9 Best Air Fryers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen

We air fried chicken, cake and fries to find our favorites.

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June 14, 2022

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Air Fryers

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Tested by Ben Mims, Leah Brickley and Amanda Neal for Food Network Kitchen

Air fryers have been on the market for several years, but now we're seeing them in such varieties of shapes and sizes (like different makes and models of cars) that it can be difficult to discern a coupe from a clunker. Unlike microwave ovens that may be shaped differently but still retain the same basic functions across various models, air fryers do differ slightly from model-to-model. Some are bare-bones convection ovens, while others come with extra bells and whistles that allow you to dehydrate food or rotate it on a spit!

We tested out several top models to see which ones stood out from the rest of the pack. If you’re in the market for an air fryer, use this guide to figure out which machine is perfect for you to get cooking.

We updated this guide in June 2022 with a new best air fryer toaster oven pick, and in January 2021 when our original favorite the Crux 2.6 Qt. Air Convection Fryer, was discontinued. The Instant Vortex 6-Qt. 4-in-1 Air Fryer which we reviewed in 2019 still remains our top overall air fryer pick. We also still love many picks from our original test by Ben Mims in November 2018. Read on for our list of current favorites.

How Do Air Fryers Work?

An air fryer is essentially a countertop convection oven. This compact version of a conventional oven allows you to cook food quickly and evenly in less time than a traditional oven or toaster oven. A heating element and powerful fan is set at the top of the unit. It generates and circulates hot air around the food that is set below in a basket. The basket allows air to flow all over the food, making it extra crispy. In general, most foods are air-fried at a higher temperature than a conventional oven — think around 400 degrees F or more.

Are Air Fryers Healthy?

While an air fryer can certainly be a healthier alternative to deep-frying foods, simply using an air fryer to make a recipe does not make it healthier. "A major misconception is that pre-fried items (such as bagged frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks) are somehow made healthier when prepared in an air fryer. Air frying is certainly a great way to prepare these frozen foods to crispy perfection, but these types of foods are no healthier than when prepared in a conventional oven," says Food Network's health and nutrition consultant Dana White, MS, RD, ATC.

What To Consider Before You Buy an Air Fryer

  • Air fryers come in various shapes and sizes. In general, smaller units are designed to cook food for one to two people at a time. XL and XXL sizes can fit enough food to feed up to six people at a time.
  • Some air fryers are multi-functional. You can find air fryer-toaster oven combo units and even pressure cookers with an air fry function. Depending on your space and how you plan to use your air fryer, a combo unit could be right for you.
  • Prices vary. Air fryers can range in price from around $40 to upwards of $300. We've found that many of the best air fryers cost around $100 and are often on sale.
  • Make the most of your air fryer with accessories. Like the beloved pressure cooker, air fryer accessories are hitting the market making the appliance even more versatile.
Instant Vortex Testing

Photo by: Amanda Neal

Amanda Neal

How We Tested

We evaluated each air fryer by making frozen, store-bought French fries, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast and prepared yellow cake from a mix to determine if the machine browned food well on the outside by the time it cooked inside and produced crispy texture on the outside. We also checked how easy it was to clean the machine and how effective each machine was at even heating and cooking. We tested how organic the controls were to use, too, eschewing clunky manual dials that don’t pause themselves in favor of digital displays/buttons that were easy to set and paused themselves when you opened the baskets to check your food. Extras like how aesthetically-pleasing the models were, how much noise they made while cooking, and how cumbersome they were to interact with were also measured as tiebreakers to separate the best machines from the regular joes.

We already love the Instant Pot, so it's no surprise that Instant Brands churned out another winning product with the Instant Vortex. During our tests, we found this air fryer cooked with more power than the others, delivering crispy, evenly cooked food every time. That said, we did notice a whirring sound while it works, although, it's no louder than a microwave. We also love the size. The 6-quart capacity is large enough to hold a whole pound of chicken. The interface on the Instant Vortex is also very user-friendly with a touchscreen for pre-programmed settings and a dial that can up the temp in 5-degree incriments. It also has a sleek angular look that you won't mind seeing on your countertop every day.

