June 17

Where Do You Put the Oil in an Air Fryer? | Guide to When and How to Do It


Author: Cornelia Suehr
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Where do you put the oil in an air fryer? The question may sound simple, but not knowing the answer to this frequently asked question can be one of your first mistakes in using the air fryer. And if you're not operating the air fryer correctly, you're definitely missing out on the amazingness of this kitchen appliance.

This post should help you clear up all your questions about air frying with oil, from the different types of oils you can use, the proper ways to use oil on air fryers, and everything in between.


Air Fryer Oil 101

Contrary to popular belief, some air fryer recipes do require you to use oil, and some do not.

For example, fried chicken (see 'Best Air Fryers for Chicken' review), burgers, steaks, and other meats that produce their own juices can be cooked without oil. Frozen foods like pizza rolls, hotdogs, hashbrowns, hot pockets, or onion rings could also be cooked into the air fryer without adding oil.

And if the recipe calls for adding oil, there's a good chance you'd only require a "little oil.” To make sure you do it right, here are guidelines about air fryer oils.

mint fryer

Where Do You Put the Oil in  Air Fryers Equipment?

So, where will you put the oil?

Put Oil On Food (Not On The Air Fryer)

Adding oil gives more taste, texture, and crunch to your air-fried foods. The fat in the oil helps with browning your meats or making vegetables a bit shiny.

Add Oil To Herbs And Seasonings.

If you're using seasoning, add oil to your mixture before spreading it to your food. This extra step ensures that the seasonings stick to the food since hot air circulation inside the air fryer could sometimes blow away herbs, spices, and seasonings off the foods and leave them bland. 

Grease Basket With Oil

Many air fryer baskets are designed with non-stick coating, but greasing it with extra oil before use guarantees that no food sticks to the bottom.

olive oil

3 Ways to Put Oil in an Air Fryer

There are 3 common ways to put the oil on either your food or directly onto the air fryer:

  • Drizzle oil by hand - Put oil in a small bowl. Mix your herbs, seasoning, or marinade (only if you want to). Then lightly drizzle the mixture on your food. This method is usually the messiest since you have less control over the oil.
  • Basting brush or silicone brush - If you have a basting brush or silicone brush in your kitchen, you could dip it into your oil and brush your food with some oil. If you don't have this kind of brush and you're planning to buy one, go for the silicone sets with varying sizes so it would be easier for you to spread oil on different foods.                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Oil Mister or Spray Bottle  - Put the oil in a kitchen spray bottle or an oil mister.  You then spray it onto the food before placing them in the air fryer. You have an option to spray the basket directly, but you'd have to be very careful not to splash other parts of the air fryer when doing so.

Note that market-ready cooking sprays with aerosol, propellant, or other chemicals could negatively affect your air fryer's basket, racks, cages, trays, and other metal parts. Chemical-based cooking sprays could break down or rust the exposed parts.

To avoid this, you have to find a spray bottle with better control. One of the most common issues of oil sprayers is the tendency to clog up (which you can solve with proper maintenance) and excessive splashing  (which has no solution except to try it out first). If you're serious about air frying, invest in a high-quality oil spray bottle or mister. It could make a BIG difference.

making salad

Tips in Using Oil with Your Air Fryer

When and how you apply, oil could affect the result of your recipes. Some oil-related techniques you should know include:

  • Coating the food with oil halfway through air-frying.  If you're after the extra-crispy results you get in a deep fryer, do this technique for most foods (except naturally-oily meats), and you'll be surprised at how crunchy your chicken nuggets or french fries turn out.
  • Coat less olive oil if you want the food crispy. For those using olive oil, the secret for crunchy foods is to take it easy on the oil. Interestingly, adding too much olive oil to your potatoes or vegetables could turn them soft and soft instead of crisp and crunchy.
  • Don't spray oil on your food when it's already inside your air fryer. Those who opted for oil sprayers or misters to use in an air fryer, make sure you do the misting when the food is still outside the air fryer. If you're midway into your cooking, bring out the basket or pan, then use oil misting/spraying. Unintentionally spraying oils all over the surface of your air fryers could cause oil buildup and make it a pain to clean.
  • Recycle oils and drippings. Your air-fried bacon, meat, steak, chicken would most likely leave drippings after you cook. Don't throw this away. You just need a bit of flour, a small amount of stock, and seasoning to make gravies and sauces to your heart's content.
oily food

Foods That Need Oil To Cook

  • VEGGIES: Roasting vegetables require a bit of oil or butter. You have to cut the potatoes and other vegetables in a bowl, mix it with a tablespoon of your preferred oil and toss everything well to coat all sides. Make sure you try to cook baby carrots this way - they're to die for.
  • FROZEN GOODS: Dumplings, egg rolls, and other similar frozen foods need a bit of oil on all sides. This is to prevent them from drying out completely or from sticking to the basket or pan.
  • STEAK: If you're a fan of steaks, rubbing it with generous amounts of olive oil before cooking in the air fryer can really bring the steak's flavor to another level.
  • SOME FISH: For those who find it hard to cook fish dishes, you'll be able to smoke a moist and crusted fish on an air-fryer.
  • HEALTHY CHIPS: WIth an air fryer and the right amount of vegetable oil, you can cook an unlimited amount of healthy chips from kale, broccoli, and so on. Because this little gadget can also work as a dehydrator, you'll be surprised by how it could adapt to cooking grease-free snacks.
prepare for fryer

Air Fryer Basket & Oil FAQs

Here are several FAQs about handling oil for air fryers:

How Do I Put Oil In My Air Fryer?

As I discussed above, you have an option to drizzle oil manually, spread by silicone/basting brush, or splash using an oil mister/sprayer.

How Much Oil Do You Add To An Air Fryer?

The good thing about "baking" or cooking on air fryers is that you can cook delicious chicken wings (see 'Best Air Fryers for Chicken Wings' guide), vegetables, snacks, and a wide range of foods with very little oil. In most cases, expect to use oil no more than 2 tablespoons, irrespective of fryer's size and price (see 'Best Air Fryer for Family of 4' post and check out 'Best Air Fryer Under $100')

olive oil

What Kind Of Oil Goes In An Air Fryer?

An air fryer doesn't choose the type of oil you can use. You can use any oil from the following options: olive, vegetable oil, coconut, canola, avocado oil, soybean, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil, among others. You can even use butter and oils made from a blend of oils.

If you plan to use two or more oils when you cook in an air fryer, and these oils differ in thickness, it is best to separate them into different sprayers.

Note that extra-virgin varieties of olive oil are not ideal for cooking with an air fryer because they tend to heat up significantly and very quickly.


Can I Use PAM Cooking Spray In An Air Fryer?

PAM and other aerosol cooking sprays are bad for your air fryer because their soy lecithin content destroys any non-stick-coated surface. If you mistakenly use these kinds of spray, you'll notice some sticky and hard-to-remove gunk building up.            

To Oil or Not to Oil

An air fryer is a cool appliance and awesome addition to anyone's kitchen. It can grill, fry, smoke foods, and serve as a baking alternative to your oven. From cooking frozen foods quickly to making potatoes and fries a bit more healthy, an air fryer gives you the benefit of a deep fryer without the guilt.

Understanding how to handle oils for your air fryer is essential to extending its life. Use the cooking spray wrong, and you end up with a rusty surface in no time. Follow the tips above, and you can enjoy new and easy recipes for as long as you can.

About the author

Cornelia Suehr

A professional chef and a passionate writer on all topics related to cooking, baking, appliances and kitchenware. Her posts resonate with foodies, home chefs and professionals.


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