Welcome back to Air Fryer Bro! If you have been on this website a lot, you will know that we are all about the advice. The whole reason this website got started was to counter all the problems and mis-information new air fryer users were encountering! Today, we talk about the subject of oil and air fryers!
What oil is best for an air fryer? Wait, what? I thought air fryers were supposed to be famous for oil free cooking?? Well, most seasoned air fryer users will know that if you want some food to go crispy in an air fryer, spraying a little oil on it helps a lot! Oil can also be used to make sure food doesn’t stick to your air fryer. To read more detailed information, you can go check out our full article on this!
Knowing what oil is best for an air fryer is mostly down to smoke point. You want to find an oil that has a high smoke point, and will lessen the risk of it causing white smoke when air frying. Also, as this oil is touching your food, you want to pick an oil that you like the taste of (although this is a more subjective thing based on your personal preference). You should choose a healthy oil with healthy fats and more short chain fats! Finally, only use pure oil. Oil sprays with additives can actually damage your air fryer’s non-stick coating!
Now that you have gotten over the shock that oil can be used in an air fryer (in small quantities), let’s dive deeper into this topic and give you all the relevant details.
What should we consider about oil health?
As you might imagine, whether or not you go for a healthy oil is a matter of personal choice. Although, I would assume that if you are using an air fryer in the first place, that health is somewhere fairly high up on your list of priorities. Otherwise, you would just be using a regular deep-fat fryer.
For the purposes of this article, I just want to provide a quick and simple guide to what to look for when thinking about the health of oils. I would encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
Oil is actually quite a complex thing to understand when it comes to health. I am not a nutritionist or food scientist, but my take is as follows.
Fats are made up of a combination called triglycerides. These include a chain of fatty acids. The type and length of fatty acids in this chain contribute to how healthy the oil is. With this in mind, the best oil would be a “good” fatty acid combined with a short chain.
When grouping these fatty acids, we usually define them as:
Saturated Fats: Mainly come from meat and dairy. These will turn solid at room temperature. These are one of the fats that most people think of as an unhealthy fat, and associate with such things as heart disease.
Mono-unsaturated Fats: These are considered good fats and are often found in plant based oils, from olive oil to safflower oil. These types of fats are usually a liquid at room temperature, but would solidify when chilled. The American Heart Association says that these types of fats help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood, and therefore help to ward against heart disease and strokes.
Polyunsaturated Fats: Found in seed and nut based oils, as well as seafood. As with mono-unsaturated fats, these are liquid at room temperature, but will go solid when chilled. Polyunsaturated fats also have similar health benefits. However, they add omega oils to the mix, something our body benefits from but can’t produce itself.
To sum up, you want to look for an oil which has less saturated fats and more of the mono and polyunsaturated fats. These oils should also have a shorter fatty acid chain.
What oil should we use inside an air fryer?
As stated above, there are three main factors that you should consider when choosing a cooking oil to use inside your air fryer or in your air fryer recipes! The first is the smoke point. You want a high smoke point in order to prevent this oil smoking when exposed to the high temperature of the air fryer. In addition, you want to find an oil that is healthy and has a good taste. Finally, stick to pure oils. The first point is a practical one that I can talk about in this article. The second and third are more a matter of personal taste and choice.
When talking about high smoke point oils, you should be aware that refining an oil actually increases the smoke point (in some cases quite drastically). This is because the refining process is taking out some elements of the oil that can lead to smoking.
Take Safflower oil, for example. The unrefined version has a smoke point of 225 Fahrenheit. However, the processed version has a smoke point of 510 Fahrenheit. Yes, you heard that right! That’s really is an example of the smoke point drastically changing. Therefore, we will try to specify in this article whether we are talking about a refined or unrefined oil in our list. And make sure you pay attention to this and buy the right one!
When using an air fryer, it is quite rare that you will go over around 200 Celsius or 392 Fahrenheit. In fact, my Philips air fryer has a maximum temperature setting of exactly 200 Celsius. That means that any oil with a smoke point above this should be fine. However, the further you are away from this, the less likely you are to experience smoking from this oil.
Olive oil is one of those borderline cooking oils to use in an air fryer. It usually has a smoke point of somewhere between 160C/320F to 210C/410F, dependent on the quality of the oil. Extra light olive oil would be the type of olive oil with the highest smoke point. It is pretty healthy too, only having 13.5% saturated fats within it.
