Move over George Foreman, there’s a new healthy cooking sensation sweeping the kitchens of the UK and it’s called “air frying”. An air fryer works by super-heating the air, usually to around 200°C, 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 in the UK 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)
Tower Airwave (Best Bargain)
Tower may not be a household name in the UK, but it’s a well-respected company that has been going for over a 100 years. Their T14001 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. Having 2 layers is also handy, and you can comfortably prepare a meal for four people. The product is nicely designed (some other models in this price range looked really cheap), and we found it mesmerising to be able to actually watch the food magically changing colour.
However, we did find that it didn’t cook as evenly as other models, despite claiming to use halogen, convection and infrared heating together for this very purpose. We reckon this is down to the fact that this model does not rotate the food. Compared to rivals, it also took a little longer to complete cooking. We have seen some users complaining about the longevity of the product, and we only tested it for a short period, though many others seem totally satisfied months after purchase.
Yes, another Tower has made the cut. Though a little bit more expensive and less nice to look at than its sister product, it does cook food more evenly (be sure to give it a bit of a shake), feels more sturdy and has a great capacity at 3.2 litres – enough to serve up 5 medium servings of food. It’s also dishwasher friendly.
You don’t get the same cook quality as some of the more expensive models on the list, and it is a bit louder. However, 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 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 below), 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 HD9230/20 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 0.8kg 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 chip – in our view better than any other we researched. If you’re partial to a spud, 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 3 litres/1.2kg), but has a very pleasing design and a simple, intuitive display.
There are many advantages of air frying. It’s healthier, easier and it doesn’t leave your kitchen smelling like a chip shop for weeks.
There is one major disadvantage – the taste. Sorry, but there is no way to recreate the sort of chips you nan used to make 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’t recreate what you get in the chippy. Then again, they won’t lead to a heart attack.
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 £50-£60, 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 1KG capacity will cook decent size portions for 4 people.
What else should I look our for?
There’s 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 over? 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 – butIf you’re a pizza lover, or want to bake things without having a full integrated oven then go for a toaster oven.