Once You Get an Air Fryer, You May Never Want to Turn on Your Oven Again

·12 min read
Photo credit: BestProducts.com
Photo credit: BestProducts.com


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If you love the taste of deep-fried, crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside foods, but hate the inconvenience of using all that cooking oil (not to mention all the extra calories), it's probably time to get an air fryer for your kitchen.

These buzzy appliances are a way-less messy alternative to frying foods the old-fashioned way in a stovetop pan or deep-fryer, and you can make almost all of the same fried foods that you love in them. Although anything that's coated in a wet batter or chunky dredging won't really work, you can simply swap out the heavy batter for a light coat of oil or seasoning, and you'll be golden (and crispy).

The Best Air Fryers

What to Consider

An important consideration when it comes to air fryers is their size and capacity. In general, these are not large appliances, and anything cooked in them has to be spread out in a single layer — so making big batches of pork chops, chicken thighs, and any other large cuts of meat in them might be more trouble than it's worth. They're a good fit for smaller households and smaller dishes.

Besides this, make sure to check out any special functions of these air fryers before you buy — many have preset temperatures for crisping up certain foods at different temperatures. Some of these are also kitchen multitaskers that can grill, bake, toast, or dehydrate food, as well as air-fry them. Think of all the possibilities that have just opened up!

A word of caution here: Air fryers are not set-and-forget appliances like slow cookers are. They are essentially small convection ovens, and even if they have preset timers and an auto shut-off function, you do not want to leave these running unattended. So, keep in mind that you will have to check in on your air fryer as it runs to ensure that nothing inside starts burning or smoking.

Whether you just don't want to turn on your oven or get stung by hot oil in your pan anymore, having an air fryer sitting at the ready on your countertop can help crisp up your favorite foods to perfection much more quickly and healthfully. We evaluated these air fryer models based on the type of features they offer, their countertop footprint for fitting into kitchens big and small, and reviewer feedback for their immediate and long-term use. We chose these nine for our guide because they are fan favorites that fit a variety of needs.

Here are the nine best air fryers that make ideal kitchen sidekicks.

Classic Design

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint (length/depth): 12x12 inches

  • Capacity: 3.7 quarts

  • Available Colors: 4

Inexpensive doesn't have to mean ineffective, and this user-friendly air fryer from GoWISE is proof. The classic design comes with eight cooking preset buttons for cooking chicken, pork, shrimp, chips, fish, and even cake!

It also has customizable temperature and time controls for recipes, along with specific cooking instructions. When running on a timer, it will sound a clear beep to indicate when it's done, and it will also automatically shut off by itself. With its 3.7-quart capacity, it'll fit about eight chicken wings or a medium-sized batch of fries.

Although some reviewers really don't like that the exterior is made of plastic, it is touted as being a very quiet unit — its fans aren't nearly as loud as your stovetop range.

Great for Bigger Batches

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 16x12 inches

  • Capacity: 18 quarts

  • Available Colors: 1

We know we said air fryers are typically small-ish appliances that aren't meant for making large batches, but this is one notable exception: The Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven Airfryer has a sizable 18-quart capacity and can do everything from bake and broil to toast and dehydrate... and so much more. Of course, it can also air-fry with the best of them.

This stainless steel air fryer is fully equipped with preset times and temps for popular fried meals and snacks, but it also lets you manually adjust the temperature range anywhere from 80 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set its convection fan on low or high.

Reviewers say that it cooks “hot and fast,” and they love its sizable window, which makes it a notable standout from many other air fryers — this allows you to clearly check on the progress and ensure that nothing gets burnt to a crisp.

Plenty of Preset Buttons

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 11x10 inches

  • Capacity: 5.8 quarts

  • Available Colors: 4

Cosori makes a few different air fryers, all of which are of excellent quality — but the 5.8-quart option is a great midsized air fryer that'll whip up a meal for two or snacks for days in a jiffy. This unit also features an easy-to-read LED touchscreen with 11 preset cooking functions, including frozen foods, meats, vegetables, and even french fries.

Many reviewers who “hate cooking” love using this device because it pretty much does all of the hard work with the press of a button. (Plus, it looks great on the countertop.) Its dishwasher-safe, nonstick basket inserts also allow for easy cleanup. And if you're looking for some more inspiration, this model includes a helpful air-fryer cookbook, which includes 100 great recipes to try out. Just keep in mind that this one has a plastic exterior, and reviewers do note that its fan is loud while it's running.

Dual Dial Operation

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 14x11 inches

  • Capacity: 2 quarts

  • Available Colors: 1

Air fryers don't need all the bells and whistles to be effective (although, yes they can certainly help). This BLACK+DECKER air fryer may not have all the fancy preset buttons, but it does have temperature and time control options, which are all you need if you plan to follow recipes that include this information. But just in case, this air fryer also comes with an instruction manual that tells you which temperatures are best for most foods.

The timer runs for up to an hour, and the machine will automatically turn off when your cook time is up. You'll also find a temperature range of 175 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and the basket holds enough for two to four servings, with a 2-liter capacity. If you don't like the look of glowing displays and prefer more analog tech, the dials on this air fryer are as straightforward as it gets — however, some reviewers do say that the numbers on them can be hard to read.

