Air Fryers Buying Guide – The Best Air Fryer Reviews And How To Cook A Perfect Meal With One
When air fryers first came out, I was skeptical and kept thinking Ugh, another appliance on top of all the others I have. But then my mother-in-law bought one and gifted it to me. And it. Changed. My. Life. She knew how much I love cooking and baking and she thought I might get a kick out of it. And boy did I.
At first, I just used the air fryer for quickly whipping up lunch for the kiddos – like making crispy fries, or air frying vegetables, but then I saw an Instagram reel that really opened up my world to the possibilities of an air fryer. So, I started digging for recipes, and ways you can use them, without them being overly complicated. So, let me tell you about my experience with air fryers–
Is Air Fryer Just Another Fancy Kitchen Appliance?
While the name might sound like a gimmick, an air fryer really is a kitchen staple. They take the hassle out of shallow frying, baking, and grilling, letting you get on with other things and still have a delicious meal.
The air fryer is here to save your tastebuds from the monotony of the regular old frying pan. You can now have your frozen French fries be done in 12 minutes, and be as healthy and delicious, without the guilt of frying them in loads of oil. The air fryer is a great way to cook at home rather than eating out, or making that greasy, artery-clogging drive-thru for lunch. But, how exactly does the air fryer work? What are the benefits and drawbacks of using one? And which one is the best air fryer?
If you are looking for a healthy, quick, and easy way to prepare and cook your meals, an air fryer is your best bet. Air fryers are small kitchen appliances that are designed to give you the same great taste and texture as fried food, but with much less oil and fewer calories. In fact, most air fryers will let you make healthier alternatives to traditional fried foods because all you need to do is air fry food with hot air. Moreover, the convenience of having a kitchen appliance that can cook without you having to do anything but set it and forget it is turning many people off from using their own stovetop or oven, me included! I completely ignore my oven on a daily basis and use it only when I’m making big batch cookies or lunch for many people, and I don’t have the space for it in the air fryer.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers typically have a concentrated heat source in their upper portion that pairs with large fans that circulate hot air. The design makes food cooking quicker and uses perforated trays to increase airflow as well as small-capacity chambers to provide a warm and humid environment. When I tested air fryers, I saw that most foods cook better in high temperatures for shorter periods like 400F (200C) for a short duration. Another secret is that you need to toss the food so that everything can cook evenly. Roasting brussels sprouts, for example, is easy. You just coat the brussels sprouts with any kind of oil you have in a separate bowl, add seasonings to your taste, and then transfer the brussels sprouts to the air fryer. Cook them for 8-12 minutes (depending on the portion you are frying) for crispy perfection.
Types of Air Fryers
The term Air Fryer now is often interpreted for two major kinds of appliances: small pod models (usually reminiscent of weird futuristic dinosaur eggs awaiting hatching ) as well as large models that look like standard convection ovens. However, we will be talking more about what different types of air fryers can do.
Digital air fryer
Digital air fryers tend to have multiple settings, like fish, rice, pork chops, chicken thighs, or french fries. With digital fryers, you don’t have to think much – just get the appropriate setting for the food you are cooking, and you can go on about your day. Most digital air fryers have a backward timer, and when the time is up, the air fryer will turn off, keeping your food still warm when you get to it.
Analog air fryer
Analog air fryers are very old, the first versions of air fryers. They just have the time and temperature settings, without any actual food settings. You’d have manual controls like in a standard oven, and it can just cook quickly whatever you put in it.
Hybrid air fryer
Hybrid air fryers are also known as air fryer toaster ovens or just air fryer ovens. They have a cooking capacity of around 50L and have both top/bottom heating, and convection heating. The heating elements are usually stainless steel. An air fryer oven supports pan frying, which is similar to a nonstick basket, with the difference that you can broil food in a pan. Hybrid air fryers are a great 2 in 1 appliance because you get all the best of both worlds without having two kitchen appliances take up your cooking space. With a hybrid fryer, you can make baked goods, roast chicken, make chicken wings or any kind of fried chicken, or frozen fries.
Solo air fryer
Solo fryers, or simply – air fryers, work by circulating air around the food. A fan and heated air generate the heat. Unlike other fryers, they don’t need any oil in order to cook your food – in fact, this is one of their biggest perks! You can, however, add in oil if you wish, but I usually cook without oil, or with just a tiny bit of spray oil to get that perfectly crispy texture.
It’s also worth noting that an air fryer isn’t for deep frying. Instead of traditional frying, it’s for cooking foods at a high temperature without oil and with minimal use of grease or butter. Thus you can cook healthier meals quickly and easily with little mess or fuss. With a dishwasher safe basket air fryer is a spot-on kitchen appliance for a one ‘pot’ meal.
