More and more air fryers keep popping up on store shelves. With the promise to cook up crispy yet juicy foods without all that bad-for-you fat, these countertop appliances are practically irresistible. Any food that calls for frying—like French fries or chicken wings—can now be made in one of these deep-fryer alternatives.
But the best air fryers don’t come cheap and aren’t small, so buying the right one needs to live up to all your expectations. That’s why after testing nine of the best-selling models last summer, including two that also serve as toaster ovens, I just tested eight more air fryers, including some that double as toaster ovens and another that’s also a pressure cooker.
Among these 17 appliances, the testing results show the best air fryer is the Philips Airfryer XXL (available at Amazon for $199.95), which yielded results closest to conventionally fried food. However, if you’re looking for an air fryer at a much lower price, the Cuisinart Compact AirFryer (available at Amazon) will satisfy your crisp tooth. The Cuisinart Airfryer Toaster Oven (available at Amazon) is also a great buy if you want an appliance that can multitask.
Here are the best air fryers ranked, in order:
- Philips Airfryer XXL
- Cuisinart Compact AirFryer
- Cuisinart Airfryer Toaster Oven
- Ninja Air Fryer
- Ninja Foodi
- Dash Compact Air Fryer
- Breville Smart Oven Air
- GoWise 8-in-1 Air Fryer XL 5.9 Qt.
- Krups Easy Fry Deluxe Digital Air Fryer 4.2 L
- Farberware 3.2-Quart Digital Oil-Less Fryer
- Black and Decker Crisp ‘N Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven
- Krups Fry Delight
- Power Air Fryer XL
- Black and Decker 2L Purifry Air Fryer
- Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven
- NuWave Brio Digital Air Fryer 6 Quart
- NuWave Bravo XL Smart Oven
- Oster DuraCeramic Air Fryer
When it comes to frying, the Philips Airfryer XXL is the best air fryer we tested and the most user friendly. During testing, I tasted an awful lot of French fries and it cooked up the ones I couldn’t stop noshing on. They had the combo of crunchiness, tenderness, and potato flavor that make great fries so delectable. Even when I loaded the basket with more than 3 pounds of frozen fries, they came out crispy. Battered Nashville hot chicken came out with a crackling crust as if it had been deep fried, and hamburgers rivaled ones made on the grill.
Now, this is a big, heavy, and very expensive machine that’s noisier than most when it’s operating. It doesn’t have digital controls and therefore it’s hard to set the temperature and timer precisely. With a few more parts than most air fryers, there’s more to clean and while all of the parts can go in the dishwasher, the huge basket will eat up considerable shelf and counter space. However, like all air fryers, it’s still relatively easy to use—this one requires no preheat—and the results are worth the payoff. An easy to read recipe book is included to give you lots of ideas.
What makes the Philips our top choice is that it’s consistently the very best at air frying, even with large family-size portions of healthier fried foods. And you can sense that for the big bucks, you’re getting a solid well- built machine. If you cook for a discerning crew that really likes fried food but not the fat, I think the Philips is definitely worth the investment.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Cuisinart Compact AirFryer is that unlike most air fryers, it’s not oddly shaped like a huge egg or space capsule. Rather it’s a big stainless-steel cube that looks like a truncated toaster oven. While its boxy shape helps it fit more neatly on a countertop or in a cabinet, the Cuisinart still takes up a bit of countertop real estate (in spite of its name).
You’ll find the Cuisinart is a relatively uncomplicated appliance in terms of heating elements. It doesn’t have cooking preset programs for specific foods or additional functions like “keep warm” or dehydrate, to make the cooking process easier. You simply turn dials to set the temperature and the cooking time, and there’s no need to preheat. There’s also a straight forward manual that includes recipes to get you started on air frying.
Since it has a wide basket, food can be spread out to get more even and crispy results with relatively quick cooking times without the food drying out in the time it takes to air fry. Most other air fryers force you to pile the food on top of each other, which can create uneven results. Using the Cuisinart Compact AirFryer, homemade fries looked and tasted like they had been bobbing in a deep fryer vat of oil.
Neither the stainless-steel basket nor the drip pan is dishwasher safe, so it’s not necessarily easy to clean. When you cook drippy battered items like tempura shrimp or onion rings, you may need to use a little effort to get them spotless. However, if you’re looking for an appliance to air fry and do it well, and don’t want to pay an exorbitant amount, this Cuisinart is well worth your consideration.
While not inexpensive, the Cuisinart Airfryer Toaster Oven is definitely cheaper, not to mention more space-efficient, than buying two relatively large countertop appliances. It comes with an air fryer basket to be used along with an air fryer setting. I found it worked as well, and in some cases, its heat element was better than air fryers at browning and crisping. In addition, it toasted exceptionally evenly.
