Many home cooks often express concerns with the idea of overheating olive oil. So it's only natural to wonder, "Can you use olive oil in an air fryer?" The good news is, yes, you can absolutely use olive oil in your air fryer.
However, there are a few caveats you should be aware of, which I'll cover shortly. Olive oil is actually one of the best oils to use in the air fryer because of its amazing health benefits, as well as its versatility and a wide array of options when compared to other cooking oils.
- What Are the Health Benefits of Olive Oil?
- Do I Need to Use Oil in an Air Fryer?
- How Much Oil Do I Need When Air Frying?
- Can I Use Flavored Olive Oil in the Air Fryer?
- Can You Use an Olive Oil Nonstick Cooking Spray When Air Frying?
- What's All the Fuss About Smoke Points?
- The Various Types of Olive Oil
- Alternatives to Air Frying With Olive Oil
- Mastering the Art of Air Frying with Olive Oil
What Are the Health Benefits of Olive Oil?
Olive oil is high in monosaturated fats, which facilitates anti-inflammatory properties. It's also high in antioxidants, decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke, reduces LDL cholesterol, raises HDL cholesterol, and maintains healthy blood pressure.
Unfortunately, olive oil is still a high-fat, high-calorie food so use it in moderation. This is why it's perfect for the air fryer since it requires so little when compared to pan frying or deep frying.
Do I Need to Use Oil in an Air Fryer?
Not all foods cooked in air fryers require oil, especially prepurchased frozen foods like french fries or pizza rolls. However, when reheating foods or working with specific air fryer recipes, a touch of oil in an air fryer helps keep food moist.
It also helps keep your food from sticking to your air fryer basket. Even better, using olive oil in your air fryer helps give your food a crispy texture and a deep fryer taste.
How Much Oil Do I Need When Air Frying?
The best benefit of air frying foods is that you don't need nearly as much oil as when you deep fry foods. You need just enough oil to seal in the moisture and keep food from sticking. Usually, no more than a tablespoon is needed.
Too little oil, however, and your food becomes rather dry. The easiest way to add a little oil to your air fryer is with a DIY oil spray.
With your homemade oil sprayer, lightly spray your food before you place it in the air fryer basket.
Can I Use Flavored Olive Oil in the Air Fryer?
If you're using commercial cooking sprays, double-check the label to make sure no additional ingredients have been added that could potentially alter the smoke point or release harmful compounds into your food.
Otherwise, it's perfectly fine to use flavored olive oils in your air fryer. I frequently use infused olive oils in mine.
Can You Use an Olive Oil Nonstick Cooking Spray When Air Frying?
Store-bought nonstick cook sprays, like Pam cooking spray, almost always contain both genetically modified ingredients as well as harmful aerosols that both ruin the longevity of your air fryer and your health. So while you can use them, you shouldn't.
Instead, make your own non-stick cooking spray that's much healthier at a fraction of the cost. Oil sprayers make it easy to evenly coat your food.
What's All the Fuss About Smoke Points?
Learning to work within the perimeters of your cooking oils is part of becoming a good home chef and is essential for healthy cooking.
There's been lots of buzz about smoke points in recent years, and rightly so. Different oils have different smoke points, but they're often highly misunderstood.
A smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke. When an oil reaches its smoke point, the fats in the oil begin to break down through oxidation.
Throughout this process, a series of chemical reactions degrade the quality of the oil and gradually eliminate the beneficial polyphenols, and causes the formation of carcinogenic compounds.
Because air fryers often use such high temperatures, choose oils with a very high smoke point to avoid any harmful compounds in your food.
The Myth About Cooking With Extra Virgin Olive Oil
You'll find lots of articles circulating the internet advising against cooking with extra virgin olive oil because of its "low smoke point."
The truth is extra virgin olive oil is a high smoke point oil that ranges from 350°-410° F (177°-210° C). What most fail to realize, however, is that the cooking temperature is not a direct reflection of the oil's temperature.
So just because you're cooking at 450°F (232°C) doesn't mean your oil temperature has exceeded its smoking point. In most cases, the moisture in the food prevents the oil from overheating. The smoke you may see rising from your air fryer is actually steam, which is the moisture being released from the food.
Here's a good example (Minute 2:35) in which oven fries tossed in olive oil were cooked at 450° F (232° C), well above the smoke point for EVOO. Even after twenty-five minutes in the oven, the fries had barely reached 300° F (149° C).
Moreover, the Culinary Institute of America puts this myth to rest once and for all giving the full green light condoning the use of extra virgin olive oil for all methods of cooking, including air fryer cooking.
Quoting the International Olive Council:
“Olive oil is ideal for frying. In proper temperature conditions, without overheating, it undergoes no substantial structural change and keeps its nutritional value better than other oils, not only because of the antioxidants but also due to its high levels of oleic acid. Its high smoke point (210°C/410°F) is substantially higher than the ideal temperature for frying food (180°C/356°F).”
Even better, the USDA recommends deep frying with olive oil.
The Various Types of Olive Oil
Unlike vegetable oil or canola oil, olive oil comes in a variety of options. Each type of olive oil comes with its own advantages.
