Is an Air Fryer Good for Cooking a Whole Fish?

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Welcome back to Air Fryer Bro. Today I am looking at the idea of cooking a whole fish in your air fryer, and whether its a good idea! This was a question I saw popping up as a common one in Google, and one which has not been answered well. Yes, there are recipes for fish, but they are all using fish fillets and just give a recipe with little to no insight. So, the Air Fryer Bro “can you cook a whole fish in your air fryer” post was born!! Ever wondered how to cook a fish in your air fryer? Read on….

In short, a fish will cook incredibly well in an air fryer oven. When you perfect your timings for the specific fish you are using, it will be the most flaky and moist fish you will have ever eaten! If you want a crispier skin, you should cook for slightly longer and spray some sort of oil on the fish first. Also, if cooking skinless fillets of fish, you should either spray oil or marinate the fish before cooking it in an air fryer. Otherwise, your fish will be too dry!

Air fried Salmon

This is the basic overview of cooking fish in an air fryer. Let’s now dive into the finer details. In this article, I decided to go for the idea of cooking a whole fish in an air fryer, mainly because all the recipes I saw were only using fish fillets. And, frankly, if a whole fish cooks well, then it is pretty much a given that every other type of fish will be fine too.

PLEASE NOTE: The aim of this article is to inform the air fryer community about how well you can cook fish in an air fryer. It is NOT about creating the sleekest and coolest air fryer recipe on the net! Expect to see bad, badly lit photographs and such like in this article!

What fish did you cook in the air fryer?

I decided to go for a whole fresh fish; I believe it is a red snapper, but I could be wrong. This fish was bought by my wife and was stored in our freezer before use. Look at this beauty below! It was a 300g fish in all its glory!

the type of fish i cooked in the air fryer.

Please ignore the shadow in the photo, that was just my fat head getting in the way of this beautiful fish! 

Were there issues with the setup?

Before actually starting to cook, I imagine some of you are seeing that giant fish and wondering if it worked out with my air fryer. Actually, I have a regular Philips air fryer, that is pretty small. For most people these days, the air fryers are getting pretty big and this shouldn’t really be an issue. 

If you had a fairly small air fryer like me (3.5 quarts in size), it may be tricky to fit the fish in your air fryer basket. Luckily, I have a grill pan for my model that seemed to fit this fish on pretty well 🙂

If you have a bigger air fryer or an air fryer oven, this wouldn’t be a worry.

Even for me, with a small air fryer, this fairly sizable fish was able to work out OK. The nose and tail or the fish were slightly squashed up against the sides of the air fryer, but this didn’t cause any major problems. Here’s another one of my amazing pro level photos to show you!

the fish sat in my air fryer.

And yes, for the eagle eyed among you, you are probably wondering why my air fryer is dirty even before I started cooking? Well, I could lie and say I had batch cooked other food first before cooking the fish! But let’s be honest and say I totally forgot to clean it up when using the air fryer the day before. Whoops! Nobody is perfect, right?

How did you season the fish? What’s Your Air Fryer Fish Recipe?

As this was my very first attempt at cooking a whole fish in an air fryer, I wanted to make this a pretty pure and simple experience. The aim was to simply see if the fish would cook well, and I didn’t want some fancy recipe getting in the way of this.

If you want the ultimate air fried fish recipe, there are a lot on the internet (with fancy ingredients, sauce and everything!!). Here’s an example below for air fried tandoori fish (one of my personal favourites!!)

Myself, I simply washed and dried the fish and added some sliced fresh ginger inside it 🙂 The ginger is to get rid of the overly “fishy” taste, rather than to give a ginger flavour. I don’t like feeling like I am eating this thing fresh out of the sea. I then used my trusty oil sprayer to spray some olive oil on the skin of the fish to help it crisp up better. The final touch was to add a touch of salt and pepper…as you can see, I like the simple things in life 🙂

an oil spritzer is vital for any air fryer owner!
You know the drill! Spritz if you want crispy!!

Give me the temps and times!

As this was first ever time cooking a fish in my air fryer, I feel like I got somewhat lucky here. I used my air fryer experience to guesstimate a time of 15 minutes at a temperature of 170 degrees celsius or 338 Fahrenheit (is 338 even a setting? lol). The tricky thing with whole fish is you will have to adjust the time each time for the size of that specific fish. 

You could get all technical and weigh the fish each time, but frankly I am not likely to get around to doing something like that!

And did I preheat my air fryer? As long time readers may know, I am not a believer of the whole air fryer preheating thing. We are dealing with pretty much instant heat here 🙂

So, spill the beans!

So, this is the million dollar question. This is what you all came here for! How did the fish cook? What was the taste like? Was the fish undercooked and had to be put in again for more time?

Luckily, the fish was perfectly cooked from the time and temperature I guessed above. A good way to test whether a whole fish is cooked or not, is to push the end of a chopstick through the flesh in a couple of places. If it eases through with no issues, the fish is cooked!

On to the taste. I tell you what; I was blown away. One of my favourite types of fish is Thai Style steamed fish, as the flesh of the fish is tender and perfectly cooked and still moist. Amazingly, this air fried fish reminded me of this style of fish. The skin did a good job of shielding the flesh of the fish and stopping it from getting dry. If you like crispy fish skin, this air fried variety was excellent.  More importantly, the flesh simply flaked off the fish….oh my! Trust me, it was good!

And remember, this is with very minimal seasoning, with an almost bare fish being cooked.

This excites me about the possibilities for future fish dishes I could cook. And it was so easy. I literally threw the fish in for fifteen minutes with very little prep. My wife’s exact comment was “Good” and when pressed more she added “it was very moist and fresh”. She is more of a fish expert than me, so if she likes it we must be good!

Here are the money shots below:

The final point to make about air fried fish is it is much easier than steaming a fish and just as healthy. I will certainly be cooking this a lot more in the future!!

So, if you are worried about cooking a whole fish in your air fryer, you need not worry. It will probably turn out amazing and may end up being your only way to cook a fish in the future. I know it will be for us. And the fact it is so simple to do makes it the perfect after work meal for my wife and I.

What will I do next? Firstly, I want to try all kinds of different fish recipes ideas. Maybe throw some garlic powder and other seasoning in there and see what happens 🙂 I know my wife can’t wait to add some soy sauce too 🙂 Soy sauce and ginger seem to be here fish recipe staple ingredients!

Also, I want to try is cooking a whole fish from frozen and seeing how long it takes.

If you have your own experiences of cooking a whole fish in your air fryer, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below. It would be great to find out if others also had success with this like me!

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