Move over George Foreman, there’s a new healthy cooking sensation sweeping the kitchens of the US and it’s called “air frying”.
An air fryer works by super-heating the air, usually to around 400°F, and circulating it rapidly using a fan to “fry” (by which people just mean brown and crisp up rather than dump in batter) the food you put into it.
Is this all just hot air or can you really have delicious fried food without the grease? Well, you’ll often hear the claim that air fryers don’t need any oil at all, and while this is true for chicken and some other foods, for chips you’re going to have to add a little bit to help things along. The good news is that this is usually about 80% less than what you would need with a standard fryer.
With so many popping up on the market it can be hard to know which ones you should invest in. So we’ve pulled together the best air fryers available right now, starting with the cheap and working down to the more expensive models (if you want to go off-piste and pick another model, then make sure to read out “Buyers Guide” below the recommendations)
COSORI Air Fryer (Best Bargain)
Cosori may not be a household name, but if this air fryer is anything to go by it will be soon. Their air fryer is simply the best deal on the list, and a great pick if you just want to test out the world of air frying.
It performed competently in our review and we were impressed that you can bake, grill, roast or fry on such an inexpensive product, especially one that is nicely designed too (some other models in this price range looked really cheap).
The lack of something to rotate the food as it cooks means it may not provide as even a cook as some of the more expensive rivals. It also took a little longer to complete cooking.
PINSOON 10qt air fryer
If you’d rather get a front row view of your food as it cooks this large 10qt model includes a window so you can watch your food change color as it cooks.
You don’t get the same cook quality or speed as some of the more expensive models on the list but it’s still a good pick for a large family that wants a cheaper option to test out air frying without breaking the bank.
Duronic AF1 /B
This is another good budget option. Again the brand is fairly obscure, but the company has been producing good quality products for 12 years now.
The design is pretty compact and has an almost 1950s retro refrigerator look. It’s a bit more powerful than the offerings from Tower, which can save you time when cooking certain meals. It’s super easy to wash up too. Capacity is limited, with it being suitable for about 3 people maximum. If you don’t have a family to feed and are after a bargain, this is a good choice.
Tefal has been working on its ActiFry technology for quite a few years now, and the results shine through. Overall it made the tastiest food of all the cookers we reviewed. This was helped by the use of the stirring paddle that ships with this unit and helps to create an even cook.
It’s listed as having a 1kg (2.2 lb) capacity, which is fine for a modest meal for 4 people.
There are a couple of niggles. We’d like to see the timer switch off the device rather than just beep and it is a bit noisy (even by air fryer standards). However, the quality of the food produced was top notch.
Breville VDF105 Halo+ Health Fryer
With the Halo+, Breville has really improved on cooking speed (tests report it cooks chicken in about three-quarters of the time of the previous generation) and the results are still impressive.
This used to be priced in the same range as the Tefal ActiFry (see above), but has recently come down to about half the price of that model. Despite this, it has a 20% larger capacity, is a bit quicker to cook food and a bit less noisy while doing it. We also prefer its control and operation. Despite all that, in our tests the Tefal just edged in front in terms of taste and we felt the build quality of the lid of the Breville could be higher. It’s also fairly big and has a downright weird look so it seems like there’s a motorcycle helmet sitting on your work surface.
However, it’s still an excellent piece of kitchen kit that gets the job done, and if you’re counting the pennies this should be your pick.
Philips HD9621/96 Viva Airfryer
We’re not blown away by the looks, and it doesn’t allow you to look in on your food as it’s cooking. We’re also a little disappointed that it only has a 1.8 lb capacity (which is surprising given it is much bigger in real life than it seems in pictures), which probably makes it only suitable for small families. The taste results are average on the whole were about the same as the Actifry and Halo.
So why is this on the list? The answer is that it really does cook a mean frie – in our view better than any other we researched. If you’re partial to a fries, it’s definitely worth the extra cash.
Note: Build quality was spot on during testing, but we were using a slightly older model and there have been reports that newer models do no live up to this standard.
Philips HD9240/90 Avance
Air fryers on the whole are pretty cheap, but Philips has clearly bucked this trend with Avance. To be fair, they have surpassed the competition and put their money where their mouth is. It cooks food better than anything else on this list and Philips have clearly spent a lot of time perfecting their cooking method (the Avance heats the food from above as well as by circulating heated air).
It’s more bulky than you would imagine from the photos (and despite this only has a capacity of 2.6 lbs), but has a very pleasing design and a simple, intuitive display.
There are many advantages to air frying. It’s healthier, easier and it doesn’t leave your kitchen smelling like a commercial kitchen for weeks.
There is one major disadvantage – the taste. Sorry, but there is no way to recreate the sort of fries your favorite burger joint makes without sloshing a load of oil into a chip pan or fryer. Some of the worst air fryers on the market turn out downright awful food, while others (including the ones we’ve included on our list) can produce above average fries.
They can also be loud – just like a microwave.
These caveats aside, if you’re after some tasty food that won’t hurt your arteries (as much), then an air fryer is the way to go.
How much should I spend?
You can now get a decent air fryer for $60-$70, but at this price, there are more duds on the market than there are decent machines. They also tend to cook a little slower than more expensive models. You can go up to $200+ with the Philips Avance, and you will get a premium product. If you’re new to air frying though we’d suggest staying in the $80-100 range as a trade-off between your wallet and quality.
What’s the difference between deep fat fryers and air fryers?
Deep fat fryers essentially dunk food in hot oil to cook it. This gives food a really crispy texture and, of course, a huge fat content. Air Fryers work more like a fan oven, passing hot air (and in many cases a little bit of oil) around the food.
What capacity do I need?
As a rule of thumb, a 2.5 lb capacity will cook decent size portions for 4 people.
What else should I look out for?
There are some useful extras that some models come with. Digital timers tend to be easier to use. The Philips models on our list also allow variable temperature settings for those wanting more control over their cooking.
What about a toaster oven? Should I go for one of these instead?
Well, you’re really comparing apples and oranges. An air fryer is a totally different machine. It’s more versatile and can cook things like lasagna as well as fried food – but if you’re a pizza lover, or want to bake things without having a full integrated oven then go for a toaster oven.