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For a long time, people kept little more than a coffee maker and a toaster on their kitchen counters. But with the rise in popularity of other countertop appliances like electric kettles, blenders, espresso machines, and even composters, surface space is getting crowded. One small appliance that’s making a powerful case for some of that limited space is the air fryer, with more and more people discovering the versatility of this easy-to-use machine and its ability to produce delicious food.
Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about air fryers, including advice from expert air fryer cooks on how to choose the right model for you, and product suggestions based on years of use. Read on to become an air fryer expert yourself, and discover our picks for the best air fryers, whatever you’re looking to cook
What's the difference between air fryer styles?
When choosing the right style of air fryer for you, there are a few different types to choose from.
When you’re using a basket-style air fryer, you place your food in the basket and then push it into the machine. You typically can’t see your food while it’s cooking in one of these and the capacities tend to be on the smaller side. There are also dual-basket air fryers, which allow you to cook two things at the same time at different temperatures.
“I for sure prefer using a basket-style air fryer. They are just so much easier to handle. It also cooks faster compared to the oven-style air fryers,” says Cathy Yoder, an air fryer expert at Fabulessly Frugal and author of Easy Air Fryer Recipe Book. “Plus it's easier to clean and manage. The oven-style air fryers will always require taking the time to grab hot pads and rotating the shelves, whereas a basket-style air fryer is a quick, one-handed operation where you pull the basket out, shake or rotate the food and pop it back in. And it's nice to take the air fryer basket and soak it in hot soapy water when you’re done.”
An oven-style air fryer is just as it sounds: Typically a large rectangle, it has a glass door that you pull open and then slide your food onto a shelf. These air fryers tend to be larger, which is where their biggest benefit comes from.
“Oven-style air fryers are great for larger foods that don’t fit in the basket air fryers or if you’re trying to cook large quantities,” says Samantha Lynn, an air fryer expert at Everyday Family Cooking. “One large batch that takes more time to cook still cooks faster than needing to cook in two batches in a small air fryer.” If it’s big enough, you could even cook an entire meal, such as burgers and fries, on one tray, notes Laurie Fleming, air fryer expert at Fork to Spoon and author of The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook for Beginners. “The oven is also amazing to bake in, making it easier to make cookies and pancakes,” she adds.
Air fryer toaster oven
This combo appliance is a toaster oven and oven-style air fryer in one. Although a great option if you’re short on counter space and plan to utilize the capabilities of both appliances, these tend to be slightly smaller than oven-style air fryers, and might not crisp up food as impressively as a basket-style air fryer.
What to consider before you buy an air fryer
Before you simply take our word for it, consider these factors when choosing the air fryer that is best for you.
Size is a big one, especially because your air fryer needs to fit on your kitchen counter or in a cabinet, depending on where you plan to store it. You don’t want to excitedly invest in a large air fryer oven only to discover you have nowhere to put it. While the capacity of the air fryer in quarts is going to give you the best idea of what you will be able to cook in it, the overall dimensions are a critical consideration in making your pick.
Like any kitchen appliance, you’ll want to consider what sorts of things you’re interested in cooking in the air fryer. If it’s just frozen foods and side dishes, a 4- or 5-quart basket-style air fryer may be best. If you’re looking to cook entire meals, go for a 9-quart dual-basket or air fryer oven. And if you’re on the fence, Lynn suggests going bigger. “I see a lot of people upgrading within a year to a larger air fryer,” she says.
Many of the air fryers on our list come with extra features like preset cooking modes, attached meat thermometers, and more. Think about which, if any of these, are important to you before you buy. “I'd want to make sure it has an auto off feature, which means when the air fryer is running, and you open the basket, the unit will stop. Then when you close it again, the unit should pick up where it left off,” Yoder says, of the critical feature she looks for.
Especially with your first air fryer, both Fleming and Lynn suggest going with a well-known brand that has a good reputation. “They typically have better customer service and warranty coverage,” adds Lynn.
