Do Air Fryers Use Oil? (And The Best Oils to Use)

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We all know about air fryers today. And, you most likely know that what makes them so great is that they produce uber crispy food items without the use of an oil like they normally do when deep-frying them. 

However, does that mean you can’t or shouldn’t use oil in air fryers at all? Luckily, you can still use oil in air fryers. In fact, you probably should. Oil help act as a lubricant to prevent items from sticking and even burning from dry heat. And, they also add flavor and help trap moisture inside the food item. The oil can also add that little extra bit of crispiness that crumbed items need.

The best oils to use for these functions include vegetable oils, seed oils, olive oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, and butter. As long as the oil has a high smoking point, it will work great.

Today, we will explore the world of oil and look at exactly when and why to use it for air fryers. We will also have an in-depth look at a variety of oils you can use when cooking in an air fryer. So, ready to dive in?

What Are Air Fryers? 

Today, air fryers aren’t necessarily all that new to the cooking scene. However, many people still don’t know how to properly use them, let alone what they actually are and how they work! 

Air fryers are small appliances that stand on the counter. They also do come built into other appliances, such as convection ovens or toaster ovens.

What makes air fryers so incredibly unique (and why so many people love them) is because they produce extraordinarily crisp items in only a couple of minutes. The textures they produce are very similar to deep-fried food, which uses hot oil. 

As you may know, oil produces food that is high in unhealthy fats, which is why so many people avoid it. However, thanks to the amazing technology used in air fryers, you can get similar results without submerging the food in oil.

Ultimately, air fryers produce deep-fried food without having to use oil and making the food unhealthy (this one’s our favorite)!

How Do Air Fryers Work?

Basically, air fryers are built in the same way a convection oven is, but with a much stronger fan. The appliance contains a couple of heating elements that can quickly produce extremely high temperatures.

Unlike an oven that takes minutes to preheat, the coiled heating element produces instant heat in seconds.

Then, the air fryer has a strong built-in fan. This fan helps quickly and efficiently distribute the hot air throughout the air frying chamber and around the food.

The hot air helps crisp up the food in minutes and also reduced the overall cooking time by up to 20%.

Now, the question that we will be looking at today is whether or not air fryers still use oil? Seeing as they make crispy food without the need to submerge it!

How Does Oil Make Food Crispy?

Deep-fried food is simply amazing! Their crispy exterior is extremely hard to achieve with other cooking methods. This is because of the effect that hot oil has on food.

You know that unique deep-frying sound you hear when plunging items into the hot oil? That’s the water boiling off and being removed from the surface of the item being fried!

When the food item is placed into the hot oil, the water molecules in the item start to instantly boil and move towards the surface. Then, the water on the surface essentially boils off, drying out the outer layer

This is aided when using starchy coatings. This coating, even if it is just flour or cornstarch, helps create an extra dry layer while keeping the moisture on the inside of the item. This is why crumbed chicken pieces are juicy yet crisp.

Do Air Fryers Use Oil?

As you know, air fryers don’t create a crispy texture by submerging the food completely in oil. However, does that mean you don’t have to use any oil at all?

The short answer to that is pretty much that it depends on the item you are cooking and the texture you want.

We know that is a very vague still answer. However, we have created a guideline that will help you choose whether to use it or not.

Air fryers work just as well as deep-fryers because they create the same extreme instant heat that makes the moisture on the surface of the item instantly evaporate.

This leaves the item with crispy skin. But, as we said, there are other factors to consider!


When looking at the item you are cooking, some can be cooked without any oil. However, this may also dry out the item completely.

So, think about how the item reacts when cooked using other dry cooking methods, like roasting or grilling

For example, when roasting sweet potatoes, you don’t have to add oil for them to cook and stay juicy.

But, if you are roasting asparagus, which doesn’t contain as much moisture and is very thin, they can become extremely dry and bland when cooked without oil.

Now, if you want to make crispy sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, or fries, the oil will help get that texture instantly, without drying out the food too. It essentially acts as an aid for the air fryer, but not the main crisper.

Furthermore, if you want to air fry a crumbed item, you won’t have to add any oil to the surface.

In fact, we highly recommend you give it a skip! When adding oil to a crumb coating, it will make it soggy and ultimately, you won’t get a crispy texture.

Non-Stick Properties

This is another factor you can take into consideration. When using this extreme heat, certain items burn quite quickly. This could lead to the items sticking to each other or the cooking surface.

Oil will act as a lubricant that can prevent all of this from happening.


And yes, oil does still add flavor to the food item, especially when using special oils.

This can include olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, and much more. All of these can add their own unique flavor to the food item while it is being cooked.

One thing to keep in mind with this is that different oils have different smoking and flashing points.

So, when using very high cooking temperatures in an air fryer, you need to make sure that the oil won’t start smoking or even catch alight.

Foods That Don’t Need Oil

Here is a list of food items that definitely doesn’t need any oil when they are being air-fried:

  • Hamburger patties
  • Hotdogs and sausages
  • Crumbed foods, like chicken snitzels
  • Marinated foods like chicken wings
  • Pre-frozen food items like pizza rolls, hot pockets, potato fries

How To Use An Air Fryer With Oil

While you don’t have to use oil for all items being air-fried, you can still use some oil to add flavor, help give an extra crispy surface, and to prevent items from sticking to each other or burning.

