Can I use oil in an air fryer? This may surprise you!

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Welcome back all you air fryer geeks (or even people with a passing interest in air fryers!) The Air Fryer Bro is back and wants to bust another myth about air fryers! When people buy an air fryer, they often do so on the back of hearing that it is a healthier alternative to deep fat frying (which it totally is). Most assume that you should never use oil in an air fryer! Today, we find out the truth!

Can you use oil in an air fryer? Well, unlike what most people assume, you can put oil in an air fryer. Actually, most regular air fryer users would recommend using oil in order to get the best crispy texture to your food! Just make sure to apply it in the right way!

Now that the myth is busted, and we know that oil is fine to use in an air fryer, let’s get on with the finer details of this issue. The what, why and how questions a lot of you will probably be thinking right now.

If, after reading this article, you still have questions that remain unanswered, please post in the comments section below and I will try to get back to you. I am not an expert on air fryers, per se. I didn’t go to air fryer university (that is probably actually a thing!!). However, I have just built up multiple years of experience using an air fryer, and want to share what I have found out along the way!

Why is oil needed?

This is simply due to the fact that the food inside an air fryer is being cooked with air (you don’t say), which is dry in nature. This air needs something to react with, and a thin coating of oil can be just the thing. As well as improving the crispness of the food you cook, it will also help it have a more golden brown appearance. Both these things will make your air fried food much more appetizing. No one wants to eat bland looking and soggy or dry food, right? Adding a little bit of oil will stop these things from happening! Your chicken fillets will never taste the same again!

As you can probably tell, I am not a scientist. If you are, and can explain the chemical or physical reaction going on here, I would love to know!!

What type of oil is best?

When using oil in an air fryer, it is important to consider the type of oil you are using, don’t just start spraying your favorite vegetable oil right away!! We have a full article on the subject, but here are the highlights!

As you can read more about in THIS article on the site, air fryers can suffer from the problem of billowing white smoke. This can be made worse by using the wrong oil or applying it in the wrong way.

Generally, the best oil to use is one with a high smoke point, which simply means it can get to a higher temperature before starting to smoke. By sticking to oils with a higher smoke point, you will be less likely to see the oil you add making your air fryer smoke unnecessarily. 

For a complete list (as far as I can see) of cooking oil smoke points, there is an excellent post on Wikipedia that you should take a look at HERE.

Oils with a smoke point between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit are usable but still slightly risky, so use sparingly. Ideally, you want something in at least the 375-400 degrees range and above. This will mean that you are pretty unlikely to see this oil smoking out your kitchen (although your fatty food may! Again, see our article on that here).

Personally, I pretty much always use olive oil (the non extra virgin version) and I don’t have any issues myself. In the air frying groups I see, a lot of people seem to swear by avocado oil. I haven’t gotten around to trying it myself. When I do, I will try to remember to update my findings!! Extra virgin olive oil works too, but seems a bit expensive for this use and has a slightly worse smoking point in my experience than bog standard olive oil. Best save that for your salads 🙂

How should the oil be used?

After reading the first few paragraphs of this article, some people might think they should start pouring oil all over their food in the air fryer! I hope they read on, because that totally isn’t the way to do it.

In fact, you only need the tiniest amount of oil on the surface of your food. This will allow the hot air from the air fryer to react well with this surface and give a crispier outside to your food.

The number one way to do this is to get an oil mister or sprayer (maybe they are the same thing!). Just make sure you buy a decent quality one, as oil is pretty thick and will break most weak spray mechanisms (trust me, I have gone through a few of these).  Sprayers are preferred, as they offer a quick and simple way to get a thin layer of oil on your food. We have one on our recommended products page, if you need a starting point.

The next best option for me is to get a pastry brush that would usually be used to put egg wash on foods to be baked. This is a great way to quickly apply oil to the top of your food before you start to cook it.

You can use a pastry brush to brush oil too!!

The final method I have used is to put the oil into a bowl and toss my food into it before cooking. The upside to this method is the fact it will coat all surfaces of your food, meaning little to no need to reapply during cooking. The downside is that you have to be careful not to apply too much oil to your food. If your food is dripping too much with oil, it may cause the smoking problem talked about earlier in the article.

When should the oil be applied?

When talking about using the first two methods to apply oil, I will usually apply the oil in a spritz or two when the food is inside the air fryer basket (but not actually inside the air fryer itself). This allows you to quickly coat the top of your food with oil, without making a mess of your air fryer.

Any situations where I shouldn’t use oil?

For me, the only time I wouldn’t recommend using oil is when you have a pre-made product that you would usually expect to have a crispy coating. These are usually frozen fast foods that you would associate with a deep-fat fryer back in the day, such as french fries and onion rings. 

