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11 best air fryers and how to shop for them, according to experts

Cooking experts explain the difference between the two most popular air fryer styles and what benefits the appliance offers.
Air fryers typically come in two styles: Smaller pod-shaped models and larger convection-oven style models.
Air fryers typically come in two styles: Smaller pod-shaped models and larger convection-oven style models.Kara Birnbaum / NBC

Beyond commonly used kitchen appliances like coffee makers, toasters and blenders, many home chefs have added another tool to their arsenal in the past few years: air fryers. These devices are designed to cook different foods, like crispy chicken wings, sweet potato fries, bacon, Brussels sprouts and more. But an air fryer doesn't actually “fry” anything — it’s a small convection-like oven that blows very hot air around its insides to cook your food with almost no oil.

SKIP AHEAD Best pod-shaped air fryers | Best convection oven-style air fryers | How to shop for an air fryer | How to use an air fryer

Air fryers are a Select-reader favorite kitchen gadget that tends to sell out during sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day. If you’re interested in purchasing one — be it an affordable air fryer or a more luxe model — we spoke to experts about how to shop for them and how they work. These experts also shared their personal recommendations with us.

Our top picks

How we picked the best air fryers

When shopping for an air fryer, experts recommend you keep the following in mind:

  • Type: Air fryers typically come in a small pod-shaped style or a large convection oven design. Pod-shaped air fryers often have a basket in which you cook food, while many convection oven air fryers come with multiple racks or pans you slide inside.
  • Size: If you’re typically cooking for one or two people, look for an air fryer that offers a cooking capacity of at least 2 quarts. For larger parties, air fryers that offer a cooking capacity of 6 quarts or more are ideal.
  • Care: Experts recommend looking for an easy-to-clean air fryer model, ideally one that comes with removable, nonstick or dishwasher-safe parts.
  • Warranty length: Like any device, cooking appliances can break. With that being said, be sure your air fryer comes with a warranty of at least one year in case something goes wrong.

Best air fryers to shop in 2023

Below, we rounded up a variety of air fryers experts and Select staffers love, as well as a couple bestsellers that received especially high marks from customers.

Best pod-shaped air fryers

Ninja AF101 Air Fryer

This Ninja air fryer is a Select-reader favorite item. It offers four programmable cooking functions — air fry, roast, reheat and dehydrate — and you can adjust the temperature and timer manually. The air fryer also has a pause button so you can stop cooking momentarily if you want to add food to the basket or check a dish’s progress.

Size: 4 quarts | Warranty: 1 year | Care: Dishwasher-safe basket | Rating: 4.8-star average rating from over 48,500 reviews on Amazon

Bella Electric Hot Air Fryer

Bella’s compact air fryer is suitable for small kitchens. It’s a no-frills model that has two adjustable dials— one to set the timer and one to set the temperature. The appliance’s indicator light tells you when your food is ready.

Size: 2.6 quarts | Warranty: 2 years | Care: Dishwasher-safe basket | Rating: 4.6-star average rating from over 3,900 reviews on Amazon

Cosori 4-Quart Smart Air Fryer

Cosori’s smart air fryer connects to a companion app that allows you to control the appliance from afar. It also sends you cooking progress notifications and reminders to shake or flip food in the frying basket. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa devices, so you can control it via voice commands. The Cosori air fryer offers seven cooking functions for veggies, meat and more, and you can manually adjust its timer and temperature.

Size: 4 quarts | Warranty: 2 years | Care: Nonstick dishwasher-safe basket and crisper plate | Rating: 4.7-star average rating from over 17,300 reviews on Amazon

Ninja Foodi 8-Quart 6-in-1 Dual Zone 2-Basket Air Fryer

Designed with two 4-quart independent cooking baskets, this Ninja Foodi appliance gives you double the cooking space. You can simultaneously cook two different foods two different ways and sync the baskets so food is ready to serve at the same time. The air fryer offers six cooking functions, including air fry, air broil, roast, bake, reheat and dehydrate. And if you’re looking for an even larger appliance, this Ninja air fryer is also available as a 10-quart model.

Size: 8 quarts | Warranty: 1 year | Care: Hand-wash nonstick baskets, dishwasher-safe crisper plates | Rating: 4.8-star average rating from over 5,300 reviews on Amazon

Instant Vortex 6-Quart Air Fryer

Bruce Weinstein, author of “The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook,” said that the Instant Vortex 6-Quart Air Fryer has more surface area than many other air fryers he’s used. “The baskets are not very tall, but they’re very wide, which is really nice,” he said. It has a screen for viewing the temperature and time, as well as four different presets for air frying, baking, reheating and roasting.