Our top picks
Best Basket Air Fryer: Cosori Dual Blaze 6.8-Quart Smart Air Fryer
Pros: Sleek, easy to use, and thoughtfully designed, there’s a lot to love about this air fryer.
Cons: You do need to be on the tech-savvy side to use it.
“I currently use the Cosori Dual Blaze Air Fryer for everyday use,” shares Lynn. “I love that it’s small enough to heat up quickly and make food crispy, but also large enough to cook foods in one batch. I can cook a whole chicken and roast beef in there but still can cook up some frozen chicken nuggets for the kids when I need to. I also love that Cosori has a great warranty that they stand by in case you run into any issues.” This smart, basket-style air fryer can be controlled by an app, and comes with 12 preset functions like chicken, seafood, fries, broil, roast, and more. “Cosori air fryers have all the functions I need like a shake reminder button, the ability to program the presets, a preheat button, and a removable basket,” adds Yoder. “The Cosori Dual Blaze is awesome because you don’t have to preheat it. Plus it has a burner on the top and the bottom, so you no longer have to rotate your food.”
- Fryer style: basket
- Wattage: 1750W
- Capacity: 6.8 quarts
- Cooking modes: 12
- Dimensions: 11.7” x 12.9” x 13.8”
- Price at time of publish: $150
Best Oven Air Fryer: Ninja Foodi Smart XL Pro Air Oven
Pros: It’s big enough and powerful enough to cook a complete meal.
Cons: For a countertop appliance, it’s pretty expensive.
“Although I have a lot of different air fryers, if I want to make a full-size coffee cake or lasagna, I usually pull out my Ninja Oven, which is larger and able to handle my family's meals,” says Fleming. Indeed, this Ninja Foodi oven air fryer has two levels of cooking space, large enough to fit a 5-pound chicken on the lower tray and a sheet pan of vegetables on the upper one. If you’re looking for an oven-style air fryer that will churn out entire meals, this is the one you want. While it may look like a standard countertop convection oven, the air frying capacities mean that it cooks food faster and makes it crispier than said convection oven. We also love the attached thermometer, which displays the temperature of meat on the machine as it cooks, eliminating the risk of under or overcooking.
- Fryer style: oven
- Wattage: 1800W
- Capacity: 2 12” pizzas
- Cooking modes: 10
- Dimensions: 17.09” x 20.22” x 13.34”
- Price at time of publish: $330
Best Mid-Size Air Fryer: Instant Vortex Plus 6-Quart Air Fryer
Pros: Versatile and simple, you’re guaranteed crispy goodness.
Cons: It has fewer cooking modes than the other models.
“The most common air fryer that we use almost every day, and that I keep on my counter, is the Instant Vortex Plus,” Fleming says. “I like it because it's easy to use and easy to clean, as it’s dishwasher safe. We make toast, fried eggs, French fries, heat up leftovers, chicken, hamburgers, and more. I have two kids, so they make most of their meals in it.” From the makers of Instant Pot, our experts say this basket-style air fryer earns top marks on crispiness (Lynn owns and recommends it as well). The black and stainless-steel design will be at home in most modern kitchens, while the 6-quart capacity is a just-right size for the beginner air fryer user.
- Fryer style: basket
- Wattage: 1700W
- Capacity: 6 quarts
- Cooking modes: 6
- Dimensions: 14.92” x 12.36” x 12.83”
- Price at time of publish: $140
Best Dual Basket Air Fryer: Instant Vortex 9-Quart Air Fryer with VersaZone Technology
Pros: Air fry two completely different foods and have them done at the exact same time.
Cons: You may notice a slight odor the first few times you use it, but it will go away.
