Cooking Spray Is Messing With Your Air Fryer. Here's What To Do About It

Air fryers have become kitchen staples in countless households. According to a January 2022 report from The NPD Group, "Sales of air fryers increased by 76% over the last two years compared to the previous 24-month period, with 25.6 million units sold from January 2020 through December 2021." The popularity of these convenient and versatile countertop convection ovens shows no sign of stopping. It's no wonder since home cooks can prepare everything from crispy french fries to hard-boiled eggs in an air fryer.

One of the most appealing aspects of using an air fryer is the minimal amount of oil needed to achieve crispy, crunchy results. Often, home cooks will turn to the convenience of an aerosol cooking spray to coat the surface of the air fryer before adding the food. This practice, however, can damage your appliance over time. In the same way aerosol cooking spray can leave an unpleasant sticky residue on your non-stick muffin tin or saute pan, the same can happen with your air fryer. Luckily, there are other options to keep food from sticking that won't damage your favorite countertop appliance.

It is best to avoid aerosol cooking sprays in your air fryer

Aerosol cooking sprays are appealing because — with just a few quick squirts — a light mist of oil can be dispersed without adding significant additional fat or calories. However, if you read the back of the can, these aerosol sprays contain more than just oil. On the list of ingredients after the oil, you will notice there is also soy lecithin (an emulsifier that prevents sticking), dimethyl silicone (an anti-foaming agent), as well as a propellant to dispense the spray. This could be propane or butane.

If you frequently use aerosol cooking spray you might have noticed over time a nearly impossible-to-clean sticky residue begins to accumulate on non-stick surfaces. The residue itself is a build-up of lecithin, the second ingredient in the cooking spray. This unpleasant film eventually degrades the surface and renders the nonstick surface unusable. Since the interior of an air fryer is typically nonstick, this could become a real problem for the longevity of the pricy appliance after repeated use.

There are non-aerosol cooking spray options

The good news is, there are alternatives to aerosol cooking spray that will still keep your food crisp and delicious without damaging your air fryer. The first option is to scour the grocery store shelves for a pump-style cooking spray instead of an aerosol spray. Just be certain to read the ingredient list on the back of the bottle to make sure it contains only oil and not any other additives.

Another option is to purchase an oil mister and fill it with your own oil at home. This is a great option since you can choose to use your favorite olive oil or a high-smoke point oil that suits a particular recipe, your palate, or your dietary needs. You can even use parchment paper in your air fryer to prevent sticking and to make cleanup a breeze. 

Finally, if an aerosol cooking spray is your only option, simply spray the surface of the food directly before adding it to the air fryer, rather than using it to coat the air fryer itself.