Deep fried chicken and fries are beloved food staples consumed by millions of families every year. The only bad thing is, they require lots of oil and that piles on the calories and the fat.
It’s the old adage of ‘if food tastes good, it’s probably bad for you’.
Nowadays, brands are challenging this statement by offering modern appliances to create healthier but tasty food.
In comes the air fryer. Gone are the days of super oily fried food!
See, air fryers produce deep-fried like results by circulating superheated air to fry, roast, bake and grill your food. They can reduce fat content by more than 75%.
You can essentially replace your deep fryer or oven with an air fryer.
However, not all air fryers are made equal, meaning a great deal of head scratching is needed to determine which one is right for you.
Top 11 Air Fryers You Can Buy in 2021
Let’s be honest, finding the best air fryer for you is pretty confusing these days with all the options we have available. They all offer different features, vary in ease of use, and of course, price.
It can make selecting the right air fryer a tricky prospect. There are a total of 8 factors we’ve considered: cooking ability, functionality, cleaning, capacity, ease of use, safety, durability, and cost.
Apart from our own considerations, we’ve also weighed in user reviews and independent review sites to make a final decision on how good an air fryer is.
Now that you know our ranking process it’s time to get down to it. Below you will find the top eleven best air fryers for 2021 that are available on the market, which will hopefully make your purchasing decision a lot easier! Here is a quick summary of our best picks:
|1. Philips HD9641/96 Avance Digital Turbostar Airfryer (Digital)||1.8 lbs/12.12 lbs||180 °F - 400 °F||60 mins||Recipe book, cooking basket, app||$$$$||Check Price|
|2. Yedi Houseware Air Fryer (Digital)||5.8 qt/17.65 lbs||180 °F - 400 °F||30 mins||50 perforated parchment steaming papers, cake carrel, pizza pan, rack, 3 skewers, tray, rubber mat, recipe book||$$||Check Price|
|3. Philips HD9621/96 Viva Turbostar Airfryer (Analog)||1.8 lbs/11.68 lbs||180 °F - 390 °F||30 mins||Recipe book||$$$||Check Price|
|4. BELLA Air Fryer (Analog)||2.2 lbs/10.47 lbs||175 °F - 400 °F||60 mins||15 Recipes in manual||$||Check Price|
|5. BLACK+DECKER PuriFry (Analog)||2 lbs/12.7 lbs||175 °F - 400 °F||60 mins||Basket divider||$||Check Price|
|6. GoWISE 4th Generation Electric Air Fryer (Digital)||3.7 qt/12.8 lbs||175 °F - 400 °F||30 mins||Recipe book||$||Check Price|
|7. Philips HD9240/94 Avance XL Digital Airfryer (Digital)||2.65 lbs/15.4 lbs||180 °F - 390 °F||60 mins||App and recipe book||$$$$||Check Price|
|8. T-fal ActiFry (Analog)||2.2 lbs/10.58 lbs||338 °F||60 mins||Measuring spoon, recipe book||$$$$||Check Price|
|9. Avalon Bay Air Fryer (Analog)||3.3 qt/11 lbs||180 °F - 400 °F||30 mins||Multi-use rack, baking dish, recipe book||$||Check Price|
|10. Big Boss Air Fryer (Analog)||16 qt/14.7 lbs||200 °F - 450 °F||60 mins||2 trays, recipe book, lifting tongs, ring extender||$||Check Price|
|11. NuWave Brio 3-Quart Air Fryer (Digital)||3 qt/14 lbs||100 °F - 390 °F||99 hours and 59 mins||Recipes in manual||$||Check Price|
1. Philips HD9641/96 Avance Digital Turbostar Airfryer – The Best Air Fryer
Phillips introduced to the world the very first air fryer way back in 2010. Since then they have gone on to dominate the market, having sold millions of units to hungry customers around the globe.
In many cases, the popularity of a product isn’t always correlated with how good it is, but with the Phillips HD9641/96, nothing could be further from the truth.
This model is part of the Avance Collection and represents one of Phillips 3 product line-ups, the other two being the XXL Collection and the Daily Collection.
The HD9641/96 features a 1.8 lbs capacity which is easily large enough to accommodate 2 people without having to cook multiple batches. For smaller snack meals, you’ll be able to satiate up to 4 hungry mouths in one go.
So what makes this model so special and great? Well, it combines the rare combination of an analog-style knob and digital display.
And things get even better…
Whereas previous Phillips models have used a ‘starfish’ design at the bottom of the chamber, this new generation uses what is called a ‘TurboStar’ design. It looks somewhat similar, but it supposed to promote the airflow even further to ensure 50% more even cooking.
