This guide was last updated to include the Ninja Woodfire. It has an air fryer setting which means that you can, at last, air fry your favorite foods in the yard.
Our #1 remains unchanged though. The Instant Vortex Plus is taking some beating to knock off our top spot. We'll continue to review the latest and greatest air fryers to see if it can be rivalled.
Jennifer Oksien, Homes Editor
The best air fryers can change your life. That's because they can save you money, save you tons of time and even help you cut your calories. Not bad for an appliance – and because they take up less space and use less energy than traditional ovens they're brilliant options for small kitchens and budget-conscious buyers too.
The name's a little bit misleading, because an air fryer is actually a convection oven with a really big fan in it. That fan makes the air fryer get hotter faster, and you'll typically find that you can get amazing results in 20% less time and at 20% lower temperatures. And some models can do even more, including baking, dehydrating and even returning takeout to its just-delivered glory. You'll even find air fryers with twin baskets so you can cook two completely different things at two different temperatures.
Air fryers are fantastic things, but if you're looking for an all-round appliance we'd also recommend that you check out our guide to the best Instant Pot cookers: the best multi-cookers from brands like Instant and Ninja can do pretty much everything, including air frying.
Our focus here, though, is on dedicated air fryers: they may do other things too, but air frying is what they were born to do. We've tested all of the best air fryers from all of the best brands, and every air fryer here has been put through our real-world tests to discover which ones deserve a place in your kitchen. We don't just see how tasty the food is: we check how easy they are to set up, whether their presets are actually useful, what they can and can't cook and how easy they are to clean.
The best air fryer 2023: tried and tested
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The brand behind the iconic Instant Pot also makes air fryers, and its top-of-the-range model consistently turned out the crispiest fries and chicken wings of any air fryers we tested. In our testing, the fries had crisp exteriors but soft, fluffy insides, and the chicken was moist, while its skin was crispy and retained loads of flavor.
The Instant Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer with ClearCook & OdourErase builds on the previous iteration, the Instant Vortex Plus, with a plastic window in the basket, and a light, that lets you keep an eye on food while it's cooking, and has a built-in filter to reduce smells too.
However, it doesn't come with any cooking charts, which means you will need to spend time experimenting to achieve the right cooking duration and temperature, particularly when it comes to frozen food. We also found the crisper plate falls out if the basket is tipped up too much when removing food, and the display suffers from fingerprint marks. However, these are minor gripes on what is in our eyes, the best air fryer on the market right now.
If you want a budget-friendly air fryer that's as stylish as it is effective, then the Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501 is worth considering. Unlike any of the air fryers we’ve tested previously, the LED and touch control panel is located on the glossy top of this kitchen gadget creating a streamlined look.
On test, we found the air fryer produced crisp, crunchy fries with soft, fluffy potato inside and succulent juicy chicken wings. However, it struggled to evenly brown foods, so we found ourselves tweaking cooking times, and it wasn't effective when cooking frozen foods either.
It has seven presets for dishes such as bacon, seafood, and cake. It also has a reminder to shake, which can be activated when setting the cooking time that will alert you halfway through cooking so you can turn the food to achieve an even crisp.
Read our full Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501 review
This air fryer has two separate compartments, so you can cook two different dishes so they’re ready to serve at the same time. In our review, we were impressed at just how quickly the air fryer crisped and evenly browned our fries.
The two cooking drawers, which have crisper plates inside, have an overall capacity of 10-quart / 9.5 liter and are deep enough to hold a 3lb / 1.4kg batch of fries or 4.4lb / 2kg chicken each. Ninja also offers a smaller capacity version, which holds up to 8-quart / 7.6 liters and is known as the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300.
This handy kitchen gadget can roast, dehydrate, bake and even reheat, as well as air fry, although, like most air fryers, the reheat function can't replace a microwave. We were impressed that different cooking methods can be employed in each compartment at the same time and the ‘sync’ feature ensures both compartments finish cooking at the same time, so you’ll never be waiting around for one part of your meal to finish cooking.
It is one of the bulkier air fryers we’ve tested and it does take up a significant chunk of space on a worktop. However, it looks pretty stylish combining a glossy black finish with silver accents.
Read our full Ninja Foodi Max Dual Zone Air Fryer AF400 review
While most choices on this list are basket fryers, this offering from Cuisinart raises the bar with its mini oven or oven toaster design. The Cuisinart TOA-60 Air Fryer Mini Oven is a little more expensive than the others, but you're getting a lot of bang for your buck as it offers every cooking function you could need.
It doesn't just air fry, roast, bake, and reheat. It also convection bakes, convection broils, bakes, and toasts. And, we found it to be a powerful air fryer whose seven functions performed well during testing. Just bear in mind that, as in our experience, it takes a bit of tweaking and guesswork to get cooking times and temperatures right.
