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Do you put oil in an air fryer and if so, which oil is best?  You will find the answers to all your questions right here.

oil in an air fryerAir fryers are amazing kitchen appliances. They’re compact, portable, easy to operate and affordable too. An air fryer allows you to enjoy all your perfectly cooked tender favorites with a crispy texture on the outside. As an affordable kitchen tool, we heartily recommend a quality air fryer to just about everyone we talk to. But where does cooking oil factor into the equation?

One of the biggest benefits of air frying foods like chicken wings and nuggets, French fries, onion rings, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower bites is that it makes these foods taste better – without requiring much or any oil.

That’s right. Yes, you can cook a variety of dishes in an air fryer without using any added oil. Many foods like pre-cut fries and chicken wings already contain oil. This means you can just toss them in to your air fryer basket without adding anything. Follow simple instructions and you’ll get great tasting pub-style food every time. No oil is necessary.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Although technically you can also cook other foods from raw without adding oil, we recommend in most cases, to use at least some. Oil offers two huge benefits when air frying foods.

  1. Oil adds to the crispy factor. Without any oil at all you’ll have a difficult time getting that crispy, crunchy coating on the outside that we all love. The good news is that with an air fryer, a little bit of oil goes a long way.  Not requiring much (or any) cooking oil is what makes the air fryer so appealing to those who want to eat healthier while still being able to enjoy the foods they’ve come to love.
  1. The second thing adding oil to your foods cooked in an air fryer accomplishes is it makes clean up easier. When you don’t add any oil – your food sits directly on top of the basket. That means any crumbs, oil, or grease from the food can get baked onto the basket.  In most cases that’s not a big deal. But it does require cleaning (possibly some soaking too) and we always recommend hand washing rather than adding the basket of your air fryer to the dishwasher, despite what many brands suggest you can do.

We’ve learned over the years that the best way to get maximum value and longevity from any product that is coated with a nonstick finish is handle it with care. After each use, unplug the air fryer and take all removable parts out and then wash them by hand in warm water with just a touch of dishwashing soap. Wipe down the rest of the appliance and it will be ready to go the next time you need it.

Take care of your air fryer and it will last longer. Avoid using the dishwasher, harsh chemicals, firm brushes, scouring pads and metal utensils. Stick to silicone, nylon, or wooden utensils. And use a small amount of oil each time – unless your food already has oil added.

Oil in an Air Fryer – Yes or No?

Although not necessary with a nonstick basket inside the air fryer, using some cooking oil when air frying is recommended – even for those wanting to cut back on their consumption of oil altogether. While there are some other options to cook with (including various broths or the aquafaba (water contained in a can of chickpeas) you won’t get the same crispiness that oil provides. In our view, the best approach to take when cooking from raw is to use quality oil, but to do so sparingly.

Foods With Oil Added

Foods that don’t typically require the addition of oil for air frying are those that are sold as frozen prepared foods. This includes onion rings, fries, chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, and tater tots, for example. Food manufacturers have already added oil to these products. So all you have to do to enjoy these and many other foods is to simply place them in the basket, turn on your air fryer, set the required time and let your machine do its thing.

Which Oil Is Best For An Air Fryer?

It’s probably not a good idea to use whatever kind of oil you happen to have in your kitchen. For best results in an air fryer, choose cooking oil with a high smoke point. The “smoke point” refers to the temperature to which any fat or oil can be heated before it starts smoking. Oils all have different levels of heat they can tolerate before producing smoke. So any oil with a higher smoke point can be used in a hot air fryer – without producing a smoke-filled kitchen.

There are a variety of oils you could use and some you should probably avoid using in your air fryer. If a fat or oil can be used in a regular oven – it can also be used in your air fryer. However, some oils are far better suited to the temperatures most often used in an air fryer. What follows is our list of the best oils (in descending order) to use in an air fryer and their smoke points.

Top Oils For Air Fryers Smoke Point

Avocado Oil 520°F
Safflower Oil 510°F
Sunflower Oil 486°F
Extra Light Olive Oil 468°F
Corn Oil 446°F
Peanut Oil 440°F
Vegetable Oil 428°F
Grapeseed Oil 420°F

These are versatile oils that can be used in small quantities in an air fryer to produce outstanding results without producing smoke.

Vegetable oil is suitable due to its smoke point. But some people prefer to use one of the other options simply because with vegetable oil, it’s not clear exactly what you’re getting.

avocado oil for air fryer
Avocado Oil

Others Oils Can Work Too

You could and in some cases may prefer to use oils with a lower smoke point for certain dishes that can be cooked in the air fryer at lower temperatures. Just be sure to keep an eye on your foods as you’re cooking them and keep the temperature down so you don’t fill your kitchen with smoke.

One option to add extra yummy flavor to your air-fried foods is to cook them with an infused oils such as roasted garlic, or cayenne pepper infused olive oil. These are great for making spicier dishes. But always remember to keep any infused oils in the refrigerator so they last longer.

Avoid Using Butter

Butter has a low smoke point of 250°F and should therefore not be used in an air fryer. However, Clarified Butter (Ghee) has a much higher smoke point of 485°F so that’s an option you might want to consider. You should probably avoid using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Sesame Oil as all three can begin to smoke at 350°F. Do not use oils with a low smoke point. Not only will it produce smoke, it can also give your food a weird taste. Most air fryers top out at 400°F – so any oil with a higher smoke point should be acceptable.