Unlike most models in this price category, it doesn’t have digital controls. While it’s not a huge appliance, it is taller than typical toaster ovens. It accommodates 2 pounds of fries, 6 slices of bread and according to Cuisinart, a 4-pound chicken. If you love to toss everything in the dishwasher, be aware that all the parts need to be cleaned by hand. But unless you already have a toaster oven that you love, the Cuisinart is a good buy for its versatility.
How We Tested
Hi, I’m Sharon Franke, and I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for more than 30 years. Before that, I worked as a professional chef in NYC restaurants for seven years. Now I’m an avid home cook. While I’ve made French fries and pan-fried chicken cutlets countless times, they’re not in heavy rotation in my house these days. Just like you, I want to avoid the oil and all that work that comes with frying. That’s why I was thrilled to test air fryers and see if they could satisfy my hankerings for crispy food, fat, and fuss-free.
To find the best air fryers, I tested 13 of them, plus four toaster ovens with air frying capabilities, and the Ninja Foodi, which combines an air fryer with a multi-cooker. Each appliance was rated on how well it cooked fresh and frozen French fries and chicken nuggets. Since this is a category still relatively new, you’ll be relying on the manual to get started. I checked to see if each explained how to use the product thoroughly, provided guidelines for cooking specific foods, and included recipes. I considered how easy it was to use the controls, slide the basket in and out, and of course clean up. As you may not want to use your air fryer daily or even weekly, I checked to see how easy it would be to stash away, too.
How Does an Air Fryer Work?
For starters, air fryers are not actually fryers, but rather countertop convection ovens that circulate hot air around foods in a basket. Using at most a half tablespoon of oil, they definitely brown and crisp up food but not as evenly as frying. And things don’t always come out with the same combination of all-over crunchiness and perfect tenderness as they do when they’re dropped in hot oil. However, air fryers don’t require more than a few minutes to preheat, which means from start to finish they deliver the goods faster than deep- or oven-frying. Plus, I discovered they didn’t give off any cooking odors, so your house never smells like a chicken shack.
The best air fryers can also be used as an oven to cook meats, casseroles, or even baked goods. They are, of course, limited by their size and don’t offer any advantage here over a traditional oven. But if you use your oven for storage, it tends to heat up the kitchen, or you often wish you had an extra oven, an air fryer can come in handy. One thing to know: These kitchen tools are big and oddly shaped, so they take up a lot of countertop space and aren’t easy to store.
Bottom line: If you find crispy foods irresistible but want to avoid the fat, an air fryer might be just what you’re looking for.
What Kind of Recipes Can You Make in An Air Fryer?
It depends on how creative you can get! Meats, vegetables, and even baked goods can work in your air fryer. Plus there are tons of air fryer recipe books on the market now.
Some popular options include:
- Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, squash—essentially anything you would roast on a baking sheet
- Meat dishes, such as breaded chicken, battered chicken, bacon, burgers, and hot dogs
- Frozen foods like chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and french fries
- Baked goods such as donuts, fritters, and funnel cake
- Preheat the air fryer before cooking. Since an air fryer is basically a compact convection oven, the preheating stage can help prevent food from over-cooking. In general, preheat at 375°F for three to five minutes, depending on the size of the fryer.
- Use baking powder if you are making chicken wings. By coating the wings in baking powder, the peptide bond in chicken skin will break down due to an increase in the pH level. This will allow the chicken skin to become crispy and brown.
- Lay all food as flat as possible. An overly-crowded frying basket can lead to unevenly fried foods and unwanted burns. To avoid this, make sure you divide the food and cook only small batches at a time. This is especially important if you’re heating frozen fries—the water can make them soggy!
- Frying starchy food produces acrylamide. One common way to decrease starch content is to blanch ingredients before cooking.
Other Air Fryers We Tested
The Ninja Air Fryer gave our top-rated Philips Airfryer XXL a run for the money. You could have convinced me that both breaded and battered chicken pieces were fried in the best cast iron skillet. French fries came close to the real thing but didn’t have quite the allover crunch that you get from a fryer or the Philips (which can even crisp up a whole bag of French fries at once). However, the Ninja is about a quarter of the price of the Philips and is nowhere near as big or heavy.
On the Ninja, you’ll find digital controls and settings for reheating, roasting, and dehydrating. More options make for more complicated programming but after a few cooks, you’ll easily master the necessary steps. The nonstick coated basket can be chucked in the dishwasher. With this air fryer you also get a stainless-steel rack for multilevel cooking.
