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Published: Dec 13, 2022 17 min read
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Deep fried foods are delicious, but they can also be unhealthy and tedious to cook. That’s why air fryers have been such a hit: the promise of crispiness and great taste, without greasiness. According to manufacturers, air fryers can reduce from 75% to 95% of fat when compared to deep frying. They’re also easier to use and, thanks to using little to no oil, they leave none of that fried food smell that usually lingers after deep frying.

Air fryers have more in common with ovens than with deep fryers. An air fryer is actually a convection oven with a powerful fan that distributes hot air and heats food faster and more aggressively than a regular oven. This, along with the raised basket used by air fryers to hold foods being cooked, aids air circulation. The end result is similar to food that's been broiled or fried, but an air fryer cooks and crisps food more evenly compared to broiling in a toaster oven. Although an air fryer can’t produce the quick, all-around seal caused by deep frying breaded chicken or pan-searing a steak, it definitely does the trick for dishes like fries, ribs, wings, and frozen foods.

Air fryer buying guide

Air fryers are meant to cook quickly, conveniently and relatively unattended. Like microwaves or pressure cookers, they’re useful for people without much time or space, and can replace several appliances. You can toast bread in them, roast vegetables or cook frozen foods without the mess of frying oil, or the lack of crunchiness from a microwave.

However, an air fryer can’t always deliver the same results you'd get from deep frying or baking. So some people — especially those who are passionate about cooking — may still prefer traditional, dedicated appliances and tools instead of clogging counter space with a jack-of-all-trades.

If you think you’d benefit from an air fryer, consider these factors:

• Size. Compare the dimensions and shape of the appliance itself and the capacity inside, which do not always correlate. The most popular models have a capacity from 4 to 6 quarts, which can fit an entire chicken or two pounds of fries. However, 8- and 10-quart models are now available as well.

• Brand Name. Review different brands' experience and reliability, and how long their models have been around. Names like Philips, Ninja, Instant Pot and Breville have strong long-standing reputations in the general appliance market, and air fryers in particular.

• Features. Some people want a single gadget to replace multiple appliances, some want an air fryer for a very specific task, and some simply want to try out different things to cook using one. To figure out which air fryer is right for you, you must first decide how you plan on using it.

Here are a few of the different kinds of air fryers and combination devices you can buy:

Basic air fryer

The dedicated air fryer with a drawer-style cooker, reminiscent of the original invention from Philips, is still the most common design. These models will generally only be air fryers, although they can also be used to bake, broil and reheat. Something to keep in mind, though, is that the fan on many models may be so powerful it can ruin an attempt at baking or making sauces.

Air fryer toaster oven combo

An air fryer’s fan-cooking approach is intended for toasting and browning food, similar to the classic toaster oven. Companies like Ninja, Breville, and Cuisinart now have combination air fryer-toaster ovens of various sizes, from 12”x12” to models that can fit an entire chicken and a rack of fries on top like the Ninja DT200.

If you're mainly interested in a good toaster, perhaps with some extra features, check out our lineup of the best toaster ovens for your money.

Air fryer pressure cooker combo

Not so long ago, revamped multifunctional pressure cookers like the Instant Pot revolutionized fast and simple hands-free cooking. So putting them together with air fryers was to be expected. These combo products are mainly pressure multi-cookers with an additional air frying lid that has a fan to distribute hot air equally around the included basket. They’re normally intended to use jointly to broil or brown food that you’ve prepared with the pressure cooker. According to reviews, these devices produce great results on dishes like roasted chicken and BBQ ribs, and don’t sacrifice much for the sake of multi-functionality.

Here are our picks in some of the different categories of air fryer you’ll find, from dedicated models to the multipurpose versions. To start, we focused on the specs, including price-to-size ratio, brand reliability, and proprietary features. Then, we have analyzed written reviews from customers and video reviews from kitchen experts to see how well these actually cook and if they truly deliver on the main attraction: crunchiness.

