We Found the Best Air Fryers for Speedy Dinners and Put Them to the Test
There's a reason the air fryer is one of the most popular kitchen trends of the past few years: The versatile appliance can make crispy fried chicken, fish and chips, fries, and more with minimal use of oil by circulating hot air throughout its inner chamber. Apart from fried foods, air fryers are also capable of roasting vegetables, baking pizza, and even making bread or cakes. But whether you want the toaster oven type of air fryer or the more modern basket style, there are plenty of factors to consider.
"The main qualities I look for in an air fryer are even cooking and uncomplicated user functions," says Anna Theoktisto, a recipe developer behind some of our own air fryer dishes. Capacity and ease of cleaning are also important, according to Julia Levy, another recipe tester and developer with ample air fryer experience.
So, to narrow the field, we tested a dozen air fryers, evaluating each one on those very qualities. We spent days cooking frozen food, crisping chicken, and baking inside each model, ultimately determining that the Philips Premium Airfryer XXL was the best option. Read on for our full list of the best air fryers worthy of your investment and your counter space.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Philips Premium Airfryer XXL
- Best Toaster Oven-Style: Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven
- Best Dual-Basket: Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone Technology
- Best Value: Instant Pot Vortex Plus
- Best Splurge: Breville the Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro
The type of air fryer you choose depends on your needs. For a compact option that's super easy to use and makes great-tasting food, we love the basket-style Philips Premium Airfryer XXL. If you're looking for a multi-functional appliance that offers more control and capacity, choose the Cuisinart Toaster Oven.
Factors to Consider
Air fryers come in two different forms. There's the traditional convection toaster oven and the more modern basket style. Because of their larger capacity and footprint, oven air fryers are better for those who have ample counter space, a larger family, or a need to prepare big batches of food at a time. This style also tends to be more versatile, with better baking and toasting capabilities. They require cooks to be a bit more involved by manually selecting settings and rotating foods for more even cooking, and they can be harder to clean.
The more futuristic-looking basket air fryers are more compact, so they'll take up less space but they're also not going to be able to accommodate as large of a pizza or bird, for example. They may not cook quite as evenly but they operate much more automatically for those who prefer to simply press a button.
Size refers to both overall dimensions (the height, width, and depth of the machine) and capacity (as in how much volume can the fryer hold in quarts). You'll want to take into consideration the size of your own kitchen—will the model you purchase fit in your cupboards or on your counter—as well as the size of your family.
"I use a 5-quart air fryer, and honestly, anything smaller, even when cooking for one, is useless," Levy says. "You'll have to make anything in multiple batches and that's just annoying."
Most air fryers can cook at a range of temperatures up to around 400 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. In our tests, we didn't find the ones with extra-high heating abilities to perform better. In fact, our Best Overall pick tops out at 392 degrees. More important is temperature control, says Levy, which is why we used an air probe thermometer inside each fryer to make sure that each could maintain a set temperature. We also checked for hot spots by evaluating the ingredients we cooked for even browning.
Settings and Features
Most air fryers can also perform other tasks including broiling, roasting, and even dehydrating. However, similar to pressure cookers, they may not perform each function especially well. We baked corn bread inside each of these models, for example, which helped us judge versatility, but the baking results ultimately weren't the most helpful in identifying the best air fryers. Other features to look for include a timer—crucial, according to Levy—and the interface (is the display easy to read, and is it a touchscreen?). If you're sensitive to sounds, pay attention to alerts and other operating noises.
After researching all the options on the market and analyzing the ones our competitors ranked as the best, we selected a dozen air fryers in both the oven and basket styles. Since even cooking and ease of use were the top priorities identified by our pro panel, we devised tests that would allow us to rate each air fryer on those features, as well as versatility and ease of cleaning. Our preliminary tests included filling each air fryer with batches of frozen and homemade fries, followed by an air-fryer fried chicken and a corn bread recipe. We noted the cooking time and the evenness and crispness of each ingredient, as well as tenderness of the chicken.
Additionally, we measured the capacity and dimensions of each appliance and tracked their internal temperature as well using an air probe thermometer. The models that made it through the first round moved on to the next test: cooking a full roast chicken. Throughout our tests, we also paid special attention to other factors including style, quality of materials, and even noises and smells occurring while operating.
What Didn't Make the List
Pro Panel Q+A
Q: How exactly does an air fryer work?
A: Air fryers essentially work their magic the same way a toaster oven does—by circulating hot air throughout an inner chamber, giving your food crunchier and crispier skin than if you'd tossed it into the oven.
"The beauty of an air fryer is that you don't need to preheat it," Theoktisto tells us. If you want to get your kids some crispy nuggets or chicken tenders on the table fast, this thing will do it. My mom recently purchased one and she finds it's easier to cook for two people using it. I'd recommend it to empty nesters, working parents, and single people."
Q: Is an air fryer the same as a convection oven?
A: "An air fryer is basically a convection broiler," Theoktisto says. "It cooks your food fast and evenly. You can get the same results in your oven if you have a convection setting on it."
Q: What can you cook in an air fryer?
A: "Way more than you think!" Levy says. "It's for all intents and purposes a tabletop convection oven, so it can be used as such. It's wonderful for getting certain things crispy, but also for roasting meats that might take a long time in the oven. I know of people who have used it to bake cakes and the like, but I prefer it for the roasting and getting a crispy crust."
Q: How do you clean an air fryer?
A: With pull-out food drawers, air fryers are far easier to clean than their greasier cousin, the deep fryer, but the specific steps will depend on the type and the exact model you have. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when cleaning any kitchen appliance, but in general, Levy recommends handwashing with soap and water and a non-abrasive sponge; most air fryers are not dishwasher-safe, as detergents will deteriorate their nonstick coating.
"You will want to clean it after each use so oils don't build up and particles don't burn," she adds. "I recommend placing a thin layer of foil in the bottom basket for ease of cleaning."
Taysha Murtaugh is the Editorial Director for the Commerce Food Group at Dotdash Meredith. A home cook and Breville Toaster Oven owner herself, she is passionate about kitchen products and has nearly a decade of experience creating food and lifestyle content. For this piece, she interviewed experts including recipe developers and testers Anna Theoktisto and Julia Levy for their insights. Our team then scoured the market and analyzed competitor recommendations and spent days evaluating air fryers side by side in our test kitchen, judging each on a variety of qualitative and quantitative factors and curating a list just for Food & Wine readers.