Want air fryer cooking instructions on pack? Proceed with caution!
4 November 2022
David Whittaker, Process Innovation Lead and Greg Hooper, Microwave and Thermal Process Specialist
Why are people using air fryers?
Increasingly popular, air fryers work by circulating hot air around their cooking compartments at speed. The power of the fan in the
comparatively small compartment can produce strong air currents and short cook times. Here are just some of the reasons that consumers are
turning to these excellent devices:
- To reduce energy consumption from cooking
- Potential to reduce pre-heat time and cook time
- Require less oil / fat than other frying methods (lower calorie / healthier alternatives)
- Can produce quality and ‘crispness’ comparable to other frying methods
- Available in a range of sizes / types and can be customised with additional accessories
So what’s the catch?
In short, variability between different air fryer brands and models.
Despite the popularity and success of air fryers, they present a challenge to the industry with respect to on-pack
cooking instructions. Greg Hooper, Instruction Services Manager, and his team have tested a range of air fryer types and models of varying
cavity sizes and wattages. The results indicate significant variability in temperature dial accuracy, pre-heat time and required product
This makes it difficult to generate, verify and validate ‘one-size-fits-all’ instructions, which if not correct
could be a food safety risk to the consumer.
How is this a food safety concern for consumers?
Greg Hooper warned,
We have tested 10 different air fryers and found considerable differences in their ability to safely cook products
using one instruction, with different cook times required for the same product when using the same settings. Think of the variability
that might be out there with all of the other air fryers that are available!"
He emphasised the potential food safety and quality risks of over and under cooking that could come from attempting
to validate instructions for display on pack. This is not to say that air fryers do not work or that they do not cook food safely, but
rather that the variable performance currently means it would be challenging to produce a validated instruction that would be guaranteed to
work for all air fryers.
But why do we want a “validated” on-pack cooking instruction?
Foods not considered ‘ready-to-eat’ must be heated enough to kill pathogens, so we must ensure that the cooking
instruction does not lead to the consumer inadvertently under cooking the product.
The BRC Global Standard for Food Safety
Clause 5.2.5: Cooking (heating) instruction validation
mandates that on-pack cooking instructions be fully verified and validated to ensure the instructions will always deliver the required
minimum thermal process.
So can we validate cooking instructions for air fryers?
Currently, it would be a challenge to provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’, validated air fryer cooking instruction for a
product. For example, for one frozen burger product we found up to 8 minutes difference in cook time between air fryer models set to 180°C.
So how would you validate a cooking instruction for a frozen burger when we do not yet know the variability of every
air fryer on the market? Well, the answer is we can’t without further research.
What services can Campden BRI offer?
Although air fryer cooking instruction validation across the board is difficult, the Instruction Services team at Campden BRI can offer
services to support food manufacturers looking to add air fryer instructions. We can provide:
- Expert advice on air fryer cooking instructions, as well as in depth air fryer testing. Robust scientific rigour is particularly
crucial for ready-to-cook products and our service is gold standard for providing this.
- Consultancy and support on how to approach air fryer cooking instruction development and BRCGS compliance.
- Recommendations (generation or verification) for air fryer cooking instructions performed using a laboratory procedure that considers the
performance of the ten disparate air fryers used in the study detailed in our white paper.
The recommended instruction is not guaranteed to be suitable for every possible air fryer design available on the market (it is important
that the possible performance variability between air fryers is understood).
- Bespoke validation / verification services for a specific air fryer model, or selection thereof.
Contact our technical team today to discuss your needs regarding air fryers and ensure that you can take maximum advantage of
this consumer trend whilst ensuring the safety of your customers. Air fryer services
Are other companies able to offer instruction validation services?
We recommend scrutinising services offering full air fryer cooking instruction verification or validation at this time. Some suggested points
of discussion around any air fryer verification or validation services:
- Which air fryer models were used in the work and why?
- Do they account for variability in dial setting across all air fryers?
- Will the air fryers used be calibrated before use in validation testing (ideally daily)?
- Have they accounted for variability of heating rate across all air fryers?
We would similarly advise food manufactures performing in-house instruction validation trials to consider these points
and speak to us at Campden BRI before undertaking any work.
So how did we manage with microwaves then?
Similar risks manifested in food poisoning cases in the 1990s, which were linked to products cooked in microwave
ovens and their differing performance. Are we seeing a similar problem about to evolve with air fryers? This was addressed for microwave
ovens through the development of a microwave rating system, which is based on the energy delivered to food (rather than the energy used by
the device itself). Could the development of a new rating system be an option for air fryers?
Get in touch with Campden BRI
As summarised by David Whittaker, Process Innovation Lead
A poor-quality cooking instruction generated for a pack could mislead a consumer into under cooking product and
result in a potential food safety risk”
We urge you to think very carefully about this topic and get in touch with us if you have any questions or wish to
explore some of the services we currently offer.
Check out our follow-up blog and
white paper where we deep dive into the work
conducted here at Campden BRI that has led to our findings so far.
David Whittaker is the Process Innovation department manager at Campden BRI and a Thermal Processing specialist.
Greg Hooper works in the Process Innovation Group at Campden BRI. He joined Campden BRI in 1990 having gained a BSc in Applied Science (Physics and
Chemistry) from Sheffield City Polytechnic.
How can we help you?
If you’d like to find out more about air fryer cooking instructions, contact our support team to
find out how we can help.
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