Finally, while the air frying function doesn’t make full use of its generous capacity, its spacious interior does grant more real estate to spread out your food while cooking. Plus, as it's several cooking appliances in one, you're also saving counter space.
Read our full Cuisinart TOA-60 Air Fryer Mini Oven review
If you're yet to ever own an air fryer, a little nervous to try out a new appliances and / or are conscious about spending money, the Ultenic K10 is a good one to consider.
During our review we couldn’t fault the food we cooked in it. With features such as keep warm, automatic preheat, as well as a reminder to shake foods, there’s certainly nothing lacking from the control panel, even with the wallet-friendly price tag. It isn't able to perform any other feature, other than air fry, but the app and 11 presets will make it a really easy-to-use and nice addition to the kitchen countertop.
A particular feature we loved is that there's a little beep half way through select cooking modes to remind you to shake the foods. You won't be able to cook two food types at the same time, though, and the controls are on the top so placing it on a high counter may not be the best position for it.
Read our full Ultenic K10 review
The Instant Vortex Slim 6-quart Air Fryer, also known as the Instant Vortex Slim 5.7L Air Fryer in the UK, is designed to solve a problem for people with limited kitchen space: how do you fit a full sized air fryer when you don't have room for a full sized air fryer? The answer is to redesign it with 20% less bulk. At just 12.7 x 12.1 x 15.3 inches / 30.1 x 25.9 x 45.2cm (h x w x d), the air fryer is refreshingly petite and weighs just 6.8kg.
It cooks brilliantly and runs very quietly (we recorded 50.4dB on test), with Quiet Mark certification, but inevitably there's a trade-off to get that smaller size. There's only one tray here, it doesn’t have a dehydrate setting, there’s no progress or text bar (instead, a small seven-segment screen displays the time, temperature, and cooking stage), and there’s no window nor a light. However it works well, it's built tough and it's really big inside – and we'll take that over a progress bar any time.
Just be aware that the small size also means losing two headline features of the bigger Vortex models, OdorErase and ClearCook. If you don't need the smaller dimensions, you might want to consider one of its bigger siblings.
Read our full Instant Vortex Slim review
We haven't seen anything quite like the Ninja Foodi Smart XL 6-in-1 Indoor Grill & Air Fryer with Built in Thermometer, 2nd Generation, DG551. The name is a bit of a mouthful so we'll refer to it as the Ninja DG551.
During our review, we found that the Smart Cook System achieves perfect doneness levels for different types of meats. This can be done by selecting one of four different protein settings and using the Foodi Smart Thermometer, which sits on the side of the appliance when not in use. The Smart Cook System will then monitor the internal temperature of the meat via the thermometer, and detect when the meat is finished cooking per your settings.
While you can’t cook different foods at different temperatures at the same time, this grill creates great char and crispier air-fried foods, and can even cook meat and fish from frozen. The other functions that the Ninja DG551 can do is grill, roast, bake, dehydrate, and broil food - all which we found did better than the Ninja Foodie 6-in-1 10-qt. XL 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone Technology, its predecessor.
The Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill is designed for cooking outdoors – but, surprisingly, it’s electric. So in addition to being a grill and smoker, it can also air fry, roast and bake. Its clever self-igniting woodfire smoke box uses convenient wood pellets to create smoky flavors just like cooking over a wood or charcoal fire.
On test our reviewer found that it was really easy to use. It also successfully created tasty, smoky flavors without a flame and with minimal mess. The bake and air fry functions worked as expected, and we (really) enjoyed baking a brownie in the garden.
Could it be your only air fryer? The 2.5-quart basket has room for about 3lbs/1.5kg of fries and we found it produced crisp and fluffy fries, so we can't fault the cooking performance. However, the accessories are hand-wash only so you can't just chuck them in the dishwasher when you're done. Not that you tend to have a dishwasher outdoors, but you know what we mean.
Read our full Ninja Woodfire review
Want to keep an eye on your food while it's cooking, but without opening the basket and letting out all the hot air? This Instant's latest air fryer is worth considering.
Not only can the Instant Vortex Plus Dual Air Fryer, which is known in the UK as the Instant Vortex Plus Dual Drawer Air Fryer, have two baskets so you can cook two foods at the same time, but it also comes with a plastic window on the front of each basket. The windows, along with a light in the cooking chamber, mean you can easily watch your food as it browns.
In our review, we were impressed with the results from the air fryer - it turned out crisp, crunchy, and evenly browned fries and chicken wings every time. However, it is one of the most expensive models on the market right now and with no cooking charts, you will need to experiment to ensure foods are cooked exactly to your liking.
It has a larger overall capacity than other Instant air fryers. However, it's worth remembering this is split across two frying baskets, so each basket holds a slightly smaller amount of food - meaning it won't be suitable for larger homes.
