The best air fryers offer a quick, easy way to make crispy, crunchy fried foods at home. You can whip up meals without the mess, or skip the extra calories of cooking with oil if you’re watching what you eat. The Ninja Air Fryer Max XL stood out as the best air fryer after weeks of testing leading models by cooking chicken wings, frying french fries and baking cookies. For a more affordable product that can still deliver stellar results, the Instant Vortex 6-quart Air Fryer is a fantastic value. (Read my in-depth reviews of the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL and Instant Vortex 6-quart Air Fryer for more details).
The following is a list of all the winners from the testing process:
- Best Air Fryer Overall: Ninja Air Fryer Max XL
- Best Value Air Fryer: Instant Vortex 6-quart Air Fryer
- Best Smart Air Fryer Oven: Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro
Air fryers are a convenient countertop cooker that can add versatility to your weekly menus. Similar to a convection oven, they use a fan to circulate air around foods to crisp, brown, or roast them. As a professional chef and mom of a 1-year-old, I know that counter space is prime real estate, and most busy kitchens don’t have space for yet another small-scale appliance. I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to add another gadget to the mix, it should be functional, efficient and versatile.
Ninja Air Fryer Max XL
Style: Basket | Maximum Temperature: 450 degrees | Warranty: 1-year | Cooking Functions: 7
- A variety of cooking projects in one easy-to-use machine
- Quick, even frying
- Deep-fried texture without the mess of cooking with oil
- You have low cabinets
If you’re looking for a multifunctional air fryer that is sleek, efficient and easy to use, the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL is my top pick. Chef Damon Daye says the single most important aspect of an air fryer is to circulate air quickly to turn out crispy, crunchy foods, and this one did that with ease. This convenient cooker heats up quickly and circulates air efficiently, which left me with food that was uniformly fried or crisped to perfection every time. During my hands-on testing this air fryer delivered the most tender yet crunchy chicken wings, golden and crispy fries and the most moist chocolate chip cookies of all the competitors. I found that having a wider temperature range—and the ability to reach 450 degrees—help this product yield supremely crispy foods with more precision compared to other air fryers. After six months of using this machine weekly, it still provides the same consistently crispy results that it did when I first took it out of the box.
This air fryer can cook batches of recipes and fried foods, even though it was smaller than some fryers I tested. The body of the cooker can hold 5.5 quarts of food, which translates to about 3 pounds of french fries or chicken wings (I was able to cook a bag of fries and wings in testing, which should feed a few people). The Ninja is great for everyday uses like roasting vegetables, heating up leftovers, or revitalizing soggy takeout, but it’s just as good for whipping up game day snacks or appetizers on special occasions. After months of testing, I found myself relying on it to transform my soggy leftovers into flavorful, crispy second-day dinners.
The Ninja’s design made it easier to use and clean compared to other air fryers I tested. The basket intuitively pulls out, and it comes with a perforated rack that helps air flow underneath food. When it comes to cleaning, I love that the Ninja’s basket is dishwasher-safe, but I found this oven to be very easy to clean by hand, too—thanks to the nonstick coating on the surface of the fryer. Simply wipe any grease or drippings out with a paper towel, or wash with soap and water. Remember to avoid metal utensils—silicone is best for maintaining nonstick cookware.
At nearly 15 inches high this air fryer is a bit taller than some of the other ovens I tested, so be mindful if you have low-lying cabinets. I didn’t mind leaving this out on my countertop throughout my six month testing period, and I’ve started using it to cook things I would normally rely on my standard oven for—like chicken thighs or roasted broccoli.
This air fryer comes with a limited 1-year warranty and the company offers a 60-day money-back guarantee. Ninja offers additional accessories that are sold separately, like a multi-layer insert that lets you dehydrate two layers of food at once. To learn more, read my Ninja Air Fryer Max XL review.
Instant Vortex 6-quart Air Fryer
Style: Basket | Maximum temperature: 400 degrees | Warranty: 1-year | Functions: 4
- Simple frying projects
- Cooking an entire chicken
- Bringing soggy leftovers back to life
- You want a multifunctional gadget with lots of extra bells and whistles
If you’re looking for a large, efficient and functional air fryer at an affordable price, the Instant Vortex 6-quart Air Fryer is an incredible value. The machine itself produced results that were similar to that of the Ninja at a lower price. The air fry function yielded crispy chicken and fries, and the bake function delivered moist, chewy cookies. The basket actually accommodates more food than the Ninja—at 12.36 inches wide it can hold up to 6 quarts of food, compared to the Ninja’s 5.5-quart capacity. Plus, it has a few handy features that made it stand out: It beeps to alert you when it’s finished preheating, and again at a midway point so you can turn, shake, or shuffle foods for more even cooking. The basket lights up so you can conveniently see what’s happening inside the oven without opening the door. I never realized how much I was missing the light-up feature in my other gadgets, and have since started relying on it as a quick, easy way to check the status of my cooking project.
