Preparing meals can often feel like a chore. That’s why we’ve invented countless gadgets and gizmos to help us out in the kitchen over the years.
Air fryers are the new kid on the kitchen block relative to other common appliances, but expert chefs and casual cooks alike are already shouting about the convenience they bring to cooking.
Air fryers are a variation on the typical convection oven and use the same principles to cook food. With the addition of a little oil, they provide an excellent method of frying in a healthier, more efficient (and cheaper) way. They’ve become a popular addition to the modern kitchen, and many home cooks now enjoy the convenience of an air fryer.
In this guide, we look at what an air fryer is, how it compares to other methods of frying, and how to choose a quality air fryer. We’ll also give you our top picks for the best air fryers of 2021.
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Overall: Philips TurboStar Technology Airfryer
- Best Budget: DASH Compact Electric Air Fryer
- Most Versatile: Cuisinart TOA-60 Convection Toaster Air Fryer
- Best Large-Capacity: GoWISE USA GW22931 Digital Air Fryer
The Best Air Fryers: Our Top Picks
Why We Picked It
Whether you’re looking for functionality, ease of use, capacity, or a known brand, the Philips air fryer has something for everyone. That’s why it takes our Best Overall category.
With the electronic engineering pedigree of the Philips brand behind it, this is a premium air fryer at an affordable price. It features a large 1.8-pound capacity, an easy-to-use digital interface, and proprietary TurboStar technology that means you’ll need to use only a minimal amount of oil. It comes with multiple pre-set cooking functions, making this fryer easy and accessible to use.
This model measures 14.4 x 10.5 x 11.3 inches and has a smooth, compact design that will blend well with most kitchens. Its simple shape means it’s easy to stow or move as needed. Safety features include an automatic shut-off and non-slip feet.
Thanks to removable, non-stick components, the Philips is easy to clean in as little as 90 seconds. These components are also dishwasher-safe.
The Philips comes with a full 12-month warranty.
Keep in Mind
Cheaper options are available at this capacity, but Philips is a known brand with an established reputation.
In a Nutshell
- 1.8-pound capacity
- Digital interface
- Easy to clean
Why We Picked It
If you’re looking for an air fryer that won’t blow the budget, the DASH Compact Electric Air Fryer delivers flexible cooking at a reasonable price.
The DASH is a 2-quart capacity fryer measuring a compact 10.2 x 8.1 x 11.4 inches, which can make it suitable for shoppers without the space for a larger model. The design is sleek, stylish, and minimal, as well as lightweight, making it easy to slot away when not in use.
The DASH features flexible temperature control and a 30-minute auto-off safety setting. Other features include non-slip feet and cool touch housing and handle. The fryer is easy to use, with an elegant control panel and digital display. The dishwasher-safe components mean it’s also easy to clean.
The DASH air fryer is covered by a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty, so on top of the cheaper initial price, budget shoppers will have peace of mind in knowing their investment is protected.
Keep in Mind
Low capacity might make it unsuitable for large families.
In a Nutshell
- Lightweight, slim design
- Low price
A versatile slow cooker that can play several kitchen roles.
Why We Picked It
While an air fryer is a useful appliance, there is a danger of filling up a small kitchen with single-use appliances. A versatile air fryer like the Cuisinart TOA-60 offers a solution.
The Cuisinart offers 7 functions: air fry, convection bake, bake, convection broil, broil, warm, and toast. This gives the Cuisinart a level of versatility not found in similar air fryers, keeping it closer to a convection oven in function. This diverse range of uses means the Cuisinart justifies its place in any kitchen.
The Cuisinart follows a familiar convection oven design, with a square appearance and dial-style controls. It measures 15.5 x 16 x 14 inches, so it’s bulkier than many air fryers. Its air frying capacity is 3 pounds, but its exact capacity will vary based on which function is in use.