Does it make a difference though?
Certainly yes! We can’t be sure if the results are 50% better, but our trial fries and chicken wing batches did come out crunchier and more evenly browned compared to our previous Phillips model. Of course, we also performed regular shaking of the basket to ensure proper air flow. Even with the basket at capacity, there was still consistency with our results which is something we cannot say for most other air fryers.
The HD9641/96 also comes with a keep warm function that comes into effect after the timer expires. Essentially, it will ensure your food is warm for up to 30 minutes. It’s very handy for when no one is around.
The build quality is excellent and this unit simply feels heftier than previous Phillips models and many other air fryers for that matter. The outer plastic shell is thick and feels durable. The inner components are mostly metal and can easily withstand the internal temperatures. We didn’t discover any form of warping and we found many customers agreed with this sentiment even after 6 months of use.
As expected, the removable basket and drawer is dishwasher safe and features a non-stick coating to make cleaning a breeze.
In terms of accessories, you’ll get a recipe book and app, as well as a cooking basket which can be used for baking cakes. You’ll also have the option of purchasing a grill pan and double layer rack with skewers.
This air fryer is fantastic at what it does, but is it worth the price?
Most definitely a yes.
In a market filled with air fryer units that become faulty after just months of use, the HD9641/96 stands proud and reliable. True, there are more affordable models out there, but they don’t carry the quality assurance associated with the Phillips brand.
There’s a reason why this air fryer has been rated number 1 on several review sites including Americas Test Kitchen, Mashable and Forbes, and that’s because, as far as air fryers go, it’s as good as it gets.
2. Yedi Houseware Air Fryer – Best Large Capacity And All-Rounder Air Fryer
Yedi Houseware has been around since 1979 and offers a wide range of contemporary products for the home. They are an established brand and you’ve probably spotted their products in Walmart and other major retailers.
It comes as no surprise to us that their 5.8-quart air fryer makes this list.
It’s suitable for a larger family (up to 5 members) and is backed by a 1-year warranty. This air fryer is part of their ‘total package’ products (others include a grill and pressure cooker) that includes pretty much everything you need to get started.
It truly is a total package deal.
Considering a price tag that sits well below $150, we see great value here that is rare within this price range.
You’ll be happy to know that this air fryer also stacks up in our other factors.
The digital touch display is intuitive to use and offers 7 presets for various food items (fries, meat, fish etc). The temperature can reach 400 °F at 10 °F increments which offer greater accuracy even compared to models that are twice as expensive (we’re looking at you, Phillips!).
In terms of cooking ability, we found it to be more than adequate, with most users agreeing that pretty much any food item comes out with the desired results. For us, that translates to crispy fries and tender chicken wings that maintain their juiciness on the inside.
We found the accessories to be especially helpful. The rack is perfect for cooking chicken wings, with the included steaming papers preventing the drawer base from getting dirty with oil and food residue.
Similar to Phillips, Yedi Houseware is a trusted brand and this has transferred to its air fryer. In our research, we couldn’t find any negative claims that were supported by enough users to convince us of any serious issues. In the rare event of a problem, buyers have been delighted by the customer support who are happy to accept a return and offer a replacement.
The vast majority of customers have agreed with us that this is an excellent all-around product. It is durable, easy to use, affordable and cooks to a high standard.
Considering the price and plethora of accessories, we highly recommend this air fryer if you are looking for a one-stop large capacity solution.
3. Philips HD9621/96 Viva Turbostar Airfryer – The Best Analog Air Fryer
As an update to the popular HD9220/28, this new iteration features a smaller 20% footprint but fits the same 1.8 lb capacity.
It is essentially the analog version of our number 1 ranked Philips HD9641/96 and we can confidently say you won’t find a better analog model on the market.
At first glance, the design appears similar to other air fryers but with one main difference; the temperature dial sits on the top side. This effectively frees up more internal space and is responsible for the smaller footprint.
As an upgrade to the previous generation, the drawer now contains a ‘TurboStar’ design which enhances airflow compared to the older ‘starfish’ print. Phillips claims it ‘cooks fried food 50% more evenly’.
So, does it work? Our testing shows that it does.
It’s a tough ask to get the exact metrics of how more evenly our food was cooked, but compared to the previous model, it was significantly better.
The fries and chicken pieces we used came out evenly browned. We did add a teaspoon of oil in each of our testing scenarios as indicated by the recipes that came with the 150 + recipe book.
Whether we shook or didn’t shake the contents of the basket, we saw no discernable difference in the end product. That’s how good the air flow is.
For the price you pay, the cooking results are what we would expect. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the temperature dial.
Apart from that drawback, everything else falls into place.