My cooking time is now half of what it once was! And you can even put frozen food, like frozen fries or frozen fish fingers without thawing them first, and it will all be evenly cooked, making my cooking time even better. And what’s best, you can put different foods in the fryer and they come out perfect every time. I regularly do cooked chicken wings and frozen fries in one go for the little ones. And they love it!
What Should I Look for in an Air Fryer?
What to look for when shopping for the best air fryer for you? Before you start shopping for an air fryer, think about the features you want. Most air fryers come with a digital timer and temperature control, but some have more advanced features like preset cooking modes and basket extensions that allow you to cook a wider variety of foods. You should also consider how much counter space you’ll need or if it will fit on your counter space.
Depending on your needs, you’ll see what fits you and your family the best. If you plan on cooking just for one or two people, one of the smaller air fryers might be a good option. But if you need more food cooked on a regular basis, maybe one of the air fryer toaster ovens would be a better fit. They can fit around 50L of food inside, and you can cook bigger pieces of food like fried chicken or pork chops.
Our Top Picks – Best Air Fryer Brands That We Approve Of
When buying an air fryer, you’ll want to pay special attention to the size. Air fryers come in a range of sizes, but any model should be able to hold up to 2-3 pounds of food at a time. If you’re only cooking for one or two people, then a smaller size will work just fine.
An air fryer is still an appliance and there are some parts that are more important than others. For example, the heating element is key. And since these appliances can get very hot, it’s important that it sits on rubber feet so it doesn’t burn your countertop or tabletop. You’ll also want a temperature probe for precise cooking and easy meat checking.
The air fryers we tested accounted for the counter space, cooking power, ease of use of controls, dials, and controls as well as the built and durable nature of each. Most air fryers have a dishwasher safe basket, but the difference between a good air fryer and the best air fryer is the simplicity of use.
No matter which air fryer you choose we are sure you’ll be able to make air fried, healthy food in no time! Read on to learn more about our top picks for the best air fryer.
Favorite Air Fryer: Instant Vortex 6-quart Air Fryer
No surprise that Instant Brands turned out another excellent product with the Instant Vortex. We already adore the Instant Pot. During our experiments, we discovered that the air fryer we tested cooked faster and more evenly than the others. While it’s working, we can hear it churning, but it’s not much louder than a microwave. The size is also a big plus. The 6-quart size is more than enough for a pound of chicken. There is also a touchscreen control panel for preprogrammed settings, as well as a dial that may increase the temperature in 5-degree increments. It also features a sleek, angular design that you won’t mind seeing every day on your counter.
The Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer is the second best
For those who want a dehydrator in their air fryer, the Instant Vortex Plus is the appliance for you. Like the regular one, the Plus model has a spacious basket and a modern design. Its interface is likewise quite user-friendly, featuring a touchscreen control panel for pre-programmed settings and a dial that can increase the temperature by five degrees. Aside from strawberries, we were able to successfully dehydrate a variety of other fruits and vegetables using the dehydration feature. The broil feature, which is set to 400 degrees F for two minutes, is the model’s one flaw. We tried broiling mac and cheese topped with more cheese and breadcrumbs, but neither was nicely browned.
However, we did get the onion rings to get the perfect crispy texture with the basic air frying setting, so that’s nice!
Best Value: Ninja 4-quart Air Fryer
This Ninja air fryer is solid, small, and seems like it’s built of high-quality materials, which is a refreshing change from the fragile plastic of many other versions. This Ninja air fryer model is the perfect size for cooking enough food for two people, and it cooked all of the meals we tried to a golden brown and crispy texture. It has a more useful appearance than a futuristic robot because of its convenient, multi-function display. Using this model, you can also dehydrate kale, apple slices, and other nutritious fruit and veggie slices for healthy fruit and vegetable chips and other dried snacks.
Best Budget: GoWISE USA 5.8-Quarts 8-in-1 Electric Air Fryer XL
The way the user interacts with the air fryer is a big part of what makes it enjoyable to use. When the GoWISE air fryer is turned on, this digital air fryer display flashes forward in a vivid blue with graphic buttons and easy-to-follow features. In the event that you have a few more dinner guests dropping by, or staying with you for the weekend, the extra-large basket could contain additional fries and fried chicken. Cleanup was a breeze on all the models we tested; in some cases, a simple paper towel wipe was all that was needed.
Best Air Fryer Toaster Oven: Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer
This Breville Smart Oven air fryer is small to a medium-sized appliance with a digital interface. With 11 pre-programmed settings, including air fry, slow cook, roast, broil, and bake, toast, reheat, and warm, it’s an easy-to-use appliance. For convenience, the rack levels are written directly on the door. There is an additional step and time commitment with this model’s preheat cycle for most settings, but the added accuracy in the cooking is not seen in many other models.
