Toothpicks were made for removing food residue from your tooth and for dental cleaning. But nowadays, you’ll likely find a pack of toothpicks in your kitchen than elsewhere, as they are widely used to help secure foods and hold them down.
When it comes to air frying, toothpicks can be used to hold together stuffed foods, like bacon-wrapped jalapenos or stuffed mushrooms, ensuring that they maintain their shape during the cooking process.
But can you put toothpicks in an air fryer without any safety concerns? Won’t it cause fire hazards?
Yes, you can put toothpicks inside an air fryer as long as it’s made up of suitable materials like wood or metal. The safety of using toothpicks inside an air fryer depends on several factors, like cooking time, toothpick material, pre-cooking preparations, etc.
Let’s dive deep into this topic to understand whether using toothpicks inside an air fryer is safe. We’ll also go through some toothpick alternatives to use inside your air fryer.
Putting Toothpicks in an Air Fryer: How Safe is it?
As you all know, air fryers circulate hot air around the food at high temperatures for cooking. This temperature ranges between 200oF-450oF.
So, any object inside your air fryer basket with an ignition point of less than 450oF can cause a fire hazard. Do toothpicks fall into this category?
Toothpicks are mostly made of wood/bamboo, plastic, or metal. Let’s analyze each of the materials separately for possible fire hazards.
Wood and bamboo have an ignition point in the range of 500oF-600oF. Your air fryer won’t reach such high temperatures while cooking.
As a result, wooden/bamboo toothpicks are entirely safe to use inside an air fryer. You won’t have to worry about any fire hazard. At most, the tips of toothpicks can get charred, but there is no possibility of fire.
Technically, there is no such thing as a metal toothpick. Imagine using a needle to clean the waste between your teeth. Scary, right?
A metal (steel) toothpick is just a conventional name for cocktail picks, used mainly in bars. However, many use them instead of wooden toothpicks to hold the food together.
But can you put these metal toothpicks inside an air fryer?
Of course, you can. Metal (steel) has an extremely high melting point, so the toothpick won’t catch fire inside the air fryer. You just need to be careful while handling them.
These metal toothpicks can get really hot after the cooking is done. So, always use mittens or gloves for handling.
Plastic or plastic-coated toothpicks are a strict no-no for use inside an air fryer. Plastic has a low melting point (~300oF), which is way below the average operating temperatures of an air fryer.
The plastic will melt while cooking, producing toxic chemicals in your food. So, never use plastic or decorative toothpicks inside your air fryer.
Best Practices for Using Toothpicks in an Air Fryer
As we saw, you can use toothpicks inside your air fryer if it’s made from wood, bamboo, or metal. However, it’s good to be careful while doing so.
Following some basic practices can help you cook safely with toothpicks.
Always Use the Right Type of Toothpick
Using the right toothpick is the key to safe air frying. Always opt for wooden or bamboo toothpicks for air fryers. Ensure the toothpicks are not splintered or broken, which can result in choking issues.
You’ll also find colored wooden toothpicks in the market. But don’t use them if the dye on them is not food-grade.
You can also use metal toothpicks as long as you use gloves for handling them after cooking.
Plastic toothpicks should never be used inside an air fryer, even if it’s of the highest quality.
Apart from these, there are several decorative toothpicks available in the market. You should avoid using them as they are only meant for plating & food decorations.
Soak the Toothpicks Before Cooking
This should be done in case you’re using wooden or bamboo toothpicks.
Soak the toothpicks in cold water for 10-15 minutes before using. The toothpicks will absorb the water, making it difficult to burn while inside the air fryer.
Monitor Your Air Fryer and Cooking Time
Check your air fryer and the food every 10-20 minutes when using toothpicks. If you see anything unusual, turn off your air fryer and let it cool down before checking.
You should also avoid overcooking as the toothpicks can get charred and break into splinters. It may result in a choking hazard while eating.
Secure Toothpicks Carefully
While using the toothpicks to pack your food together, don’t leave them loose. Air fryers use high-speed hot air to cook food.
Loose toothpicks can get caught up in that air and fly toward the heating element while cooking, resulting in a fire.
So, ensure that the toothpicks are secured tightly and will be intact for the next few hours.
Don’t Overcrowd the Air Fryer Basket
Giving your food items enough space is crucial for proper air circulation and even cooking.
Overcrowding may cause toothpicks to become dislodged during cooking, resulting in unevenly cooked food or other safety hazards.
Always Use Mittens or Gloves for Handling
Toothpicks can get really hot inside an air fryer. Once you finish cooking, use mittens or gloves to handle the food and the basket. Don’t touch the toothpicks directly, especially if using metal, as they can burn your skin with their heat.
To avoid this, remove the basket from the fryer, and let it cool down for a while before you take the food out.
Alternatives to Using Toothpicks
Not comfortable using toothpicks inside your air fryer?
No problem. Here are some alternatives that you can use safely:
- Skewers: Wooden or metal skewers are basically bigger versions of a toothpick. Instead of using several toothpicks, you can use a couple of skewers. It’ll save space inside the air fryer, and handling them is easier than toothpicks.
- Pasta: You can also use raw spaghetti or pasta sticks! Break them into small parts, about the size of a toothpick. Now, you can use them for cooking as they won’t catch fire and are completely safe.
- Cocktail Skewers: If you’ve got a home bar, cocktail skewers might be lying around somewhere. Use them instead of toothpicks inside your air fryer. They won’t burn or cause any problems in the food. Always use gloves for handling, as they can get really hot while cooking.
Using toothpicks in an air fryer is safe and practical if you follow all the precautions.
When using toothpicks, make sure they’re either made of wood/bamboo or metal. Plastic toothpicks are a big no if you want to protect your food and the air fryer.
Plastic can melt and even catch fire under the influence of the hot air of an air fryer.
While using toothpicks:
- Keep the air fryer under your supervision, and don’t overcook your food.
- Soak the toothpicks in water before using them to avoid any burns.
- Secure the toothpicks carefully so they’re intact.
- Don’t overstuff the air fryer basket.
- Use proper gloves for handling the toothpicks, as they can get pretty hot.
- Don’t panic if your wooden toothpicks get charred a little. It’s normal.
Instead of using toothpicks, you can also opt for wooden/metal skewers, uncooked pasta/spaghetti, or cocktail skewers.
So, the next time you’re preparing a stuffed or wrapped dish in your air fryer, feel confident using toothpicks to help achieve your culinary masterpiece. Remember to take the necessary steps to ensure a safe and successful outcome. Happy air frying!