Chef-Approved Pick

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 17x13 inches

  • Capacity: 7 quarts

  • Available Colors: 1

When we asked chef Celeste Rogers about her tips and tricks for using an air fryer (check out the very bottom section!), we also had to know what her preferred model is, and this air fryer gets her stamp of approval. The Philips XXL uses a patented “starfish” fan to evenly circulate air in a way that delivers crispy results from edge to edge, which means you won’t end up with soggy fried chicken wings or mushy fries.

This Philips Air Fryer has a range of settings that allows you to bake, roast, and even grill your foods, and it comes with one frying basket. It also features a smart preset button that memorizes the settings for your favorite and most frequently cooked recipes. Reviewers love how easy this unit is to clean, and its 7-quart capacity can fit some pretty generous portions.

Most Compact

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 9x9 inches

  • Capacity: 2.6 quarts

  • Available Colors: 6

If you're limited on kitchen space and looking for a smaller model, this lightweight and super cute air fryer is your best bet. With a 2.6-quart nonstick fryer basket, simple-to-use temperature controls, and automatic turn-off feature, this best-selling air fryer from Dash is user-friendly, compact, and stylish.

Beyond the sleek aesthetic, there are a few clever built-in features that make this air fryer model particularly user-friendly and versatile. Its 30-minute timer shuts off automatically, eliminating the possibility of overcooking or burning, which makes this unit safe for families to use. It also shuts off when the cooking drawer is removed. The easy-to-read dual temperature-control dials allow the user to adjust the heat for a variety of different foods and recipes.

One reviewer calls this an “adult Easy-Bake Oven,” and we have to say that’s spot on. This petite pick can cook a wide range of bites in just a fraction of the time a full-size oven can.

The Pretty One

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 15x15 inches

  • Capacity: 6 quarts

  • Available Colors: 1

This 6-quart air fryer from Beautiful by Drew Barrymore has no dials, knobs, or buttons — instead, it is completely controlled by an LED touchscreen. With the tap of a button, you can instantly start air frying, roasting, reheating, or dehydrating your food.

With 1,700 watts of power for super-fast preheating and cooling, this air fryer is incredibly reasonably priced and will look beautiful on your countertop. Reviewers also love its 60-minute automatic shut-off function for added safety and peace of mind, especially when cooking with the family.

For Side-by-Side Cooking

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 15x14 inches

  • Capacity: 8 quarts

  • Available Colors: 1

Who says you have to stop at just an air fryer? Not us: The Ninja Foodi 4-in-1 Air Fryer combines the functionality of an air fryer with two independently functioning 4-quart frying zones, each with its own cooking basket, cyclonic fan, and rapid heater. So, in other words, you can be air-frying chicken wings in one basket for carnivores and cauliflower or Brussels sprouts in the second for your vegetarian dinner guests.

Its 4-in-1 versatility means the Ninja Foodi can be used to air fry, roast, reheat, and dehydrate, so you end up saving major time and energy. Reviewers with families love being able to cook two different things quickly and simultaneously with just one appliance.

The 7-in-1 Wonder

Key Specs

  • Countertop footprint: 13x13 inches

  • Capacity: 19 quarts

  • Available Colors: 1

If you live in a smaller space, getting a multipurpose appliance is a no-brainer. The Iris Air Fryer has seven functions total, and can fry wings just as easily as it can bake a cake.

Our parenting editor, Cat Bowen, swears by this air fryer and says that “this machine can do everything from bake bagels from scratch to toast them up the next day. I’ve made whole chickens, bundt cakes, chicken thighs, and tater tots with it, and they all come out great.” She advises that the air fryer is a little bit slow to heat, so following the directions carefully is key here.

Still, she says, “It’s a great choice for families who want a powerful air fryer, but also need it to do more than just one thing. It’s pretty big, but considering all its functionality and the fact that it replaces several devices, it’s awesome. Plus, you don’t need to heat up your whole kitchen in the summer to bake a cake.”

Ask an Expert: Air Frying 101 With Chef Celeste Rogers

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

To demonstrate just how limitless cooking with an air fryer truly is, we worked alongside Celeste Rogers, recent Chopped Champion and former assistant resident chef at Sur La Table, who showed us a wide array of kitchen applications for using an air fryer — from savory to sweet.

The key to success, according to Rogers, is understanding how an air fryer works. “Manage your expectations and realize that an air fryer is basically a small, but high-performing convection oven.”

Rogers points out that an air fryer is much less about frying and more about a healthier means of cooking traditionally fried foods. She explains, “Rapidly circulating hot air dries and crisps while cooking your food. Name aside, there is no actual frying going on here!”

Chef Celeste’s Top Expert Tips and Tricks

Invest in a High-Heat Cooking Oil Spray

To optimize the performance of your air fryer, you’re going to need to invest in a high smoke point, neutral-flavored vegetable oil spray. Chef Celeste’s favorite is either safflower or grapeseed oil, but canola will also do. You’ll need to spray the basket to prevent sticking, and spray the surface of your food to ensure proper golden crisping.

Avoid Wet Batters

Things can go very wrong when it comes to battered food (think beer-battered onion rings, tempura shrimp, etc.). Wet batters are off-limits because the food will stick to — or even drip — through the basket. Instead, Chef Celeste recommends sticking with a drier dredged coating (think panko-crusted cutlets, coconut-crusted shrimp, or even fried pickles).

Give Your Food Some Breathing Room

You’ll need to give your food a bit of breathing room to properly air-fry it. If pieces are touching, you’ll get uneven browning and less crisping. This means you can only make small batches — or sometimes, even just single servings.

Check out the video below for more of Chef Celeste's expert air fryer tips and tricks!

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