This Breville air fryer was extremely efficient and effective at what it was set out to do. It’s a great convenience when you get used to the spring-loaded door. A 13-inch nonstick pizza tray, wire rack, broiling rack, 11 x 13-inch enamel roasting pan, air fry basket, crumb tray are included, and a bamboo cutting board, pizza stone, and pizza crisper pan available for purchase. A quarter sheet pan and a casserole dish may fit in the oven, allowing it to cook various foods. The Breville smart oven digital air fryer is also available in a variety of finishes, so you can match it to your kitchen’s style.
Best Dual Zone Air Fryer: Ninja Foodi 6-in-1, 2-Basket Air Fryer
If you’ve already converted to the air fryer way of life, you’re probably aware of the wide range of possibilities. The Ninja Foodi, with its two 4-quart baskets, has a sleek design. Using Foodi’s Smart Finish function, you can prepare two distinct items at the same time – think chicken thighs and French fries (they did great in our tests). Alternatively, you may use the Match Cook option to prepare bigger quantities of the same food or to prepare a variety of meals at the same time using the same setting parameters. In addition to broiling, baking, and roasting, the Foodi also dehydrates.
Best Compact Air Fryer: Dash Compact Air Fryer
While most air fryers have a capacity of 2 to 3 quarts, this model only has a capacity of half that, making it suitable for cooking for a single person alone. As a result, it takes up less counter space and is ideal for dorm rooms, RVs, and carry-on luggage (you know, if you get that attached to it). In addition, the lower heating capacity produced superior browning results for the fries, chicken, and cake that we tested. Some of the best air fryers on the market cannot brown food as the Dash Compact air fryer can!
Best for Big Batch Cooking: COSORI Air Fryer Max XL
This COSORI air fryer has a capacity of 8.5 quarts, making it one of the larger air fryers on our list, yet it’s small enough to fit on your counter. Bake an 8-inch round cake or fry a large quantity of brilliantly golden French fries to share with your Cosori friends. Forget about unevenly cooked food, with Cosori, you will love cooking food even if you are a beginner!
Best for Meals for 2: Gourmia 6-qt. Digital Air Fryer
This square design, much more popular among air fryers than the round baskets, facilitates air circulation and ensures equal air frying. Extra space, a unique shape, and ridges on the bottom make it simple to separate cooking zones for different food types, allowing you to prepare a whole dinner for two people with plenty of protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates at the same time. Using the square shape’s extra room, you can cram in more frozen fries, chicken wings, or even meatballs to serve as party food when you need to get hot appetizers out fast.
What Can You Make in an Air Fryer?
There are many food options to make in an air fryer. You may also prepare fish with an air fryer, like salmon. Bone-in, skin-on chicken legs can be made in a fryer. Frozen foods, including dumplings and potato skin, Hot pockets, and tots, have easy frying options in air-fryers. Air fryers can even heat up food like pizzas and leftover chicken quickly.
When it comes to cooking food in the air fryer, the sky’s the limit! You can literally make party favorites like onion rings, get out frozen snacks and make them in a hot second, air fry veggies like brussels sprouts, and so much more! Heck, you can make a whole cake in an air fryer! Air frying is not only convenient, but it is also fun, and healthy!
Ever since I started getting into air frying, I have been cooking everything in it. After I air fry, the best thing for me is that I get to clean the basket in the dishwasher and forget about the mess. Let me share some of my favorite recipes!
- Air fryer brownie
Whether you want to use the brownie mix or make it from scratch, it makes little difference. But what you need to do is simply pour the brownie batter onto a pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Top with chocolate chips. Preheat the air fryer to 340 °F (170 °C). Put the brownie batter in and set the timer for 15 minutes but occasionally check. The time it takes to cook depends on the amount you put, so less batter – less cooking time.
The brownies are done baking when they have a thin crust and look to be set in the center.
Bonus advice: You can check the brownies with a simple trick. A toothpick placed into the core of these air fryer brownies should come out moist. There will be some crumbs on a toothpick if it’s poked into the edges of the cake. As they cool, the brownies will harden up because they continue to bake in the pan.
- Air fryer green beans
Green beans have a very bad reputation in the veggie world and I am here to correct it! Make them in an air fryer and enjoy their crispy perfection with some sour cream or Greek yogurt!
Chop off beans’ ends, place them in a large bowl and add a splash of water. Coat the green beans with canola or olive oil cooking spray. Add in salt, pepper, and garlic powder – all you need to season. Toss everything together until it’s well combined.
Place green beans in the air fryer basket. Cook for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, tossing often to ensure uniform browning.
