We’ve spent 40 hours researching air fryers, including 20 hours in our laboratory’s kitchen cooking up multiple batches of chicken wings and fries. Air fryers won’t replace the taste of deep-fat-fried food – that became evident in our tests.
But air fryers still make good-tasting food. All of the ones we tried prepared foods fast and with very little oil, but the one that stood out for convenience and consistent results was the NuWave Brio. The Brio churned out multiple batches of chicken and fries that were cooked to the same level of crispy deliciousness from one side of the basket to the other. It was also remarkably easy to use.
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We had similar results with many of the air fryers in our tests. Much of the test food came out crispy and delicious, even if it didn’t taste much like deep-fried food. The NuWave Brio set itself apart by offering consistency – throughout many batches and across the full width of the basket. Other fryers had lighter spots, usually in the middle, and entire batches that were less cooked or overcooked. The Brio was great at offering predictable results every time. We used almost no oil – just a spray in the pan to keep things from sticking.
It also has very user-friendly controls. The touchscreen makes it simple to use compared to ones with dials. There is a huge temperature range, and you can select with 5-degree increments so it gets more specific than cookers with 10-degree increments. The Brio is the smallest fryer we tested and features an integrated cord wrap to keep your countertop tidy. Counter space is precious when you’re preparing a meal, so we appreciate the space-saving design.
This is one of the best air fryers for multitasking. It comes with a non-stick baking pan and a baking rack so you can do more than just air frying. You can bake, grill, toast, broil and roast if you use the appointed accessories, and most of those methods you can do faster than in a conventional oven. The small size is not family friendly, but for a smaller household this NuWave appliance is perfect.
- This fryer offered consistently crispy results during our testing.
- The built-in cord wrap keeps things safe and uncluttered on your counters.
- This one stays cool to the touch on the outside.
- It’s difficult to clean. We had to soak it before cleaning.
- This one is noisy compared to the others.
- It has a small frying capacity compared to others.
GoWise Air Fryer
There is only one air fryer in our comparison that costs less than the GoWise Air Fryer, and it represents a dramatic drop in quality. The GoWise produced crisp and delicious foods nearly identical to those from machines twice as expensive. It is only slightly bulkier than the best overall fryer, taking up little counter space. You can get one in red, purple or black, providing options for your personal taste. The GoWise is also one of the quietest air fryers out of the bunch.
The GoWise has user-friendly controls and is easy to clean. The user manual does not recommend putting it in the dishwasher, and that is one drawback, but it was easy enough to clean by hand. It features a non-stick coating in the basket making it easier to clean, but the trade-off is heat consistency. It had some hotter spots in some batches, even when we reshuffled and tossed the food midway through, as recommended. There are seven presets for common items like fries, chicken, steak and fish, which can be a time-saver.
- The budget-friendly price is nice.
- This is one of the easier ones to clean.
- The designer color options are a fun way to get an air fryer that fits into your décor.
- There were some overcooked spots in some batches of chicken.
- An integrated cord wrap would add convenience to this model.
- It has a somewhat small capacity.
The evenness of cooking cannot be overstated with the Phillips XL. In our tests, it was the very best for consistently crisp foods, even from different corners of the basket. This is a huge and expensive air fryer, though, so it’s not for everyone. The Phillips XL makes no apologies for its large size – it’s part of the product’s name – but you will notice the loss of counter space if you don’t have much to begin with. The beauty of big in this case is that you can cook much more food. Some of the smaller competitors work better for couples or even in a college dorm setting when you are cooking for one or two people. The Phillips XL can give you a meal for the whole family.
This air fryer was a pain to clean. The wire basket needed to be soaked and scrubbed, and it was not fun. The positive trade for a tough-to-clean wire basket is consistently crispier foods. The Phillips XL also produced an inordinate amount of smoke. All of them smoked more than we expected, but this one was particularly smoky. However, the controls are intuitive and the machine stays cool to the touch on the outside.
- The results were very consistent and crispy.
- The controls are easy to understand and use.
- The outside stays cool to the touch while cooking.
- The Phillips XL is among the worst ones to clean.
- It creates a lot of smoke as it cooks.
- You lose a fair amount of counter space to this one.
Bella Air Convection
The Bella Air Convection air fryer is a compact and great for those with limited space and a small budget.
This air fryer costs under $60 where some air fryers we tested cost upwards of $175. We recommend shaking the basket halfway through the cooking to help ensure all the food cooks evenly. This does make it a bit more of a hands-on process compared to other air fryers.
