Air fryers are a super helpful tool in the kitchen, so learning about the best oil for air fryer use is important.
But, the true answer isn’t what you think.
In this post, learn about the type of fats that are best to use when you are using your air fryer-or any cooking method for that matter.
Best Oil for Air Fryer: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Unlike most websites claim, you absolutely can and should use extra virgin olive oil in the air fryer. It is also a great oil for any kind of cooking, including sautéeing.
In fact, extra virgin olive oil is more stable than refined vegetable oils under high-temperature cooking methods. This makes extra virgin olive oil the best oil for air fryers.
Using a light sauteing method with olive oil actually enhances the bioavailability of nutrients from the foods too.
Surprisingly, olive oil is even stable under harsh deep-frying conditions.
Heating olive oil to high temperatures retains most of its nutritional quality too.
Millions of people living in the Mediterranean for all these years didn’t get it wrong.
Despite having a so-called lower smoke point, olive oil undergoes less oxidation in the body than oils like sunflower oil. This is true even after high-temperature cooking.
Foods cooked in olive oil also have higher levels of antioxidants called polyphenols too. This makes olive oil great for gut health and more.
Still, it is best to use the lowest temperatures possible in your air fryer. Low temperatures help to avoid the oxidation of this healthy fat.
I also find that lower and slower usually gets things more crispy in the air fryer anyway. And isn’t that the point of your air fryer?
Lower lipid oxidation was observed with olive oil than sunflower, soybean, and canola oils.Deep or air frying? A comparative study with different vegetable oils – Santos – 2017 – European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology – Wiley Online Library
All told the research points to the fact that extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest oil for air fryer use.
Smoke Points: To Worry or Not to Worry
When it comes to air frying, many websites throw around the term smoke point. For this reason, many websites use this as their only criterion for the best oil for air frying.
But smoke point charts are problematic because they miss the big picture.
A smoke point is the degrees Fahrenheit where an oil begins to create smoke. This smoke can create unwanted oxidized fats that are unhealthy.
You see, the food absorbs some of the heat and energy from the air fryer, making the smoke point more complicated.
According to Joseph Provost, a chemistry and biochemistry professor at the University of San Diego, the pan, the moisture in the food, and many other factors change the smoke point of food.
The smoke point ignores the fact that the type of fat can impart its own protective compounds for the foods.
Sadly, some fats with high smoke points create a lot of oxidative damage within the body too, such as canola oil.
But, if you are super worried about the smoke point of olive oil, you can use extra light olive oil instead of extra virgin olive oil.
Extra light olive oil has a very high smoke point of 465-470 degrees Fahrenheit.
Other Healthy Oils for Air Frying
While extra virgin olive oil is a great choice for air frying, there are times when you may want other flavor profiles or features from different oils.
Some of the best oils for air fryer use include ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed beef tallow.
Ghee (clarified butter) is much more stable than butter because it doesn’t burn or smoke as easily as butter. It is very nutritious especially if you used grass-fed ghee. And if you are wondering, it has a very high smoke point at 485 degrees Fahrenheit because the proteins that cause burning in butter are removed. Top pick: 4th and Heart Grassfed Ghee
Virgin coconut Oil is the highest in saturated fats of all oils, which means it is the most stable fat out there. Impressively, it is stable for 8 hours of frying at temperatures of 365 degrees Fahrenheit, making coconut oil a great fryer oil. Top pick: Nutiva Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
Avocado Oil is similar to olive oil because it is very rich in monounsaturated fats. This makes it less likely to oxidize and break down, making it a good choice as an air fryer oil. Just make sure to store avocado oil in the dark because it rapidly breaks down when exposed to light.
Grass-fed beef tallow is surprisingly among the best oils to use in the air fryer too. Tallow is rich in antioxidants and vitamins making it the best oil to use in the air fryer for nutrients. Its saturated fat protects it from oxidation at high heat. And contrary to popular opinion, saturated fat is not related to heart disease risk in several major studies. Top pick: Epic Grassfed Beef Tallow
Related post: Is Liver Superfood for Your Health
Air Fryer Oils to Avoid
Peanut oil-although peanut oil has a high smoke point, it ironically creates a lot of oxidized lipids, which are very unhealthy for the body.
Canola oil– using most kinds of canola oils is unhealthy because it is usually grown using a lot of chemicals like glyphosate and is chemically extracted with harmful substances like hexane. If you do choose to use canola oil, make sure to choose USDA organic canola oil.
Vegetable oil is high in polyunsaturated fats which also oxidize too easily.
Sunflower oil-do you ever notice that if you buy chips made with sunflower oil they go stale after a day or two? This is because sunflower oil quickly undergoes oxidation like many other vegetable oils due to its high polyunsaturated fat content. So sunflower oil should be avoided for frying and cooking.
How to Use Oil in Air Fryer
When it comes to oil, air fryers only need a little bit. If you use too much, the oil will drip into the pan and this can definitely cause your air fryer to smoke regardless of the type of oil you use.
All you need to do is lightly brush your foods in oil before putting them in the oven.
Alternatively, you can use an oil spray bottle to lightly mist your food with oil.
And don’t use Pam or non-stick cooking spray because it can damage the coating on the air fryer.
If you are using foods that already have oil in them, you don’t need to add additional oils, such as chicken wings or chicken thighs. Packaged foods almost always have oils added already so you don’t need to add oils (but they usually are unhealthy oils).
For the best health, starting from scratch is always best.
Best Oil Sprayer
Flairisol Olivia Oil Sprayer is a glass bottle oil sprayer that makes a great spray bottle for the air fryer due to the fine mist it produces and high-quality materials as well as great ratings. It is durable, easy to use, and easy to clean as well.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.