Air frying is a simple and healthy way of cooking that has become extremely popular. Did you know that there are some oils that are better to use than others when it comes to air frying? I'll break down which oils and oil sprays are the best ones to use in your air fryer!
Air frying is all the rage now and for good reason! Not only is air frying a quick and easy way to cook food, it's also a healthy cooking technique that uses minimal oil.
My air fryer has become one of my most used kitchen appliances because it's just so convenient. It heats up and cooks food really quickly and requires minimal clean up.
I make everything from quesadillas to turkey burgers to salmon teriyaki in my air fryer. It's even great for heating up leftovers like pizza or grilled cheese. Check out my Air Fryer recipe collection.
But did you know that there are certain types of oil that are better to use than others when it comes to air frying? The type of oil you use depends on a few factors including: what food you're cooking, what temperature you're cooking at, and the smoke point of the oil.
Does the Air Fryer Need Oil?
Not all foods need oil when you're cooking them in the air fryer. For example, frozen foods like chicken nuggets, French fries, and pizza rolls already have oil in them as a byproduct of the manufacturing process. So when you're cooking them in the air fryer, you don't need to add any additional oil.
However, most recipes will benefit from some oil. Although it's not necessary, oil gives a nice golden color to certain foods like breaded chicken cutlets or vegetables. Oil also keeps food moist as it's cooking so that it doesn't dry out.
With the air fryer, however, you can use a fraction of the amount of oil that you would use with deep frying or even sautéing in a skillet. You can brush the air fryer basket and the food with a little oil using a pastry brush. Or even better, you can spray it lightly using an oil sprayer.
Deep Fryer vs. Air Fryer
Deep fryers cook food by submerging the food in hot oil. Air fryers, however, cook food using hot air that circulates around it.
An air fryer is basically a mini convection oven that sits on your countertop. It has a fan that helps circulate heat around your food more efficiently, making it nice and crispy. This gives air fried food a texture similar to deep-fried food.
So air fryers will give you the crispy deep-fried food that you crave, but with minimal oil. Because of the way air fryers work, you can simply spray or brush a small amount of oil on the food before cooking. This cuts back significantly on the amount of calories and fat.
Did you know that you can adapt pretty much any recipe to cook in your air fryer? Read my Easy Oven to Air Fryer Conversion Guide and get my helpful conversion chart!
Smoke Point of Oils
The "smoke point" of an oil is the temperature at which an oil begins to break down and emit smoke as it is heated. When oil reaches the temperature at which it begins to smoke, a chemical breakdown occurs.
This results in the release of a gas and other byproducts. This chemical breakdown can cause the oil to develop an undesirable, burnt flavor.
So basically, when choosing an oil, you want to use an oil with a higher smoke point than the temperature you are cooking your food at.
The best oils to use in the air fryer are high smoke point oils that won't burn at high temperatures. Some examples of high smoke point oils are avocado oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and light olive oil.
If you use a low smoke point oil to cook food at high heat in your air fryer, it will start smoking before you reach the target temperature. The smoke will give off a burnt smell that can affect the taste of your food.
Low smoke point oils are better suited for drizzling over finished dishes, making salad dressings or using in low temperature cooking. Some examples of low smoke point oils are flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and butter.
Best Oils to Use in the Air Fryer
You want to choose an oil that's suitable for the recipe you are making and the temperature you're cooking your food at. Here's a list of the best oils to use in the air fryer.
Avocado Oil- 520°F smoke point
Avocado oil is one of the best oils to use in the air fryer. Not only does it have a very high smoke point, it also has a neutral flavor and is rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
Light Olive Oil- 465-470°F smoke point
Refined olive oil, also known as light or extra light olive oil, has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil. The word "light" does not mean that it has less calories or fat. Rather, it refers to the oil's lighter color and neutral flavor.
Light olive oil is produced using heat after the first pressing of virgin oil from olives. It has a golden yellow color rather than the deep green color of extra virgin olive oil.
Because it is refined, it has a longer shelf life and higher smoke point than other types of olive oil.
So if you want to use heart-healthy olive oil in your air fryer, choose a refined olive oil rather than EVOO, which has a lower smoke point of 320-374°F.
You can even use regular virgin olive oil if you're cooking at 400°F or lower. Virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 410°F.