A non-stick interior makes the Cuisinart easy to clean, though not so easy as a dedicated air fryer. It features a 60-minute auto shut-off safety feature to give you peace of mind.
Cuisinart is an established brand with a strong reputation and this air fryer is covered by a generous 3-year warranty.
Keep in Mind
While roomy, the bulky, convection oven aesthetic won’t be for everyone.
In a Nutshell
- 7 functions
- 3-year warranty
- Large capacity
Why We Picked It
If you’re shopping for an air fryer but worry whether its limited capacity will feed your family, then the GoWISE provides a solution. This large-capacity fryer comes in two options: 5 quart and 10 quart, so you can buy according to your needs.
The GoWISE is controlled by a stylish digital touchscreen display and features a temperature range of 180°F to 400°F, with a cooking timer of up to 30 minutes. Its start/stop function allows you to change settings mid-cycle. The fryer includes 8 built-in presets, which makes cooking common ingredients like fries, chicken, and fish a breeze.
The GoWISE makes smart use of its large capacity with a single large basket that can be modified into two with an included basket divider.
The GoWISE is covered by a 1-year limited warranty.
Keep in Mind
Digital touch screen may not be tactile enough for some users.
In a Nutshell
- 5-quart or 10-quart capacity
- 180°F to 400°F temperature range
- 8 built-in presets
How We Chose the Best Air Fryers
When choosing our top picks, we used a few key categories to give you a complete picture of each product. Here are some of the categories we use to rate air fryers:
Air fryers are available in a range of capacities, which may be measured in liters, quarts, or pounds. Many air fryers are low-capacity and can only handle a couple of portions, though larger models are available. We give you an idea of each fryer’s capacity so you can decide how well it suits your lifestyle needs.
Some fryers feature a single basket design, while others feature partitioned or multiple baskets, which will affect whether you can cook different foods simultaneously. We take note of the fryer’s design to let you know how you can use the capacity on offer.
We look at how many different functions each air fryer has, and how many different roles it can play in the kitchen. More versatility means more bang for the buck, more exciting meals, and efficient use of kitchen space. However, a versatile air fryer may prove more expensive. Some fryers are closer to convection ovens in design. This gives them a multi-role place in the kitchen, but fryers of this type can sometimes be noisier and smellier than dedicated air fryers.
Like we mentioned, the use of space in an air fryer can make a difference to its versatility, too. Multi-basket or partitionable basket fryers are capable of preparing multiple foods at once, which can be a must-have for people who want maximum versatility.
Ease of Use
We like an appliance that is easy to use. An accessible, simple device saves time and effort, making it easier to multitask or relax while you’re cooking. This is why we assess each device’s ease of use, including its initial set-up and standard usage. Many fryers come with pre-programmed cycles for common foods, so we note these where featured—they can be an excellent time-saver for the busy cook.
We know that most people shop with a budget in mind. While the best air fryers come with all the bells and whistles, they also come with a price tag to match. We look at price to give you a realistic idea of whether each model falls within your budget. Price can also vary by brand, as established and reliable brands are often able to charge a premium for the reliability and peace of mind they offer.
A manufacturer’s claims only go so far. The true test of an air fryer is how it performs in the average kitchen. For that, we look to customer reviews. This helps us to get an overall sense of the fryer’s performance and can help to highlight particular features or flaws that customers discover in regular use. Reviews are an excellent way to explore an air fryer’s ease of use, too, as this is one of the main features that stands out to customers.
What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a recent invention that offers an alternative to other methods of frying, such as deep frying and pan frying. Air fryers are an innovation on the principles of a convection oven, with hot air circulated around the food at high speeds. Oil is added to the air fryer so that it moves with the air, creating a layer of oil and crisping the surface of the food through caramelization and the Maillard reaction.
The main advantages of air frying lie in its lower wastage, ease of use, and safety, while its disadvantages lie in longer cooking times, low capacity, and low versatility relative to the space the unit occupies.