Best air fryers

1. Best overall: Philips Avance XXL Twin TurboStar Air Fryer

Courtesy of Walmart

Courtesy of WalmartWhen it comes to dedicated air fryers, it seems the original name still reigns supreme. Philips created the air fryer in 2010 and has been updating it ever since. Today, the brand's patented TurboStar technology is now the Twin TurboStar featured in the Avance XXL, and it’s one of the best — if not the best — air flow mechanisms to ensure crispness and uniform cooking.

Another prominent feature on the XXL is the size. It may sound disappointing that the capacity is only 4 quarts, but the XXL maximizes that space with a square basket that makes it easy to brown multiple items evenly at the same time. It’s also deep enough to stack a second rack and cook two dishes at once. Since cooking that much food requires more power, the Avance uses a bit more energy than regular fryers, helping it maintain heat better as well.

2. Best pressure cooker air fryer: Ninja Foodi OL701 Smart XL Pressure Cooker

Courtesy of Amazon

The new Ninja Foodi SMART XL is truly a cooking powerhouse. It can pressure cook, air fry, bake, make sous vide and more.

One of its biggest selling points is the SmartLid. Despite being both an air fryer and pressure cooker (and almost everything in between), it doesn’t require two separate lids like most other models. It’s just one, which you can set to one of three different modes: pressure, “steamcrisp” and air fry.

It can air fry and pressure cook like the best of them, but what truly sets this new Foodi model apart is the SteamCrisp mode. SteamCrisp simultaneously steams and cooks the food while essentially frying or boiling its surface. What you get is a juicy inside and a crispy outside without the risk of either drying or undercooking your food.

There’s also an included plug-in smart thermometer that allows you to set a goal temperature for your meat without the need to check it that often.

While it can seem pretty expensive at $350, the features, versatility and convenience that the new Foodi provides is unmatched. You can also often find coupons for $75 off.

3. Best value air fryer pressure cooker: Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 Pressure Cooker

Courtesy of Amazon

Combining an air fryer with a pressure cooker seemed like a no-brainer, and the pressure cooker titan Instant Pot did just that. The Duo Crisp can do everything a regular pressure multi-cooker does (steaming, slow cooking, even yogurt-making), plus air frying thanks to its specialized lid.

One lid resembles the regular pressure cooker lid that comes with other Instant Pot models. The other one has a fan that helps circulate the air around the basket and push the heat in order to, essentially, broil the surface of the food.

Although $200 is still quite pricey, the versatility, renowned Instant Pot quality and large 8-quart size are certainly worth the money.

4. Best air fryer oven combo: Breville Smart Oven Air BOV900BSS

Courtesy of Breville

Breville has made a multipurpose titan that’s hard to ignore: This combination oven-air fryer is 21.5” wide and 17.5” deep, and it can fit nine slices of bread in a single layer, or even an entire 13” pizza. It’s the perfect air fryer for a big family or the home chef who loves to entertain. Although the massive 1-cubic-foot space makes it a bit slow to heat, the 1800W power capacity helps it warm up and maintain heat effectively. Breville’s own Element IQ technology and PID Temperature Control help distribute that heat and stabilize temperatures, depending on the mode you set and how much food is inside.

It has the most preset functions of all the air fryers we’ve seen — a total of 13, including broiling, roasting and dehydrating. This product is an oven first, it's a more than capable air fryer due to the six separate heaters controlled by Element IQ (which distributes heat), plus what Breville calls a super convection fan. And thanks to its width, it makes the best use of the oven-style advantages: single-layer food distribution to avoid soggy fries trapped in the middle.

5. Editor's pick: Instant Pot Instant Vortex Air Fryer

Courtesy of Walmart

For a regular price of $99 (often found on sale for as low as $59), the Instant Vortex is a reliable and trustworthy air fryer that’s part of Instant Pot’s extensive ecosystem. This means there’s access to the Instant Pot phone app and the hundreds of recipes in it. The Vortex doesn’t have specific food presets — like a pre-programmed setting to prepare frozen fries by touching one button — but the app's cooking guide can help smooth that transition to air frying.

The Vortex doesn’t sacrifice size or functionality. Normally, cheaper air fryers are small; however, the Vortex’s six quarts are more than enough for a small family or to cook sides (like fries or steamed veggies) for a larger crowd. It can even fit a four-pound chicken. The basket is square too, which maximizes the space.

