Air fryers have opened up a new (healthier) world for those of us that love fried foods. There was always something comforting and addictively satisfying about fried foods. Potatoes: good. Fried potatoes: delicious. And because it’s human nature, if there’s food that can be eaten, people will find a way to fry it. Case in point: County Fairs, where deep fried butter, beer, coke, and Oreos are more common than carnival rides.
But unfortunately though not unsurprisingly, deep-fried goodness is not great for health. Studies have shown that frequent consumption of fried food, which tend to be high in fat and calories, is associated with a higher risk of mortality.
Enter: Air Fryers. The appliance started trending during the Shelter-in-Place orders in 2020. It’s the best way to fry up your groceries without drowning them in vats of oil. It sounds like magic, and at this point, every cook and non-cook should have one in their kitchen. It’s that easy to use!
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryers work like convection ovens, where a fan circulates hot air around to cook your food more quickly and evenly. They also have a perforated fryer basket to allow the circulating heat to reach the food more easily. Technically it’s not “frying” in the classic sense, but the heat browns and crisps whatever you’re cooking, giving it a fried texture. And best of all, it works with much less oil (sometimes up to 70-80 percent less) than a traditional fryer, so say goodbye to oil burns and greasy fingerprints all over your table.
What Foods Can You Make With An Air Fryer?
Dream big, because you can do more than just make a batch of french fries. What makes air fryers great is that you can whip up anything from veggies and chicken to sandwiches and dessert. We’re talking the best air fryer donuts, crispy chicken, pizza, and heck, you can even make hard-boiled eggs or air fry a salad if you really, really want.
Best Air Fryers Overall
There are lots of good air fryers on the market, but not all are equal. The best ones will, of course, fry your food evenly, but are also easy to use, easy to clean, run quietly, and are the right size for your needs. Ahead are some of the best air fryers for snack and meal times. Trust us Mama, the whole family will love it!
The futuristic Elite Platinum Air Fryer (it almost looks like the Death Star from Star Wars) has an easy-to-lift lid and removable pot and basket (holds 3.5 quarts, enough for family-sized portions). You can control the temperature from 149 to 400 degrees, and there are six presets built in as well as a 60-minute timer with auto-shut off. It was also one of the best air fryers of 2020 according to Consumer Reports’ ratings.
Says one reviewer, “So far, we like the Elite much better than the other brand. This one is far easier to pick up the basket as it just lifts out! That’s it. No locks, no little plastic slide thingys to break, you just literally open the top and lift the basket up. It’s also larger and the pan that sits underneath the basket is easier to lift out and clean. I was afraid that, since the lid lifts up to look at your food or lift the basket out, it would be “tippy” but it isn’t at all! There are little suction cups on the bottom of the air fryer that stick to the counter just from the weight of the fryer itself. They work great and, frankly, I doubt the lid would make the thing tip even if the suction cups weren’t there. It seems very sturdy and it took me very little time to get used to lifting the lid and then pulling the catch up to close it. I’ve had zero trouble with it and highly recommend it. It’s also super easy to clean. I just wipe it out for fries and onion rings because nothing sticks.”
This air fryer comes in five different colors and is a great compact size for small kitchens or ones with limited counter space. There are manual control options to help you easily whip up something for snack time, and the basket holds two quarts. There’s also an auto-shut off function so you don’t over crisp your food, unless that’s the flavor you’re going for.
One reviewer said, “I have always been afraid of deep fryers and hot oil cooking. I even returned a deep fryer i got one christmas and got a pizza oven instead. Not to mention the smell that never seems to leave your home after using a deep fryer. This air fryer is a game changer for me. No hot oil, no permeating smells, compact and easy to use. This definitely has a permanent spot on my counter. Healthy fried food? Yes please! The color is great and I’m not afraid to use this fryer.”
The Cosori Air Fryer has a sleek profile to minimize the amount of counter space it takes up, and it has an angled display for better viewing. It has a 5.8 quart square basket that’s non-stick coated, BPA-free, and dishwasher safe. And for almost fool-proof air frying, there are 11 presets built in — make steak, seafood, bacon, french fries, vegetables, bread, desserts, and more with just a touch of the button. There are also Preheat, Shake (to remind you to shake the basket for even frying), and Keep Warm functions.
One self-professed air fryer addict said, “Took forever and did lots of research online. Couldn’t find on without negative feedback to took a chance on this one. I LOVE IT!!! I use it for everything. I made a cake in it ( use a little cake pan-it rises like crazy), I made scammed eggs- when you put in a pan of course and all kinds of frying. Our favorite is when I make chicken or beef in that Montreal rub, first, and make a batch of frozen vegetables after and tilt the pan so the meat juices cover the vegetables- WOW SO GOOD!! Cooks food in no time. Use it daily. One of my favorite purchases on Amazon.”
Air fry, roast, reheat, and dehydrate (hello, homemade dried fruits and chips) to your heart’s content with the Ninja Air Fryer, which has a temperature range of 105-400 degrees Fahrenheit . It has a four quart capacity ceramic-coated basket and a ceramic-coated crisper plate, and it also comes with a multi-layer rack. All the accessories are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.
