Air fryers can crisp up food in minutes and provide a healthier alternative to traditional frying. These convection ovens, which started becoming a must-have kitchen gadget in 2017, continue to sell and have even inspired fans including Drew Barrymore to add air fryers to their own home product line. (And we have Drew's beloved air-fried cauliflower recipe right here!)
With so many air fryers to choose from, how do you know which is best for your kitchen and lifestyle? We spent a day PEOPLE Testing 11 air fryers in our kitchen, to see how well these air fryers cooked a batch of frozen fries, frozen chicken tenders, a rotisserie chicken, and roasted carrots (and more importantly, how they all tasted!). We also measured whether the temperature range the manufacturer quoted was accurate with our self-reading, and evaluated how easy they were to clean and how user-friendly they are.
The clear winner coming off those tests is the Philips Premium Air Fryer XXL because it's easy to set up and use (you can skip the manual here), is dishwasher-friendly, and provides an even cook without needing to flip the food over.
The air fryers below were considered the best that PEOPLE Tested.
Pros: The Philips Premium Airfryer XXL is easy to use straight out of the packaging, and cleanup is easy because many parts can go right into the dishwasher.
Cons: At 19 pounds, this may be a bit heavy for a household that can't leave it out on the countertop and needs to move it frequently; additionally, it was significantly louder than the other models we tested.
After a day of testing, this model was the clear winner. This basket-style air fryer can do it all with zero learning curve once it's plugged in. The Philips Premium Airfyer XXL cooked our chicken fingers, fries, and rotisserie chicken to a crispy texture and provided a picture-perfect browned look.
What really stood out to us during our PEOPLE Testing process is that it was easy to set up and get cooking right after you plugged it in. We didn't need to read a complicated manual to get dinner on the table. The countdown timer let us know when the air fryer was preheated as well as when our food was about to be ready, a feature many other models didn't have. Our French fries came out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside (much like regular frying) and we didn't have to flip the fries over in cooking because the air fryer provides an even cook.
Many air fryers can be challenging to clean and stay greasy; the Philips stood out because many of its parts could go in the dishwasher, making it easier to get the pieces truly clean than in a convection-style oven. (Two caveats: Some might find it inconvenient to remove multiple parts from the machine, and the fat removal tray doesn't go in the dishwasher so remained greasy.)
Other air fryers we tested gave off a burning plastic smell, but this one emitted zero offensive odors.
All in all, if you want an easy-to-use, multifunctional, and consistent model, you can't go wrong here.
Pros: Its compact size makes it a great pick for small spaces, and it's also easy to clean thanks to its non-stick coating.
Cons: It can only hold a few food items at a time because of its small size.
For households that are not looking to invest a lot in an air fryer, the Dash Compact Air Fryer gets the job done with a small footprint (great for small kitchens!). At about the same size as a standard coffee maker, it could even work in a dorm. It also comes in a few colors so you can pick something out that suits your decor.
Getting this basket-style air fryer set up was very easy, with only two knobs to navigate, but with simplicity comes a lack of features. This air fryer took a long time to heat up, and there is no way of knowing what the actual temperature is inside, so that took some guesswork.
In terms of performance, the small size could only accommodate two chicken fingers at a time, but it did a decent job cooking them. This also "fried" up carrots and fries, but could not fit the whole chicken. The non-stick coating made it super easy to clean, so the sticky residue just washed off easily with soap and water.
While this was not the top performer, we picked the Dash Compact Air Fryer as our best budget pick because it cleans well, is easy to use from the start, and can cook most commonly air-fried items.
Pros: It doubles as a convection oven that can roast carrots, chicken, and more.
Cons: It's heavy (21 pounds) and difficult to move around, and harder to clean thoroughly with just a sponge and soap.
Oven-style air fryers provide you with a few gadgets in one. You get the convenience of an air fryer but you can also use it as your daily toaster for your avocado toast obsession. The Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven stood out amongst the other convection ovens we tested because it operated very quietly and it gets very hot, which also makes it a good option for cooking pizza (it can cook up to a 12 inch pizza).
For those looking for a multipurpose gadget, this could air fry French fries and chicken tenders but they were not as crisp and fluffy as other models we tested. The appliance's real standout is the convection oven component, which cooked the best rotisserie chicken on our testing day as well as perfectly roasted carrots.
This was one of the most manual of the oven-style air fryers, meaning it is more similar to a traditional toaster oven, but it still had features including a 60-minute timer and a toast shade selector. It also is a heavy unit, coming in at 21 pounds, so this would most likely have to permanently live on your countertop.
Traditionally oven-style air fryers are hard to clean since a lot of the parts are hard to remove (we didn't test any that were easy!) and this one was no exception. This was the dirtiest after the rotisserie chicken; we were able to remove a lot of the greasy feel with soap and sponge, but it never got back to its original appearance.
For households who want one appliance to toast, cook frozen foods, and roast, this option does it all (and quietly!).
Consider your family size and what you will be cooking. A single person would be fine with a 2 quart machine, whereas a family of four might need 5 quart or larger if you get a basket model. If you just plan to cook frozen foods, a smaller machine will work, but if you want to cook a whole chicken you will need a larger air fryer. When in doubt, choose the larger model, especially if this is your first purchase.
Models typically range from $50-$300. A less expensive model generally lacks bells and whistles. We have found the sweet spot around $200 for a quality model that doesn't go overboard with features.
You'll need to clean after each use, but you should always follow the manufacturer's guidelines. For most units, you'll need a wet cloth, soap, and some elbow grease to clean. Some air fryer parts are dishwasher safe which we recommend looking for when making a purchase, or you can also purchase air fryer liners which make cleanup a breeze.
Basket models are generally easier to clean and more compact. These are ideal for frozen foods, crisping up potatoes, and vegetables. Oven models are larger, more versatile, and generally more expensive. These can toast bread, roast chicken, and sometimes pizza. An oven model might mean you can get rid of your toaster oven, so it is a multipurpose appliance.
Air fryers typically go on sale for big holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day. You can also typically find models on sale on Amazon but they may not always be the brand name you are looking for.
We PEOPLE Tested 11 air fryers in our industrial kitchen setting. Here, we fried up French fries, chicken fingers, roasted carrots, and whole chickens if the model could accommodate. From these tests we rated the models on ease of use, cooking performance, versatility, and ease of cleaning, so we could give you the best recommendation for your household.
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don't stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we've awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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