Many of the other machines I tested have a few redundant functions that most cooks won’t need. The Instant Vortex, in contrast, cuts out the noise by focusing on four main functions. In fact, I found myself using those four functions on all machines most often anyway, so I love that this machine keeps it simple with a few essential functions. It’s a convenient machine that features a more straightforward control panel than some of the competitors, so you can easily select from four different presets. The control panel uses a digital screen with easy-to-read push buttons for each function, with a dial to manually increase time or temperature. It’s also bigger than the Ninja if you’d like to cook more food at a time.
This is a great option for home cooks, but if you’re looking to have more precise control over temperature in order to achieve super-crispy foods, having a machine with a higher temperature range might be helpful. Throughout my testing I haven’t found a project that the machine can’t handle, and the 400 degree temperature limit is absolutely suitable for my home cooking projects. It has a 1-year limited warranty, and replacement parts or accessories—like a wire rack and pizza pan set—can be purchased separately. For more on this air fryer, read my full Instant Vortex 6-Quart Air Fryer review.
Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro
Style: Oven | Maximum Temperature: 480 degrees | Warranty: 2-year | Functions: 13
- An automated cooking experience via the Joule app
- Replacing multiple countertop gadgets like a toaster, pizza oven and air fryer.
- Making crispy pizza thanks to the higher temperature range.
- Storage or countertop space is limited
No matter how much you love cooking, everyone has those days where they wish they could put dinner on autopilot. Thanks to Breville’s completely automated oven, the Joule Oven Pro, now you can. This toaster oven-style air fryer sets itself apart from the rest with 13 pre-set cooking functions, all of which can be controlled by the Breville Joule app. Depending what recipe you choose, once you press start, the oven will seamlessly navigate the different cooking times, temperature, and functions to cook your meal. So far I’ve tried at least ten of Breville’s recipes, and they’re all easy to understand and simple to whip up. Throughout my six months of testing, I’ve begun to rely on the automated cooking feature as a way to create perfectly-cooked dinners without standing over an oven.
This oven performed well in my tests: chicken and fries came out golden and crispy, and chocolate chip cookies baked just like they would’ve in a regular oven. However, because this isn’t a dedicated air fryer, I noticed that foods fried in this oven didn’t achieve the same ultra-crunchy texture as with the best overall winner, and that I needed to use the included sheet trays for any foods that may drip.
That said, this appliance does more than just air fry. It’s a great option for someone looking for a pizza oven, air fryer, convection oven and food dehydrator all-in-one smart gadget. At 21.5 inches wide and 17.3 inches deep it’s also the biggest oven Ie tested, which means it can accommodate a 9×13-inch sheet tray, a 12-cup muffin tin, or a 14-pound turkey. Though I don’t love the amount of space it takes up on the counter, I do love how versatile and functional it is, which means I’m happy to sacrifice space to have such a fantastically well-equipped tool in my kitchen. For more on this gadget, read my full Breville Joule Oven Air Fryer Pro review.
Other Air Fryers I Tested
I tested five other products that each have a lot of fantastic benefits, but ultimately didn’t rank among our favorite dedicated air fryers.
Philips Air Fryer XXL: This is a fantastic fryer that turned out crispy chicken wings, golden fries, and perfectly baked cookies. It narrowly missed being listed in our top three, but ultimately is not as convenient as some of the other fryers. It takes up much more space on the countertop and the control panel isn’t as simple or straightforward.
Cosori Air Fryer Max XL: This oven yielded great results, but it isn’t as easy to use as some of the others. It was loud when running and we found the button on the drawer to be cumbersome and confusing. Chicken and fries came out perfectly cooked, but the cookies burned and blackened on the outside.
Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven: Though this oven wowed us with its baking abilities, it didn’t stand up to the rest of my tests as a dedicated air fryer. It’s a versatile and functional toaster oven, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a fryer that can achieve the same crispy, crunchy results as a deep fryer.