Actually, I use olive oil quite regularly. This is because it is the most commonly available oil I have in my kitchen, and I haven’t noticed any issues with smoking. Also, I really like the flavor and health factors associated with olive oil. I would never dream of using extra virgin olive oil in an air fryer, as it is way too expensive and delicate an oil for that use. I usually use regular olive oil instead.
Coconut oil has become quite a fashionable oil over the past few years as a high-quality cooking oil or fat. It is composed of lauric acid, a saturated fat that may lead to better heart health. Compared to other fats, some experts believe it may lead to an increased good cholesterol, which could help improve your health.
The issue is that coconut oil also has a lower smoke point, being around 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 Celsius. This is well within the temperatures you would expect to see when air frying. And this is for the unrefined coconut oil, which would be the most expensive (usually around $10 for a small 6 ounce tub).
As stated above, I often use olive oil without issue, even though it has a low smoke point too, but regular olive oil is a much cheaper alternative to this. I would personally not use such an oil when making my air fried food 🙂
Living in Asia, I have easy access to sesame oil. The good news is that it has a smoke point of around 210C/410F. This is right above the maximum temperature you are likely to see in an air fryer, although not by much. Sesame oil is has only 14.1% saturated fats in it, so is pretty healthy. Although not having particularly short-chain fatty acids in it, sesame oil doesn’t have as long chain as things like peanut and canola oil.
The thing to consider about sesame oil is that it has a strong and distinct flavor. Some people love this flavor, but others hate it! You might want to try a small amount one or two times before you go all in with sesame oil. The benefit of this distinct flavor is that this is why it is usually cold pressed rather than refined, adding to the health benefits.
Avocado oil is one of the oils with the highest smoke points at around 271C/520F. This means you would have literally no worries about it causing smoking. It is also pretty healthy, being only 11.6% made up from saturated fats (lower than olive oil).
However, the downside for me is the cost. Avocado oil is incredibly expensive and not something I would personally use in an air fryer. I have seen it cost upwards of $20 for the decent stuff, a bit too rich for my air frying tastes. However, if smoke point is your ultimate worry, this oil will have you covered. This is a high-quality oil, no doubt, but you have to pay for the privilege.
Safflower oil (Refined)
This oil has a very high smoke point at 266C or 510F, making it perfect for air fryers. It is also a light oil with an accompanying light flavor. If I was going to switch from just using the olive oil lying around my kitchen, this would be the oil I would switch to. The real deal clincher for me, is the fact it is only made up of 6.2% saturated fats! Pretty impressive. Just remember this is a refined oil, so not as healthy as the unrefined ones above.
Safflower is globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers, It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds.
Even with how amazing safflower oil is, I still don’t see the point of splashing out on a bottle of oil just for air frying. It is not as expensive as Avocado oil in my area (maybe less trendy), but it is not exactly cheap.
Peanut oil and Canola oil (Refined)
Canola oil and Peanut oil look like decent picks, as they both have pretty high smoke points (204C/400F and 227C/440F respectively). The problem is, they both have pretty long-chain fatty acids in them and are heavily refined. So, although not terrible for you, would still be near the bottom of my usable list of air fryer oils.
Sunflower Oil (Refined)
Sunflower oil was one of the common oils used in my household growing up (funnily enough, it comes from pressed sunflower kernels!). You may see the high smoke point of 440 degrees Fahrenheit (or 227 Celsius) and think this oil is perfect. Although not the most unhealthy oil around, it has 13% saturated fat content and some long-chain fatty acids, which make it far from perfect 🙂 The fact that sunflower oil is high in vitamin E helps some, but it would still be on the lower end of my air frying oil scale 🙂
What oil shouldn’t we use in an air fryer?
Well, the obvious thing to say is to avoid any oils with a particularly low smoking point (unless you enjoy walking into a smoky kitchen or hearing smoke alarms beeping!).
My first pick is flaxseed oil. Not only does it have an incredibly low smoke point, but it also quickly degrades when heated up. I want to mention it because flax seeds are quite trendy right now, and some people might assume it would be a healthy oil for an air fryer.
Then we have palm oil, which is made up from 49.3% saturated fats. On top of this, it has some pretty long-chain fatty acids within it too. Definitely steer clear of this one!
Last but not least, there is another type of oil that a lot of people assume would be fine to spray all over their air fryer basket, that actually isn’t at all!! This would be the spray on oil mixtures that have become popular over recent years.
These oils often claim to be healthier and lighter, whilst still offering a non stick quality. If I say the name PAM spray, I think you will know what I am talking about. They are all over Amazon and have good reviews over there, but are 100% not suitable for an air fryer!