As to its food preparation, Instant Pot’s entire air frying line gets solid reviews overall, with users praising its ability to deliver crispy food at a fast pace. The brand has a longstanding reputation for making durable, high-quality small appliances for the kitchen, so buyers can feel good about their purchase.

6. Editor’s pick runner-up: Instant Pot Vortex Pro 9-in-1 10-Qt Air Fryer

Courtesy of Amazon

The Instant Pot Vortex Pro looks different from other air fryers. It looks, more accurately, like a miniature oven. This design serves its versatility: it has nine different functions in its 10-quart space, including dehydrating and the capacity of making rotisserie chicken.

This Instant Pot model can accommodate two racks of food, which can fit approximately 20 chicken wings, and it delivers a high-quality cooking experience with the expected level of crisp. It comes with a cylindrical basket where you can place fries, vegetables, even lined-up hot dogs, and get a well-rounded cook using the rotating feature. It shines the most when using the rotisserie spit and fork in conjunction with that rotation so you can make rotisserie chicken or roast beef. It also cooks these faster than other non-rotating fryers.

One issue with this configuration is the mess left behind. As you pull the racks in and out with food, you’ll get droplets and spills of water, oil or grease. This is due to the horizontal way in which you use it, as opposed to a rack inside a basket on other models. Still, there’s a drip tray at the bottom, and it has a removable door for easy access. You can’t shake it either, so you’ll have to move pieces individually, or trust the process.

7. Best for low prices: Chefman TurboFry 3.6-Quart Air Fryer Oven

Courtesy of Amazon

The Chefman TurboFry 3.6-quart model sacrifices bells and whistles in order to keep prices down and power and cooking quality up. It is usually priced at under $50, or half the price of better-known brands, and it's also slightly cheaper than many smaller 2-quart models.

At this price, the Chefman doesn’t have any presets, or a screen or food-specific functions. It has simple dials to set time and temperature, nothing more. But the simplicity also makes it very easy to use as a regular convection oven.

Basically, it offers what you need to make crispy fries or chicken tenders. It pulls 1200W, so it doesn’t skimp on power; and it has a two-part, dishwasher safe basket for easy, hands-off cleaning.

It’s also worth noting that the minimalistic, matte black design is more aesthetically pleasing than many machines in the price range, and it will fit in better with most kitchen decor.

If you want a more hands-off approach for your air fryer, you’ll have to go higher in price. Look at something with presets and a touchscreen like the GoWise 5-Quart 8-in-1 Air Fryer, which for about $25 more is not a bad deal.

Bear in mind that some people complain that food can smell or taste a little funny if it's prepared in an air fryers with a pot made with Teflon or plastic, like the Chefman and GoWise are, respectively.

8. Best for making whole meals: Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 DualZone 8-Qt Air Fryer

Courtesy of Amazon

Although some air fryers promote the capability of cooking two different foods simultaneously, this can be complicated in practice. Different foods often require different temperatures, and one rack on top of another leads to mixed flavors or mushy food that’s not supposed to be mushy. Ninja’s DualZone technology addresses this issue.

This particular Foodi comes with two side-by-side baskets, and each one acts like any other air fryer, so you don’t have to separate foods with racks or any other accessories. There are no compromises when it comes to the cooking process either. The DualZone technology means that each side can be set to different temperatures and different times. It’s also designed to finish cooking different items at the same time, by shortening the cooking time at the beginning instead of letting the shorter-timed dish cool off at the end.

Each basket has a 4-quart capacity, which is slightly smaller than the average 6 quarts, but it’s ample enough to cook for a couple or even a family, depending on the meal. If you want to cook a larger amount of one item — wings, for example — you can just use both baskets for a total of 8 quarts. (Unfortunately, you can’t use the air broil setting on both at the same time, probably due to overheating.)

But in general, this air fryer is designed to make it easy cook a main dish and a side — like chicken thighs and broccoli, or ribs and fries — at the same time.

At around $175, this Ninja might seem a little pricey. But you’re essentially buying two air fryers, and for the quality, size and added convenience, it seems reasonable for those looking for a one-stop shop in their own kitchen.

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