Read our full Instant Vortex Plus Dual air fryer review
With a dedicated frozen food setting called Max Crisp, and plenty of cooking charts offering guidance on duration, this is the best air fryer on the market right now for cooking frozen foods. The Ninja Air Fryer Max, which is known as the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL in the US, also turned our crisp, evenly browned homemade fries and chicken wings, and was quiet during use too.
In our review, we found the compact, circular-shaped air fryer does lack a reminder to shake function - a feature that many other air fryers offer and helps ensure the hot air reaches every inch of the food. It also doesn't have an automatic preheat function and the reheat mode can't replace a microwave.
However, for those that primarily cook frozen foods, this is the ideal air fryer. It's also available in a smaller version, which has a 4-quart / 3.8-liter capacity and is called the Ninja Air Fryer.
Read our full Ninja Air Fryer Max review
If you're looking for an air fryer that can feed several mouths, the Philips Airfryer XXL HD9650/99 is the perfect choice thanks to its large 7.3-quart / 7-liter capacity. During testing, we found the air fryer ensured everything we cooked including fries, frozen steak-cut chips, and chicken wings had a satisfying crunch.
It also has an additional insert, which sits between the frying basket and air fryer drawer, that Philips says separates and traps fat secreted by the food during cooking, so you don’t ingest it. This comes in useful as the air fryer uses more oil than most. The recipe booklet recommended using 1Tbsp oil when for 1.1lb / 500g of potato when making homemade fries and the same quantity for six chicken wings, which does slightly reduce the healthiness of the meal you’re cooking - so any fat trapping features are worth having.
However, this is a bulky appliance. So if you're tight on countertop space, you may find yourself having to store it in a cupboard.
Read our full Philips Airfryer XXL HD9650/99 review
If you're looking for a simple-to-use air fryer, the Instant Vortex turned out the same crisp, evenly browned fries and succulent chicken during testing as its more expensive sibling (above). That's without the myriad of settings to navigate.
The Vortex can air-fry, roast, bake and reheat, but there’s no option to grill or dehydrate here. Although we found some of the extra cooking methods weren’t quite as effective as the air fryer setting. For example, cinnamon rolls cooked on the bake setting were far too crisp after the allotted time.
It has the same capacity that can hold a 4lb / 1.8kg chicken or 2lb / 1kg of fries as the Instant Vortex Plus, so it's got the same bulky footprint. If you don’t have enough room to keep it on a countertop, you’ll need to store it away when it’s not in use.
Read our full Instant Vortex Air Fryer review
How we test air fryers
To compare each air fryer, we've cooked up batches and batches of fries and chicken wings. As well as evaluating how, crisp, evenly browned and in the case of chicken wings, how moist and juicy the meat was, we’ve also compared how easy they are to use.
We rated each design on how many settings it offers, how durable and easy to clean the body and parts are, how loud their fans are and how hot the exterior casing gets. For each model we wanted to know whether it was simple to use design and didn’t require reading a thick instruction manual before use, came with useful accessories such as frying baskets, or a recipe book for inspiration.
What to consider when buying an air fryer
There are a number of considerations that need taking into account when choosing the best air fryer for you.
Start by deciding which type of air fryer you want. Basket air fryers tend to be healthier because they funnel the juices, as well as the fat, away from the food but you can’t check on the food without opening them and letting cold air in, which can stall the cooking process.
Bowl air fryers, however, have glass lids so you can keep an eye on your meal, but the cooking juices remain in the air fryer and in contact with the food, making it tastier but not as healthy.
You’ll also need to check the capacity of the air fryer. If you’re feeding four or more mouths, look for larger air fryers, which can hold around 6.5 quarts / 6 liters, while couples will find designs that have a capacity of around 2.5 quarts / 2.5 liters will be sufficient. Some of the best air fryers also have more than one compartment, which means you can cook multiple foods at the same time.
As we’ve already mentioned, if you’re tight on space look for air fryers that offer a multitude of different cooking methods, to cut down on the number of appliances that clutter up your kitchen countertop. Also, consider whether you want an air fryer with smart features that means you can switch it on or off from your smartphone.
How to choose the best air fryer for you
Preheat times are short when air frying and they also use less electricity than a traditional oven. For more on these benefits, take a look at our dive into the question: 'do air fryers use a lot of electricity?'.
Most modern air fryers consist of a pull-out drawer with a crisper tray inside, similar to the perforated trays found in a fryer or oven. This design allows any excess oil to be removed from the contents, decreasing the eventual fat content on the plate. The handle found on the drawer is also handy for shaking the food part-way through cooking, which encourages an even distribution of crispiness.
Some larger air fryers even have dual-zone modes that allow you to set specific settings for different foods you want to cook at the same time. For more tips and tricks on getting the most out of your appliance, take a look at our guide to how air fryers work.
