Best Air Fryers of 2017
New to air fryers? Use our shopping guide and top product recommendations to help you find the best appliance for all your low-cal frying needs.
The Best Air Fryer for Home-Cooked Comfort Food
We all know that healthy eating is good for us, but that doesn't mean we want to give up all our favorite comfort foods.
Fortunately, an air fryer allows you to enjoy foods like crispy fries and crunchy spring rolls with just a fraction of the calories and fat contained in their deep-fried counterparts.
Since the first air fryer was launched by Philips in 2010, these kitchen appliances have grown in popularity. Today's market offers hundreds of makes and models from which to choose. As such, it can feel a bit overwhelming when you're trying to decide which air fryer is best for you.
That's why we've done the grunt work to help you choose the best air fryer for you and your family. At BestReviews, we take pride in the honest, thorough product reviews we provide our readers. We spend hours in our labs researching products and poring over consumer data. And we never accept free samples from manufacturers, because we want to be the unbiased source you turn to again and again for product recommendations.
Please read on to learn more about air fryers and the delicious possibilities they bring to the table.
How Air Fryers Work
An air fryer uses the magic of flowing hot air to prepare scrumptious foods with little to no oil.
The mechanics vary a bit between models, but air fryers generally consist of a single heating element that radiates heat and a fan that circulates hot air throughout the appliance's cooking chamber.
The air envelopes the cooking basket and moves through the gaps between the food, creating a crispy outer layer on whatever you're cooking—fries, chicken, fish, and so on.
Why Buy an Air Fryer?
We're not going to lie. You cannot completely replicate the taste and texture of deep-fried foods with an air fryer. But given the reduction in calories and fat, many people find the similarities between deep-fried and air-fried foods close enough.
Some of the reasons why you might want to buy an air fryer include the following:
- You can prepare a variety of foods in an air fryer, from veggies to meat to tofu—and you'll enjoy a crispy exterior every time.
- An air fryer won't swelter your kitchen. It's perfect for summer months when you're far too hot to consider turning the oven on.
- Compared to a deep-fat fryer, foods cooked in an air fryer contain less fat and fewer calories.
- Some air fryers include accessories that allow you to grill and bake with it.
- Air fryers create less mess than deep-fat fryers, and you don't have to worry about what to do with the old oil.
- You don't get that deep-fat fryer smell in your house when you use an air fryer.
Air Fryer Features to Consider
Air fryers range in capacity from approximately 2 to 6 quarts. If you routinely cook for one or two, a smaller model would probably suit you. If you cook for a large family or regularly entertain, you'd probably appreciate a larger model.
Many air fryers include a cooking basket covered in a nonstick coating. This coating prevents food from crusting onto the interior of the fryer. But some people dislike nonstick coatings, whether for health reasons or because they fear it makes the unit less durable.
It's difficult, but not impossible, to find an air fryer without a nonstick coating. Our advice: Wash all nonstick appliances by hand, and avoid using nonstick items with chipped or flaked coating.
Most air fryers reach 400°F or close to it. We do not recommend buying an air fryer that doesn't have a 400°F mark. Lots of recipes require this high heat to achieve their mouthwatering, crispy exterior.
Other Air Fryer Features to Consider
Air fryers come with one of two interface types. Basic models have one analog dial for temperature and another for cook time. Pricier models generally have a digital display from which you control everything.
Some air fryers feature preset programs for cooking different foods, much like you'd find on a microwave. Simply place the food in the basket, push the button, and wait until it's done. This is an excellent feature for inexperienced cooks who don't have many recipes under their belt yet.
But some users report that preset air fryer programs don't yield the tastiest results. The complaints vary between makes and models, so if you think you'd like a fryer with this feature, it's worth reading some customer reviews to gauge the quality of a particular model's presets.
Air Fryer Prices
Air fryers sell for as little as $40 and as much as $300. The main factors affecting price are make and capacity, but other factors may also come into play.
$150 to $300
Big brands like Philips and T-fal have the priciest air fryers. Admittedly, you're paying for the name to some extent. But these air fryers have proven themselves to be durable with few, if any, design flaws.
In the big-brand camp, smaller models and those with analog controls cost approximately $150 to $200. Larger models with digital displays hover closer to the $300 mark. While you may spend a little more for the name, these air fryers do offer more durability than some competitors.
$80 to $150
In this middle range, you'll find air fryers with digital displays and lots of extra features — though they may be a bit smaller than their high-end competitors. You'll also find large-capacity air fryers with analog controls and fewer extra features.
$40 to $75
The cheapest air fryers have analog controls and a capacity of 2 to 3 quarts. If you want a small, basic air fryer for occasional use, this could be the right choice for you. However, we rarely recommend air fryers at this ultra-cheap price, as they tend to wear out quickly.
Tips for Using Your New Air Fryer
Follow these tips for air fryer success.
- If you're wavering between two products—one with a smaller capacity and the other with a larger capacity—opt for the larger model. The reason: An overloaded air fryer yields poor results. It's better to have too much cooking space than not enough.
- Although some air fryers allow you to use no oil at all, adding a couple of teaspoons improves taste and creates a crispier finish. You could toss the food in the oil or brush it on. You could also invest in a kitchen spray bottle and spray on the oil; this method is quick and creates less mess.
- Food takes longer to cook in an air fryer than in a deep-fat fryer, so be sure to plan accordingly. For faster, crispier results, allow chilled and frozen foods to come to room temperature before you cook them in an air fryer.
- While you could buy special accessories for your air fryer—such as a grill tray or cake pan—any ovenproof dish is safe to use as long as it doesn't touch the heating element.
- If you're having trouble with lighter foods being blown around by the fan in your air fryer, it's perfectly safe to secure them with toothpicks.
Air Fryer FAQ
Q. Should I preheat my air fryer before use?
A. If you choose, you can cook food in your air fryer without preheating it. However, the food will cook faster if you do preheat it.
Q. Can I cook battered foods in an air fryer?
A. We recommend against battered foods. Cooking battered food is an area in which the air fryer pales in comparison to a deep-fat fryer. The reason: The batter gets blown off the food by the circulating air.
Q. Can I use aluminum foil in my air fryer?
A. It's okay to use aluminum foil or baking parchment in your air fryer as long as you don't cover the holes that allow the air to circulate around the cooking basket. If the air can't circulate, the food won't cook.
Q. Are air fryers dishwasher safe?
A. Many air fryers have dishwasher-safe cooking baskets for easy cleaning. This feature varies between makes and models, however, so you'll need to check the manufacturer's specifications first.