Each oil's smoke point is directly proportional to the free fatty acid of the oil. Therefore, the lower the oil's acidity, the higher the smoke point. Here's the breakdown from lower smoke point to higher smoke point when it comes to your favorite olive oils.
Smoke Point of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
EVOO is likely the most popular of all the olive oils because of its impeccable reputation. Extra virgin olive oil is the best of the best. It's unrefined, cold extracted, and never exposed to chemicals or high heat.
It contains moderate amounts of Vitamin E and Vitamin K, and it's plentiful in bioactive compounds, phytosterols, and oleic acid.
Because it only has 0.8% free acidity, extra virgin olive oil has a higher smoke point than other olive oils ranging from 350-410°F (177-210°C).
More important than high smoke point oils are their stability. The high levels of oleic acid and polyphenols in EVOO help fight against the breakdown and formation of free radicals.
Extra virgin olive oil is by far one of the most stable oils and actually outperforms peanut oil when it comes to withstanding high-temperature cooking.
Smoke Point for Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil is quite rare and not so easy to find. Although similar to extra virgin olive oil, there are some differences. It's still mechanically extracted and contains all the same benefits as EVOO, but its flavor profile may come with minor defects.
It has a slightly higher free acidity of 1.5% placing its smoke point just slightly higher than that of EVOO, but slightly lower than pure olive oil around 420° F (216° C).
Smoke Point for Pure Olive Oil
Pure olive oil is a mixture of refined olive oil and 15-25% virgin olive oil. Refined olive oil is treated with some heat thereby reducing the level of bioactive compounds, but regular olive oil still contains a decent amount of Vitamins E and K, as well as phytosterols and oleic acid.
Pure olive oil is much lighter in color when compared to extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil and has a very neutral flavor profile.
Pure Olive Oil has a free acidity of .3 grams per 100 grams of oleic acid giving it a smoke point range from 390⁰-470⁰ F (199°-243° C). Many professional chefs agree that pure olive oil is a great all-around cooking oil since it has a higher smoke point than EVOO and holds up well to high-temperature cooking.
It also has a milder flavor making it more suitable for those that dislike the stronger taste of EVOO.
Light or Extra Light Olive Oil
Similar to regular olive oil, light olive oil and extra light olive oil combine 5-10% virgin olive oil and refined olive oil.
Because of the lower percentage of virgin olive oil, the benefits are likewise proportionally decreased. However, both extra light olive oil and light olive oil are still good sources of phytosterols, oleic acid, and Vitamins E and K.
Its flavor profile is rather tasteless and bland. As such, it's an excellent choice for your air fryer basket when baking since it's less intrusive than stronger flavored oils.
The smoke point for light olive oil is the same as that of regular olive oil and ranges from 390⁰-470⁰ F (199°-243°C).
Alternatives to Air Frying With Olive Oil
One of the great things about being a home chef is exploring the different flavors associated with different oils. Setting smoke points aside, some air fryer foods taste better when cooked in different oils.
Using different types of oil in air fryer recipes brings different flavors to your meals.
Refined avocado oil has a smoke point of up to 520° F (271° C) and has a very mild flavor that won't overwhelm your food. Virgin avocado oil only has a smoke point of 375° F (191° C).
Avocado oil has a sweet aroma and pairs well when you want a seared, browned, or deep fry taste.
Peanut oil has a medium-high smoke point of up to 450° F (232° C) and a flavor profile that ranges from mildly light to a roasted nutty flavor. Roasted peanut oil, in particular, goes really well with air fryer recipes that resemble stir-frying or recipes that are enhanced by a nutty flavor.
Sunflower oil also has a smoke point up to 450° F (232° C) and has a pretty neutral flavor. Unfortunately, because sunflower oil is so refined, most of its nutrients have been eliminated.
Nevertheless, it still contains high levels of oleic acid and is higher in monounsaturated fat.
Grapeseed oil has a medium-high smoke point up to 400° F (204° C). It's high in omega-6 fatty acids and adds flavor to air-frying recipes that mimic stir-frying, deep frying, sauteing, searing, roasting, or grilling.
Coconut oil has a fairly low smoke point hovering around 350° F (177° C) and is a great alternative for baking, or adding a subtle coconut flavor to your recipes. Air fry with shrimp or curry-type dishes, or try our air fryer granola recipe using coconut oil.
Unrefined or cold-pressed are the best options since the manufacturing process strips refined coconut oil of its nutritional value.
Clarified butter, also known as ghee, has a smoke point range from 375°-485° F (191°-252° C) depending on its purity.
It goes well with anything you want to enhance with a full buttery taste.
Other Cooking Oils
These oils are also suitable for air frying, but I personally refrain from using them due to their high probability of being genetically modified:
- Canola oil - 400°F (204°C)
- Soybean oil - 450°F (232°C)
- Vegetable oil - 400°F (204°C)
Mastering the Art of Air Frying with Olive Oil
Since most people use air frying as a healthy alternative, it only makes sense to use the healthiest oil in an air fryer. Using olive oil in an air fryer gives you the best of both worlds.
You get the healthy benefits of air frying while simultaneously using one of the healthiest cooking oils on the market.
You can't go wrong using any form of olive oil in your air fryer. Create a DIY oil sprayer, and try olive oil on some of these great recipes:
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