Why You Should Spray Your Air Fryer With Oil Halfway Through Cooking

If you're still getting to grips with the nuances of air fryer etiquette, you may not be aware of why you should spray your food and the basket with oil halfway through cooking. Adding oil at the very start of the process is standard air fryer practice, but a quick spritz midway through helps the food brown more evenly and crisp up beautifully. Though it is possible to prepare food — whether it be potato wedges, home fries, or a fillet of salmon — in an air fryer without using any oil, even the lightest spray works wonders to boost flavor and maximize exterior crispness. 

This is particularly true when heating food that's been battered, coated, or breaded. Spraying the base of the air fryer and the food itself before switching on the machine catalyzes the cooking process because the fat on the surface helps transfer the heat throughout the food more effectively. However, once the air fryer is midway through its cycle, you may find that the food inside has started to become dry as it's blasted with a continuous circulation of hot air. This also happens to be the perfect time to add more oil to the fryer because you'll already be momentarily stopping the machine to shake the basket or rotate larger pieces of food around to encourage even cooking.

An extra spray of oil will brown and crisp up food further

A second spray of oil does two things. First, it helps the surface of the food develop a rich color and flavor, mimicking the inviting appearance and aroma of deep-fried or oven-baked food. This browning process, known as the Maillard reaction, makes air-fried foods not only look uber-appetizing but also creates a complexity of enticing flavors and fragrances. Second, the oil crisps up the exterior of the food, lending it a scrumptious crunch. It's this textural difference between the crispy surface of the food and the yieldingly soft middle that makes air-fried recipes, like crispy coconut shrimp and grilled cheese, so utterly delicious.

Be mindful to spray only pure cooking oil in your air fryer, as some cooking sprays can contain substances, like lecithin, which can build up on the surface of your machine and damage it over the long term. Instead, decant cooking oil into a spray bottle to make your own cooking oil spray that you can easily and safely spritz over your food once it's half-cooked. In fact, you could even use an oil that's been infused with garlic or chili flakes to add another layer of yummy flavor to your air-fried meals.