9 Best Air Fryers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen

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

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April 29, 2021
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Our Top Air Fryer Picks:

We updated this guide in January 2021 after one of our original picks, the Crux 2.6 Qt. Air Convection Fryer, was discontinued. The Instant Vortex 6-Qt. 4-in-1 Air Fryer which launched in Septmeber 2019 still remains our top overall air fryer pick. You can check out our review here. We also still love many picks from our original test by Ben Mims in November 2018. Read on for our list of current favorites.

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 that, like different makes and models of cars, 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.


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, while the Crux could only make a half-pound of chicken per batch. 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.

Also available at: Walmart, Target, Macy's, Kohl's

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

Clocking in at 8.5 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 31K+ Facebook community members of Cosori Cooks. Chat with other Cosori owners, get (and share) recipe tips and show off your finished dishes.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

While most air fryer models are round - an aide in circulating the heated air that cooks food evenly - this model is square. 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.

Buy It

If you’re intrigued by air frying, but are put off by aesthetics of most machines, this model solves that by masquerading as an oven, just in a small size. It’s wide, shallow air frying basket means you can fit more food in it, perfect for feeding a larger family and more air reaches that food than in traditional models, providing excellent browning on fries and chicken. It also bakes up tender cakes, nixing the need for extra machines like a toaster oven or even conventional oven. You can also use its bake, broil and toaster settings to get four machines in one, so you don’t have to choose between having a separate air fryer and oven ever again.

Buy It

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.

Buy It

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.

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