Air fryers are definitely a trending Christmas gift this year for cooking fanatics and everyone alike. They’re very handy to have in your lineup of small kitchen appliances. Air fryer ovens are getting more advanced by the day, so choosing the best one can be tricky. It seems as though every kitchen gadget has an “air fry” feature these days. So, this best-of roundup is referring to products that claim to fry first and have secondary features, instead of kitchen gadgets that have an air fry or crisp feature. The easiest way to tell if an air fryer is designed to perform as an air fryer first is to check if it has a basket (or two). We’ll also spotlight a couple of categories with devices (pressure cookers, convection ovens) that have the air fry features for those that are looking not to take up too much space in their kitchen. So without further ado, here’s a list of the best air fryers on the market, plus additional info on how an air fryer works and how to pick the best one to meet your needs.
Best Overall Air Fryer: Ninja Max XL Air Fryer
The Ninja Max XL Air Fryer is an air fryer first and everything else second. Ninja is a name you’ll see on a lot of thoughtfully designed and high-value kitchen appliances, and its air fryer is no exception. This 5.5-quart capacity fry is its answer to the consumer demand for a bigger version of their 4-quart fryer. Yet, it’s not so big it hoards all your counter space.
The digital control panel has multiple settings like roast, broil, and dehydrate. You can set the cooking temperature anywhere between 105 and 400 degrees, and it has a convenient built-in timer. Besides producing great food, it provides an incredible value at just $100.
Best Overall, Runner Up: Philips Digital Twin TurboStar Airfryer XXL
The Ninja Max XL just edged out this Philips Digital Twin TurboStar XXL for a few reasons. First, we just couldn’t get behind the $200 upcharge, which from what we could tell, was added simply because of the name brand. The two fryers pretty much match up toe-to-toe on features, capacity, and cooking performance. There are three features that Philips has that are nice but not that much of a game-changer.
First is the dial temperature control. It does make setting the temperature slightly easier and makes for less wear and tear on the control panel caused by greasy fingers. The second is the “fat reduction technology.” This is essentially a nonstick, fan-shaped mold at the bottom of the basket. It’s a slightly more attractive version of the Ninja’s perforated drain but performs the same function. Lastly, its “TurboStar technology” is supposed to provide better air circulation resulting in a more evenly browned product. However, we didn’t see any noticeable difference with the Ninja.
In the end, this is a great air fryer. If you want a product that’s a little easier on the eyes and trust the name Philips more than the name Ninja, then this fryer’s for you. Just keep in mind you’ll be paying more for it.
Best Budget Air Fryer: Dash 6-Quart Deluxe Electric Air Fryer
This Dash air fryer is no-frills and to the point, with one job in mind, to air fry. It has a large, six-quart basket, so you can still feed a crowd. The temperature dial makes it easy to set the heat level. It’s surprisingly easy to clean by hand while also dishwasher safe. This fryer will do its job and provide a delicious and consistent product every time. The best part is you can get it for under $100.
Best Compact Air Fryer: Dash Compact Air Fryer
Perhaps you’re in a dorm with minimal space or need something more transportable for camping, then the Dash compact air fryer is perfect. This is another Dash product that delivers a lot of bang for the buck at around $35 to $55 (depending on color choice). It’s a no-frills, countertop-friendly device, featuring a straightforward and retro-styled design that consists of temperature and time dials with a slide-out 1.6-quart cooking basket.
Although it’s small, the Dash air fryer does exactly what you need an air fryer to do. Just bear in mind that, for the best results, you’ll generally be limited to frying about half a pound of food at one time, and some items might need to be turned during cooking.
Best Convection Oven w/ Air Fry Feature: Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven Air Fryer
Given that air fryers cook food using a process similar to that of a convection oven, it’s easy to see why some innovative makers like Cuisinart have decided to combine the two. The Cuisinart TOA-60 looks pretty much like a toaster oven at first glance, and that’s because it is. But along with baking, broiling, and toasting, this handy unit can also air fry your favorite foods (the thing can even fit a whole chicken inside).
It is a bit chunky compared to standalone air fryers. However, it’s still a good option where counter space is limited since it’s combining a lot of cooking functionality in a single appliance. If you love those brushed stainless looks (we sure do) and just want a simple air fryer, there’s also the more compact Cuisinart AFR-25, which’s about the same price as our top pick.