Ninja Foodi Dual Heat 13-in-1 Flip Away Oven: You can’t beat the portability and convenience of this toaster oven that flips away when not in use. I was thrilled to see that cookies baked perfectly, but it didn’t match the performance of the other air fryers when frying things like wings or fries. I noticed that both wings and fries crisped nicely on top, but were a bit soggy on the bottom. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend it as a dedicated frying option.
DASH Tasti-Crisp: I loved how simple and straightforward this product is. It easily fried wings and fries, but it couldn’t bake cookies without burning them around the edges. I left it off of our list due to the lack of versatility and petite size.
How I Tested The Best Air Fryers
As is the case with any kitchen gadget, the best air fryer should be convenient, easy to use and easy to store. Before testing any of these products, I assessed aesthetic factors like how much space each product takes up on the countertop, how easy they are to store, and how complicated they are to set up. I observed the control panel and took note of how simple or complicated the controls are for a beginner to use.
Next, I put each air fryer to work to test its basic functionality. To test air frying ability with dry food and just a bit of cooking spray, I fried frozen french fries. To test air frying ability with greasy, fatty food, I fried chicken wings to see how each oven would handle dripping juices to make sure they didn’t create any smoke. To test baking ability, I baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies and observed how evenly the desserts were baked throughout, while making sure they didn’t get too crispy or blackened on the outside.
For each individual recipe, I utilized the same temperature and time with each product to maintain consistency across the board, then evaluated the finished products. French fries and chicken wings should be consistently golden and crispy throughout the basket, with tender, moist insides. I observed the color and texture of each food at the end of the cooking process. Lastly, I evaluated how easy each basket or tray was to clean in a standard sink.
I tested each of these products weekly over the course of six months to determine how they stood up to the test of time. I’m pleased to say that each machine is still functioning just as well as it did when I first took them out of the box, which furthers my confidence in each product’s capability as a functional, efficient cooking gadget.
How To Pick An Air Fryer
Air fryers work almost the same way that convection ovens do. Air is rapidly circulated around the oven through a fan system, which helps food achieve the crispy, crunchy texture that fryers are known for. That’s why Weinstein and Scarborough told me that “an air fryer is not really a ‘fryer.’ It’s a hot-air dehydrator. It uses very hot air currents to dry out coatings until they’re impossibly crunchy without much added oil (or sometimes none at all).”
Most air fryers have a basket or wire rack that allows food to sit above the base, so air can even circulate around the bottom, therefore creating a 360 degree flow of heat. Weinstein and Scarborough shared some advice for shopping for an air fryer over email. “Look for a solidly-built machine,” they wrote. “In general, more metal means more stable, more durable, and more long-lasting. A metal air fryer will hold heat better, last longer, and work more efficiently. A cheap plastic one, not so much.” Here’s what to consider when shopping for an air fryer.
When it comes to air fryers, there are two different styles to choose from: basket-style and toaster oven-style.
Basket-style air fryers mimic a deep fryer: food rests on a rack and air flows from all sides to cook foods. Basket-style air fryers have handles, so they’re easy to open with one hand and to shake or flip food around. This style is perfect for frying foods like chicken wings, french fries, crispy Brussels sprouts, or homemade tortilla chips. With this style, air circulates rapidly throughout the basket to cook food from all sides. While you can bake in most basket-style air fryers, the results aren’t always as consistent as they are with a toaster oven-style. That means basket-style air fryers usually aren’t as multifunctional as toaster oven-style air fryers, which allow you to cook things like pizzas, bagels, and toast—they’re straightforward cookers that efficiently circulate air to achieve crispy, crunchy results.
Toaster oven-style fryers have a variety of different functions to bake, roast, dehydrate, toast, and more. Food lays on sheet trays or wire racks that slide horizontally into the oven. Heat comes from the bottom like a traditional oven. These air fryers are a great option for shoppers looking for a multifunctional product that can perform a lot of different tasks in one appliance.
Some air fryers have multiple functions to bake, roast, dehydrate, and toast foods, while others only air fry. While multifunctional cookers can save space and money, they don’t always have the same crisping ability as a dedicated air fryer. Before selecting a product, evaluate what you’ll use it for. “Figuring out what settings are available on the air fryer will help you make a better decision,” said Daye. “Perhaps the most important matter to decide on is whether you want an air fryer that is just an air fryer or one that also does a lot of other things. Some are just air fryers, while others have settings that allow you to broil, dehydrate, proof, and more,” he added.
If you’re looking for a streamlined and simple machine, opt for an air fryer that has a simple control panel and doesn’t perform many other functions. If you’re looking to tackle a variety of cooking projects with one convenient machine, a multifunctional product is your best bet.
