Air fryers have been trending for the past several years, and for good reason. Not only are they easy to use and versatile, but they also cook fast and produce a crunchy texture without needing a lot of oil.
While some air fryers are compact or have basic controls, othersare large enough to prepare enough food foran entire household and feature sleek digital controls. Some modelscan even prepare two types of food atonce and broil, bake, roast and more.
In our testing, we found the Ninja Foodi XL to be a multipurpose model with numerous impressive features. In addition to highlightingit in our guide, we included two other top-selling models and all of the information you need to help you find the best one for your needs.
What to know before you buy an air fryer
How air fryers work
Air fryers use a combination of radiant and convection heating to cook foods. Somewhere inside of the cooking chamber is an electric coil that produces a dry heat. Behind or in some other strategic location near the coil, there is a fan that blows air past it. This flow of superheated air combined with the small amount of oil used creates a fine mist of hot oil that circulates around the chamber, coating the food and producing a crispy exterior.
Air frying vs. deep-frying
You won't find deep-frying mentioned on any lists of healthy cooking techniques. In fact, it is considered one of the unhealthiest ways to cook food. Luckily, if you are craving that crisp texture, you can look to an air fryer. It is important that you temper your expectations though to avoid disappointment. No other cooking method can exactly match deep frying for crunchy foods, but air frying at least comes close without adding tons of extra calories and fat. It is also much quicker than baking.
Capacity and size
Just like when purchasing any other cooking appliance, capacity should factor into your decision-making. The overall size will also play a role, as you don’t want something that you don’t have space to use or store.
If there are just one tothree people in your household, a small air fryer with a 2- or 3-quart capacity should fit your needs. These will accommodate between 1 and 2 pounds of food and should be reasonably easy for most people to store and fit onto their counter when cooking.
Those with larger families or more people living in their household will want to consider a model with a 4- to 8-quart capacity. These can accommodate between 2.5 and 4 pounds of food, with some of those at the larger end of the spectrum being able to cook a whole 5-pound chicken.
Another option offered by some top brands is a large air fryer with dual baskets. This type of air fryercan hold as much as 10 quarts of food and be used to prepare two dishes at once. It'sideal for preparing a main dish and side with minimal oil and effort.
Air fryer features
You can find air fryers with digital or analog controls.Our testers noted that models with digital control panels are often more advanced, with a wider range of features that may include several cooking modes, timers and precise heat adjustments. Conversely, air fryers with analog ordial controls tend to be more basic but also more affordable. This uncomplicated design also makes them very easy to operate and ideal for those who don’t like to mess around with a bunch of buttons.
Many air fryers are multipurpose appliances that offer several cooking modes. The more settings an air fryer has, the more versatile it is and the more uses you can find for it in your kitchen. In addition to air fry, other common cooking methods you may see in some models include bake, grill, roast, broil, reheat and dehydrate. Some also feature specific one-touch settings for certain types of food, which can be very convenient.
Everybody loves to eat, but no one likes to clean up, so anything that helps with this is a welcome feature. Some models have a dishwasher-safe basket and other components to make your life easier. You should also look for ones that include nonstick surfaces that help food slide off with ease.
Air fryer cost
The most budget-friendly air fryers cost as little as $30, though these are going to be small appliances intended to cook food for a single person. They may also be of questionable quality and power. A more reasonable starting point for small air fryers is around $50, with larger and more advanced digital models usually costing $100 to $300.
Air fryer FAQ
Can I use my air fryer for battered foods?
A. Unfortunately, if you want to batter your food, you will have to turn to traditional deep-frying instead. In an air fryer, there is nothing to set a wet batter, so it will just drip off during cooking and create a mess at the bottom of your air fryer. However, keep in mind that you can prepare pre-battered foods such as frozen fish in an air fryer.
Is air frying dangerous?
A. While all cooking methods that utilize heat offer some potential for injury, air fryers are considered very safe, especially when compared to deep-frying where splattering hot oil is a real concern. For the utmost safety, we recommend opting for an air fryer with a pullout drawer rather than a flip top.
Can I make desserts in an air fryer?
A. Absolutely! In fact, you can find numerous delicious recipes online for preparing air-fried cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts and more.
Which air fryer should I get?
Best of the best air fryer
Ninja Foodi 10-Quart XL Dualzone 2-Basket Air Fryer: available atAmazon
Our take:Anyone who needs a large air fryer and likes the idea of multiple cook functions and dual baskets will love all that this model has to offer.
What we like:The Ninja Foodi XL boasts two baskets and can fit up to 10 pounds of food while air frying two types of food at once. It cooks evenly thanks to IQ Boost technology. It also reheats, bakes, roasts, dehydrates and broils.
What we dislike: The price is on the higher end of the spectrumand the unit takes up a lot of counterspace.
Best bang for your buck air fryer
Dash Tasti Crisp: available at Amazon
Our take: This budget-friendly option is perfectly sized for small households and comes in a range of fun colors to match any kitchen.
What we like: It doesn't take up much counter space, has basic rotary dials that present almost no learning curve and dishwasher-safe components for easy cleaning.
What we dislike: The temperature and time markings tend to wear off with age and use.
Honorable mention air fryer
Philips HD9741 Premium Digital Air Fryer: available at Amazon
Our take: A user-friendly model with a sleek digital control panel, the HD9741 is easy to operate for beginners and advanced users alike.
What we like: It offers seven cooking modes, including dehydrate and toast, and features the company's fat-removing technology for preparing healthy meals.
What we dislike: Some may find the 25-degree steps between temperature increments don't allow for enough precision.
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Jennifer Manfrin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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