The below table highlights the pros and cons of air frying versus traditional methods:
|Air fryers use 80-90% less oil than a deep fryer, reducing waste and expense.||Air frying imparts less flavor in some foods due to the lower quantities of oil used.|
|Air fried food is healthier thanks to its lower oil content.||Air fryers often have low capacity relative to deep fryers and ovens, which can make cooking for large groups difficult.|
|Air fryers can serve multiple roles in a kitchen, unlike deep fryers.||Though air fryers can be versatile, they take up more counter space than equivalent multi-use tools and appliances.|
|Air fryers are much safer than deep fryers, which can cause significant injury and property damage when mishandled.||It can take longer to air fry some foods compared with deep or pan frying.|
|Air fryers are easier to clean than deep fryers. Many air fryers have dishwasher-safe components.|
|Cooking in an air fryer is faster than crisping in an oven, making it perfect for foods like sweet potato fries.|
How to Use an Air Fryer
When using your air fryer, be sure to refer to the model’s manual. Each model will have a unique set of usage instructions and many models come with a list of recipes recommended by the manufacturer.
Here are some tips to get the most out of using your air fryer:
- Preheat: Just like an oven, an air fryer works best when preheated. If you place food in the fryer early, it won’t be hot enough to begin frying immediately.
- A little oil goes a long way: One of the big advantages of using air fryers is their low oil use. Just a spoonful can do a whole batch of fries, so don’t go Gordon Ramsay with it.
- Don’t overcrowd: The clue is in the name: “air” and “fry.” Without airflow, the frying can’t happen. A crammed basket will prevent air from circulating and keep food from crisping.
- Be patient…but not too patient: Air fryers can be slower than other frying methods, but it’s almost as easy to burn food through inattentiveness. Keep a close eye on your food while it cooks to ensure an even crisp without drying it out.
Once you’ve nailed the cooking process, you’ll be able to cook a whole range of things in your air fryer—some more obvious than others. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Sweet potato fries
- Chicken (breasts and drumsticks)
- Prawns and shrimp
What to Consider When Choosing an Air Fryer
When choosing your air fryer, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Each shopper will have a unique set of priorities, so be sure to think about which categories are most important to you.
If you have space to spare, then you can afford to buy an air fryer without worrying too much about its versatility—but not all shoppers are so lucky.
For shoppers working with limited space, it can be important to know that your latest kitchen gadget can play multiple roles. Choosing a more versatile air fryer can add functionality to your kitchen without the clutter or expense of buying multiple, separate appliances. Air fryers range in functionality from the dedicated fryer up to those with flexibility on par with a convection oven.
Air fryers come with an array of settings that vary from model to model, including temperature range, timers, and pre-programmed settings. If you’re after flexibility, then choosing a fryer with more granular settings will suit your style better.
Many air fryers come with an array of pre-programmed settings, which can make cooking everyday items a breeze. For shoppers who value convenience, opting for a fryer with a diverse array of pre-set routines can make life in the kitchen easier.
While an air fryer is typically quieter than the popping and sizzling of a frying pan or the rattling of an oven, their whirring and humming could still be a problem for some shoppers.
This will be a key consideration for buyers with already-busy kitchens or those who live in small or open plan living spaces, where kitchen noises are likely to drown out your Netflix. Many models of air fryer are nearly silent, so be sure to check the product description for insight into the expected noise level.
Meals for one or enough food to feed the family? That’s the most obvious reason to think about your air fryer’s capacity. Your fryer’s capacity will give you a good idea of the portion size you can expect from it, so you can figure out if it’s large enough for you. Smaller fryers are typically cheaper, so shoppers with simpler needs will likely keep it small.
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to shop without a budget. Air fryers are available at a range of price points, so you can choose one to suit your budget. While it may mean missing out on a top-of-the-line model, a limited budget comes with the silver lining of simplifying the decision-making process.
For everything else kitchen, be sure to check out our other guides: