Our favorite air fryers can churn out crispy fries, crunchy chicken wings and quick weeknight dinners without fail.
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Looking for a new air fryer? Sarah Holden, culinary producer for Food Network Kitchen, breaks down three of our top picks, above.
Our Top Air Fryer Picks
- Best Overall: Instant Vortex 6-Quart Air Fryer Combo
- Best Air Fryer Toaster Oven: Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro
- Best Dual Basket Air Fryer: Ninja Foodi DualZone Air Fryer
Tested by Ben Mims, Leah Brickley, Jill Novatt and Amanda Neal for Food Network Kitchen
Air fryers have been on the market for more than a decade, and they’ve become a must-have for many home cooks. They’re beloved for mimicking the results of deep frying without all the oil, and it’s all thanks to their cooking mechanism. Unlike toaster ovens, which cook your food using a single heating element at the top or bottom of the machine, air fryers are essentially countertop convection ovens that cook your food from all angles using a heating element and powerful fan. Some air fryers are bare-bones convection ovens, while others come with extra bells and whistles that allow you to dehydrate food or proof baked goods.
We’ve tested more than two dozen air fryers over the years to determine which models are the best on the market at any given time. If you’re looking for the best air fryer for your kitchen, this guide can help you determine which style air fryer is right for you, so you can get cooking.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers are essentially countertop convection ovens. Convection cooking allows you to cook food quickly and evenly in less time than a traditional oven or toaster oven. A heating element and powerful fan are set within the cooking chamber. Together, they circulate hot air around the food set in a basket. The basket allows air to flow all over the food, making it extra crispy — kind of like how oil surrounds your food during deep frying.
What’s the Difference Between Air Fryer Styles?
Air fryers come in three main styles: basket style, dual-basket style, and air fryer toaster ovens.
- Basket Style: Basket style air fryers have been around the longest and have seen many upgrades in aesthetic and cooking ability. At first, many basket-style air fryers were rounded and looked like an egg or tiny spaceship. However, the round style didn’t allow for a very big basket capacity, so many of these air fryers could only fit, say, one chicken breast at a time. Today, you’ll find most basket-style air fryers are more angular, which allows for more cooking space. A 6-quart model with an angular shape can easily fit a pound of chicken, making it great for families and larger households.
- Dual Basket Style: These models were introduced to the market in 2021 and have quickly gained popularity. Dual basket air fryers give you the option of air frying two different foods at once (at different times and temperatures), which makes them great for making whole meals or cooking in extra-large batches. Keep in mind, these models take up quite a bit of space on a countertop, so you’ll need to have room for it.
- Air Fryer Toaster Ovens: Air fryer toaster ovens have been on the market for years and have come a long way since their humble beginnings. Many of these models act as countertop ovens that can air fry, bake, roast, toast, reheat, dehydrate, broil, make frozen pizza, proof and more. These air fryers tend to have larger capacities that can fit cake pans, quarter sheet trays, brownie pans and even casserole dishes, making them super versatile and useful for holiday cooking, if you need more oven space.
Are Air Fryers Healthy?
While an air fryer can certainly be a healthier alternative to deep-frying foods, simply using an air fryer to make a recipe does not make it healthier. “A major misconception is that pre-fried items (such as bagged frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks) are somehow made healthier when prepared in an air fryer. Air frying is certainly a great way to prepare these frozen foods to crispy perfection, but these types of foods are no healthier than when prepared in a conventional oven,” says Food Network’s health and nutrition consultant Dana White, MS, RD, ATC.
What to Consider Before You Buy an Air Fryer
- Air fryers come in various styles and sizes. In general, basket units are easy to use and great for the basics. If you want a model that can do-it-all and then some, consider an air fryer toaster oven instead.
- Many air fryers are multi-functional. You can find air fryer-toaster oven combo units and even pressure cookers with an air fry function. Depending on your space and how you plan to use your air fryer, a combo unit could be right for you.
- Prices vary. Air fryers can range in price from around $50 to upwards of $300. We’ve found that many of the best air fryers cost around $100 and are often on sale.
- Make the most of your air fryer with accessories. Like the beloved pressure cooker, air fryer accessories can help make air fryers (especially basket-style ones) more versatile.
How We Tested
The best air fryers cook food quickly and evenly and produce a crispy outer crust when using the air fry function. We evaluated the functions of each air fryer by making frozen, store-bought French fries, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast and yellow cake from a mix to determine if the machine browned food well on the outside by the time it cooked inside and produced crispy texture on the outside. The best air fryers cook food quickly and evenly, and have powerful heating elements that mimic a traditional oven.
We tested how easy the controls were to use, too, eschewing clunky manual dials and machines that don’t pause themselves in favor of digital displays/buttons that were simple to set and air fryers that paused cooking when you opened the baskets to check your food. Additional functions, how much noise the air fryers made, and how cumbersome they were to use were also measured as tiebreakers to pick the best machines.
We also checked how easy it was to clean each air fryer by hand and using a dishwasher on dishwasher-safe parts. Starting with a clean air fryer each time you cook is extremely important to avoid smoking during cooking and to ensure the best air flow possible.
We already love the Instant Pot, so it’s no surprise that Instant Brands churned out another winning product with the Instant Vortex. During our tests, we found this air fryer cooked with more power than the others, delivering crispy, evenly cooked food every time. That said, we did notice a whirring sound while it works, although, it’s no louder than a microwave. We also love the size. The 6-quart capacity is large enough to hold a whole pound of chicken. The interface on the Instant Vortex is also very user-friendly with a touchscreen for pre-programmed settings and a dial that can up the temp in 5-degree incriments. It also has a sleek angular look that you won’t mind seeing on your countertop every day.
While the original Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer is a more mid-sized machine at a lower price point, we found in testing the Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro is worth the extra money and space it occupies. The digital interface makes it an intuitive machine with 13 preset functions including air fry, slow cook, roast, broil, bake, cookies, pizza, toast, bagel, reheat, proof, dehydrate and warm. The rack levels are printed right on the door for ease of use. This model does a preheat cycle for most settings which is an additional step and takes a few extra minutes, but it adds a level of precision in the cooking not seen in many of the other machines. This did every task perfectly and in a short amount of time. It has a spring-loaded door, which takes a minute to get used to, but then is a nice feature. Like the original Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer, it comes with a 13-inch nonstick pizza tray, wire rack, broiling rack, 9 x 13 enamel roasting pan, air fry basket and crumb tray and has additional accessories for purchase: bamboo cutting board, pizza stone and pizza crisper pan. The oven will also fit standard 9×13 casserole dishes and a quarter sheet pan which gives it versatility to cook many things. You could also fit a standard 5-quart Dutch oven in this machine, if you wanted to. It also comes in several finishes so can really be purchased to match your kitchen and décor.
If you’re already an air fryer convert then you know how diverse they are — perhaps it’s time to take it to the next level. Enter the slim-profiled Ninja Foodi with its double 4-quart baskets. Take advantage of Foodi’s Smart Finish feature: finish two different foods cooking at different times and temps at the same time — think chicken breasts and French fries (they did great in our tests). Or the Match Cook setting for larger amounts of the same food or cook different foods using the same function, temperature and time. The Foodi also dehydrates in addition to broil, bake and roast.