What to Consider
Air Fryers have become all the rage in recent years and are quickly becoming a worthy addition to the precious kitchen-counter space in many of our homes. Fans fall into two camps; first, we have the people that love the ability to make a healthier version of crispy, fried foods thanks to the air fryer’s ability to cook with little to no oil; second, we have the people that never even considered frying up food in their own kitchen, but are now excited to sift through recipes for fried doughnuts or even garlic bread. Ready to join the club? Here is what to keep in mind when you pick out your very own.
Picking the Right Type
Not all air fryers are built the same. There are two main types available today - basket and tray.
The basket air fryer is the original design, and the most popular. As the name suggests, these models are built with a basket (or drawer) to slide the food into. The baskets generally include a removable component for easy cleaning and are ideal for tossing foods such as chicken wings or fries. These come in both analog and digital models, wherein analog will usually be cheaper with less options, most often consisting of a couple dials, and digital will be more upscale but allow for advanced features such as presets for common foods, indicators for certain temperature thresholds, and more control over cook time and temperature.
The tray air fryers are a newer design, but gaining popularity, and are built similar to a toaster oven with flat trays that slide into the device. Depending on the model, tray air fryers can have multiple racks, allowing you to cook different types of food at the same time. You again have the option for either analog or digital, and both price and functionality will reflect that. Finally, a potentially big advantage that the tray units have over basket units is the ability to watch your food being cooked through the viewing window. This allows you to check on the food without disrupting the cooking process and tweak cook settings if necessary.
Easy to Use, Easy to Clean
One of the main appeals of an air fryer is how easy it is to operate. Most recipes consist of preparing the food, then tossing it in the basket and pressing a couple buttons. When selecting your own, you’re going to want the controls to be as intuitive as possible. You don’t want to throw away your dinner because you hit a few wrong buttons and ruined the food. Additionally, your air fryer needs to be easy to clean. These machines can handle a huge variety of different foods, and if you’re trying out a recipe that is going to add a layer of crispy, flaky deliciousness to a dish, you want to be able to clean it out thoroughly before adding anything new.
Air fryers vary wildly in size. This means both the size of the basket or tray that can accept the food as well as the size of the machine that will be sitting in your kitchen. A lot of units will come in a few different sizes, but most are specifically built with a certain quart capacity. When making your selection you’re going to want to factor in how much food you want to fry up each session. The smaller units generally feature around two quarts of food capacity. These are great when cooking up small meals for about one or two people. Sizes go up from there, and will of course be able to handle more and more food at the same time, with some of the larger models being able to cook an entire chicken at once.>
One more consideration when selecting your preferred type of air fryer is the combination unit. These will boast more features than just air frying, such as pressure cooking and more conventional baking, all in the interest of saving more space on the countertop. In our review we are mainly concerned with machine’s ability to actually air fry, but this is something to keep in mind if you are already working with a crowded kitchen.
There is a reason why air fryer sales have been climbing year over year lately. Air-fried foods are not only a healthy alternative to their deep-fried counterparts, but are also incredibly convenient and allow for an enormous variety of recipes. With plenty of options to satisfy your cooking, cleaning, and storage needs, we are confident that the right air fryer will earn its place on your kitchen countertop.
Our Top Picks
Our top overall pick is the Cosori Smart Air Fryer. This model was featured on almost every list we looked at, frequently taking #1 or #2. With a roomy 5.8 quarts of food capacity, this model is bigger and bulkier than most average air fryers, but it is worth the extra space.
The digital controls make functionality a breeze. Most foods can be properly cooked with the press of a single button, and there is a preheat feature that can beat most traditional ovens. Additionally, the model will give beep alerts to let users know when to shake up the food for even cooking.
In addition to stellar reviews, the Cosori performed great on multiple tests. The large capacity allowed for large quantities of food to be cooked easily and evenly, and the intuitive controls took most of the guesswork out of temperature and cook times.
- Large food capacity
- Intuitive controls
- Consistently solid results for large variety of food
- A little tricky to clean
Another model making an appearance on most of the lists we’ve consulted is the Dash Digital Tasti Crisp 2.6 Quart. Cheap, compact, and easy to use, this model has snagged the top spot multiple times for good reason.