You may be wondering if this analog model is better for you, as opposed to the digital version. Well, that’s up to your preference.
Whilst an analog display can be easier to use than a digital one, it doesn’t provide as accurate settings or extra features like presets. The flip side is that it is significantly more affordable.
If you are adhering to a budget, stick with this analog version, otherwise, the digital model is the better pick.
Note that the timer is 30 minutes which is half of the HD9641/96. It’s kind of annoying, but luckily most recipes don’t require any more time. Air fryer manufacturers understand this, which is why you’ll still see many models sticking with a 30-minute limit.
Our own testing confirms the positive reviews we’ve seen. This air fryer is durable, safe, easy to clean and most importantly, cooks well. We just wish the temperature dial was more user-friendly.
Still, we can confidently recommend this offering from Phillips. It even performed well under independent testing conditions from America’s Taste Kitchen and Choice.
Overall, this air fryer is an excellent pick for anyone looking to get a quality analog air fryer that does what you would expect in this price range. If you want something of similar quality but more affordable, you can opt for the older HD9220/28 model.
4. BELLA Air Fryer – Best Budget Analog Air Fryer
There is a decent selection of quality budget air fryers to choose from in the market, but the BELLA air fryer is perhaps the best one of the lot.
It’s durable, cooks well and has a decent 2.2 lbs capacity for up to 3 people. Considering it’s one of the most affordable air fryer models available and comes with an astonishing 2-year warranty, we would be silly not to recommend it.
This really is a no-frills model. You get everything you need but not any superfluous extras. It makes for a perfect entry into the air fryer market.
The design is simple – there are dozens of air fryers that have virtually the same style bottom drawer with the temperature and timer dials above. If you’ve used air fryers before, you’ll quickly be at home with the BELLA air fryer.
And yes, this is a purely analog interface. Temperature goes up by 25 °F increments all the way to a standard 400 °F.
In terms of the timer, it can be set up to 60 minutes. It’s a bonus considering many models in this price range can only be set to half that. Once set, the machine turns on and you’re ready to go.
Still, the cooking results are on par with models that are more than twice as expensive.
Considering the price tag, we didn’t expect any accessories. You will get 15 recipes in the manual though, but we recommend doing some research to grab some additional recipes.
All said, this is the best air fryer we’ve seen in this price range. It’s also featured on Consumer Reports top air fryers round-up which further consolidates its quality. The positive reception and the low number of reported issues make choosing this air fryer a no brainer for customers wanting to make an affordable and low-risk purchase.
5. BLACK+DECKER PuriFry Air Fryer – Best Middle Market Air Fryer
From the American company that brings us gardening and power tools, it’s no surprise the BLACK+DECKER PuriFry is another such appliance that is built to be durable and high performing. In fact, it’s only one of a few air fryers that comes with a 2-year warranty.
Can a pledge to a long-lasting appliance be met with a good cooking experience? In our testing, we all concluded with a definitive yes!
We found it to be an exceptional air fryer with our batch chicken wings and fries being browned and having that sought-after crispy finish. We were especially happy with the fries which were also cloudy soft on the inside.
Worried that your food might get burnt when you’re not around? Just like other air fryers, BLACK+DECKER have solved this thanks to an automatic shut-off feature that kicks in when the timer expires.
This unit also comes with mesh basket divider so you can cook two food portions at once. We often don’t see a divider in most air fryers, so this is a welcome addition, albeit slightly overkill for a model with a small capacity. Nevertheless, it’ll come in handy for fussy eaters.
We also liked that the timer can be set up to 60 minutes which is double that of other models such as the GoWise or Avalon Bay Air Fryer. On the top of the model, you’ll find two indicator lights, one for when the air fryer is turned on and the other for when the preheat temperature is reached, so you know when to start air frying.
All the components you would expect to clean – the basket, divider, and bottom drawer – are all dishwasher safe and non-stick. The cool touch handle also makes for easy use when the machine is in operation.
The biggest issue with the PuriFry is the temperature dial.
The accessories are also fairly limited and you’ll have to look elsewhere if you need a grill rack or skewers. These are not a necessity but are still nice to have.
Considering these minor reservations, we’d be silly not to recommend the PuriFry. It’s a tad more expensive than the most budget models but you definitely get what you pay for. The warranty, air frying results and easy to use interface represents a steal for something that costs under $100.
6. GoWISE 4th Generation Electric Air Fryer – Best Budget Digital Air Fryer
More and more air fryers are turning to digital implementations to offer additional features such as presets and the ability to save settings.
GoWise is another such brand to hop on the digital bandwagon and the result is a user-friendly air fryer that produces astonishing results well above its asking price.
