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Do Air Fryers Use Oil?

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Air fryers are often touted for their health benefits in reducing the amount of fat in the food that you eat. You might be tempted to entirely neglect oil when cooking with your air fryer.

Have you ever wondered whether you need to use oil in your air fryer?

The answer is that you usually need at least a bit of oil, but you should not need as much as if you are deep fat frying or even skillet frying your food.

In this article, we are going to explore how much oil air fryers need to make great food. We’re also going to cover how to add oil to your air fryer recipes, and what happens if you leave it out.

What Is the Appeal of Air Fryers?

Air fryer on the worktop white background

Air fryers have become very popular because they are a good way to enjoy crispy fried foods without the huge portion of fat usually associated with deep fat frying. They will still provide a golden crunch, and you won’t be eating as much grease or consuming as many calories.

That’s obviously a big benefit, and it has led to a lot of popularity for these gadgets. However, you do need to use an air fryer correctly to get good results. Make sure that you:

This will help you get the most from your air fryer.

How Do You Use Oil In an Air Fryer?

Not every single air fryer recipe will call for oil. Don’t add it if your recipe doesn’t require it, or it might end up greasy and unpleasant.

However, don’t leave the oil out of recipes that call for it in an attempt to be healthier. The recipe is unlikely to work properly.

Most air fryer recipes will still require oil. In many instances, you will need to follow the steps below:

  1. Decide whether you are going to use a spray oil or brush oil on. This will depend on how much oil the recipe calls for. A spritz of oil is easiest to add with a spray oil, but if the ingredients ask for half a tablespoon or more, it’s best to use a brush.
  2. Set your food on a tray or plate, and spray or brush oil onto the surface that is facing up.
  3. Turn the food over and spray or brush oil onto the other side. For foods that have four sides, such as fries, complete this step for each side. Some foods will only require you to oil the top and bottom.
  4. Add the food to the air fryer basket and keep an eye on it while it cooks. If you think that it looks too dry, use your spray oil to add just a little more during the cooking process. Do not add a lot or try to use a pourable oil at this stage, or you’ll get very greasy food. Add oil early on in the cooking process so it has time to turn crispy.

This should give you great results with your air fryer. If you find a recipe is too greasy, simply make a note to reduce the quantity of oil next time. In general, you need very little oil for an air fryer recipe, but some is required.

Can I Add Oil to the Air Fryer Instead?

Air fryer homemade grilled potato

No, you should not add oil directly to your air fryer. There is nowhere to put it. Trying to spray or pour oil onto the basket that contains the food can cause a couple of issues.

  • There will be minimal contact with the food, and only small areas that are in direct contact with the basket will get crispy.
  • The oil may drip from the basket and into the base tray. This will cause the air fryer to smoke because the oil will burn on the hot surface. This could spoil your food, and will produce an unpleasant, acrid smell. You may also encounter this issue if you put too much oil on your food.

Never add oil to the tray at the bottom of the air fryer. It will not crisp your food because there is no contact with it, and it will burn. This tray gets very hot. Adding oil to it is unsafe and pointless.

What Happens if I Don’t Add Oil?

Some people choose not to add oil to their air fryer recipes in an attempt to be healthier. This does reduce the fat content of the food, but it generally defeats the point of using an air fryer.

An air fryer is designed to make your food crispy, like traditional fried food. If you don’t add oil, most foods won’t become crispy on the outside. They may instead turn dry and tough, and not very appetizing.

If you want to cook foods with no oil, try boiling or steaming them instead. They will not taste like fried foods, but they will be free from oil.

Which Foods May Not Need Added Oil?

You probably will not need to add any oil if you’re cooking frozen foods such as:

  • Sweet potato fries
  • Onion rings
  • Hamburgers
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Chicken wings
  • Normal fries

These will usually already contain enough oil in the food or in the coating to ensure that they crisp up nicely without additional oil. If more oil is needed, add a spritz when they are cooking, but not before you start.


Air fryers do use oil, and most foods require you to spray some on before you add them to the fryer if you want crispy, enjoyable food.

However, a few foods will already contain enough oil, so think about what you are cooking before you get the oil out.

Remember, you can always spray a little more on while it’s cooking if it turns dry.