Alright, let’s get down to air frying brass tacks.
You bought an air fryer to indulge in guilt-free crispy delights, not to host a tire fire in your kitchen.
Trust me, I get it—I’ve ruined enough “healthy” fries and “juicy” chicken wings to write a cookbook no one would buy.
I used to think oil in an air fryer was pretty straightforward. But after some kitchen mishaps and relentless experimentation, I figured out that the choice of oil isn’t just a minor detail—it’s the game-changer.
Choosing the right oil can elevate your air fryer recipes from “meh” to “more, please!”
Customers at my restaurant can attest to the importance of using the right oil in air fryer cooking!
So let’s cut through the grease, metaphorically speaking, and find out which oils will turn your air-fried masterpieces into the envy of your social media followers.
And, of course, how to wield those air frying oils like a pro.
What Are The Best Oils For The Air Fryer?
My general rule of thumb is to use an oil with a smoke point of over 400° F but I prefer oils that can handle much higher heat for peace of mind.
No matter what I’m air frying or what temperature I need, the best oils for my air fryer cooking have a smoke point of at least 400°. F, but my go to is avocado oil and it’s at the top of the list:
Avocado Oil: 520° F Smoke Point
Avocado oil is the A-lister of air fryer oils. Very high smoke point? Check. Healthy fats? Double-check. Does it make you feel like a gourmet chef? Absolutely.
Extra Light Olive Oil: 465–470° F Smoke Point
Don’t confuse it with extra virgin olive oil, which is better suited for salad dressing fame. Light olive oil holds up well under air fryer conditions.
Peanut Oil: 450° F Smoke Point
Peanut oil isn’t just for stir-fries, folks. This oil is great for high heat and most peanut oil has a neutral flavor that won’t crash the party.
Sunflower Oil: 450° F Smoke Point
It’s made from a flower, so it has to be good, right? A solid choice, one that I often opt for.
Canola Oil: 450° F Smoke Point
Canola oil is a dependable, go-to choice, and most people have canola oil on hand. It’s the typical choice for deep frying, especially french fries. But also a popular choice for air frying.
Grapeseed Oil: 420° F Smoke Point
Known for it’s health benefits, grapeseed oil is also a viable option for an air fryer oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 410° F Smoke Point
If you really prefer it, it will work, just keep an eye on your temperature and a good eye on your air fryer to make sure nothing is smoking!
Refined Coconut Oil: 400° F Smoke Point
Definitely make sure to get the refined version of coconut oil with a higher smoke point. This isn’t the best choice for oils for your air fryer but if it’s what you have on hand, it will work. Just like the EVOO, keep an eye on the temperature and check intermittently to make sure nothing is smoking.
Vegetable Oil: ~400° F Smoke Point
Vegetable oil is a blend of oils. It’s versatile and won’t make your wallet cry.
Bonus: Ghee: 485° F Smoke Point
Ah, the golden child of the culinary world. Also known as clarified butter. It’s got a high smoke point and adds a rich, buttery flavor to your dishes. Not my everyday choice, but I definitely always have it on hand.
What is a Smoke Point, and Why Does it Matter?
The smoke point is when oil begins to smoke and break down. It’s crucial because, after this point, it’s farewell nutrition and hello burnt taste and harmful compounds!
But that’s not all – if the oil continues to heat past its smoke point and reaches its flash point, it can actually catch fire.
Yes, you read that right, a real, unwanted kitchen bonfire!
So, when using your air fryer, choose oils with high smoke points to keep your meals delicious, your kitchen safe, and fire surprises at bay!
Do I Need to Use Oil in My Air Fryer?
Do you absolutely need to use oil in the air fryer basket? The short answer is no, but it’s kind of like popcorn without butter, still good but missing a bit of magic.
Air fryers work by circulating hot air around the food, cooking it evenly and creating a crispy layer – a.k.a. the crunch we all adore. While many recipes don’t require additional oil in the air fryer basket, adding just a smidgen can elevate your dish to crispy perfection.
Here are a couple of reasons why you might consider using oil in your air fryer:
Texture & Taste: A light coating of oil can enhance the texture, giving your food that golden, crispy outer layer, and let’s be honest, a bit more flavor!
Variety: Different oils can add a unique flavor to your dishes.
Non-Stick Benefits: A little oil can prevent your food from turning into a sticky situation, making cleaning up less of a chore.
But don’t sweat it. If you’re keeping an eye on your oil intake, air frying is still your ally.