I admit to having had a healthy dose of skepticism when it came to the Ninja Foodi, an appliance that in addition to being an air fryer is also a pressure cooker and a slow cooker. Well, I’m here to tell you that it not only does both, it does them both well. In fact, it cooked the crunchiest, most well-browned results in our air fryer cook-off, plus it pressures cooks as well as any I’ve ever tested (Reviewed named it the best upgrade pick in the best pressure cookers guide, too).
If you like, you can even combine the two functions, pressure cooking a chicken and then browning and crisping the skin on the air-fry setting. Additional programs on the Foodi allow you to broil, dehydrate, steam, slow cook, and sauté, making it the most versatile multicooker on the market. One thing of note: During air frying mode, it’s noisier than most.
As you would expect with so many options, it takes a little practice to get a hang of programming the digital controls. However, the screen is well designed with large easy to read lettering. The Foodi is space saving compared to owning both an air fryer and a multi-cooker, but it is a large, heavy appliance that you won’t want to be lifting in and out of a cabinet. It’s worth giving it a dedicated place on a countertop if you plan to take advantage of its versatility and use it often. Considering the multi-functionality of this machine, I wish the cookbook that comes with it was better organized and had recipes and charts for all of the functions. The basket and the pot are nonstick coated and safe for dishwasher cleaning, but the lids require TLC.
This little guy is just so darn cute you can’t help loving it (It’s probably why so many Amazon reviewers go gaga for this air fryer). The Dash Compact Air Fryer does a decent job of “frying” as long as you confine it to about a half pound of food at a time. No preheating is required but for the best results, you need to toss or turn items a few times during cooking.
With its dial controls, you can’t set the Dash precisely. For the most part, the manual is helpful and even includes a few recipes, but some of the temperatures specified in the charts and recipes are different from the ones printed on the machine. You have to guess where to set the dial between 320° and 400°F if you want to cook at 350° or 390°F.
The basket has a nonstick coating and is small enough to go in the dishwasher without hogging too much space. You can choose the Dash with a glossy red, aqua, white, or black exterior.
You pay top dollar for the handsome brushed stainless steel Breville Smart Oven Air, but you get a state-of-the-art toaster oven in addition to an air fryer. In air fryer mode, it consistently turned out crispy food and chicken nuggets that tasted fried. The digital controls are intuitive to program and includes automatic preheat. The Breville also has a bright oven light.
Although it’s large even by toaster oven standards, it can truly replace your oven. No need for special toaster oven-sized cookware here. And Breville claims it can accommodate a 14-pound turkey.
I do have one major quibble with this product. The manual doesn’t contain any recommendations for what, how much, or how long to cook various foods. This may not be a problem for baking or roasting, but if you’re new to air frying, you’re on your own when you’re getting started. Also, keep in mind all of the parts require hand washing.
The GoWise 8-in-1 Air Fryer XL 5.9 Qt does very well at air frying and has some nice advantages. In addition to a large capacity, it has digital controls with eight preprogrammed settings (hence the name) and an alarm that you can set to remind you to toss food during cooking. It doesn’t require preheating and the basket is both nonstick coated and dishwasher safe. With the GoWise, you get a cookbook to give you lots of recipe ideas for air frying. In addition to black and white, you can choose from red and purple housing.
Thanks to its barrel shape and stainless-steel housing, the Krups East Fry Deluxe Digital Air Fyer 4.2 L is one of the classier looking air fryers on the market. It yields respectable results, giving foods crunch and light browning, but I doubt you’d be able to hoodwink anyone into believing their fried chicken dinner came out of a deep-fat fryer.
It has digital controls and automatic programs for basics like fries and chicken as well as for more unusual ones like grilling and cake. The instructions for preheating in the manual are confusing and during testing, I never heard a preheat beep. In the charts, temperatures are given which don’t match up with the ones shown on the display. While the basket can go in the dishwasher, its nonstick coating makes cleanup relatively easy if you opt for hand washing.
One of the most reasonably priced air fryers you can buy, the Farberware 3.2-Quart Digital Oil-Less Fryer does a pretty good job of crisping and browning, especially when it comes to frozen foods. You do have to be sure to preheat and flip foods over to get even results. As the manual didn’t explain the usage as clearly as it could have, there was a little bit of a learning curve to get up to speed. When it’s time to pull the basket out, it sticks a little. However, if the price is your main concern, you can’t beat the Farberware, and it even comes with an air fryer cookbook. It comes in black and in white.
If you simply don’t have room on your countertop for one more appliance but want to hop on the air fryer trend, this multitasker might do the trick. Now, I won’t lie, it’s not a fancy schmancy countertop oven like the Cuisinart Airfryer Toaster Oven or the Breville Smart Oven Air, both of which look fantastic and can pretty much replace your oven for everything but roasting a huge turkey. But the Black and Decker won’t set you back a bundle. In fact, it’s less expensive than most air fryers. And in addition to air frying, it does a really nice job of making toast and can even bake a respectable cake.
