Air fryers do, in fact, require a little oil. We recommend avocado, grapeseed, and extra light olive oil all which have a higher smoke point which is ideal for air frying.
When air frying fried foods, and meats, or grilling items, a spray, spritz, or brushing of oil, applied the food, is usually necessary.
Stir-fries are tossed in a touch of oil. The interior of a heated air fryer is a climate somewhat like, and much hotter than, the Mojave desert.
Food that is cooked in an air fryer without oil can dry quickly, and won’t be crispy. Many recipes simply mention ‘spray-on oil’, but that’s much too vague, as most air fry fans care about what they eat, and know that fat and oil are an important part of a healthy diet.
Check out our in-depth buying guide on the best air fryers if you don’t already own one.
The only serious consideration for air fryers is the smoke point. Air fryers get very hot and blow air around, and they do not ventilate smoke very well.
Non–stick spray can damage non-stick surfaces, so it isn’t the best choice for grilling, baking, or roasting in an air fryer when the food will be in direct contact with the kitchenware.
If you have ever burnt a pat of butter in a pan, you grasp the concept.
A smoke point is simply the approximate temperature an oil or fat begins to smoke. A smoke point of 400 degrees or higher is optimal for air frying. This is called a ‘high smoke point’.
Smoke Point Chart
Below you’ll find a smoke point chart of commonly used oils and fats for cooking.
Source: Dr Axe Ghee Benefits
The exception, because there always has to be one, is that we’re not talking about baking.
Your quiches, cakes, and casseroles can contain any type of fat or oil you care to put in them. This also doesn’t refer to the fat that marbles a nice steak.
The smoke point rule is about surface oil applied to crisp and protect many air fried foods during cooking.
Do you know that most cooking oils do not contain only one type of fat?
Some fats are good for you. Moreover, healthy fat is an essential part of the human diet.
A Brief Guide to Good Fats and Bad Fats:
Saturated fats are okay. Generally solid at room temperature, they are ok for your cholesterol.
Trans Fatty acid is bad.= much worse for you than saturated. This is bad cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fat is good.
Polyunsaturated fat, (Omega 3’s), is the best for your health.
See this article for detailed info about good and bad fats.
BHT, or butylated hydroxytuluene, is a preservative that is used in some foods, cosmetics, pesticides, and plastics. It’s health effects are debatable: Legal in the US and Europe, it is banned in Japan and Australia. Suspect as an additive, BHT (which is closely related to Vitamin E) is also sold as a health supplement. BHT may cause a variety of health conditions.
GMOs are the newest food phenomenon, and perhaps phobia. It is difficult to discuss GMOs in an apolitical way. GMO stands for genetically modified organism. What we now call GMOs (and are largely produced by one, big company) are new, unproven, and could carry risks to health, the environment, and global food production. Whether you are concerned about GMOs is a personal choice.
Organic fats and oils are generally GMO-free, but as bio-engineering has created virtually all food as we know it, it’s hard to decide how non-GMO is defined. See Wikipedia’s article on GMO’s.
Techniques for Applying Oil When Air Frying:
- Commercial sprays provide a very light and even coating. It’s prudent to read the label so you will know what you are buying.
- Compose a spritzer bottle: This is a fun DIY concept. Ingredients: the oil of your choice, a food-safe spritzer bottle, and flavored with herbs if you wish. Keep herb-infused oils refrigerated, always. The only drawback is that a spritzer never sprays quite as evenly as a commercially packaged oil spray.
- Brush it on: For meats, fish, and roasted veggies, brushing is a good way to apply a little fat.
- Toss the food in liquid oil. Most air fryer stir-fry, vegetable, and sautee recipes call for tossing the ingredients in a little oil.
- But, no pats of butter. They break the smoke point rule. Any fat that can be applied as a solid is not appropriate for an air fryer.
If you don’t own one already an oil sprayer is a must-have for every air fryer owner.
- Non-stick sprays contain various oils, usually ‘vegetable oil’ and lecithin as an emulsifier. If they are not labeled BHT free of GMO-free they probably aren’t.
- Vegetable oil can contain any veggie from which oil can be extracted, but it is usually 85% soy oil. They usually contain BHT and GMOs. Available as a spray and in health food varieties.
- Corn oil, Canola oil, and Soybean oils all contain polyunsaturated fat, all may contain BHT, and GMOs, all have high smoke points and neutral flavors. All of them are available in spray form.
- Peanut oil has a high smoke point and often contains BHT and GMO’s. Unfortunately, many people are allergic, because peanut oil contains Omega 3’s.
- Coconut oil has a strong flavor, is non-GMO, mostly saturated fat, and has health benefits.
- Olive oil may contain BHT, should be non-GMO. It’s monounsaturated and has a high smoke point. It has a strong flavor and health benefits. The first ‘good oil’, it varies widely in price and grade. Go with light olive oil rather than extra-virgin which has a low smoke point.
- Avocado, walnut oil and flaxseed oil all contain Omega 3 oils. They are expensive and generally of high quality. Walnut and other nut oils have a strong, pleasant flavor that enhances some foods. They all have high smoke points.
- Bacon fat. Unlike butter, there is no way to raise the low smoke point of bacon grease. Not advisable for air fryers.
- Butter is a naturally saturated fat with a low smoke point that can be problematic for air fryers. Clarified butter, and also Ghee, have high smoke points.
- Margarine and solid shortenings have low smoke points, and usually, contain BHT and GMO products, and are composed of trans fats and saturated fats.
We like our fats, and we love our healthy fats even more. Hopefully, this guide will help you make the most of the health benefits of your air fryers.