It’s versatile, and many recipes shine without the need for added oil in an air fryer. So, whether you’re an oil enthusiast or prefer to keep things light, your air fryer is here to cater to your gastronomic whimsy!
Pro Tip: Most frozen foods (like frozen french fries) already contain plenty of oil, so you really don’t need to add any extra to the air fryer basket or to the food itself to achieve that golden crisp you’re after.
How Much Oil Should I Use in the Air Fryer?
My rule of thumb here is that a little oil goes a long way.
For most foods that you’ll be air frying, a light mist or a brush of oil using an oil sprayer is sufficient.
Pro Tip: It’s always easier to add more if needed, so start small and adjust according to your taste and texture preferences.
Tips for How to Use Oil in Air Fryer
1. Less is More:
You don’t need a gallon of oil to get that golden perfection. A light mist or brush will do the trick.
2. Even Coating:
Whether you’re misting, brushing, or tossing, ensure an even coating of oil on your food.
3. Oil Spray? Yes, Please!
Investing in an oil sprayer can be a game-changer. It ensures an even distribution of oil, and you can channel your inner food artist by misting oil like a culinary Picasso.
4. Watch the Temperature:
Remember the talk about smoke points? Keep an eye on the temperature and make sure your chosen oil is living its best life in the air fryer without turning into smoke signals!
5. Shake, Rattle, and Roll:
Give the basket a good shake halfway through cooking. It’s like a mini workout and ensures that every nook and cranny gets its moment in the spotlight.
6. No Oil Necessary
Frozen foods already contain a lot of oil, so generally, it’s not necessary to add any more.
I’ve found adding oil to frozen foods can actually lead to a soggy situation. Best to start off without any and check close to the end of cooking time to see if adding any oil is desired.
6. Experiment and Enjoy:
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different oils to see which one tickles your taste buds the most. Just make sure you keep to a high smoke point oil.
What’s the Deal With Cooking Sprays?
It’s not very common knowledge but it’s super important.
Store bought cooking sprays (you know… like Pam cooking spray) are a no-go for nonstick coatings. Your non toxic, nonstick air fryer basket will deteriorate under their might.
It’s fine to use them on stainless air fryer baskets, but when it comes to nonstick, you’ll want to use your own oil sprayer spray bottle or oil mister filled with one of your favorite high smoke point oils, like avocado oil, extra light olive oil, or sunflower oil.
Navigating the world of air frying oils can seem like a tricky task, but armed with the right knowledge, you’re set to create some truly memorable meals:
Meals that’ll have your kids and partners asking for more.
What a great feeling.
So, go ahead, experiment with different high smoke point oils, keep an eye on those temperatures, and let the air frying adventures begin!
Check Out These Handy Dandy Air Fryer Articles:
New to air frying? You’ll want to read this: How to Use an Air Fryer: The Perfect Guide For First Timers
Air fryer need some attention? Read this: How to Clean Air Fryer Even if You’re a Newb! (7-Steps)
Looking for more air fryer recipes?
What Oils Should Never Be Used In The Air Fryer?
Virgin Coconut Oil: It’s best to skip this one. It’s a low smoke point oil (350° F) is a little too close for comfort if you ask me.
Flaxseed Oil: The smoke point (225° F) is just too low for use in the air fryer.
Low smoke point oils should be avoided oil in an air fryer.
Can I Mix Different Oils When Air Frying?
Mixing oils can be an interesting way to experiment with flavors, but it’s important to keep in mind the smoke points of each oil.
When oils with different smoke points are mixed, the resulting blend will have a smoke point closer to that of the lower smoke point oil.
So, mix carefully, and ensure the blend is suitable for the cooking temperature.
How Often Should I Clean my Air Fryer if I Use Oil Frequently?
Regular cleaning is key to maintaining your air fryer’s performance and longevity.
Especially if you’re using oil frequently.
It’s advisable to wipe down the inside of the air fryer after each use to remove any oil residue and prevent buildup.
Additionally, thorough cleaning of all removable parts should be done at least once a week, maybe more, depending on the frequency of use and types of dishes prepared.
A well-maintained air fryer will help prevent unwanted odors and ensure your air-fried dishes continue to taste amazing!
Is it Necessary to Preheat the Air Fryer Before Adding Oil?
While not always necessary, preheating the air fryer can help achieve a more even and quicker cooking result, especially for certain recipes.
If you decide to preheat, you can apply the oil to your food before placing it in the preheated air fryer basket. This way, the food starts cooking immediately upon contact, helping to achieve that desired crispy texture.