The presets make the job all too easy and the included 50 recipe booklet is great for beginners.
The design is simple and user-friendly. It’s a typical drawer style which we are all familiar with. When cooking is complete, a beep will sound off and the unit will switch to standby mode.
Both the calphalon coated cooking basket and drawer are dishwasher safe and non-stick, making the cleaning process a breeze. Even just a cloth with warm water should do the trick for most cases.
Of course, not all customers will experience these issues (we didn’t), but it’s something to be mindful of.
Considering the price, these durability problems are expected. In the same vein, we didn’t anticipate any accessories, and the truth is, you don’t need them. However; if you do plan on cooking frequently with liquids or semi-liquid ingredients, you may want to take a look at purchasing an accessories pack.
When it comes down to it, the cooking ability of an air fryer is the most important factor and the GoWise performs admirably.
In our testing, this model cooked food to an adequate level. The fries and chicken wings were pretty evenly browned but took longer to cook and were not as crispy as some of the food produced by our other air fryers.
Other users have also experienced this ‘lack of crispiness’ and so we definitely recommend to add a tablespoon of oil to promote that crunch that we all look for in fried foods.
All in all, this air fryer is flashy, sleek, easy to use and will look great in a modern kitchen. If you can look past some of the durability issues, the GoWise is the best budget digital air fryer on the market today.
7. Philips HD9240/94 Avance XL Digital Airfryer – Premium Large Capacity Air Fryer
If you enjoy Phillips air fryers but need one that has a larger capacity, then the HD9240/94 could be right for you.
It can comfortably accommodate 4 hungry mouths with a capacity of 2.65 lb (that’s almost a pound more than the smaller Phillips models).
This version comes with a 60-minute timer with an automatic on/off setting so you don’t have to sit around minding your food when cooking is complete.
There’s a reason why Phillips is the most popular air fryer brand and are featured 3 times on our list – they simply produce the best ‘air-fried’ food.
The HD9240/94 comes with the advertised ‘rapid air technology’ which is basically marketing lingo for hot air that moves around via a fan.
The real charm lies in the ‘Starfish’ design at the bottom of the cooking area which promotes air flow to ensure even distribution of heat.
Being ‘XL’ in size, it’s no surprise this air fryer comes in at a hefty 15.4 lbs. It will leave a large footprint on your kitchen bench, so make sure it’s an appliance your going to use frequently.
Basically, a clean appliance and well-prepared food is the best defense against smoking.
And yes, cleaning is simple. A dishwashing safe and non-stick detachable basket and drawer ensure the components that get most dirty are also the easiest to clean.
Another potential issue is that the temperatures goes up in 30 °F increments all the way up to 390 °F. It’s a feature that seems to plague every Phillips model. We understand the need for easy to use settings, but a little more accuracy wouldn’t hurt.
The digital touch screen is intuitive and adequately responsive to touch. There is also a smart preset button (along with several presets) to save your cooking settings for when you want to cook the same dish again.
With a price exceeding the $200 mark, this model is reasonably priced but is still inflated due to the Phillips branding. Still, it’s an air fryer that does everything you would expect.
The Philips HD9240/94 comes with our recommendation. It’s the leading air fryer brand on the market and the reason is simple – Phillips do make quality air fryers. We also welcome the 1-year warranty for that peace of mind, though chances are, you’ll never have to use it.
8. T-fal ActiFry – Best Automatic Stirrer Air Fryer
As we go down this list, we get into the more niche categories where air fryers fulfill a specific function. The T-fal ActiFry is one such air fryer.
Imagine this. You’re cooking your favorite healthy fries and suddenly must leave your air fryer to tend to a pressing issue. You come back and your food is unevenly cooked because you were not there to do the obligatory ‘shake’ of the basket.
Well, the T-fal ActiFry solves this issue by automating the shaking process!
A paddle that is connected to a center rotor slowly turns over anything in its way. From fries to chicken and vegetable pieces.
The ActiFry has been praised on various review sites such as Forbes, Best Reviews and even Choice. Why? Because you get great cooking results with little intervention from the user.
We tested tried and true fries and chicken wing recipes, and the results are all positive. Chicken wings especially came out evenly cooked and passed the ‘crispy outside, moist inside’ test. The unit also comes with a tablespoon which is the recommended volume of oil to be used with most recipes.
When done correctly, the ActiFry offers some of the best cooking results out of all the air fryers we tested.
We loved the super simplistic design. There is only an on/off button and a timer control that displays a digital countdown which can be set up to 60 minutes.
You’re probably wondering ‘how do I set the temperature then?’ Well, the answer is, you don’t. Once you turn on the unit, it will heat up to and maintain a temperature of 338 °F.
