It's true, even air fryers need a little oil. The best oil for air fryers depends on the temperature you're cooking at and the flavors in your recipe. Keep reading for all the details.
Do you put oil in an air fryer?
Yes, you should be using oil when air frying. The need for oil isn't as great as when you're using an oven or pan frying. But, a small amount will go a long way in keeping your food moist and creating that sought after golden, crispy exterior.
The truth is, food with little to no fat will dry out when cooked. That includes some air fryer favourites like chicken breasts, potatoes and brussel sprouts. So, oil is your friend.
Here's the catch. When pan frying, you generally put oil in the pan before adding the food. When air frying, you toss your food in a few teaspoons of oil and seasoning before placing it in the air fryer.
There's one exception to this rule. Some packaged foods already have oil in them, like frozen french fries, chicken nuggets and pizzas. So, if you're cooking these items in the air fryer, you won't need to toss in any additional oil. In fact, doing so may result in an overly greasy dish. Yuck.
So, what is the best oil to use in an air fryer? Read on.
What is smoke point in oil?
To pick the best air fryer oil, we first need to understand smoke points.
Oils are extracted from seeds and nuts, like coconuts, olives, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and rice bran. Every kind of oil has a unique chemical composition that determines whether it can handle high heat. Some oils are better served cold in salad dressings, while others can handle high temperatures and can be used in cooking.
The smoke point of oil is the temperature at which it starts smoking. At this point, the oil begins to break down. This not only causes free radicals that are harmful to your body, but also gives your food an unwelcome burnt flavour.
The best oil for air frying is one that won't burn at high temperatures.
What is the best oil to use in an air fryer?
Because most air fryer recipes are cooked at high temperatures (mostly between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit), you need to choose oils that can handle that heat and avoid oils that can't.
To help you make your decision, I've included a list of common cooking oils and their smoking points below. These are listed from high smoke point to low smoke point. Feel free to save or pin this for future reference.
While smoke point is an important factor to look at. It's also important to consider how the oil tastes and how healthy it is for your body.
Once you've determined what oils will work at your cooking temperature, you'll want to narrow down your selection using the following criteria.
- Flavorful or neutral? Ensure the flavor of the oil complements the flavors in your dish. Oils like sesame, hemp, and coconut have a distinct taste. On the other hand, vegetable oil, canola oil, refined olive oil, and avocado oil have little to no taste.
- Unrefined or refined? After oils are extracted, they can be bottled immediately or further processed and refined. Unrefined oils are better for your health because they retain more nutrients. However, they tend to have lower smoke points, which make them more challenging to use in air frying.
- High in omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids? Omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation in the body. So oils high in omega-6 should be consumed in lower quantities, including safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil. On the other hand, omega-3 acids are highly beneficial for our health. So, it's great to consume oil high in these fatty acids, like avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, and flaxseed oil.
- Saturated vs unsaturated fats? While saturated fats have some benefits, we should consume more unsaturated fats in our diet. Oils that are liquid at room temperature have more unsaturated fat. Oils that are solid at room temperature, like butter and coconut oil, contain more saturated fats.
Best oil spray for air fryer
In case you missed it, nonstick cooking sprays are damaging to the coating used on nonstick pans. And, it's the same story for your air fryer.
You should never use PAM or similar brands in your air fryer. These aerosol cans have chemical agents that deteriorate the coating of your air fryer basket, making it unsafe to use. Not to mention, these chemicals aren't ideal for your health.
If you like oil sprays, I have a better solution for you. It's better to invest in a high quality mister, also known as an as refillable oil spray bottle. It's cheaper in the long run and allows you to use an oil that can handle the high heat of your air fryer.
Here are two of my favourites:
How much oil do you use when air frying foods?
Every recipe is different, but a general rule is to use enough oil to lightly coat the food you're cooking. For best results, I recommend one of the methods below.
- Place food in a ziploc bag with oil and spices. Massage until food is lightly coated.
- Fill an oil spray bottle with your preferred oil and lightly spray the food. Use tongs to turn the item, then spray again. Continue until evenly coated.
- Use a brush to spread the oil across the food until evenly coated.
How does an air fryer work?
The air fryer is similar to a convection oven. It has a powerful fan that circulates hot air to cook food quickly and evenly, resulting in that much desired crispiness that we love in fried food. Air fryers are best used for anything that you would deep fry, fry in a pan, cook in the oven or grill. You can use it to roast almost any vegetable, bake potatoes, crisp up bacon, or create crispy brussel sprouts, salmon fillets, chicken wings, and much more.
If you want to know more about the benefits of air frying, check out this article that compares the air fryer and the pressure cooker.
Is air frying healthy?
Air frying is much healthier than deep frying. Many recipes contain up to 80% less fat - that’s all thanks to the decreased amount of unhealthy cooking oils needed. The best part is that this reduction in fat doesn’t affect the taste. Air fryer meals are as good as deep fryer meals.
Check some of my delicious recipes out below!
Air fryer recipes
Now that you know what an air fryer is, how it's used, and the best oil for the air fryer, I invite you to check out my collection of air fryer recipes. Below are some of my favourite.
Best oil for air fryer? It depends on...
- Temperature of your recipe. Choose an oil that can handle the high temperature your recipe is air fryed at.
- Flavors in your recipe. Choose a neutral oil or a flavoured oil that matches with the flavors in your meal.
- The impact on your health. The healthiest oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in saturated fat.
Look at smoke point first. Of the oils that won't degrade at your cooking temperature, choose the one that matches the flavors of your dish and offers the most health benefits.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these other cooking how-tos & techniques.
Best oil for air fryer? There's more than one right oil. Tell me your favourite in the comments below.
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