The Dash Digital both tested well and reviewed well. It is one of the more stylish designs on the list, and best of all does not take up a lot of counter space, being comparable in size to a coffee maker.
Another high mark is how easy it is to clean – the nonstick basket is small enough to go right in the dishwasher without hogging a ton of space.
It is perfect for cooking small quantities of food, but has a worse performance compared to larger models with cook time and food will usually have to be tossed and turned a few extra times during cooking.
- Very compact
- Cheaper model
- Easy to clean
- Struggles with larger quantities of food
- Unit gets hot during operation
The Chefman TurboFry model is a bit of a hidden gem. It did not make an appearance on many of the lists, but got stellar reviews on the few that included it. Apart from the praise this model gets for how good the stainless-steel model looks in the kitchen, it has a respectable cook capacity without being overly bulky.
The digital display is very streamlined and intuitive to use with four preset food options. While this was one of the most positive aspects of the air fryer to most customers, some actually complained that the controls were too streamlined and that they needed more guidance.
The model had a solid testing track record when cooking a decent quantity of food. Additionally, many reviews pointed to its durability as another selling point, mentioning the model stood up to very heavy repeated use with no loss in function. If that isn’t enough, this model comes with a one year warranty included.
While the basket is dishwasher safe, many reviewers pointed to the cleaning as one of the major pain points – a recurring opinion was that the basket was difficult to remove.
- Attractive design, not too bulky
- Simple, easy-to-use digital controls
- Durable with one-year warranty
- More difficult to clean
Frequently cited as the “best value” air fryer, the GoWISE USA 5.8 Quart model is surprisingly cheap for the amount of features you’re getting. This is another larger model with the ability to handle a solid amount of food at one time and is great for larger families.
The GoWISE USA Digital comes with eight different preset options and is able to cook fast and consistently with a high maximum temperature (400 degrees Fahrenheit) and without overheating. When tested, most meals were ready within 30 minutes.
Touchscreen controls are very easy to use and comes with additional accessories, allowing you to cooks a few different foods at once. In particular, the basket is detachable and easy to toss food with mid-cook.
Unfortunately, the basket is not dishwasher safe and was a bit of a hassle to remove during testing. Also, the timer only goes up to 30 minute increments, meaning you will have to manually reset the timer for meals that take longer to cook.
- Large capacity and great value for the price
- Number of useful accessories for cooking
- Easy-to-use controls with eight preset meal options
- Fast cook time
- Harder to clean
- Big and bulky
- 30 minute timer is annoying for longer meals
Last but certainly not least is the Ninja 4-Quart model. As you might expect from the Ninja brand, they already have a number of different models of air fryer that are all breaking onto the “best of the best” lists. However, the 4-Quart model was the most consistently high testing model of the bunch.
Like many of the top digital models, the controls are very intuitive and include settings for reheating, roasting, and dehydrating. The extra options can make things more complicated, but also allow for more variety.
The unit is relatively bulky for the 4-quart cooking capacity, but tested extremely well across the board when faced with a variety of different foods in large batches. Another big plus is the fact that it is also a multicooker, and its ability to wear a few different hats in the kitchen helps off-set the inconvenience of its size.
It heats up quickly and features a crisper plate that helps give food a crunchy texture. Unfortunately the loud operating noise was mentioned more than once from both reviewers and customers.
All removable parts of the model are dishwasher safe and the model as a whole received a fair amount of praise for its easiness to clean.
- Has a lot of different cooking features
- Easy to clean
- Can handle large quantities of food
- Bulky, especially for cooking capacity
- Loud during use
Why Should You Listen to Us?
We don’t have state-of-the-art labs for testing or a fancy algorithm that can crunch mountains of data. Instead, we simply turn to the people that do! Our method is to look at every method, and we do this by researching the researchers and reviewing the reviewers. Did an expert rate something highly for its ease of use, but the user reviews say it was difficult? Did something get a low score on one site, but is at the top of the list on three more? The amount of options to choose from can be overwhelming, but the amount of reviews has become overwhelming too. We compare and contrast the data from the major reviewers and come up with our own take on what is right for you.