Air fryers are a 21st century invention and as such, several questions arise as to how to properly use them.

Among such questions is whether or not oil is needed in order to cook or bake food articles them? And if yes, how much of it should be used?

The answer is quite simple.

Oils can be used in air fryers to ensure brownness supplied by Millard reaction as well as improve the overall flavor of the food. Articles that require the use of oil are typically those browned in a deep fryer such as meat, cheeseburgers, steak, fries etc.

Because air fryers rely on fanning very hot air confined inside a small chamber to cook food fast, the browning effect is not as prominent on traditionally deep fried foods. Thus, the need to rub some oil over foods in order to develop the effect.

Using oils in air fryers doesn’t just stop with “creating browning effects”.

As deep fried foods are naturally superior than the same food items cooked in the air fryer, in the flavor department, rubbing healthy and flavorful oils can really help to boost the overall taste.

Why You Still Need Oil in An Air Fryer And How Much You Need

If you’ve ever craved crispy brown chicken with flavors intensifying after every bite you take, then you already know half the reason why oil is needed in an air fryer.

Oil helps to build up maillard reaction which gives our articles that fine brown look that is perfect for every social media post.

Additionally, they improve flavor: compare thighs cooked in the deep fryer with that made in an air fryer and you’ll recognise the difference easily, overall texture and also the overall experience of our foods!

Whilst using oil has an advantage, you want to pay careful attention to how much you’re using.

To avoid defeating the purpose of purchasing an air fryer in the first place, make sure you use only a small amount of oil i.e (no more than 3 teaspoons) when air frying. You can spray the articles before they are fried (when they are outside the fryer) or rub oil on them using a brush.

You can also allow articles like chicken to cook halfway, then rub little oil on them in the final minutes to initiate browning.

Whatever you do, however, make sure to avoid getting oil spattered onto the interior of the air fryer. The oil can make it’s way into the internal circuitry and cause damage.

Type Of Oils To Use In An Air Fryer And How To Use Them

Although cooking oils come with different scents and flavors which they add to food, that is not the most important thing to consider when using them in an air fryer.

The most important characteristic to look out for is the “smoking point” of the oil. All cooking oils have a smoking point, which is the point at which they will begin to produce smoke.

One thing to bear in mind is that unsaturated and pure oils have a much lower smoking point due to the natural compounds that are available in them.

The more refined a particular oil is, the higher the smoking point. Also, animal-based fats have lower smoking points than vegetable-based fats and oils.

Below are some of the available cooking fats and oil options and their smoking points to guide you while making your choice;

Compare the smoking point with the temperature in the recipe you’re working with to ensure no smoke is produced when you cook items in the air fryer.

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Oil

Smoking Point

1

Almond oil

430 F

2

Avocado oil

510 F

3

Coconut oil

350 F

4

Flaxseed oil

225 F

5

Clarified butter/ghee

350 F

6

Extra Virgin olive oil

320 F

7

Peanut oil

450 F

8

Rice bran oil

490 F

9

Butter

350 F

Other important factors to consider when choosing oil for cooking with in an air fryer include:

Flavor

Flavour matters a lot when cooking and oils can help you to achieve a desired kind of flavour.

For a nutty flavour, you can opt-in for oils made from nuts e.g. avocado oil, coconut oil, canola oil and sesame oil.

Meanwhile, for a subtle and smoky flavour, you can choose the argan cooking oil.

Perhaps you like a mild flavour while cooking with oil, then light olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil and other oils in that category are perfect for you to put in your air fryer.

Quality

This is where the nutritional value and ingredients in your cooking oil come to play.

Opt for oils that have been proven scientifically to have their health benefits outweigh their cons, for example, olive oil, avocado oil and sesame oil, and ensure to root for the highest quality.

At the same time, avoid oils that pack so many cons which can end up affecting your health in the long run.

Other Things You Can Put In An Air Fryer

If you are unclear about the things you can put in an air fryer and those you can’t or shouldn’t, below is a brief guide to help you out.

Flour

Air fryers are not restricted to cooking roasts or items that are naturally solid prior to baking i.e meat or veggies, you can put formless articles made with dough into them i.e doughnut and breaded items, and more certain than that, you can rub flour on items and bake them too!

This means chicken nuggets, pizza, crispy frozen foods are a sure thing in the fryer!

Frozen Foods

Apart from the fact that air fryers reduce the stress and resources used in thawing and preparing frozen food conventionally, they also reduce cooking time.

Ideally, to make frozen food suitable to cook, you have to thaw first.

Meanwhile, in the air fryer, the hotter chamber compared to conventional ovens means that everything happens much faster! From thawing to cooking!

Vegetables

For soft vegetables like tomatoes and cauliflower, simply lay them evenly in the tray and spray them with a light coating of cooking oil, then cook for 10-15 minutes while occasionally shaking the basket to ensure they cook evenly.

For firm vegetables like carrots, repeat the same process but cook for about 10 minutes more. Ensure that there is enough space between each veggie to allow the hot air to circulate properly.

Brilliant Tips For Cooking In An Air Fryer

  • Always preheat your air fryer as per recipe instructions before cooking. The least timeframe is 2 minutes.
  • To ensure that your food is cooked evenly, especially when dealing with fries or items much smaller than them for example diced vegetable, shake the basket a few times during cooking.
  • Oil spray bottles are the most effective while applying oil to the food
  • Do not overfill the air fryer basket with food to allow the hot air to circulate properly which prevents uneven cooking.
  • Always empty fat from the bottom of the air fryer after each use
  • Always empty fat from the bottom of the air fryer while cooking foods that are naturally fatty e.g. pork chops to prevent smoking.

Final Thought

In short, oil, in most cases, is essential when cooking with an air fryer to prevent the food from becoming dry and tough on the exterior. Putting oil will also help with flavor and aesthetics of the baked or cooked article.

In as much as it is advocated to rub oil on your articles before cooking them in the air fryer, you also have to be wary of the type of cooking oil you’re using, the amount of oil and also the technique you’re using in applying the oil.

Proper and consistent cleaning of your air fryer after using oil in it is crucial to prevent negative consequences from cropping up in the near future