One reviewer said, “I try not to eat fried food and I never thought I was missing out by not having a deep fryer, so an air fryer just seemed replacement that I didn’t need. So I was skeptical about how much I would use this… maybe a few frozen tater tots or fries for the kids. But oh my goodness I want to use this for everything. I like to think of this as a personal sized convection oven on steroids. Veggie burgers crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Roasted vegetables, fish sticks, chicken, burgers, fries, fish all with about 30-40% shorter cook times than the oven and only a 3 minute preheat time (vs 6-10 oven minutes).
Is it any surprise that your favorite instant pot maker also has a great air fryer? The instant Vortex has six built-in presents (fry, roast, bake, dehydrate, broil, and reheat) and you can also create your own favorite settings. The stainless steel exterior is easy to wipe clean, and the removable large basket is dishwasher-safe. The basket also holds six quarts of food (enough room for two pounds of fries or a four-pound chicken).
One reviewer detailed, in length, their experience cooking many foods with it, but the TL;’DR is: “I have to say that I am supremely impressed with the Instant Vortex 6-in-1 multi use fryer. It’s extremely safe t use, It cooks the food thoroughly, and it’s super easy to clean. If you’re looking for an air fryer with the versatility of an oven but without the hassle or increase to your gas bill, than this air fryer is definitely going to be a perfect fit for you! Very, very happy with this device and I can’t wait to fry more food with it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!”
The GoWISE Digital Air Fryer has a touch-screen menu with eight different presets for fries/chips, pork, chicken, steak, shrimp, fish, cake, and pizza. There’s a built-in alarm function to remind you to shake the detachable frying basket, and the fryer comes with a basket divider so you can cook two things at once (for example, if you have two picky children who can’t agree on what to eat for dinner). The basket holds 5.8 quarts, which feeds up to four people, and the temperature range is from 180-400 degrees Fahrenheit, giving you a variety of cooking options.
One happy reviewer said, “This is my first air fryer and I love it! I already have a instapot and I was worried I would not use this very much! I was WRONG. I use my air fryer at least 3-4 times a week. Chicken, fish, steak… all fabulous. French fries, frozen chicken, corn dogs, chicken nuggets… so crunchy!”
The Black and Decker Air Fryer has dual convection fans to circulate hot air so your food cooks and crisps quickly. The air basket holds about eight cups and is non-stick and dishwasher-safe. The indicator lights show when the air fryer is on and when the desired temperature is reached, and there is a 60-minute timer that automatically shuts off the fryer once you’re done cooking.
One reviewer said, “I had planned to buy an air fryer for close to a year. I kept reading reviews, would put one in my cart, then change my mind. I finally decided on this one. All I can say is Oh My Goodness! I wish I would have bought it a year ago. I don’t deep fry anything because not only is it not healthy, I can’t stand the lingering smell in my house. All the things I have been making in the oven-fries, fishsticks, onion rings, chimichangas, spring rolls, chicken nuggets, etc- come out tasting so much better in this air fryer. I used no oil for most things. “
When you need double the room to get family dinner ready, Ninja’s dual basket air fryer is a great option. With this appliance, you can cook in two different ways at the same time! “This is the best new kitchen appliance I’ve purchased in a very long time. Best of all worlds,” said one reviewer. “Different foods take different times and temps so you have to figure out how to get everything hot at the same time. This dual basket solves that.”
Best Air Fryer Toaster Ovens
If you’re looking for a multi-tasking appliance in your kitchen, look no further. This Cuisinart is a full-size toaster oven and an air fryer in one, so you only need one gadget whether you’re toasting bread, baking cookies, or frying up some chicken wings. There are seven different functions, including air fry, convection bake, convection broil, bake, broil, warm, and toast. It comes with an oven rack, baking pan, and air fryer rack and basket. Your options for a quick dinner just grew exponentially.
One happy home chef says, “My favorite dish so far is chicken wing drumettes. I’ve always cooked my famous buffalo wings in a peanut oil deep-fryer, then dip them in sauce and dry them for a bit in the oven. Set this at 400 on air-fry, cook for 10 minutes, flip them over and cook for 10 more and they honestly look like I just pulled them out of my fryer. My wife swears they are even better. Traitor!
Garlic toast and English muffins seem to crisp up faster and retain inside moistness better than any toaster oven I’ve ever used. Frozen french fries and shrimp are a breeze. Tonight she did some fresh zucchini wedges that I was sure were going to be boring and they turned out awesome.
Long story short, we love it so far and look forward to experimenting with it for years to come.”
Yep, you read that right. This air fryer oven is a 12-in-1 combo! The product description reads “Preheat, Air Fry, Bake, Toast, Roast, Broil, Keep Warm, Dehydrate, Pizza, Slow Cooker, Defrost and Ferment” — but that’s only the half of it. This Cosori air fryer is smart too, meaning it can pair with your Alexa or Google assistant via blue tooth.
For more great mealtime assistants, check out our Home & Kitchen picks.