It may be against the design of most other air fryers, but this concept works quite well.
All you have to worry about is setting the timer and off you go. The steam-free viewing window allows you to peek inside and see how your food is coming along without interrupting the process. It’s a bit of a more traditional cooking method but like all things traditional, the results tend to be better.
The intuitive design almost hits a home run but falls short on the timer implementation. Once the timer expires, there is no auto shut-off with only a buzzer sounding. It means the unit will continue cooking your food until you manually turn it off.
Also, with a moving paddle, there’s always a chance of food occasionally being squashed or even crushed, which can result in the paddle jamming up. Although we didn’t experience this issue, it’s something you should be aware of and means that smaller and softer food items like fish or potato croquette should be cooked with extra precaution.
Better still, we would recommend not filling this unit to the full 2.2 lbs capacity to help prevent any mishaps.
In regards to cleaning, it’s a straightforward and accessible process with the pan, lid, and paddle all being detachable and dishwasher friendly.
With air fryers, you can get away with very simplistic controls and, for the most part, the T-fal ActiFry has demonstrated this wonderfully.
While there are some issues with the paddle implementation and non-existent auto shut-off feature, the air fryer gets the job done when it comes to producing excellent air fried food. If the simple issues mentioned were fixed, this model would definitely be in our top 5. But as far as automated stirring air fryers go, this is as good as it gets.
9. Avalon Bay Air Fryer – Another Decent Budget Option
In the Avalon Bay air fryer, we get another budget analog model that is a suitable option for those wanting to cook for 2 – 4 people.
It follows a similar drawer design to several other air fryers on this list, with a temperature and timer dial that can be set up to 400 °F and 30 minutes respectively.
What makes this model special is the several accessories you get. These include a multi-use layer rack and a baking pan to enable you to easily fry, bake, roast or grill your food.
Intelligently, the cooking basket has its center slightly raised. This allows the super hot air to get to that hard to reach middle area, ensuring your food is evenly cooked. It’s a good solution to a common problem that other air fryers (*cough* Big Boss Air Fryer *cough*) suffer from.
Indeed, the food did come out reasonably well with results comparable to that of oven-baked food. Though, we did the test with smaller batches which generally ensures better results. We recommend you do the same as well!
Unfortunately, like so many other analog budget air fryers from less well-known brands, this air fryer suffers when it comes to durability and dial functionality.
Still, none of these issues are bad enough to warrant us not recommending this air fryer. After all, you do get a 1-year warranty.
The generous accessories combined with a solid cooking factor and price make it suitable for those wanting to dip their toes in air frying.
10. Big Boss Air Fryer – Huge Capacity and Ample Accessories
As its name suggests, the Big Boss air fryer, is indeed a large air fryer with a staggering 16 quart (15 L) capacity that enables it to cook two dishes on top of each other.
It comes with an adjustable temperature of up to 450 °F, a timer, and perhaps most interestingly has an advertised ‘triple cooking power’ that uses halogen, convection, and infrared heat to cook your food.
So how does this work? Well, the infrared heats up the food from the inside out whilst retaining internal moisture. The halogen and convection part works similar to a halogen convection oven and uses a halogen lamp to produce heat which is then spread via a fan.
Now, the most important question, does this technology actually results in air fried perfection?
We tested fries – the staple food of the air fryer. The recipe book that comes with the unit recommended a temperature setting of 450 °F and a time of 20 minutes.
At the end of the time (including flipping the food over midway) we found the fries on the edge of the mesh basket to be cooked more than the ones in the center. We had to cook the fries for 5 minutes longer to get all of them to a good level of crispiness.
Obviously the larger size and capacity means that the superheated air simply cannot get to all the pieces as effectively as a smaller air fryer. Luckily there is a 60-minute timer which we feel is needed since food is probably going to take a little longer than expected.
We can also see some trade-offs as a result of keeping the price as low as possible. There is no digital display, making everything a tad bit harder and less accurate to use. Expectantly, this model also comes with the classic issue of accidentally setting the timer too long and not being able to dial it back.
Overall, The Big Boss air fryer still represents the best extra large capacity air fryer on the market today.
However; if you’re cooking for, say, less than 5 people or happy to cook in smaller batches, we recommend the options further up this list.
11. NuWave Brio Air Fryer – A Huge Hit And A Big Miss
The new kid on the block, NuWave Brio air fryers first caught our eye when two of their models ranked 1st and 2nd on the Consumer Reports roundup.
We haven’t really seen them mentioned anywhere else, but the weight of such an endorsement simply begs us to take a closer look.
