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Should You Use Nonstick Cooking Sprays in Your Air Fryer?

Three products recommended in the article including an OXO pastry brush, a Ninja air fryer and a Evo spray bottle.

Ever add a little spritz of PAM to your air fryer before cooking some chicken or french fries? If your air-frying routine includes this step, it’s time to stop. Unfortunately, nonstick cooking sprays are no good for your air fryer.

Although cooking sprays are the epitome of convenience, they contain some pretty harmful chemicals that don’t always play well with your cookware, including the baskets in your air fryer. Let’s take a look at why this is, and some alternatives you can use to make your air fryer nonstick.

Why Aerosol Sprays Are a No-Go in Air Fryers

A can of PAM in front of a skillet of hot food.
JJava Designs/Shutterstock.com

Aerosol cooking sprays create a fantastic coating for loaf and sheet pans, muffin tins, and anything else that needs to be less sticky.

However, these sprays contain agents like lecithin. When those are combined with the nonstick coating on a pan or basket, a buildup of residue is inevitable. And that buildup is not only very difficult to clean, it will eventually cause your air fryer’s basket to chip.

This is why you should never use an aerosol cooking spray on nonstick surfaces, like a skillet or air fryer baskets. Tanya Harris over at My Forking Life has all sorts of great tips for any air-frying enthusiast, and one thing she’s firmly against is using aerosol cooking sprays on the baskets.

But fear not; there are plenty of other healthy oils you can use instead of cooking sprays, and you can even spray them on, too!

The Best Cooking Oils to Use in Your Air Fryer

A Ninja Foodi duel basket air fryer with fries and chicken wings plated in front.

Hands down, the best part about having an air fryer is that you get to enjoy deep-fried flavor and texture with a major slash in calories. But to really deliver all that crispy flavor, a spritz of oil can make all the difference.

Most cooking fats perform differently due to their smoke points, which are critical for flavor. Because your air fryer cooks at such high temperatures, it’s important to use oils with high smoke points.

A smoke point is the temperature at which an oil will start smoking, which will also give your food an undesirable burnt flavor. This is why you want to use an oil in your air fryer that can be heated to a very high temperature without any smoking.

The following common cooking oils all have high smoke points:

  • Avocado: 520 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Safflower: 510 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Extra light olive: 465 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Peanut: 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Coconut: 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Vegetable: 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Canola: 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Some oils have stronger flavors than others, but those with a distinct taste can really bring a dish to life. For example, if you’re making an Asian-inspired dish, sesame oil (which has a smoke point of 410 degrees Fahrenheit) can really brighten it up.

Opt for fats, like peanut, canola, or vegetable oil, if you want a more neutral flavor. They’ll help crisp up your dish without adding too much oomph.

Ninja Foodi Duel Basket Air Fryer

If you've damaged yours with aerosol cooking sprays, this is our favorite model.

Some Helpful Cooking Oil Tools

Three producst recommended in the article by brands like EVO, OXO and BINGLALA.

Unlike deep-frying, an air fryer allows you to make deliciously crunchy foods with just a tiny bit of fat. The biggest temptation for using a cooking spray is that it’s so easy to apply to your cooking surface. But we can help there, too! Here are some tools that will make it just as convenient to use a cooking oil:

An oil spray bottle: This non-aerosol set is made specifically for cooking oil, making it just as easy to coat your air fryer baskets with oil as it would be with a cooking spray. The nozzles are adjustable to give you better control and the sleek design ensures they’ll look nice above the counter.

Evo Oil Sprayer

A spritz, spritz here, and a spritz, spritz there.

A Pastry Brush: Yes, that old reliable pastry brush collecting dust in a drawer is another perfect way to add oil to your air fryer baskets. We prefer a silicone basting and pastry brush, as it won’t absorb and hold oil like boar bristles do. It’s also dishwasher-safe and heat resistant.

OXO Good Grips Silicone Pastry Brush

Perfect for applying oil to your cooking surfaces.

Paper Liners: If dodging greasy messes is your number one priority, then you’ll love the convenience of paper liners. They’ll keep food residue away from your baskets and make cleanup practically effortless. For less than $10, you’ll get enough liners to cook 50 meals.

When You Should Use Oil in an Air Fryer

An image of spatchcocked chicken which used only one tablespoon of oil before cookingin the air fryer.
Stay Snatched

The purpose of using oil in an air fryer is to keep your food moist, while also helping it reach that classic crispiness you want. You actually don’t have to add oil to the basket because it’s already nonstick. Instead, add it to your food.

Either use the spray bottle we recommended above and spray a bit of oil on your food or brush it on with a pastry brush. You can also toss your food in a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) of oil, and then add seasoning before tossing it in the basket.

You’ll want to use a small amount of oil on foods like raw chicken, turkey, fish and seafood, homemade eggrolls, and veggies.

If you’re wondering how it’s done, check out this simply delicious recipe for air fryer spatchcock chicken. You’ll learn how to butterfly a whole chicken, coat it with oil, season it, and then let your handy appliance do the rest.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, breakfast sausage, and bacon don’t need any oil as they already contain plenty of fat. Frozen foods, like chicken nuggets and fries, also don’t need any oil, so you can throw those right in, press the proper buttons, and then enjoy them with a little dipping sauce.

Nonstick cooking sprays are popular because they’re so convenient to use. Unfortunately, they can damage the baskets in your air fryer over time. If you use one of the methods we shared here to apply your cooking oils, your handy kitchen appliance will last much longer—and your meals will taste much better, too!

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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