How to Choose an Air Fryer

Oven air fryer from Ninja foodie.

There’s not much you can’t do with an air fryer, that is, if you buy the right one. There are many different types of air fryers on the market. Some come equipped with a dizzying amount of cooking presets and features. Others can be pretty basic.

When one gets the itch to purchase an air fryer, it’s usually because something planted the seed in their mind. It could be they encountered a particular air fryer recipe that they just had to try. Or it could be that they are making the commitment to try and eat healthier. Whatever the reason, there’s an air fryer out there to scratch any itch.

We put together this quick guide to help you choose the air fryer that best suits your needs.

How Air Fryers Work

Despite all the preset functions in some air fryer models, an air fryer is essentially a compact convection oven. Convection ovens rapidly circulate hot air throughout the cooking chamber to provide even heat to all food surfaces. The convection process also speeds up the cooking time, and even more so in the confined space of an air fryer. Air fryers also utilize grates or elevated, vented surfaces to ensure that even the underside of the food is exposed to the hot air.

So when an air fryer comes equipped with a preset function (and let’s use fish as an example), it’s the particular temperature setting and cooking time determined by the manufacturer. Some air fryer models come with accessories like grill grates and rotisserie spits that can extend their capabilities.

Air Fryer Styles

Air fryers come in two primary styles: basket and oven. Here are some pros and cons of each type. However, the pros and cons here could be subjective. One person’s pro could be another person’s con.

Dash electric Tasti Crisp Air fryer with fries.

Basket-Style Air Fryers

Basket-style air fryers are made to resemble a traditional oil fryer basket. You dump the food into the chamber, slide it back into the air fryer, and let it work its magic.

Pros

Easier to Clean: Since the air fryer basket fully detaches in most models, you can pop the entire basket and parts right into the dishwasher for easy clean-up.

More Compact: Most basket-style air fryers have less capacity than their oven-style counterparts. This means they tend to take up less space.

More Affordable: Since small air fryers tend to cook less and have fewer preset functions as oven-style air fryers do, they tend to be less costly.

Cons

Less Surface Area: Even if the basket of an air fryer has a lot of cooking volume, you shouldn’t pack as much food into it as possible. If you do, the food in the middle isn’t as exposed to hot air. This means you often have to cook in batches with basket-style air fryers if you’re trying to make many portions.

No Window: It might not seem like a big deal, but the glass door on an air fryer oven can be a significant benefit. You can monitor your food and stop it if you think it’s becoming overcooked. Most basket-style air-fryers don’t have a window. This means if you want to watch your food, you have to pause the cooking cycle and pull out the basket to check your food.

Less Capacity: Most basket-style air fryers max out at an 8-quart capacity. At the same time, some oven models can be over thirty quarts.

Oven-Style Air Fryers

Oven-style air fryers are akin to the old fashion toaster oven but with way more features. Here are some pros and cons of an oven-style air fryer.

Pros

More Accessories: There’s no doubt that oven-style air fryers come with more accessories like temp probes, rotisserie spits, rotating baskets, grill plates, and more to elevate your cooking capabilities.

More Volume: Some of the air fryer ovens are large enough to cook an entire turkey or a 13-inch pizza. This kind of space means you can churn out more food in a single cooking session.

Cons

More Costly: Since oven-style air fryers tend to have more accessories and let you cook more food in general, they also tend to come with a heftier price tag.

Very Large: Even the most miniature air fryer oven is comparable in size to some larger basket-style models. Most air fryer ovens demand a lot of counter and storage space.

Hard to Clean: Imagine cleaning your regular oven, just on a smaller scale.

Woman cooking a whole turkey in air fryer oven.

Functionality

As we touched on before, most air fryers come with pre-programmed cooking functions for certain types of foods. You can also set your own cooking styles like broil, bake, or dehydrate and set your own times. Many models also allow you to save custom settings once you perfect the cooking of a specific ingredient.

On the other hand, some air fryers are more primitive. You simply select the cooking time and temperature just as you would a regular oven. If you’re not impressed by fancy functions or accessories, an air fryer like this could be the way to go. You’ll get all the air frying power at a lower price.

What is the Best Type of Air Fryer to Buy?

Ultimately, the air fryer you choose should support your cooking needs and be able to fit in your kitchen while also fitting within your budget. If you’re looking to test the boundaries of what you can cook in an air fryer, an air fryer oven might be the best bet. However, if you’re just looking for a better-tasting frozen French fry (no judgment), a basic basket-style air fryer will work just fine.

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