According to the cooking gurus at Bon Appétit magazine, we are all air-fryer people now. You probably don’t need one, proclaims their chefs and home cook editors. But you should “almost certainly” get one.
Taking them at their word, we wanted to dig in. The market is dripping in hot air from all the air fryers on the market. They’re everywhere, from Williams-Sonoma to Walmart to hardware stores and everywhere else you can think of.
Air fryers have been a hot Black Friday gift for the past couple of seasons, and this trend is not slowing down. New air fryers are joining the ranks of crispy fry lovers everywhere. And existing converts are upgrading.
Here’s what you need to know about air fryers and how to find the best air fryer for your cooking (or heating) needs and your budget.
So What is an Air Fryer? How do Air Fryers Even Work?
In a nutshell, an air fryer is a miniature convection oven that can live on your countertop. It can fit there, taking up less space than a microwave. (Or you can store it and pull it out as needed.)
A fan inside of the air fryer circulates hot air through and around the food you’re cooking, to cook you food way more efficiently and quickly than your standard conventional oven. Because of how the heat is distributed, you don’t have to flip over your food halfway through. Using an air fryer is a lot more hands-off. And an air fryer preheats in a few minutes too, making every aspect of using an air fryer faster and easier.
Do I Need an Air Fryer?
If you like eating crispy food crispy instead of soggy, you sometimes get impatient while cooking, or you have ever found yourself pressed for time, you need an air fryer.
And if you like crispy fried food but not the extra saturated fat and cholesterol, and the hot spattering mess of oil that comes with, then you really, really need an air fryer.
Basket Style or Toaster Oven Style Air Fryer – Which One Should I Get?
Air fryer units come in a couple of different basic styles: either a basket-like air fryer or a larger toaster oven style.
Basket-style air fryers are smaller and take up less counter space. They’re the perfect air fryer for RV’s and tiny homes, apartment living, dorm rooms, those with limited counter space, and households of 1 to 2 people or fewer. Because of its size, a compact air fryer can be easily stashed away in a cupboard or pantry when not in use.
Toaster oven-like air fryers are a must if you’re cooking for a household of 4 or more people or you enjoy hosting large gatherings. They’re larger in size, as the name implies. An air fryer toaster oven does double duty, functioning as both an air fryer and a toaster oven. It can crisp up your chicken wings, french fries, or frozen food entrées like magic, but beware. Don’t stack any dishes or cereal boxes on top or you may start a fire.
What criteria should I look for in selecting an air fryer?
We’ve already talked a bit about size and counter space. Basket style fryers take up less space and are good for smaller households. An air fryer toaster oven is a good option for those with more kitchen space, larger households, or entertainers. Other things to consider are style, price, and cleaning.
Style Options for Air Fryers
While basket vs toaster oven also fits under the style option category, there is a range of color and style options you can choose from to find the one that matches your kitchen’s aesthetic. You can pick the air fryer that best “fits” your kitchen.
- Number of racks
- French doors or hinged open hatch door
- Buttons or knobs
- Accessory options
Price of Air Fryers
Air fryers tend to range in price from $50 to $500, but for Black Friday and other holiday shopping events, you can find a budget friendly air fryer for around $30 or less. And higher-end air fryers will drop in price too.
- Cheaper Air Fryers – have fewer options and accessories. They often come in more compact sizes. Cheaper air fryers are often easier to clean because they are commonly smaller, basket styles with fewer parts that easily come apart and are super easy to clean.
- Spendier Air Fryers – come with more accessories and features, able to do double or triple duty for other appliances.
Cleaning Air Fryers
Cleaning air fryers can be a pain in the neck. While many of the components are dishwasher safe, you can’t dump a large electric appliance with a cord into the dishwasher. You’ll have to disassemble the parts and wash them in the sink or dishwasher.
- Basket style air fryers are easier to clean. They have fewer parts. The plastic basket is dishwasher safe, or you can soak the parts in hot soapy water for 15 minutes or so.
The 6 Best Air Fryers for All Price Ranges
Best Easy Clean Up Air Fryer
Best 2-Basket Air Fryer
A 2-basket air fryer is fantastic for those who want a basket style air fryer and the ability to cook for larger groups. With the Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 8qt 2-Basket Air Fryer, you can cook in two different baskets at 2 different settings at the same time. Cook mozzarella sticks in one basket and homemade French fries in another. Find the Ninja Food 6-in-1 at QVC, HSN, Best Buy or Bed Bath & Beyond for $179.
Best Budget Air Fryer – Compact Size
The Dash Compact Air Fryer Oven Cooker also wins high marks for being the most stylish-looking air fryer on the market. Its sleek style looks mid-century, retro, and hip all at once and comes in a range of popular, cool-toned and bright-hued colors. It’s also possibly the best compact air fryer out there.
Tiny in size, this air fryer is perfect for cooking snacks or individual meals. Possibly a good option for your spouse when you’re out of town, dorm rooms, or for older kids to use after school. Find it at Target, Macy’s, or Bed Bath & Beyond.
Best Budget Friendly Air Fryer with Large Capacity
The Chefman TurboFry Air Fryer has a large, 8-quart capacity meaning it has enough storage to cook food for family meals or small party gatherings. It also comes with useful preset buttons for chicken, fish, and French fries. This unit is sold at Walmart and Best Buy.
Price: $73 to $76
Best Convection Toaster Oven Air Fryer
The Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven Air Fryer is tops on my Santa list. While this oversized air fryer combo takes up some serious counter space, it functions as an air fryer, convection oven, and toaster oven all in one. It’s great for cooking larger portions, and the extra surface will help circulate hot air more efficiently so food cooks most evenly. Unlike many other air fryers that are basket style, this has an open window so you can watch the air fry magic in action.
While basket air fryers are easier to clean, this Cuisinart air fryer does have some auto-cleaning features. And the oven cavity is made of non-stick metal. Find it at Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Macy’s, or Bloomingdale’s.
Best Stylish-Looking Air Fryer
Stylish-looking is a bit subjective, but it’s hard to not fall in love with the beautiful light sage-mint green Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer. Earthy tones and iced colors are having a moment in kitchen remodels and women’s and children’s fashion. This Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer is part of Drew Barrymore’s kitchenware collection at Walmart.
Not only can it occupy pride-of-place in your kitchen, but it’s also compact in size and has intuitive, easy-to-use touchscreen interface.
Earn Cash Back Rebates and a Free $10 Gift Card for Your Air Fryer Purchase
If you purchase any of these featured air fryers at a store featured on Swagbucks, you can earn cash back rebates of 1% to 10% or more. And if you’re a new Swagbucks member, you can earn a $10 gift card with your purchase (of $25 or more). Existing Swagbucks members can get this $10 gift card bonus if they are making their first purchase.
- Bed Bath & Beyond
- Best Buy
- Sur La Table
- Home Depot
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