The basket is coated in a nonstick material and is also dishwasher safe making it extra convenient to clean. While we had difficulty washing off potato skins and stuck on chicken with other air fryers, we hand-washed this basket quickly without any intense scrubbing. This is a good option for a small, affordable unit that is easy to clean.
- The basket is dishwasher safe.
- You must shake the basket for food to cook evenly.
Power AirFryer XL
This air fryer is versatile and has many accessories for cooking a variety of foods. It comes with a pizza pan, a large and small pan and a pair of tongs to help remove food and pans from the fryer safely.
The Power AirFryer XL made some of the best french fries compared to all others we tested. The fries were perfectly crisp and cooked evenly from one side of the basket to another. The basket is large enough to make a batch of fries that feeds 3-4 people.
This model did struggle to cook chicken wings evenly. There were light and dark spots throughout our testing batches, lowering its overall frying performance score. This model isn’t cheap either, costing $184. That makes it one of the most expensive fryers in our comparison. If you want an air fryer that comes with many cooking accessories and makes great french fries, this is a good choice if you are willing to spend the money.
- It makes perfect french fries.
- It is expensive.
Why Trust Us
We began our research by reading reviews – lots of them. We read opinions from professional review sites and lots of user reviews to identify 10 well-regarded models that we could test. We also talked to people who use air fryers about the most important features and aspects. Utah mom Annjanae Redford uses her air fryer all the time.
“I love that I can cook convenience foods in it and have them come out crispy. My food isn’t soggy like when I microwave it,” wrote Redford in an email. “It’s also really great for cooking uncooked frozen foods quickly such as homemade freezer fries and taquitos.”
We also contacted Isabel Maples, MEd, RDN, who is a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to talk about potential nutritional benefits of using one of these machines. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics does not endorse any products, but Maples did indicate there can be nutritional benefits to using these machines.
“Little or no oil is used, depending on what’s being cooked. In general, hot air dryers use about three-quarters less oil. The biggest health benefit is the calorie reduction,” according to Maples. “Enjoying food with fewer calories is important, since two out of three Americans are overweight or obese.”
How We Tested
Since these machines are marketed as a replacement for deep fryers, we wanted to test some foods that are often deep fried. We made multiple batches of french fries and chicken wings, judging the finished foods for their crispness.
We also ran multiple temperature tests. We used a thermometer to see if the temperature was consistent across the cooking surface. We also tested whether the thermometer reflected the set temperature on the machines.
We evaluated ease of use based on how intuitive the controls were to use and how easy it was to get each air fryer to perform common tasks. We scrubbed each one to gauge which ones were easy to clean.
These machines generated quite a bit of smoke in our testing, even though they use very little oil. Firing up your oven vent might be helpful to keep the smoke at bay.
The air fryers we tested generally made good on their claims – they produced crispy finished foods with much less oil than deep frying, even if it does not taste too much like your deep-fried favorites. For the record, a good convection oven – even a small countertop one – can also do that. It is worth considering whether that might suit your needs better, especially since convection ovens generally have a larger capacity and don’t take up much more counter space than an air fryer. Air fryers might work just fine if you have a small household, though, and they are easy to use. If you decide an air fryer is right for you, consider these factors as you hunt down the best one for you:
How Much Does an Air Fryer Cost?
Based on our research, air fryers can cost $58 to $300. During our testing, high price does not necessarily equate better results. Two of the best performing models are in the $75 to $150-dollar range. Many of the larger capacity models were the most expensive.
Consider how crispy the air fryer makes your food. Our testing and the thousands of user reviews online should give you a good idea of potential performance from each unit. The capacity of the machine in question also is important, especially if you have a big family. Many of these air fryers make a small amount in each batch. But don’t think that air fryers are only good for french fries and chicken fingers. An air fryer can be far more versatile than that. This article from NJ.com provides some insight on how your air fryer can be used to make full dinners – not just appetizers or side courses.
When thinking about how an air fryer will fit into your routine, consider cleaning. Most of them have baskets that go right into the dishwasher, but if you prefer to clean in the sink, look for ones with non-stick coating. Units without non-stick coating were much harder to clean in our testing, even after soaking.
Most of these cookers will turn themselves off if you forget about them, but double check for that feature. Some of them become hot on the outside during cooking, and that can be a problem, especially if you have kids.
These machines are not terribly expensive, but it’s still nice to know you are covered if something goes wrong. Look for long warranties and companies that are easy to contact if you have questions.
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