Today we take a look at their flagship and most recommended model, the NuWave Brio (3 quart) air fryer.
In terms of specifications, you can set this nifty machine up to 390°F using 5°F increments. The timer can be also be set up to almost 100 hours. These are impressive features but are somewhat overkill. Since when does air frying have to be so accurate or so long?
The auto-pause feature is useful though. The timer will stop when the drawer is removed. Perfect for when you need to move the food around. It’s a common feature with digital air fryers but rarer amongst analog.
But what about it’s cooking ability?
Once we tweaked with the temperature and timer settings, our fries came out evenly browned and crispy. Chicken wings were also cooked well but it took a few tries to get it right.
The controls are very straightforward and easy to use. The digital touch screen is responsive enough and we liked the basic time and temperature guidelines above the display.
You also get large, visible buttons for functions like pre-heating and pausing which prevents accidentally pressing the wrong one. Of course, like other digital implementations, you also get to play around with preset options for common food items like fries, nuggets, and fish.
Not all is rainbows and roses though. See, many testers don’t have a chance to test models over a long period of time and that’s where the biggest issue lies.
It seems that NuWave has created a great product, initially. That’s why many reviewers, including Consumer Reports, have given it great reviews. However; a products reliability, and safety for that matter, is just as important as it’s functionality.
NuWave clearly has issues when it comes to quality assurance. Sure, not all their air fryers become faulty, but a significant portion does, making us question how good this model really is.
Even considering the price and features, we can still can’t recommend this model. However; if NuWave fix their quality problems, you’ll see this model in the top 10 in the near future.
So which Air Fryer is right for you?
We can confidently recommend the top 10 out of the 11 air fryers we’ve listed. The ranked 11 NuWave Brio air fryer has great features but suffers significant quality issues so we can’t recommend it.
- If you’re looking for the very best air fried results, go for the Phillips HD9641/96, Phillips HD9621/96 or the Phillips HD9240/94 if you’re looking for something with more capacity. Their cooking ability is a step up from the competition.
- If you want the most well-rounded air fryer that offers the best balance between all the factors we’ve considered, then the Yedi Houseware air fryer is the obvious choice.
- For the best budget air fryers (under $100), the BELLA air fryer , BLACK+DECKER PuriFry air fryer, and Avalon Bay air fryer represent the best analog models. Likewise the GoWise 4th generation electric air fryer is the best digital model.
- If you want something that automates the turn over process and still cooks food to an excellent standard, then the T-fal ActiFry is recommended. You may also consider the De’Longhi Multifry which we’ve referenced in that review.
- Lastly, for something with an extra large capacity that can feed more than 4 people at once, go for the Big Boss air fryer.
All of these air fryers are fairly strong in all the factors we’ve considered. Overall, it’s up to your individual requirements that will determine what appliance will suit your needs. We hope you enjoyed our roundup for 2021!
Air Fryers Buyer’s Guide
There are a lot of air fryers out on there on the market. Amazon alone offers 100’s of models, making the choice of choosing the right one for you that much harder.
We’ve taken out a lot of the guesswork by narrowing down the selection to the best 11, but sometimes that’s not enough – it’s also important for you to determine your own requirements.
Why? Because air fryers don’t always have the same functionality or features. For example; one might have a timer for only 30 minutes whilst another can go up to 60 minutes. In other cases, some will have an automatic rotor function that rotates the food, whilst others will require you to manually shake the basket.
Don’t get us wrong. The air fryers we’ve listed would be perfect for most users, but it never hurts to go the extra mile to find out exactly what you need.
That’s where our buyer’s guide comes in. We want to guide you smoothly to your next air fryer purchase!
Busting the Myth…
Firstly, it’s probably a good idea to understand what an air fryer actually is.
As it turns out, air fryers aren’t really fryers. That term is a result of intelligent marketing.
Instead; air fryers cook food by using a fan to circulate super-hot air that is heated with a heating element. In a traditional deep fryer, you use oil to transfer heat to the food, but in an air fryer, it’s the air that does the job.
Whilst air frying food is a healthier option compared to deep-frying (as it uses 70% or more less oil), the results are not the same.
Air fried food will never have the same level of crispiness or richness (provided by the oil) as traditional frying.
However; you’re in luck if you love oven baked food as both air fryers and ovens use similar methodologies to cook the food and therefore have similar results.
Air fryers do tend to cook food faster as they circulate air rather than just have a concentrated heat source as is common in ovens. The fact that they also don’t need to be preheated as long (if at all) is also a bonus.
Once you find the optimal settings for a particular food item, you can expect your air fryer to produce food that is crispier and more tender than what you can achieve with a traditional or convection oven.
Do you need oil?