Size: 6 quarts | Warranty: 1 year | Care: Dishwasher-safe basket | Rating: 4.5-star average rating from over 1,400 reviews at Best Buy

Philips Premium Digital XXL Air Fryer

Weinstein recommended this basket air fryer from Philips, and while he acknowledged its hefty price tag, he also noted that it’s built to last. “I’ve had [mine] forever and it’s lasted a long time,” Weinstein said. The appliance is built with a screen to display the temperature and time. It also comes with five preset options — from baked goods to beef — and seven functions, ranging from air frying to toasting.

Size: 7 quarts | Warranty: 1 year | Care: Dishwasher-safe drawer and basket | Rating: 4.4-star average rating from over 100 reviews at Crate & Barrel

Gowise 3.7-Quart Programmable Air Fryer

If you want a basket-style air fryer that’s cost-effective yet holds enough food to feed a few people, Pitre recommended the Gowise 3.7-Quart Air Fryer. It has a screen for viewing the temperature and time, plus eight presets for chips, chicken, cake and more.

Size: 3.7 quarts | Warranty: One year | Care: dishwasher-safe removable pan | Rating: 4.6-star average rating from over 15,200 reviews on Amazon

PowerXL 5-Quart Air Fryer Plus

Associate updates editor Zoe Malin bought this air fryer to share with her roommate and has owned it for two years. She said it’s large enough to feed her and her roommate for weeknight dinners with leftovers for the next day, or multiple guests. The air fryer offers 10 pre-programmed settings, including air fry, broil, bake and more, and you can adjust the appliance’s timer and temperature. While this air fryer has the shortest warranty of those we recommend, at only 60 days, Malin says she’s never had an issue with hers.

Size: 5 quarts | Warranty: 60 days | Care: Dishwasher-safe basket | Rating: 4.4-star average rating from 9 reviews at Bed, Bath & Beyond

Best convection oven-style air fryers

Instant Vortex Plus 10-Quart Air Fryer

This large-capacity air fryer is designed with two racks to maximize cooking space. Weinstein said that he loves this model but noted that if you use both trays, you’ll need to swap your food halfway through cooking. The heating element is on the top of the Instant Vortex Plus, so if you don’t swap the trays, half your fries might end up less crispy. The Instant Vortex Plus has a touchscreen to set the temperature and time. It offers seven functions, from air frying to dehydrating.

Size: 10 quarts | Warranty: 1year | Care: Dishwasher-safe drip pan, cooking trays and rotisserie spit | Rating: 4.6-star average rating from over 59,500 reviews on Amazon

Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer

Pitre said she “absolutely loves” this Breville model, which acts as an air fryer toaster oven hybrid since you can choose from 11 cooking functions, like toasting, broiling, baking and — of course — air frying. The air fryer is designed with an LCD screen that displays the adjustable cooking function, timer and temperature, and it counts down cooking time while food is inside.

Size: 0.8 cubic feet (large enough to fit a 13-inch pizza pan or 11- by 13-inch roasting pan, to give you an idea) | Warranty: 1 year | Care: Hand-wash all parts | Rating: 4.7-star average rating from over 350 reviews at Best Buy

Kalorik MAXX 10-in-1 Air Fryer

Select writer Barbara Booth bought this air fryer — which has the largest-quart capacity on our list — during Black Friday. “I bought the Kalorik MAXX 10-in-1 because I have a large household and its 26-quart capacity can cook an entire rotisserie chicken,” she said. “I also love making dried fruit to put in drinks, so the Kalorik is ideal.” The appliance offers 21 preset cooking functions for food like French fries, vegetables, meat, fish and more. It offers multiple rack levels so you can cook a variety of dishes simultaneously, and comes with accessories like different types of trays, a rotisserie spit and more.

Size: 26 quarts | Warranty: One year | Care: Hand-wash all parts | Rating: 4.3-star average rating from over 1,800 reviews at Walmart

What is an air fryer? How do air fryers work?

Air fryers provide a compact environment that’s generally smaller and more lightweight than a microwave, for heated air to be blown around quickly in order to heat up and cook whatever’s inside it. The hot air crisps the food — “actually frying the edges,” Weinstein explained — so you can use less oil than you typically would while cooking in a traditional oven. “But you must use some [oil when you use an air fryer],” he added.

Simply add a spritz of oil atop a slab of steak, for example, and put it in the air fryer. Its outsides will get crispy and the taste of the food will get more flavorful as the moisture evaporates and flavors condense.

What types of air fryers are there?

There are two basic styles of air fryers, which can be distinguished by their capacity, how much physical space they take up and how difficult they are to clean.

First, there is the smaller, pod-shaped air fryer, which is the one most people are familiar with. A pod-shaped air fryer is about the size of a coffee maker and starts at around a 2-quart capacity and typically maxes out at around 7 quarts. It takes up less space on your countertop and is easier to clean than its convection oven counterpart. This is a good choice if you’re making food for a smaller group.