“I like the sleekness of the Instant Vortex 9-Quart VersaZone,” Yoder says, who cites this model and the Cosori Dual Blaze as her two favorite air fryers. “I also love the fact that this air fryer can cook in either two different zones OR you can remove the divider and have a ton of room to cook for a crowd!” Despite its larger capacity, this air fryer doesn’t have a huge footprint and the black exterior will fit in anywhere. One of the reasons (or really, two) that this is our favorite dual basket air fryer is the SyncCook and SyncFinish settings. If you’re cooking two different foods that require different temperatures and/or cooking times, you can input those specifications and the machine will make sure everything is done at the same time.
- Fryer style: basket
- Wattage: 1700W
- Capacity: 9 quarts
- Cooking modes: 8
- Dimensions: 15.9” x 15.1” x 12.3”
- Price at time of publish: $160
Best Small Air Fryer: GoWISE 2.75 Quart Air Fryer
Pros: Small, cute and simple, it’s a great starter air fryer for one.
Cons: It doesn’t have any preset cooking modes, but it does come with a cooking guide with temperatures and times for 22 common foods.
If you’re most often cooking for one or have a tiny kitchen with limited counter space, this adorable egg-shaped air fryer from GoWISE is an excellent pick. Fleming likes GoWISE air fryers because of their reasonable prices and excellent customer service, not to mention the food they produce. This basket-style air fryer is basic: Instead of selecting a preset cooking mode, you’ll need to set the time and temperature each time you use it. But once you’ve made a perfect batch of fries, who needs the preset? And it does have some additional features, including an automatic turn off when the basket is removed or the timer ends, so you don’t risk overcooking or forgetting to turn off the appliance.
- Fryer style: basket
- Wattage: 1200W
- Capacity: 2.75 quarts
- Cooking modes: 1
- Dimensions: 11” x 8” x 6”
- Price at time of publish: $57
Best Budget Air Fryer: Ninja AF101 Air Fryer
Pros: You’ll get flawless, even cooking every time for less than the competition.
Cons: It’s likely too small for a large or growing family.
“The two main things I look for are crispy food and functionality. I don’t want something to cook too slowly or unevenly,” Lynn says. “This Ninja air fryer works well for both of those.” Indeed, it earns raves for even cooking across all different types of foods, despite only having four preset cooking functions (air fry, roast, reheat, and dehydrate). The tray and basket are ceramic nonstick for speedy cleaning, while the 4-quart capacity makes it a good mid-size option for couples or small families who are just getting started with air frying a side dish here and there.
- Fryer style: basket
- Wattage: 1550W
- Capacity: 4 quarts
- Cooking modes: 4
- Dimensions: 11” x 13.6” x 13.3”
- Price at time of publish: $80
Best Air Fryer Toaster Oven: Hamilton Professional Sure-Crisp Digital Air Fryer Countertop Oven
Pros: Precise cooking controls yield consistent results in toasting and air frying.
Cons: If it’s on, you’re going to hear it.
I’ve always preferred a toaster oven over a traditional toaster, so when I needed to purchase a new one last year I decided to upgrade to an air fryer toaster oven for the additional capabilities. After conducting some market research, I settled on Hamilton Beach and I’ve been very pleased; this air fryer toaster oven is their newest model. What stands out about this machine is the digital display, which allows you to set the time and temperature precisely as you want them (older models have analog dials instead). Plus it comes with accessories like an attached thermometer, air fryer basket, bake pan, broil rack, and removable crumb tray for easy cleaning (and which add up to $95 if you were to purchase them all individually without the machine). Finally, it’s almost as large, yet significantly less expensive, than the best oven-style air fryers.
- Fryer style: air fryer toaster oven
- Wattage: 1500W
- Capacity: 1 12” pizza
- Cooking modes: 7
- Dimensions: 15.5” x 20” x 12”
- Price at time of publish: $140
How we made our selections
While there are plenty of air fryers on the market to choose from, we found that there are not a ton of differences between models when you’re looking at the best of the best (as represented here). While some have more bells and whistles than others, cooking with an air fryer always requires a little bit of trial and error, based on the foods you most want to make and how you like them. That’s why we turned to air fryer cooks and cookbook authors who have used almost every model out there, as well as use an air fryer to cook for their families on a daily basis. We wanted to know which air fryers they found the most reliable, easy to use, and effective in producing the crispiest food, and those opinions are reflected here.