There are many other benefits to enjoy when switching to one of the best air fryers, including the relative lack of clean-up when cooking traditionally oily foods like sausages. And even if you do end up making a mess, you can take a look at our article on how to clean an air fryer - which may involve just popping the relevant elements into the dishwasher when you're done.
Of course, despite all of these pros to getting an air fryer, sometimes they're not the right fit for every kitchen. If you're short on space, for example, you could consider an Instant Pot or alternative multi-cookers, which includes some models that mimic the effect of a standalone air fryer.
What type of air fryers are there?
There are a few designs of air fryer to consider. The size, functions and over all user experience will play in to the design you end up with.
Basket air fryers. This is the most popular type of air fryer. They have a slide-out basket or tray which slots in to the main unit, and tend to be available as a single or dual-drawer. When cooking food types such as fries, an uneven bake can sometimes be achieved if the food isn't rearranged or tossed around.
Oven-style air fryers. These are much larger than basket air fryers, but are much smaller than convectional ovens owing to their counter-top design; they're about the same size as a microwave. They have a door rather than a drawer, and use shelves rather than baskets. The air frying function is able to circulate air around the food more efficiently to achieve a more even crisp. Some may also include a rotisserie, and other accessories.
Halogen types. This works in a slightly different way than the two air fryer types above. Instead of circulating hot air it uses infrared to constantly heat the food. This means that they can be more versatile than the more traditional air fryer, with a larger capacity and more forgiving shape of cooking area.
Is air-fried food healthier?
There's no denying air fryers use substantially less oil than deep frying, but just how healthy are they? Some foods, most of which are frozen or have naturally occurring fat, like Chicken Wings, are suitable for air frying without any oil at all. Fries, roast potatoes, and other traditional crisp foods will need some oil, but how much varies between air fryers.
In our tests, manufacturers' instructions have recommended anywhere from 1tsp to 1tbsp of oil per 1.1lb / 500g of fries, so if you want to use as little oil as possible - we'd suggest you check how oil is required before you purchase a specific model. It's also crucial to remember the healthiness of what you make in your air fryer, all depends on what you actually put in it, to begin with. To find out more, read how healthy are air fryers?
What can you cook in an air fryer?
Fries, roast potatoes, chicken wings, and other deep-fried favorites are obvious dishes to cook in an air fryer, but that's not all you can whip up in one of these handy kitchen gadgets. You can prepare anything you can cook in a traditional fan oven, space permitting, because they work in the same way.
So whether that's frozen foods, mini pizzas, or even gnocchi and ravioli - it can all be cooked in an air fryer. You can even make fudgy brownies in an air fryer, in less time than it takes in an oven.
In fact, we've spent more than 12 months attempting to cook some of our favorite dishes in this kitchen gadget. We found an air fryer can rival KFC when it comes to fried chicken, and was also the answer when it came to creating crisp, crunchy crackling on pork belly.
As well as being used in place of an oven, air fryers can be an easier way to prepare dishes usually cooked on a stove, without having to watch them like a hawk and turn them before they burn. In particular, we discovered French Toast and grilled cheese work extremely well in the kitchen gadget.
If you're a fan of fries but unsure how to go about making them in an air fryer, then check out our advice, which even details an air fryer trick that's a game-changer when it comes to cooking fries.
If you're still unsure we've got plenty of inspiration when it comes to what you can cook in an air fryer?.
What can't be cooked in an air fryer
While there are plenty of foods that can be cooked in an air fryer, there are some things you should avoid putting in this cooking appliance. For example, we found 5 foods to avoid putting in an air fryer. These include foods dipped in batter, as the liquid will simply slide off the item and leave a mess in the frying basket.
Anything lightweight such as an individual slice of bread, or leafy greens, is likely to get blown around the cooking cavity, and unlikely to brown and crisp evenly. Similarly, large joints of meat, such as a whole chicken, will fill the air frying drawer and mean the hot air can't circulate, so it also won't be evenly crisped and browned.
Finally, anybody seeking to cook red meat so it's rare or medium-rare will struggle to do so in an air fryer. The cooking duration in this appliance is much quicker than when using traditional methods, which means it's likely to be ready before the outside has had time to brown.
How does an air fryer work?
Despite its name, an air fryer doesn't actually fry. Utilizing a very cleverly designed fan oven, it efficiently uses airflow to cook in a way and at a speed that conventional ovens, even fan ones, cannot.
Some of the best air fryers are also multi-cookers, meaning that the air circulated doesn't just air fry. A single countertop device can make tasty fries but also work as a toaster oven, a dehydrator, a slow cooker and a pizza oven, as well as heat up last night's takeout leftovers and bake brilliant bagels too.
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