Clarified Butter (Ghee)- 482°F smoke point
Also known as ghee, clarified butter is commonly used in French and Indian cuisine.
Clarified butter is just butter with the milk solids and water removed. Unlike butter which has a low smoke point, ghee has a high smoke point and is a great option for air frying.
Sunflower Oil- 450°F smoke point
Sunflower oil is pressed from the seeds of the sunflower plant. It is rich in vitamin E and unsaturated fats. It's a good choice for air frying as it has a light flavor and high smoke point.
Peanut Oil- 450°F
Peanut oil has a pleasant, nutty flavor and high smoke point. It is commonly used in stir frying and deep frying.
Grapeseed Oil- 421°F
Grapeseed oil is a byproduct of winemaking. After grapes are pressed for wine, grapeseed oil is extracted from the leftover grape seeds. Grapeseed oil is a good source of vitamin E and unsaturated fats.
It has a high smoke point and clean taste, making it a good all-purpose cooking oil.
Refined Coconut Oil- 400°F
Coconut oil has become very popular in recent years because of its unique fatty acid composition and possible health benefits.
If you're going to use coconut oil for air frying, be sure to choose refined coconut oil rather than unrefined coconut oil, which has a low smoke point of 350°F.
There are many more options for oils to use in the air fryer besides the list above. Some examples are safflower oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
How Much Oil to Use in the Air Fryer
The amount of oil you need to use when air frying is significantly less than what you would use when deep frying food or sautéing it in a skillet.
When I'm air frying, I like to lightly spray my food with oil using a spray bottle. If the food needs to be flipped, I'll sometimes spray it again on the other side so that it develops an even color on both sides.
If you're using an air fryer that has a nonstick surface, you usually don't have to spray the basket too. However, it depends on the type of food you're cooking.
For example, salmon with skin tends to stick so for something like that, I would spray or brush the basket with oil. Alternatively you can use a silicone liner or perforated parchment paper.
Sometimes I spray the food I'm cooking with oil. Other times, I will toss the food with oil before putting it in the air fryer.
If I'm cooking breaded food like homemade chicken tenders or coconut shrimp, I spray it with oil to get even browning and to prevent dry spots.
If I'm cooking something like asparagus or butternut squash, I find it easier to toss the veggies in a bowl with a little oil before putting it in the air fryer.
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Best Oil Sprays For The Air Fryer
You should not use nonstick cooking spray like PAM in the air fryer because it can damage the lining of the air fryer basket. Avoid any pressurized, propellant oil sprays which have chemicals added to them.
You can, however, buy a non-aerosol pump-style oil spray that has no propellant and is safe to use in the air fryer. For example, this avocado oil spray has a smoke point of 500°F and contains no propellants, chemicals, or emulsifiers.
Another option is to buy a refillable oil sprayer or mister and fill it with a high smoke point oil. An oil sprayer is a healthy cooking tool to have in the kitchen, not just when using your air fryer.
It allows you to spray a small amount of oil and disperse it evenly over the food rather than pouring a large amount onto the food from a bottle.
Two popular types of oil sprayers are the EVO oil sprayer and the Misto oil sprayer. These non-aerosol air sprayers have no propellants or chemicals.
The downside of these reusable oil sprayers is that they tend to get clogged from time to time and can be difficult to clean.
If you don't have an oil sprayer, another option is to brush oil onto the food or air fryer basket with a pastry brush.
You should not use nonstick cooking spray such as PAM in an air fryer because it can damage the lining of the air fryer basket. Avoid any pressurized, propellant oil sprays which have chemicals added to them. You can use a non-aerosol pump-style oil spray that has no propellant. You can also use a refillable oil sprayer or mister and fill it with a high smoke point oil.
Yes, you can use heart-healthy olive oil in your air fryer. It's best to choose a refined olive oil, also known as light or extra light olive oil, rather than extra virgin olive oil. Light or extra light olive oil has a higher smoke point than other types of olive oil. You can even use regular virgin olive oil if you're cooking at 400°F or lower. Virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 410°F.
Learn how to adapt any recipe to cook in your air fryer! Read my Easy Oven to Air Fryer Conversion Guide and get my helpful conversion chart!
Tasty Air Fryer Recipes
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