One of the main appeals to purchasing and using an air fryer is that they require less oil than deep frying, and, in most cases, pan frying. But one question I frequently get asked is: “Does an air fryer need oil?” The answer is both yes and no. More accurately, I recommend using oil, but it is not absolutely necessary..
Benefits of Using Oil in the Air Fryer
- Oil protects the food. While any type of oil does contain calories and fat, using a small amount to baste or coat foods cooked in the air fryer serves as a protective barrier that locks in moisture. So, in short, if you choose not to use oil, your food may dry out, especially if cooked at a high temperature.
- Oil Can Add Flavor. Using oils, especially those that are infused, is a great way to amp up the taste factor in your food. Broccoli tossed in garlic infused olive oil gives life to the regular hum-drum steamed variety. With that in mind, there are other ways to season your food without oil.
- Oil can protect the air fryer basket. While most air fryer baskets are made with non-stick material, using a tablespoon or less of oil can prevent food from sticking to the basket. I find that despite the fact that my air fryer basket is non-stick, foods like fish tend to stick sometimes, which may require extra soaking time or hard scrubbing, which can wear out the surface of the basket.
Can I get by without oil?
- Yes, with certain foods. High-fat foods like bacon, sausage, chicken wings, and pork ribs are naturally greasy and don’t need extra oil. There is little fear of these proteins drying out because the fat locks in the moisture during the cooking process. However, lower fat foods like tilapia, chicken tenderloins, and veggies are not greasy and will cook more evenly and retain their moisture if basted or tossed in your favorite healthy oil.
- Use Non-Stick Cooking Sprays with Caution. Many people use non-sticking spray in lieu of oil when using their air fryers. While this is okay and does cut down on fat and calories, keep in mind that some of these sprays can break down and wear away the non-stick surface of your basket when used with high temperatures.
So…Does an Air Fryer Require Oil?
We recommend that you cook proteins, veggies, and everything in between a small amount of healthy cooking oil appropriate for your cooking temperature. While you can get away with skipping the oil when cooking with certain foods, using a bit of oil will prevent your food from drying out and could also extend the life of your non-stick basket.