$119 | Amazon

If you're looking for a powerful air fryer and insist on a dehydrate function, the Instant Vortex Plus is for you. Like our favorite Instant Vortex, the Plus model is designed with a roomy basket and a sleek exterior. The interface on the Instant Vortex Plus is also very user-friendly with a touchscreen for pre-programmed settings and a dial that can up the temp in 5-degree incriments. We found the dehydrate function perfectly dried fresh strawberries and we could see it working well on other produce. The one downside of the model is the broil function, which is preset at 400 degrees F for 2 minutes. We tested out broiling mac and cheese topped with extra cheese and breadcrumbs and found that neither browned particularly well.

$100 | Amazon $130 | Williams Sonoma

This model is sturdy, compact and feels like it’s made of quality materials, a boon when a lot of air fryer models can feel like they’re made of flimsy plastic that gets too hot to touch. This model is the ideal size for cooking enough food for two people and cooked all the foods we tested to a beautiful golden brown and with crisp texture. Its handy, multi-function display gives it a more functional appearance than that of a futuristic robot. Plus, you can dehydrate with this model, which slows the heated air that circulates around the food so it gradually dries out kale, apple slices and more for healthy fruit and veggie chips and other dehydrated foods.

$100 | Amazon

A lot of what makes an air fryer fun to use is how the user gets to interact with it. The display on this model stuns when you turn the machine on by flashing forward in a bright blue, with graphic buttons and easy-to-understand functions. Its extra-large basket holds just a few more fries and an extra chicken breast than your typical model, a huge plus in case an extra guest or two pop by for dinner or are staying with you for the weekend. The interior surface was the easiest to clean of all the models tested, often needing only a wipe of a paper towel to rid it of any mess.

$73 | Amazon

This is a mid-size to small machine with a digital interface. It’s an intuitive machine with 11 preset functions including air fry, slow cook, roast, broil, bake, cookies, pizza, toast, bagel, reheat and warm. The rack levels are printed right on the door for ease of use. This model does a preheat cycle for most settings which is an additional step and takes a few extra minutes, but it adds a level of precision in the cooking not seen in many of the other machines. This did every task perfectly and in a short amount of time. It has a spring-loaded door, which takes a minute to get used to, but then is a nice feature. Comes with a 13-inch nonstick pizza tray, wire rack, broiling rack, 11 x 13 enamel roasting pan, air fry basket and crumb tray and has additional accessories for purchase: bamboo cutting board, pizza stone and pizza crisper pan. The oven will also fit casserole dishes and a quarter sheet pan which gives it versatility to cook many things. It also comes in several finishes so can really be purchased to match your kitchen and décor.

Shop More Air Fryer Toaster Ovens

$300 | Williams Sonoma

If you’re already an air fryer convert then you know how diverse they are — perhaps it’s time to take it to the next level. Enter the slim-profiled Ninja Foodi with its double 4-quart baskets. Take advantage of Foodi’s Smart Finish feature: finish two different foods cooking at different times and temps at the same time — think chicken breasts and French fries (they did great in our tests). Or the Match Cook setting for larger amounts of the same food or cook different foods using the same function, temperature and time. The Foodi also dehydrates in addition to broil, bake and roast.

$180 | Bed Bath & Beyond $170 | Amazon

While most air fryer models have a 2- to 3-quart capacity, this model can only hold half that, making it ideal for cooking for one. Its tiny footprint also means it takes up less room on your counter and fits perfectly in a dorm room, RV or in a roll-on suitcase (you know, if you get that attached to it). And the smaller heating volume browned the fries, chicken and cake we tested in it better than any other model.

$50 | Amazon $50 | Bed Bath & Beyond

Clocking in at 5.8 quarts, this is one of the largest capacity air fryers on our favorites list, but it's modern and compact aesthetic are ideal for your countertop. Fry a large batch of perfectly golden French fries or bake an 8-inch round cake and share with your fellow Cosori friends. If you're looking for cooking buddies that are also air frying enthusiasts then join the 62K+ Facebook community members of Cosori Cooks. Chat with other Cosori owners, get (and share) recipe tips and show off your finished dishes.

$120 | Amazon $130 | Bed Bath & Beyond

This square model that's become more popular among air fryers these days promotes air circulation and even cooking. That extra space and shape and the ridges on the bottom that make it easy to create zones of different foods to cook, so that a whole meal — protein, veggies, and carbs — for 2 can come out at the same time and in neat fashion. Take advantage of the extra space the square shape allows and fit in more fries, chicken wings or even meatballs to take over party food duties when you need to get hot appetizers out quick.

$75 | Amazon $150 | Walmart

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