How you use the oil in an air fryer differs a lot from using it in a deep fryer. For air frying, you will brush the food item directly with the oil of your choice. You should not pour it into the tray or basket.

Pouring it into the frying basket will simply cause the oil to run through the wires and into the appliance itself, making a big mess to clean.

And pouring it into a tray won’t lubricate the food and essentially be useless. By brushing oil on the surface, you are creating an even texture throughout, seeing as the air is circulated throughout.

Then, all that is left to do is switch the air fryer on and put in the appropriate temperature and time settings.

Here’s a tip for coating items with oil when air frying; brush the oil on the items with a pastry brush. This evenly coats the surface without adding so much oil that it runs off of the item.

Best Oils To Use For Air Frying

The most important factor to consider when choosing an oil for air frying is its smoking point and flashpoint.

A smoking point is a temperature at which the oil can be heated before it starts to smoke. When oil is smoked, it adds an off-flavor to the food, not to mention the fact that it helps dry it out quicker.

The flashpoint of an oil is the temperature at which the oil ignites and bursts into flames.

This is extremely dangerous! Because you are working with electrical appliances, the air fryer can also catch alight and cause massive damage.

You should always choose your oils wisely—and that applies to any cooking method using oil, not just air frying.

Here are some of our top picks for oils when air frying food items.

1. Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is unique in that it is an oil extracted from a blend of seeds and other parts of a plant. This oil differs from pure seed oil (like sunflower oil or grapeseed oil) as it is almost always made from a blend of oils.

This oil is also often very processed. But, while it loses a lot of its nutrients, it still has very beneficial characteristics. Vegetable oil has an extremely neutral flavor which will not affect that of the food item.

Furthermore, it has a very high smoking point and flashpoint. It can be used at extremely high temperatures without worry. This oil has an average smoking point of 450°F.

This oil is also by far the best to use because of how easily accessible it is, and even more importantly, budget-friendly.

2. Coconut Oil

Now, coconut oil would usually not even be considered as an option for making crispy food. However, because we don’t need a massive amount, the possibilities are endless.

You can use a wide variety of coconut oils, but we always prefer organic sustainably obtained coconut oil.

Organic coconut oil has a much more authentic coconut flavor and still contains many of the nutrients. It does have a slightly off-white color, but again, the nutritional value makes up for this.

This oil will add a delicious tropical nutty flavor to your food items and is extremely easy to pair. And, even when unrefined, the oil has a smoking point of 350°F.

3. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

We have all heard people raving about extra-virgin olive oil. Basically what makes it so special is how unprocessed it is.

Naturally, this high-quality and excellent flavor comes at a very high price. So, to save a few bucks you can opt for a more refined option like virgin olive oil or an olive oil blend. 

This oil is easy to use, still relatively neutrally flavors (because we are so used to it by now), and has a smoking point of 380°F. The refined options have an even higher smoking point, around 470°F.

4. Canola Oil Or Sunflower Oil

Canola oil is a product often used as part of oil blends because of how easily accessible and affordable it is. Pure canola oil comes from a variety of rapeseed plants. Sunflower oil on the other hand is extracted from sunflower seeds.

We’ve decided to put both of these oils in the same section as they are virtually interchangeable.

They are both very neutrally-flavored, easy to use, affordable, and nutritious. While their nutritional makeup varies, the more they are processed, the more nutrients they lose.

On average, canola oil and sunflower oil has a smoking point of 450°F, making it perfect for air fryers.

5. Avocado Oil

Next, we move to more unique and flavored oils. Avocado oil is especially popular amongst oil-enthusiasts because of the nutrients the oil carries. As compared to very processed oils and blends, it is much healthier.

Avocado oil is pretty neutrally flavored with only mild hints of avo and nuttiness coming through. Many people also describe a unique summer fruitiness to it.

Refined avocado oil has an extremely high smoking point of 520°F. This means it is perfect for helping give food that extra bit of crunch!

6. Peanut Oil

Peanut oil works great for Asian-inspired dishes. But, its nutty flavor can also simply be used to add more complexity to all air-fried dishes. But, keep in mind that this oil isn’t suitable for people with nut allergies. 

It is relatively easy to find, but shouldn’t be used in excess as it can have an extremely overpowering flavor.

Refined peanut oil has a smoking point of 450°F. However, unrefined peanut oil only has a smoking point of 320°F, which we don’t recommend in air fryers.

7. Butter

While butter isn’t a liquid fat like oil, it still has oil-like properties and does melt when heated. The reason we added butter to this list is because of the delicious rich flavors it adds to food and its browning abilities.

Butter has a smoking point of 480°F. And, you can even substitute it with shortening, although these aren’t as delicious.

How Healthy Is Air Frying Cooking?

Air frying cooking is one of the healthier cooking methods you can use, especially to make delicious crispy foods. It is the ultimate alternative to deep-frying in oil and produced equally amazing textures.

Because they require a lot less oil when cooking, it has the potential to cut up to 80% of the calories! Incredible, right? 

But, one thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t make the ingredients themselves healthier. For example, if you are baking a chocolate cake (that doesn’t use oil to bake) then the air fryer isn’t going to make the dish healthier.

The “health” element comes in due to the lack of oil you need to cook the actual item.

If you’re looking for some fun new ways to use your air fryer, here’s a great video featuring a few fantastic air fryer recipes!

Up Next: Air Fryers Sizes – How To Choose

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