Best Pressure Cooker with Air Fry Feature: Instant Pot Duo Crisp 6-Quart 11-in-1 Air Fryer
If an air fryer isn’t on the Christmas list of you or someone you know, then it’s likely an Instant Pot is. Since their conception, Instant Pots have been all the rave. They can literally do the job of practically every appliance in your kitchen, air frying being one of them. This is a great machine, and for everything it can do, it’s also affordable. Like we mentioned in the intro, this pressure doesn’t get top billing in the air fryer category. Still, we’ll give it a nod for having that ability. Keep an eye out for our best of pressure cookers article, where you’ll more than likely see it again.
Best Dual Basket Air Fryer: Ninja Foodi 6-in-1, 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone Technology
Like the Ninja Max XL, this Ninja Foodi two-basket fryer is an excellent product. It missed out on the top spot for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not quite as affordable as the Ninja Max. The second reason is that we felt that most people won’t really need two fry baskets. Although the overall capacity is eight quarts, if you’re only frying one thing that’s over a four-quart span, then you have to split it up between the two baskets. This results in more parts having to be cleaned needlessly.
Yet, the dual-zone cooking function is great if you’re a frying fanatic. It eliminates the need for back-to-back frying in most instances. It also provides a lot of versatility, as you’re able to cook different items simultaneously at different temps. If your game plan is to do a ton a frying in the new year, this Ninja air fryer is for you.
How to Choose the Best Air Fryer
How much do you plan to use your air fryer: Many kitchen appliances we buy seem like a crucial purchase at the time, wind up in the basement only to be seen again a few times a year. If this may seem like more of a novelty purchase for you, it may be best to get a more basic/affordable model. However, if air-frying is now your way of life, it may benefit you to get a more top-of-the-line model with more cooking features. This will make it less likely that your air fryer will lose its luster over time.
What do you plan on cooking: It goes without saying that an air fryer with more features gives you more cooking options. However, if you aren’t that much of a wiz in the kitchen, a more no-frills air fryer may be best. Suppose your plan is to enjoy a more authentic frozen mozzarella stick than your oven can provide. In that case, there’s no need to go in on an air fryer with tons of cooking options.
The clean-up factor: If you’ve tried to fry anything from a pot of oil at home, you know clean-up is a nightmare. The cleanliness factor is where air fryers really shine. Plus, it’s way safer than frying with oil, especially if you have a gas range. However, some air fryers can be more difficult to clean than others—specifically, the convection oven and pressure cooker air fryers. With the convection oven air fryers, people complain about the bottom of the oven being hard to clean and it becoming caked in old grease. With pressure cookers, there are simply more moving parts, thus more to clean. If you hate clean-up, a simple basket fryer that is dishwasher safe may be the way to go.
More Things to Know About Air Fryers
Now that we’ve got over some of the best air fryers you can buy, we’d like to debunk a few air fryer myths to give you a better understanding of air frying in general.
How it works: The first myth to bunk is that “air frying” is not really frying at all. Air fryers use high-powered convection ovens that rapidly circulate the hot air so that the food you put in the basket becomes evenly browned. So, a better term for the device could be a “browning oven.” But, we all know that marketing teams have a much easier time promoting air fryers than browning ovens.
Health factor: Another myth about air fryers is that they give you a healthier alternative to fried foods since you’re not oil. Although some air fryer recipes don’t call for oil, most do. Granted, it’s significantly less than dunking your food in a vat of scalding grease. Still, you’ll want a touch of oil to enhance flavor and crispiness. How healthy or not healthy an air-fried dish comes down to the food’s nutritional value. An air-fried basket of cauliflower is naturally going to be healthier than a basket of air fryer chicken wings.
Since you’re using less oil, there’ll be less absorption by the food; thus, less fat and calories are consumed. But, oil is oil, and if you’re using any at all, you’ll eat the good with the bad. Another thing to keep in mind is using your air fryer to reheat previously fried then frozen foods. Your air fryer won’t magically turn your frozen mozzarella stick into a carrot stick.
Cook time: Finally, a common misconception that people have is that air-fryers are as fast as a conventional fryer. Although the condensed, high-heat cooking area speeds up the process faster than a regular oven, you’re not flash-frying a basket of fries in three to four minutes. It depends on what your frying, but some air-fryer recipes call for up to 40 minutes of cook time.
Why Are Air Fryers Popular?
Another trend that is taking the food world by storm and is contributing to the rise in sales of air fryers is the Keto Diet. This carb weary diet, which promotes a diet of maximum meat and fat consumption, has people lining up for a device that can bring more cooking variety to the kitchen.
- The Best Cheap Air Fryer Deals for January 2021
- The Best Cheap Ninja Deals for January 2021
- Last Chance to Order a Ninja Air Fryer for Delivery in Time for Christmas
- The 9 Best Dutch Ovens for Your Kitchen in 2021
- The 9 Best Rice Cookers in 2021