This is an important question to answer. Oil is not needed for air frying but it can obviously help in making the food crispier and tastier.
Most manufacturers recommend no more than half to one tablespoon of oil per 2.2 lbs of food.
The oil should be applied with a brush or spray to the food before it is put into the air fryer. Ensure you use no more than the recommended oil amount to prevent it from dripping from the basket and onto the base of the air fryer. This can cause burn stains.
Most types of oil can be used but you should be aware of the smoke point.
Is an Air Fryer Right for You?
Before we get into the factors to consider, we need to first determine if an air fryer is right for you.
An air fryer is ideal for:
- Small families or households (2-4 people) as the capacity is generally limited. In the same vein, it is also good for cooking smaller snack foods like fries.
- If you enjoy fried foods but want to use less oil. Keep in mind that air frying food can produce crispy and tender results, but not on the same level as deep frying.
- If you don’t have an oven. This is especially the case with people who have a mobile lifestyle such is the case with a caravan.
- A relatively simple and mess-free cooking option that can fry, roast, bake, and grill.
Now that you’ve decided if air frying is the way to go, let’s look at the elements you need to think about before deciding which one is right for you.
The Factors to Consider
As pointed out at the beginning of this article, there are 8 factors we’ve considered when determining our rankings – cooking ability, functionality, cleaning, capacity, ease of use, safety, durability, and cost.
Our rankings reflect these factors, so if you don’t want to continue reading on, you can trust that we’ve done the homework for you. It took a lot of sweat and tears though!
Let’s go through each one.
1. Cooking Ability
This is the hardest factor to judge and has a lot of variables. How much and what type of food you use, the time and temperature settings, and the amount of oil all come into play here.
Even with the provided recipe books; you can still expect a bit of tweaking to get fries, vegetables, and any other food just right.
And by that, we mean food that is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.
A critical component of an air fryer’s cooking capability is its ability to cook evenly. For this purpose, there are two main types of models:
Manual Rotation. Many air fryers require you to shake or rotate the food contents to ensure even heat distribution. A different approach is recommended depending on the food item.
For example, with fries, it’ll be easier to simply take out the basket and do a little shake. With something larger like chicken pieces, it’ll be simpler to use tongs.
The majority of air fryers follow this design.
Self-Rotating and Stirrer. To eliminate the need for manual shaking or rotation of the food, you can get an air fryer that automatically does this for you. The model may use a paddle to slowly rotate the contents, or the entire basket will rotate.
Items like fries that require frequent rotation would benefit from this design.
While in theory, this should help distribute the heat evenly, some models work better than others. We’ve included only the best in our list.
Despite these design quirks, we’ve found the user to be the number one factor in an air fryers cooking ability.
Air frying is not an exact science. Simply following the recipe book will not guarantee great results. It is through trial and error that you will get the most out of your air fryer.
All air fryers come with a variety of functionalities that are performed through their controls.
Timers are implemented using a digital interface or analog knob.
Don’t worry if your air fryer can’t reach a certain temperature that is required for a recipe, simply cooking the food longer will do the trick.
Similar to a timer, the temperature settings can be implemented either digitally or via an analog display.
This leads us to the question of which implementation is better? Analog or Digital?
Although analog dials are straightforward to use, they do have some drawbacks:
- Some analog timers will keep on ticking when the drawer housing the food is removed (as is the case when shaking or rotating). It’s a good idea to pre-emptively set the timer a little longer to factor in this issue.
- Accuracy is another problem. Air fryers are pretty forgiving when it comes to time and temperature settings, but dials are prone to be off by a few minutes or degrees. Furthermore; a lot of dials suffer from large increment jumps or are simply hard to read.
- It can be easy to accidentally knock dials when moving an air fryer or when removing and inserting food.
Does this mean you’re better off with a digital display? The answer is “yes and no”.
Whilst digital displays tend to be more accurate and offer additional features like preset and saved cooking programs, they are not as intuitive or as robust. Some models have a digital display with analog controls, combining the best of both worlds.
Preset cooking programs
As mentioned just above, digital air fryers usually come with preset cooking programs that enable you to automatically set the time and temperature with the push of a button for a number of common food items.
Some air fryers also take a more analog approach to this concept by having the settings printed on the lid or body.
Depending on the air fryer, there are other controls for certain features. This involves pausing the cooking process, warm mode (keeping food warm after cooking) and preheating. These are nice t0 have features but not essential to the air frying experience.
Cleaning is a big thing when it comes to air frying. Just like any other appliance, if you use it frequently it’s going to be frustrating if cleaning is a hassle.