Are air fryers healthy?
“Air frying is generally considered to be a healthier cooking method than traditional frying because it uses much less oil or fat to cook food, which can reduce the overall calorie and fat content of dishes,” explains Crystal Scott, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching. “By circulating hot air around the food, air fryers can produce crispy and delicious results without the need for excess oil.”
In this sense, if you’re choosing to air fry something as opposed to deep frying it, your finished dish is likely going to be healthy. But that doesn’t mean everything your air fryer produces should be eaten at will. “The healthiness of air frying can also depend on the types of foods being cooked. Foods that are naturally high in fat, such as chicken wings or fried snacks, will still be high in calories even when cooked in an air fryer,” Scott cautions. “However, air frying can be a good option for making healthier versions of these types of dishes.”
How do air fryers work?
Air fryers work the same as convection ovens. Instead of heat coming from one place, like in an oven or grill, an air fryer uses fans to blow hot air all around the food in order to cook it (the difference with an air fryer is that the fan is much more powerful). When you deep-fry something, it is completely surrounded by hot oil; in air frying, it is surrounded by hot air that yields a finished product that is brown and crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.
Are air fryers worth it?
“People buy an air fryer with the idea of cooking small frozen foods and just a few fries, and that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to air frying,” promises Lynn. Indeed, with the exception of the few foods below, there are hardly any that can’t be prepared in an air fryer, making it an incredibly valuable tool if you want to mix up your meals and limit clean up. “I can’t tell you how many people will buy the small 2-3-quart air fryers because they’re cheaper, and then they realize how versatile the appliance is,” Lynn adds. “A small air fryer like that is not going to cook a piece of steak, two chicken breasts, or reheat a slice of pizza.”
What cannot be prepared in an air fryer?
“Foods with a liquid batter aren’t best cooked in the air fryer as the batter drips down and causes a mess,” says Lynn. “I also don’t recommend cooking soups in there.” You might want to be cautious with foods that are super light as well, as they might fly around in the appliance. In these cases, Yoder suggests placing a small rack on top of your food.
How do I convert a regular recipe to an air fryer recipe?
“Generally speaking, I take about 25˚F off the cooking temperature and cut the cook time down by 50%, then add time as needed,” says Yoder, who adds that it’s also smart to use a meat thermometer to ensure your food is cooked all the way through. If math isn’t your strong suit, Lynn has a recipe conversion calculator on her website that you can try.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Do air fryers use a lot of electricity?
Like most medium-sized countertop appliances, air fryers don’t use much electricity. While it’s true that they do use a little more than microwaves, they use significantly less than an electric oven. So if you are able to cook a few meals per week in your air fryer instead of your oven, it’s likely to save you some money.
What size air fryer is needed for a family of 4?
It depends on what you’re planning to cook in the air fryer. If you want to make a side dish for a family of four, a 5- or 6-quart air fryer should be sufficient. But if you want to make an entire meal, you’ll need to go even bigger.
Can you put raw meat in the air fryer?
Absolutely. Like almost all foods you cook in the air fryer, meat is going to come out best if the pieces are relatively thin and uniform. It’s also smart to pick up an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked safely and all the way through.
Can I fry an egg in an air fryer?
Yes! If you have a basket air fryer, you’ll need a pan that fits in your machine, or little ramekins you can place in the basket. For an oven air fryer, you can just use the tray, or Fleming prefers to use a mini cast iron pan. To fry your egg, simply crack the egg into the pan and cook it at 370°F for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the wattage of your machine and how set you want your egg to be.
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