When bringing a new gadget into your kitchen, it’s always important to evaluate the product’s size and your available storage space. Weinstein and Scarborough said “Although an air fryer is a small countertop appliance, size is still the most important factor you must consider. It’s a good idea to buy the largest machine you can comfortably handle or store.” Having a larger machine will allow you to cook different foods at higher quantities. It’s always important not to overcrowd a fryer—either an air fryer or a deep fryer—so having a larger cooking basket will help space out foods, resulting in more consistent air flow and crispier foods.
Air fryers come in different shapes and sizes, so first evaluate your countertops and cabinet height, to make sure it will fit in the cabinet when in use. You’ll also need to measure the drawer and any pieces that need to be cleaned, to make sure they fit easily inside your sink. Lastly, make sure to consider the capacity of the cooking basket and keep in mind how many people you’ll be cooking for on a regular basis. Generally, a 5-quart cooking basket will be a good size for most small families.
Whatever style air fryer you choose, remember that the secret to crispy results is air flow. That means you should select an air fryer that comes with the accessories necessary to facilitate air flow from all directions. A wire or mesh air fry basket allows food to stand up off the base, so that air can evenly circulate underneath. If you’re working with a toaster-oven style, make sure the tray comes with a wire or mesh rack that sits on top of it. This is essential for ensuring crispy food that doesn’t sit in its own grease or juices. Before selecting an air fryer—either basket-style or toaster oven-style—make sure that it comes with some sort of frying basket to keep foods crispy.
With a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and years of experience working as a professional chef in restaurants, catering kitchens, and private homes, I’m always looking for ways to make my kitchen run more smoothly and efficiently. As a freelance food product reviewer, I aim to help other home cooks do the same. I utilize my professional culinary experience to make informed and thorough product recommendations that help home cooks run a more efficient household. There’s no shortage of household gadgets available, so I select products that are functional, versatile and affordable. You can find my work in Food & Wine, Real Simple, FoodNetwork.com, Taste of Home and more.
In addition to my six months of hands-on testing to find the best air fryers, I spoke with experts Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbrough, and Damon Daye to find the best air fryers. Weinstein and Scarborough have penned nine books about kitchen gadgets, including The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook and the forthcoming Instant Air Fryer Bible. Damon Daye is the Executive Chef of the New York-based food truck The Steak Truck and has experience working with air fryers in restaurants, home kitchens and food trucks.
How Do Air Fryers Work?
Air fryer use convection heat to help circulate hot air around your food so that it cooks more evenly and efficiently than in a normal oven. It preheats in minutes and makes weeknight cooking convenient, mostly hands-off and deliciously crispy. To put your air fryer into action, simply place your food in the basket and add one or two teaspoons of oil to get that crispy, crunchy exterior, set the time and temperature which can vary depending on the food you’re cooking, and finally sit back and wait for your meal to be done.
How Do You Convert a Regular Recipe For Air Frying?
Chef Daye says that because air fryers circulate heat at such a rapid pace, you should adapt a regular recipe by cutting time and temperature. “Plan on cutting your cooking time by about 20 to 30 minutes and reduce your temperature by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said. You can also consult recipe blogs or books for additional cooking guidance.
What Are Some Of The Best Foods To Cook In An Air Fryer?
Weinstein and Scarborough say that any frozen food that’s meant to cook in the oven will be considerably better when cooked in an air fryer because the rapid flow of air helps crisp it up, similar to a convection oven. For best results, drop the frozen food in the fryer without letting it defrost. Air fryers are also particularly good for bringing soggy leftovers back to life. The rapid air movement helps revitalize leftover food with a crispy, crunchy coating while also warming it from the inside. Weinstein and Scarborough also note that any food whose flavor benefits from caramelization will do well in an air fryer. “Chicken wings and parsnip fries are a favorite,” they said. “The machine brings out the sweet, caramelized best in both.”
Alternatively, chef Daye says to avoid cooking foods that have a really wet batter. “When placed in an air fryer, batter won’t set and solidify immediately like it does when it is deep fried, and therefore will make a mess in your air fryer,” he said.
Are Air Fryers Easy To Use?
Yes, air fryers are easy to set up and use. Most have preset functions to help you choose the right cook time and temperatures for your recipes, and baskets with handles that you can pull out to shake foods or transfer them to a plate. Air fryers also have nonstick inserts so they’ll be easy to wipe clean and food won’t get stuck.