This just in: Deep-fried foods are a thing of the past. We know, we know… nothing really compares to deliciously crispy, deep-fried chicken, but we have some health insights we think you should know about before you reach for that deep fryer.
But the good news? If you love the taste of deep-fried, crispy-on-the-outside, perfectly-moist-on-the-inside foods but hate the serious inconvenience of all that oil (not to mention all the extra calories) — you can still have your cake and eat it too. That’s right, folks. It’s time for you to consider converting to an air fryer.
Even Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian, and nutritionist, talks up the health benefits of cooking with an air fryer. “Air frying saves calories because rather than submerging foods in oil, the machine produces a crisp, crunchy texture by circulating hot air that contains fine oil droplets,” says Sass. “Because air frying requires significantly less oil, you save calories and fat, which may help support weight loss or prevent weight gain.”
With so much buzz surrounding air fryers, we think it’s perfectly fair to call the air fryer the trendiest kitchen gadget of 2021.
HOW WE CHOSE
If you’re feeling lost while trying to figure out which air fryer to buy, check out our vetted picks for the best options out there. We considered everything from preset buttons to temperature range — as well as capacity and affordability — when making our choices, and then we tested the very best of the best to provide our expert picks.
GoWISE USA 3.7-Quart Programmable Air Fryer
Inexpensive doesn’t have to mean ineffective, and this user-friendly air fryer from GoWISE is proof. It comes with eight cooking preset buttons, including chicken, pork, shrimp, chips, fish, and even cake! Yep, we said it. You can bake a cake in this air fryer!
It also has customizable temperature and time controls for recipes with specific cooking instructions. The temperature range is 180 to 400 degrees, and with a 3.7-quart capacity, it’ll fit about eight chicken wings or a medium-sized batch of fries. For everyday use, the GoWISE gets our vote for the best overall air fryer.
Philips XXL Air Fryer
This Philips Air Fryer has a range of settings that allow you to bake, steam, and even “grill” your foods, and it comes with one frying basket. You can also purchase other accessories for the inside that allow you to stack layers of food for more efficient cooking. This air fryer also features a smart preset button that memorizes the settings for your favorite and most frequently cooked recipes, like french fries.
BLACK+DECKER Purify 2-Liter Air Fryer
Air fryers don’t need all the bells and whistles to be effective. This unit may not have all the fancy preset buttons, but it does have temperature and time control, which is all you really need if you plan to follow recipes that include this information. But just in case, it comes with an instruction manual that tells you what temperatures are best for most foods.
The timer runs for up to an hour, and the machine will automatically turn off when your cook time is up. You’ll also find a temperature range of 175 to 400 degrees, which is higher than most other models. The basket holds enough for two to four servings, with a 2-liter capacity.
COSORI Air Fryer Max XL
Cosori makes a few different air fryers, all of which are excellent quality — but the 5.8-quart option is our top pick for anyone who’s interested in large-batch cooking for the whole family. In a nutshell: This is the queen of large-capacity air frying.
The adjustable temperature goes up to 400 degrees, which is pretty much standard across the board, and this unit also features an easy-to-read LED digital touch screen with 11 preset cooking functions, including frozen foods, vegetables, and even french fries.
Adjustable time and temperature settings make it easy and intuitive to cook your favorite foods, and the dishwasher-safe, nonstick basket inserts allow for easy cleanup. We also love that this air fryer includes a helpful air-fryer cookbook, which includes 100 great recipes to try out at home.
DASH Air Fryer
Beyond the sleek retro aesthetic and compact size, there are a few clever built-in features that make this air fryer model particularly user-friendly and versatile. A 30-minute timer shuts off automatically, eliminating the possibility of overcooking or burning and making this unit safe for families to use. A nonstick fry basket cleans easily with no extra mess, and it’s also dishwasher-safe for quick cleanup. An easy-to-read temperature-control dial allows the user to adjust the heat for a variety of different foods and recipes.
This air fryer comes in a range of fun colors to match any kitchen vibe or aesthetic. Choose from this retro aqua hue (featured) or other colors like red, black, or gray.
Beautiful by Drew Barrymore 6-Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer
Reviewers also love this air fryer’s smart 60-minute automatic shutoff function for added safety and peace of mind, especially when cooking with the family.
Who says you have to stop at just an air fryer? Not us! The Ninja Foodi 4-in-1 Air Fryer combines the functionality of an air fryer with two independently functioning 4-quart frying zones, each with its own cooking baskets, cyclonic fans, and rapid heaters. So, in other words, you can be air-frying chicken wings in one basket for carnivores and cauliflower or Brussels sprouts in the second tray for your vegetarian dinner guests.
4-in-1 versatility means this kitchen appliance can be used to air fry, roast, reheat, and dehydrate, which means you end up saving major time, energy, and counter space.
Air Fryer, Convection Toaster Oven
If you live in a smaller space but still want an air fryer, why not get one that’s not only an air fryer but also a toaster and a convection oven? This 18-liter multipurpose cooker has seven functions total and can perfectly fry wings as easily as it does bake a cake.
Our parenting editor, Cat Bowen, has made just about everything in this air fryer and says that “this machine can do everything from bake bagels from scratch to toast them up the next day. I’ve made whole chickens, bundt cakes, chicken thighs, and tater tots with it, and they all come out great.” She also warns that the air fryer is a little bit slow to heat, so follow directions carefully is key here.
Still, she says, “It’s a great choice for families who want a powerful air fryer but also need it to do more than just one thing. It’s pretty big, but considering all its functionality and the fact it replaces several devices, it’s awesome. Plus, you don’t need to heat up your whole kitchen in the summer to bake a cake, which is pretty awesome.”
Ask an Expert: Air Frying 101 With Chef Celeste Rogers
To demonstrate just how limitless cooking with an air fryer truly is, we worked alongside Celeste Rogers, recent Chopped Champion and former assistant resident chef at Sur La Table, who showed us a wide array of kitchen applications for using an air fryer — from savory to sweet.
The key to success, according to Rogers, is understanding how an air fryer actually works. “Manage your expectations and realize that an air fryer is basically a small but high-performing convection oven.”
Rogers points out that an air fryer is much less about frying and more about a healthier means of cooking traditionally fried foods. She explains, “Rapidly circulating hot air dries and crisps while cooking your food. Name aside, there is no actual frying going on here!”
CHEF CELESTE’S TOP EXPERT TIPS AND TRICKS
Invest in a High-Heat Cooking Oil Spray
To optimize the performance of your air fryer, you’re going to need to invest in a high-smoke-point, neutral-flavored vegetable oil spray. Chef Celeste’s favorite is either safflower or grapeseed oil, but canola will do. You’ll need to spray the basket to prevent sticking and spray the surface of your food to ensure proper golden crisping.
Avoid Wet Batters
Things can go very wrong when it comes to battered food (think beer-battered onion rings, tempura shrimp, etc.). Wet batters are off-limits because the food will stick to or even drip through the basket. Instead, Chef Celeste recommends sticking with a drier dredged coating (think panko-crusted cutlets, coconut-crusted shrimp, or even fried pickles).