These products usually already have some type of oil in their coating and will become crispy and nicely browned by themselves. If you are unsure whether the product you are cooking has this oil in it already, simply check the ingredients list to give yourself a better idea. These types of products don’t require oil.

Other than this, just ask yourself whether you want this particular food to have a crispy outside or not. For example, I often cook pre-made pizzas in the air fryer. Would you want the top of your pizza crispy? I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t! So only add oil to things you want to be crispy!

Are There Alternatives to Using Oil with an Air Fryer?

If you are not keen on a spritz of oil when air frying, there is another method. You could make a simple marinate to coat your air fried food in that will give a similar effect. Some food that can be dry when air fried in its natural state will become moist. Just be aware that the crisping effect will be less than when you just spritz oil.

A simple method is to use several tablespoons of olive oil as the base and then add some flavours you like to ‘spice’ it up. You could add garlic, chili flakes, or even soy sauce or a splash of cooking wine. This could then be used to marinate your air fried food.

I find this particularly useful when cooking meat in my air fryer.

Anything else to consider?

After racking my brains, I could only think of one other thing to remind my fellow air fryer users. When cooking food that you want to get a nice crispy coating on, you should break your timings up into shorter bursts. In between each burst, you should open up your air fryer and shake the food to ensure that your crispy coating is even. Hot air needs to circulate around all your food and crisp up all the different spots. Shaking food will help with this a lot. 

If your method of applying oil is to spray or apply oil to the top surface of your food when it is in the air fryer basket, it is vital you remember to spray or apply again after every time you shake your food. This newly exposed food surface needs to get the same oil love!!

​Have you got any practical examples?

The whole reason I started this website was because I got sick of seeing soulless air fryer review sites when trying to get advice for my own air fryer! I doubt a lot of these people running such sites even use an air fryer regularly! So, as an Air Fryer Bro, I like to cook in an air fryer often and want to share my real experiences of my air fryer with you.

What better way to do this than a bunch of grainy and poor quality pictures of my cooking!!

The air fryer and oil case study!

I am no scientist, so don’t expect one of those perfectly balanced and thought through experiments! I simply wanted to showcase how different it actually makes your food in real life when you add oil to it!

For my experiment I took two potatoes!! See!! (OK, I only took a picture of one!)

I chopped them up and put them through my air fryer. However, the first batch I cooked without adding any oil. The second batch I did add oil, so we can see the exact effect of adding oil.

Here is the first batch sitting in the air fryer ready to be blitzed! Yes, my cutting skills need some work!!

After being blitzed (without oil), they turned out like this!

How can I describe the effect? Kind of a dry clump of cooked potato that lightly resembles a French fry or a chip. Not appetizing, but edible!

Now for the batch that was air fried with oil applied. But before that, here is what I used to apply my oil.

As my last sprayer had broken (and I haven’t gotten around to buying a new one yet), I simply painted on the oil with a pastry brush! Can anyone see my other weird spices and stuff in the background!!

Admire the cooked end result here! Unfortunately, I don’t have the latest one zillion dollar smart phone, so the definition of my pictures might not be the best! However, you should still be able to see that, in terms of color, the two results are poles apart. 

The batch with the oil was much more golden and crispy in nature, and I enjoyed eating them much more!! And this is with using the “paint on with a pastry brush” method, which probably didn’t give the optimal result! Still much more delicious than the first batch!

To Wrap Up…..

Hopefully, you enjoyed our highly exciting (if you’re an air fryer buff) article on whether you should add oil to your air fryer or not. By adding oil in the right way, you will be adding so much more to your air fried food.

You will never achieve the same deep fried crisp as you get with a traditional deep fat oil fryer with an air fryer, but the methods described here will go a long way to giving you something that most people find satisfactory. For me, I grew to love this air fryer crisping, and much prefer it over killing myself with oil in traditional fried food!!

We would love to hear all about your experiences in the comments section below. What to you do to get your air fryer food crispy? Have you tried my methods? Did they work or not? What is the meaning of life??

This website is all about sharing air fryer related ideas, so please post away!! I will try to reply as much as I can!

2 thoughts on “Can I use oil in an air fryer? This may surprise you!”

  1. A lot of useful information but you don’t answer.the question I have – does oil escape when I cook with an air fryer?
    I mean,we all.know oil vaporized when you get in a frying pan does an.air fryer react to oil?

    • You using so little amounts of oil in an air fryer this is not something noticeable. Some oil may be vented out the back vent on an air fryer, but as it is so little you dont really get oil residue in your kitchen.


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