a visit from Edgar the Bug, who’s standing outside your kitchen door right now, why take a chance?
#Safety factor number 7: Go lightly with oil
The recent steep hike in cooking oil prices is a good reason to invest in an air fryer. When making potato chips in a pot on the stove, for instance, you would use a large amount of sunflower or canola oil. In an air fryer, you use very little. And take that literally. If you put too much of it in, some of it may hit the element above and catch fire.
You wouldn’t want that any more than you’d want Killer Clowns From Outer Space to sneak in the kitchen door and take too much interest in the cat.
Also to be wary of are wet batters and some coatings. Anything that could form droplets or bits and pieces which may float might touch the element and catch fire. So use common sense when preparing what you put in your air fryer.
#Safety factor number 8: Don’t use flammable propellants
There’s much advice about this online. We’re all told to use cooking oil spray to grease the air fryer basket and/or on the food itself that is intended for the air fryer. But it seems we need to be wary of which ones we use.
Some cooking sprays contain propellants (logically) which can break down the non-stick coating in the air fryer basket, over time. It’s advised to buy a decent quality oil spray bottle and decant good quality oil into that.
While on the topic of flammability, be sure not to burn yourself. Let the appliance cool before cleaning. Don’t touch the inner parts with bare hands; use oven gloves. Allow the air fryer to cool before cleaning.
Talking of aerosol sprays, Doom will be of no use if The Nostromo Drone is lurking nearby. Keep your eyes peeled.
#Safety factor number 9: Parchment paper needs to be anchored
That parchment or foil: be sure it’s tucked under the food so it can’t fly around like a demonic UFO. Air fryer parchment paper, or other flammable materials if they’re safe to use in an air fryer, need to be weighted down so they don’t touch the element above and ignite, and then the fire brigade will arrive and anything that wasn’t burnt will be soaked, and the insurance won’t cover everything because it never does, and we haven’t even got into alien conspiracy theory territory yet. Look, there may have been no reported cases of air-fryer-seeking missiles from outer space as yet, but why take a chance?
#Safety factor number 10: Don’t put your air fryer on the hob
This really shouldn’t need to be explained, but in case it might not have occurred to you, don’t put the air fryer on the stove top even if it’s cold and there’s no heat or flame.
There have been instances of this where someone has turned on the hob, unwittingly causing the air fryer to heat, melt, explode, and worse. Then there will be personal injury lawyers all over the place, a fate possibly even scarier than being eaten alive by monsters from outer space who feast only on the freshest free range organic human flesh.
The last thing you want is for The Alien That Time Forgot to suddenly appear at your back door. DM/TGIFood