The problem is that these spray oils often have other additives and propellants added. These extra ingredients could have a negative impact on your non stick surface. Also, if there are any areas where the PAM spray is not burned off, it can start to build up. This build up can get sticky itself over time.
So all in all, why even bother with these overly processed sprays oil cocktails, when you could just use pure oil. If you are worried about health, just use a healthier form of oil.
This reminds me of the problem with butter. People thought it was unhealthy and started to make all kinds of margarines and other “I can’t believe it’s no butter” (you must have seen the adverts!) alternatives. Most of which actually become unhealthier than just sticking with small amounts of butter. This situation is the same. A little bit of well-chosen oil is much better than some kind of fake looking low fat oil spray.
Why do we need oil?
No-one wants to get dry or pale looking food out of their air fryer, especially when they are using it as an alternative to deep fat frying and fried food. Therefore, the oil is often used in order to get a better texture and to prevent certain food types from drying out in an air fryer. An air fryer is simply pumping hot air around your food to cook it. For certain foods, this hot air needs something to react with in order to make the outcome better. I have a whole article dedicated to this!
Oil is also used to stop food sticking to your air fryer basket. If you don’t do this, you might end up needing to scrub your air fryer to get the stuck food off of it. In turn, this could wear away the nonstick coating on your air fryer, which is not always the best in the first place.
When should we use oil?
For me, oil is usually needed when I am cooking food in there that needs to have a crispier texture. This could be fried chicken or french fries, for example. It will give an alternative to that deep fried food taste in a much healthier way!
Another time I use my cooking spray a lot is when I am making roasted vegetables in the air fryer. Brussel sprouts and kale chips have come out great too, with a quick spritz of oil!
I was also finding that some skinless meat was coming out dry and tough in the air fryer. Adding oil will help to lock in more of the moisture and should prevent it from drying out. For example, I would now never cook skinless chicken strips in the air fryer without some kind of oil on them. To add extra flavour, this will usually be an oil based marinate. My chicken strip game has gone up massively now that I marinate them first!
Just don’t spray oil on frozen food that often already has oil in the coating. Frozen french fries, for example, don’t need any extra oil!
How should we apply that oil?
When applying oil to your air fryer, you want to add the least amount that you can to achieve the desired result. This is not only for health reasons, it is also because you don’t want oil to build up at the bottom of your air fryer. If you allow that, there is always the possibility it could burn and smoke out your kitchen.
With all of this in mind, the absolute best way to apply oil is using an oil sprayer or spritzer. This is because they offer an awesome and quick way to spray a thin and even coating of oil on your food. As I usually say when talking about oil sprayers and spray bottles, save yourself some headaches and buy a decent one. Oil is quite heavy to spray, and cheap and cheerful oil sprayer mechanisms won’t last long! I have a good one listed on my recommended products page! Or simply visit Amazon to find one yourself.
If you don’t want to invest in an oil sprayer, all is not lost. Another great method is to use an egg wash brush. The type of brush that you usually use to apply egg wash to pies and other things you wish to bake (is this really called an egg wash brush??). This would also work great to apply oil to your food before cooking.
Be creative, you can use any way that will allow you to apply a thin layer of oil. When marinating food with oil based marinates, just try to make sure there are not heaps of excess oil that can drip down into your cooking compartment (and potentially turn to smoke).
If you use a traditional bucket style of air fryer, you will often have to shake food in order to get an evenly cooked end result. If you are a shaker, remember to apply oil after every shake that you do.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you for reading our article on the type of oil to use when we air fry stuff 🙂 Yes, this hot air fryer cooking method does require a bit of oil! Just make sure you choose a good one before slavering it all over your air fryer basket or baking sheet (for your air fryer oven converts!!) 🙂
I have tried to make this into the ultimate resource on the subject, and feel I have covered all the major areas of concern. However, if you still have burning questions, please let me know.
When considering oils for my air fryer, it took me a while to get my head around how to classify oils that are healthy. As this is not my area of expertise, it was also hard for me to write this part of the article in a plain but accurate way. I am sure I may have misused some technical terms, but hopefully you can still get the basic principles behind the advice.
As you have read several times, plain old olive oil is what I choose to use in my air fryer. For me, it gives the perfect combination of value and health. OK, its smoke point is not ideal, but it hasn’t been a real issue for me.
What oil do you use in your air fryer? Do you have any of your own ideas about healthy oils to consider? If so, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share your favorite air fryer recipe too(I never have enough of those!!).