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As people begin to host friends and family again — and we’re researching great coffee makers, grinders, and bread makers — it’s a good time to consider the air fryer. Nearly 26 million air fryers have been sold over the last two years, according to a 2022 report from market research firm The NPD Group. That’s because the air fryer is full of perks, including its ease of use. It doesn’t actually “fry” anything, though — it’s a small, convection-like oven that blows very hot air around its insides to cook your food with almost no oil.
According to the cooking experts we spoke to, you can make nearly anything in an air fryer. Some foods are obvious — French fries and roasted vegetables, for instance — but experts told us they also love using their air fryers to cook everything from egg rolls to onion rings.
To help you find the best air fryer, we spoke to cooking experts about how to shop for these handy appliances and how they work. They also shared their personal recommendations with us.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is an all-purpose cooking appliance that can crisp nearly anything, from sweet potatoes to sizzling bacon. It provides 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,” Bruce Weinstein, author of the “The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook,” explained — so you barely have to use any oil at all. “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,” Urvashi Pitre, author of “Every Day Easy Air Fryer,” said. “It makes such a huge mess.”
Best air fryers of 2022
The experts we spoke to said that an air fryer should provide at least 2 quarts of cooking space for one or two people or at least 6 quarts for larger parties. They also said that the appliance should be easy to clean or have dishwasher-safe parts (if possible) and come with a warranty of at least one year in case something breaks. With this advice in mind, we rounded up some pod-shaped air fryers and convection oven air fryers that experts love, as well as a couple bestsellers that received especially high marks from customers.
Pod-shaped air fryers
The Bella Electric Hot Air Fryer has a 2.6-quart removable basket that’s dishwasher-safe and holds up to 2.2 pounds of food, according to the brand. Because it's smaller, the Bella is better for one or two people instead of a larger family. All you have to do to use the Bella is set the temperature and timer — its indicator light will tell you when your food is ready, the brand says. It has a 4.6-star average rating on Amazon, with more than 3,600 customer reviews. It also comes with a two-year warranty, double the warranty lengths of every other air fryer on this list.
If you want an air fryer that’s cost-effective and holds a little more food, Pitre recommended the Gowise 3.7-Quart Air Fryer which comes with a dishwasher-safe removable pan. It has a screen for viewing the temperature and time, plus eight presets for chips, chicken, cake and more. It has a 4.6-star average rating on Amazon, with more than 13,500 customer reviews. It comes with a one-year warranty, too.
The Cosori Air Fryer is Amazon’s best-selling air fryer. Like the Gowise, it has a 3.7-quart basket that is dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up, according to the brand. It has a screen for viewing the temperature and time, as well as 11 presets for everything from french fries to steak and pre-heat and warming functions to simplify the cooking process. The Cosori has a 4.7-star average rating on Amazon with more than 6,200 customer reviews and comes with a one-year warranty.
Weinstein 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,” he said, “but they’re very wide, which is really nice.” It has a screen for viewing the temperature and time, as well as four different presets for air frying, baking, reheating and roasting. The Instant Vortex 6-Quart Air Fryer has a dishwasher-safe air fryer basket, and it has an impressive 4.6-star average rating at Walmart with more than 1,300 customer reviews. It comes with a one-year warranty.
Weinstein recommended this 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. Like its name implies, the Philips is extra large — it’s rated to hold 7 quarts, more than any other air fryer we recommend here. The Philips has 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. It has a dishwasher-safe drawer and basket for easy clean-ups, too, according to the brand. It has a 4.6-star average rating out of nearly 2,000 customer reviews on Amazon and comes with a one-year warranty.
Convection oven-style air fryers
The Instant Vortex Plus 10-Quart Air Fryer is a convection oven-style air fryer 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 the time. It features seven functions, from air frying to dehydrating. It comes with a drip pan, cooking trays and a rotisserie spit that you can throw in the dishwasher, too. The Instant Vortex Plus has a 4.6-star average rating from 23,000 customer reviews on Amazon and comes with a one-year warranty.
The Cuisinart TOA-60BKS is Amazon’s best-selling convection oven-style air fryer. Though it doesn’t rate itself in quart sizes, Cuisinart says it can hold six slices of bread, a 12-inch pizza or a 4-pound chicken. Though it does not come with a screen — it’s the only air fryer we recommend without one — it has four knobs to set the timer, temperature, function and toaster. The Cuisinart comes with dishwasher-safe baking pans to make clean-up easier, too. It has a 4.6-star average rating with more than 2,300 customer reviews on Amazon. It comes with a one-year warranty.
If you aren’t worried about money or space and you find that you’re regularly preparing meals for a bunch of people, the Breville Smart Oven Air is a great convection oven-style air fryer. “I have a Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer that I absolutely love,” Pitre said. It has 11 cooking functions, like toasting, broiling, baking, and — of course — air frying. Like most of our recommendations, it has a screen for the timer and temperature. The Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer has a 4.7-star average rating from around 160 reviews at Best Buy and comes with a one-year warranty. It’s important to note here that the Breville doesn’t have any dishwasher-safe parts.
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 figure out 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.
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.
“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 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 do I use an air fryer?
Air fryers heat up much more quickly than a standard oven, making them a great option when you’re short on time or just don’t want to wait around. “[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 said 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 time spent in the kitchen, the food you make in it isn’t going to taste the same as something you’ve deep-fried, 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 frozen [pre-made] stuffed chicken breasts. Foods like this, after being put in the air fryer, will 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.