Unfortunately, some components like a mesh basket or grated grill are prone to food items becoming stuck in them and so a manual clean sometimes is the best option.
Air fryers exist in a variety of sizes which usually correlates to capacity. However; you’ll find that the capacity doesn’t increase as much as the size does. This makes smaller air fryers a more efficient choice.
There are two main types of build styles which influence size – the pull-out drawer or flip-top.
- The flip-top is usually reserved for larger capacity air fryers. It’s a bit more cumbersome to use as you need to ensure enough space above the unit when opening the lid. The heating element tends to also be exposed which means you need to be extra careful when adding or removing food.
- The pull-out drawer is usually part of a vertical style model and works the way it sounds. You essentially grab a handle and ‘unhook’ the basket from within. By design, it is easier to use and is safer as the heating element is not exposed. The capacity does tend to be less though.
Most air fryers refer to their own capacity in quarts or pounds depending on the manufacturer.
- In general, a capacity of 1.8 lbs (~ 2.2 qt) is suitable for 1 – 2 people.
- Larger sized air fryers typically have a capacity of around 2.65 lbs (around 4 – 6 qt) and are suitable for 4 people.
- After this, we have the extra large sized units that can fit up to 16 quarts (3 lbs +) and are adequate for more than 5 people.
5. Ease of Use
No one likes an appliance that is difficult to use. An easy to use air fryer makes it safer and also helps guarantee excellent cooking results.
There are several things you want to consider:
- Are the markings on the air fryer easy to see? For example, you want temperature and timer markings for an analog dial to be clearly visible and go up in even increments to prevent confusion. Likewise, digital displays should be intuitive and easy to understand.
- Cleaning should be straightforward and simple. The components that need to be cleaned should all be removable and dishwasher safe.
- Adding and removing food needs to be a relatively easy task. Larger air fryers suffer in this department as the lids or baskets are heavier and more cumbersome.
- Operation should also be intuitive. Do the buttons do what you’d expect? Are their useful features like an auto shut-off to help prevent your food from burning?
Air fryers on the market today come with a host of safety features.
These include a cool touch handle, a safety button to prevent the basket from falling when you take your food out, and an automatic shut-off ability when the timer expires.
They are also designed to keep smoke from building up as well as protect the internal components from getting dirty or damaged.
This is a tricky factor to judge. A products durability can only be really ascertained after months of regular usage. Unfortunately; most reviewers, including us, simply don’t have the time to perform such testing. Therefore; we rely on user reviews from across the web.
The most common durability issues we’ve come across are the peeling of paint or the non-stick coating. This is more likely to happen due to regular or heavy cleaning with detergents.
A gentle hand wash with some detergent is the best way of mitigating this issue.
Another problem is the mesh basket or drawer becoming warped or flimsy due to the high temperatures. A warped drawer will make it harder to insert or remove the basket.
More uncommon is when there is unexplained smoking of the model or functions simply cease to work altogether.
These occurrences tend to be more frequent with newer air fryer brands or budget models that lack the quality assurance of more established but pricier brands.
If the worst does happen, most models come with at least a year of warranty, so you’ll be covered.
Whilst an air fryer can check all your boxes, it is its cost that truly determines whether you buy it or not. Most models range from under $100 to about $300.
To get the best bang for your buck you need to consider how often you will use an air fryer.
As a bonus, look for included accessories like grill racks or pans which are suited for certain food items. Otherwise; a quick search on Amazon will show you compatible accessories.
What about User Reviews?
User reviews are really a culmination of the previous factors put into an overall opinion. Apart from making our own determinations, we also take a deep look into what the market says about the product.
Amazon review scores are a great place to start but can be misleading. Many 5 star reviews can be bought by the company and so shouldn’t be trusted.
We’ve found the most trustworthy reviews to be the 3 stars – they a neither too biased in the positive or negative direction. They also tell us valuable pros and cons.
The Truth Is…
Most of the air fryers we’ve looked at (with the exception of the NuWave Brio) address these factors at an adequate to an excellent level. So you shouldn’t have any issues purchasing one of these top models.
The fact is, air fryers are a relatively new product and a bit of a niche interest. They’ll never replace ovens or deep-fryers but still offer people a healthier (and faster) way of frying, baking, grilling, and roasting.
The keyword here is ‘healthier’. After all, if you’re keen on frying nothing but nuggets then you’re still eating healthier food compared to deep frying, but not healthy food per se. Keep that in mind when deciding if air frying is right for you.
Over to you
We hope you enjoyed our list for the best air fryers for 2021! We aim to create content that is as objective as possible, and therefore provide you with the most value.
If you’ve got any objections, thoughts or questions, feel free to leave a comment below.
Happy air frying!