How To Minimize the Amount of Oil You Use in the Air Fryer

Part of what makes an air fryer such a great appliance is that you can cook all your favorite foods and enjoy that fried-like food experience while only using a fraction of the oil normally required.

Forget about adding tablespoons or even teaspoons of oil to your dishes. With an air fryer, you only need drops of oil instead. You’ll never have to subject favorite snack foods like fries to a vat full of hot oil in order to enjoy them cooked to a crispy perfection.

How can you apply so little oil evenly? Well the best option for adding oil to your foods is to use a spray bottle mister or spritzer. This sprays a mist of oil and helps spread a small amount over the food – without using more than necessary.

By the way, you should always spray the oil directly on to your food rather than into the air fryer basket. That’s the best way to ensure good results. There is a variety of oil misters available these days. If you can’t find one locally – you can always find them online.

Protect Your Nonstick Finishes

Refer to the manual of your air fryer. Chances are the basket or tray of your particular air fryer is coated with a nonstick finish since most air fryer baskets are supplied this way. When you add your lightly oiled foods, most will be easily removable – although you may experience some sticking. But that’s nothing to worry about since it can always be handled by a good soaking in hot water with mild soap.

Avoid all aerosol sprays. Stick to using good quality oil like avocado oil in a spritzer bottle. Aerosol sprays can actually damage the nonstick coating on your air fryer. So if you want to get more use out of your new appliance, steer clear of any spray oil such as Pam.

The best oils are those listed above due to their higher smoke point and the fact that some of them are basically flavorless, so they won’t impact the taste of your food.

You’ll Buy Less Oil

If you’re planning to use the air fryer regularly to cook your meals, you’ll probably find yourself using a lot less oil than you otherwise would. Since you only need a little bit of oil each time you cook, a single bottle will last a lot longer. For some that means being able to indulge in a more expensive oil and feeling justified in their decision.

A Gentle Spritzing is All You Need

The best way to oil your food prior to air fry is to add it all to a mixing bowl and give it a few squirts with a spritzer bottle containing your oil of choice. Toss the food around well with a spatula until the oil is spread evenly throughout. And then spread your lightly-oiled food evenly across the basket of the air fryer.

It’s a combination of the intense heat of the air and the small amount of oil added to the food that creates that deliciously crispy slightly golden brown texture. Oil heats fast and that means that the oil on the food becomes hotter faster than the food itself. This in turn contributes to the crispiness.

Some foods like mushrooms for example have high water content and that water comes out during the cooking process. So you can probably use even less oil when cooking mushrooms.

Easy Does It

To get that crispy coating, only a small amount of oil is typically required. If you add too much your food may come out with a greasy texture, like what often occurs with deep-fried foods. When spritzing, only add enough oil as is necessary. Even though you’re putting it on lightly, it’s easy to get carried away and add far more than is actually necessary.

Some frozen foods like dumplings, pierogies, or ravioli might require a little bit of oil before air frying, otherwise they may emerge too dry when cooked.

Cooking in an air fryer with a little bit of oil can produce some amazing vegetable-based meals and side dishes. You’ll get your food coming out crispy and flavorful and you’ll be consuming fewer calories and fat. All roasted vegetables come out better when you add a little bit of oil to them previous to air frying.

Examples of delicious vegetables cooked in the air fryer include:
Brussels sprouts
Baby potatoes
Sweet potato wedges
Sweet potato hash
Stuffed bell peppers

Most Meats Don’t Require Oil

Most meats do not require any oil when cooked in an air fryer since they contain fat. If you need to add oil to a meat in the oven, then you should probably add a little oil to it when air frying.

One common option is to marinate meat prior to cooking and marinades often contain oil. When you do that you don’t need to add extra oil on top. Simply cook your food in the marinade. When cooking this way, it’s a good idea to use aluminum foil or parchment paper as a barrier between the food and the basket. Just be sure to allow space around the outside of this layer so the vents are exposed and heated air can flow freely.

If you notice your food sticking to the fryer basket, spritz a little bit of oil on the basket before adding your food the next time. Foods with little to no fat content can come out a little dry in the air fryer if you don’t a little oil to them first. This includes chicken breast, potatoes, and tofu. Not only can they be a little dry – these foods can stick to the basket if you don’t gently oil it first.

While higher quality oils are more expensive they’re also more flavorful and keep in mind that you’ll use less oil cooking in your air fryer than you probably will any other way.

Avocado oil is a popular choice for the air fryer. Another favorite oil is a high-quality cold-pressed extra light olive oil. It gives your air fried food a light and crispy texture that tastes oh so good. Avoid extra-virgin olive oil for most air frying because due to its lower smoke point.

How You Could Use Even Less Oil In Your Air Fryer

Another option to consider deploying in your air fryer is parchment paper. Parchment is naturally nonstick and completely biodegradable. You can buy parchment with perforations already in place, or you can make those perforations using a hole punch. Another option is to use regular parchment paper (non-perforated) in the bottom of your air fryer basket.

When using any kind of paper in an air fryer it’s important to make this paper insert smaller than the bottom of your basket. Allow ½ to 3/4 of an inch of space around the outside edge. This means that the heated air used to cook the food can freely flow up from the bottom and all around the food.

Yes you can – and should – use oil when cooking in an air fryer. The secret is to use the right kind of oil and to use it only sparingly. Understand that some foods you cook may require no oil – or very little while other foods could use slightly more. At any rate, it’s the best way to significantly reduce oil consumption and still enjoy delicious foods that satisfy the soul.

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