Using vegetable oil spray is easy but has its downsides. Could we find a good refillable oil mister?
How We Tested
Coating a muffin tin, a skillet, or a baking sheet with a spritz of our winning vegetable oil spray, PAM Original, is quick and easy. But PAM costs about $0.45 per ounce, whereas plain old canola oil is $0.07 per ounce. And cooking sprays like PAM depend on liquid propellants (such as propane) and additives to produce that fine, even mist. Refillable, manual-pump oil misters present an alternative for those who would like to avoid aerosol and additives, and you can fill them with whatever type of oil you like.
Like aerosol sprays, a good oil mister should dispense oil in a steady, fine stream that provides even coverage. We like our previous winner, the Mastrad Oil and Flavor Mister, but wondered if there were better options out there. We gathered seven models, priced from $9.90 to $25.99, including the Mastrad. Of the seven, all but one featured a manual pumping mechanism to build the pressure that forces the oil out. The outlier looked like a bottle of cologne: a tall, thin glass cylinder with a button that dispensed a single, directed spray, no pumping required.
We started by timing the duration and noting the quality of a single spray when each mister was full (or filled according to the manufacturer’s directions), half full, and one-third full. We then tested the misters by using them to grease our winning 12-inch skillet and 12-cup muffin tin. Next, to better understand each mister’s spray, we traced a skillet onto brown butcher paper and sprayed the misters vertically and horizontally onto the outline, mimicking the ways we might use them in the kitchen. For comparison, we sprayed PAM alongside the misters in each test. What did we find out?
We quickly determined that the quality of the spray was much more important than its duration. While some misters could sustain a long spray—up to 20 seconds—they sputtered and spat. So even though we held and moved each mister similarly, the butcher paper for some models looked like abstract oil paintings; the squiggles, blotches, and irregular patterns were fun to look at, but they didn’t represent the even coverage we were after. The best mister sustained a shorter, 6-second spray, but its spray was so effective that it easily covered a skillet and muffin tin in just 3 seconds and covered the butcher paper with a fine, even mist. Comfort mattered, too. The cologne-style model’s spray was a quick, direct burst, so it directed a lot of oil into one space with poor coverage (and required 13 pumps to grease the muffin tin). The pump-style models were better at evenly covering a wide space, so even though they required some prep up front, once you started spraying you didn’t have to pump again.
For a simple tool, the misters sure took some tinkering. Some dripped and dribbled or were hard to fill. Most pump-style models gave a specific number of pumps required for a single spray, but we found that they all sprayed better if we pumped until we felt significant resistance—up to 18 pumps for some models.
These ups and downs made us wonder why the nonaerosol misters couldn’t match PAM’s perfect, even spray. Our science editor explained that the higher pressure of an aerosol spray breaks the oil into finer droplets, making the oil less viscous. Additionally, PAM contains a propellant, which helps shoot out oil with more force than is possible in manual misters, and contains soy lecithin, which coats the fine droplets of oil, making them easier to disperse. Lecithin also plays a role in helping oil cling to pans more effectively. Without the propellant and soy lecithin, the oil is more difficult to spray and, once sprayed, the droplets clump together rather than remaining fine and separate.
While none of the misters matched the PAM for consistency or evenness, we found two models we really liked. Leading the way was our old winner, the Mastrad Oil and Flavor Mister ($17.29). It covered both the skillet and muffin tin quickly and thoroughly with a full, consistent spray of oil that most resembled that of an aerosol mister.
We tested seven oil misters with capacities of 3 to 6 ounces, priced from $9.90 to $25.99. We tested each by using it to grease a 12-inch skillet and a 12-cup muffin tin, and we used each to spray an outline of a skillet traced on butcher paper to evaluate its spray pattern. We rated the misters on the quality of their spray and how easy they were to use. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.
SPRAY: We rated each mister on its quality of spray, grading it on how evenly, finely, and consistently it dispensed oil.
EASE OF USE: We rated each mister on its handling and comfort when holding and dispensing, how convenient it was to fill, and whether it leaked oil or became slippery.