It comes with a wide basket, so you can spread out the food which promotes browning, crisping, and makes it easier to flip foods over for more even results. I got the best “frying” with frozen foods; homemade French fries couldn’t really pass muster, but battered chicken breasts came out pretty darn good.
The basket slides in on side supports like the oven rack but there’s no pan below it and above the heating coils. In addition to hand scrubbing the stainless-steel mesh basket, I had to wipe burnt-on batter drips off of the coils. The Black and Decker does have a removable dishwasher safe crumb tray. As there’s not much info on air frying in the manual, be prepared to research and experiment with times and temperatures, as well as techniques.
While the Krups Fry Delight won’t give you quite as crunchy results as the best air fryers, it also won’t empty your bank account. Before the most recent round of testing, it was my best value pick. I love its square design which not only looks more attractive but makes it easy to stash away. While this is one of the smaller models, it can still hold up to a pound and a half of fries, 4 chicken pieces, or a pound of meat. It doesn’t have digital controls and you have to fiddle a bit to set the cooking temp and time correctly. As the grid at the bottom of the basket isn’t nonstick coated, it takes a bit of elbow grease to get it clean. But for the money and the size, the Krups is a good choice. Select either a black or white housing.
Although it’s a little smaller in size and capacity than many air fryers, the Power Air Fryer XL can cook and crisp about one pound of food at once. It has digital controls with cooking preset programs. I found it somewhat generic in appearance and the basket doesn’t glide out as smoothly as on some. But on the positive side, it cleans up in the dishwasher, comes with a recipe booklet, and won’t set you back a bundle.
The egg-shaped Black and Decker 2L Purifry is not all that much smaller in size than other air fryers but has a much smaller basket. Black and Decker only recommends that you cook a half pound of fries or one burger at a time. While it gives good results, it seems like if you’re dedicating so much counter space to an appliance, you should be able to cook enough food for four at once. Plus, the basket didn’t glide in and out easily. Like many, it doesn’t have digital controls so it’s hard to set precisely. But my biggest complaint is that the numbers are so small that I literally needed to use a magnifying glass to set the temperature. Finishes are available in black and white.
This is an example of a product that is seriously handicapped by its manual. Unless you already have experience with air frying, we’d recommend you avoid the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven, the first air fryer from Instant Pot. The “Getting Started Guide” comes with few suggestions as to what to cook and no recommendations as to how much to cook. Both a basket and trays are included. While for the most part the manufacturer suggests air frying in the basket, we got much better browning and crisping when we used a tray.
On the digital control pad, you’ll find five other functions and for them, too, you’re left in the dark as to what and how much to cook and for how long. The most unique feature is a rotisserie, but there’s definitely a learning curve for figuring out how to insert the spit and get a chicken rotating in the oven. If you are willing to put in some trial and error, you will be satisfied with the Vortex Plus’ cooking results. On the plus side, there’s a bright interior light and the parts are dishwasher safe.
The NuWave Brio Digital Air Fryer 6 Quart is on the large size and has a big capacity. In our tests, it cooked more unevenly and gave less browning and crisping than others. Thanks to digital controls that are easy to read and program, I did find it particularly convenient to use. It has a built-in preheat setting and preprogrammed settings for things like fries and nuggets that you’re likely to cook. A divider for the basket is included so that you can air fry two foods at once and keep them from mingling. In the manual, there’s a slew of recipes to help you get good use out of your air fryer. While the parts are dishwasher safe, top rack only is recommended and the basket may be too large for the upper shelf.
The NuWave Bravo Smart Oven is a beautiful appliance with lots of nice features, including two oven racks, a temperature probe, and programs for toasting, baking, and roasting as well as air frying.
Unfortunately, it really fell short when it came to air frying. Even after cooking twice as long as in every other air fryer, potato strips bore no resemblance to French fries. Freshly breaded chicken pieces came out pale and soggy. While frozen fries and nuggets did crisp up somewhat, they took far longer than the times specified on the packages. This might be a good buy for a toaster oven, but I don’t recommend it if you’re looking for an air fryer.
Unlike most, the Oster DuraCeramic Air Fryer is round and has a see-through lid so you can see what’s cooking. It has a detachable handle that you clip on to the bowl to remove it after air frying but I found it tricky to use. For cooking items like fries, there’s a mechanism to use the fryer in a tilted position to eliminate the need to shake or toss during cooking. In our cook-off, the Oster took the longest to cook and gave the least crispy results of everything tested.