Enjoy this healthy veggie snack!
- Air fryer chicken wings
Air fryers are perfect for cooking wings because they brown and crisp them all the way through without drying them out, making them perfect for entertaining. Here’s all you need:
16 chicken wings
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
¾ cup cornstarch
2 cups water
Olive oil (for frying)
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
¼ teaspoon paprika (optional)
Start by washing and drying your chicken wings. Then mix together the salt, pepper, cornstarch, and water in a large bowl. Add more or less cornstarch depending on how thick you want your sauce to be. The thicker sauce will give you crunchier chicken wings. Coat each wing with the sauce, making sure it gets into every nook and cranny. Place the wings on a wire rack or baking sheet to air dry for about 15 minutes. You can also let them marinate overnight for a more intense taste and tender meat.
Air fry your wings in batches of 5-10 (depending on how many you can fit in your air fryer) at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes until browned on both sides. Keep an eye on them as they cook to make sure they don’t burn on one side or another. Optional: add more spices after 8-10 minutes.
- Air Fryer Meatballs
This recipe is my own, made for my picky eaters. I noticed they weren’t so keen on eating veggies, so I tried masking them. One of my kids won’t eat meat, the other won’t eat veggies. So I made a perfect mix of the two, keeping everybody happy.
You’ll need minced meat (whatever your preference), zucchini, carrots, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, and spices. I grate raw zucchinis and carrots to blend them into the meat better. Usually, it goes 50% meat, and 50% veggies, add in an egg and breadcrumbs to keep it all together and mix. I add in a couple of cloves of garlic (minced) for the taste, and the vitamins.
Next, add in spices, I usually add salt, a little paprika, and some dried herbs, which I have at hand, but this is for kids, so you can make it as spicy as you want.
Next, I mix it all in, and I make meatballs that I slightly push in making more of a meat patty shape. Coat the air fryer basket with some spray oil, place the meatballs in the basket, and put it on 400F for 12-15 minutes.
Some additional info: if you use ground turkey, put in two eggs, as turkey meat is very dry and if you don’t moisten it, the meatballs will be very hard and have a weird texture. The same goes for any lean meat – you need to add some moisture to the mix to keep it nice and soft.
Also, meat is cooked faster than veggies, especially if you cut/grate veggies in bigger chunks. The smaller you grate the veggies, the faster they will cook. I grate them on the smallest setting available I have on my grater, and then it cooks approximately the same as meat. If you overcook the meat, it becomes dry.
This has been my kids’ favorite for quite some time now, and every time I have no idea what to cook for lunch in an air fryer, this is my go-to. It’s a great mix of protein (meat and egg), veggies, and bread.
Air Fryer vs Convection Oven
Air fryers are different than convection ovens because they use a circulating fan to circulate air around the food at high temperatures and they take a lot less time to heat up, unlike conventional ovens. The result is delicious, crispy food that can cook up to 75% faster than an oven. They’re also simpler to use, simpler to clean and take up less space on your countertop.
Even the best air fryers do not replace your convection oven or deep frying, but it does provide an excellent alternative for those who are looking for a more healthy way to cook their meals. Installing an air fryer in your kitchen will allow you to enjoy all of the flavors you love without sacrificing any of the nutrients that usually get lost in traditional cooking methods.
How Much Does an Air Fryer Cost?
Air fryers can cost from $150 to over $700. The more expensive models might seem a little out of reach, but they are worth it. They can be used for many other kitchen tasks besides frying and will save you time.
The cheaper models might not be as well built, but they work just fine if you’re only using them to cook with oil or not frying at all.
Some air fryers have features that make them more expensive than others. For example, features like temperature control and automatic shut off add to the price and parts that can be taken apart for easier cleaning.
Air fryers also come in different sizes based on the number of people they cook for. If you only need to cook for one person, you might not need a large air fryer like those with a capacity of six or more people.
Final Words: Is an Air Fryer Worth it?
If you’re looking for a healthy and quick way to cook, an air fryer might be the appliance for you! An air fryer is a kitchen staple that takes the hassle out of shallow frying, baking, and grilling. If you’re looking for a way to cook healthier foods and save time, then the air fryer is the answer.
But is it worth the purchase? For me, yes! But for you, the answer largely depends on your needs and what you’re cooking. Air fryers work best for cooking frozen french fries, eggs, fish, onion rings, or with low water content. They are not made for deep fried food, but if you want evenly cooked air fried meals, this is the investment you should make!
If you’re one of those people who would love to be able to spend more time enjoying your family instead of in the kitchen cooking, then an air fryer is definitely worth considering.
What are your thoughts on air fryers? Have you ever used one before? If not, are you considering getting one now after reading this article?