Then there’s the larger convection oven air fryer, which looks like a toaster oven — with a door that usually opens down — but has air-frying capabilities. A convection oven air fryer usually holds more than its pod-shaped counterpart, with many models boasting room for 10 quarts of food or more. However, they typically take up more space on your countertop and they’re more difficult to clean.

“I use my [convection toaster oven] every single day, but I rarely use it to air fry since it makes a mess,” said Urvashi Pitre, author of “Every Day Easy Air Fryer.”

What to look for when shopping for an air fryer

Experts said that the best way to figure out which air fryer is right for you is to consider how much food you will be cooking, if you have the room for a free-standing appliance and how willing you are to clean your appliance. Below are some questions to ask yourself while shopping.

How big is the air fryer inside?

Every expert we spoke to agreed that the most important thing to consider when buying an air fryer is its size. “It’s like looking for a new mattress,” Weinstein said. “You know what kind of bed you have, so you’re only going to look at models that will fit it.”

Try spotting marketing jargon at the outset of your search. “[Air fryer] capacity from a marketing perspective and a real perspective is different,” Pitre said. “When they say, ‘This is a 4-quart air fryer,’ they’re talking about capacity if you fill it to the brim.”

What really matters about an air fryer is not how much you can fill it, but the internal surface area. When you cook in an air fryer, you’re going to be spreading your food out in a thin layer across the inside of the pan — you won’t want to pile your food on top of itself, so you may have to cook ingredients in batches.

“The square and rectangular air fryers are a better use of inside space,” Pitre said. “Look [at] the flat area in the basket and think, ‘Could I put two or four burgers in there?’” Buy whatever size air fryer better suits your needs: 2 quarts should be good for a couple of people, while 6 quarts or more should suit larger parties.

Do you have enough counter space?

Conversely, it’s important to think about the outside space that the air fryer might take up. If you’re especially worried about saving counter space, look at a pod-shaped air fryer. If you have a ton of extra counter space, you may prefer a larger convection oven air fryer.

How easy is the air fryer to clean?

Pitre said it’s important to consider how much of the air fryer you can put into the dishwasher, though most models should be easy to clean.

How much money do you want to spend?

Many of our experts mentioned you should expect to spend around $80 on a good air fryer, though top-tier models can cost as much as $300. Some smaller models under $80 can work for smaller quantities of food.

“Are they worth it? That’s up to you,” Weinstein said. His $300 air fryer has lasted him a long time, but he owns air fryers half that price that have worked their way through testing the thousands of recipes in his books, too. For the uninitiated, it’s probably worth spending less at first to allow room for experimentation and growth.

Don’t worry about buttons or functions

Similar to capacity, our experts agreed that the buttons on an air fryer’s control panel are just marketing jargon. “Those buttons do the same thing,” Weinstein said, which is “turn the heating element on and turn the fan on.” Don’t be fooled by an air fryer with a thousand different functions — if you’re using an air fryer to air fry, then all you need is the air fry button.

How to use an air fryer

Air fryers heat up much more quickly than a standard oven, making them a great option if you’re looking to cut back on the amount of time it takes to get food on the table. “[You have to ask] most of us who have air fryers, ‘When’s the last time you turned on your oven?’” Pitre joked. “Your oven takes about 30 minutes to preheat, and your air fryer takes two or three.” Because air fryers heat up so quickly, you won’t heat up your kitchen like you might when using an oven, either.

And though you should use some oil when you cook with an air fryer, experts say you don’t have to use tons of it. This might be good news for your health: Deep fried foods from restaurants and fast food joints can negatively impact one’s heart health, whereas vegetable cooking oils you might use with your air fryer, like olive oil and sunflower oil, have been shown to have little impact on our cholesterol levels. When you reduce the amount of oil you’re using, your entire cooking process should become simpler and cleaner, too.

What shouldn’t I use an air fryer to do?

Although the air fryer is a great tool to speed up cooking time, the food you make in it isn’t going to taste the same as something you’re deep frying, experts told us. Free yourself of those confines and you won’t be disappointed.

Linda Larsen, author of “The Complete Air Fryer Cookbook,” also noted that not every food can be cooked in the air fryer, pointing specifically to some frozen foods. After being put in the air fryer, frozen foods like chicken breasts or chicken nuggets, for example, look fully cooked and golden brown on the outside — even if they’re still raw and potentially dangerous to eat. Both Larsen and Weinstein explicitly warned against cooking anything with a runny batter in the air fryer, too, since it can make a mess and require more painstaking clean-up.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Why trust Select?

Zoe Malin has been covering kitchen appliances for over a year at Select and has published guides about single-serve coffee makers, Instant Pots, immersion blenders and more. For this piece, Zoe and a former Select staffer interviewed three experts and researched dozens of air fryers on the market. We included air fryers recommended by experts and Select staff, along with those that are highly rated and meet expert shopping guidance.

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