Yes, the Best Air Fryer Is Absolutely Worth the Countertop Space
Fry, roast, broil, and bake to perfection.
The concept of an air fryer almost sounds too good to be true: crispy fried chicken, empanadas, chips, and more, effortlessly whipped up at home—with a fraction of the greasiness or calories as the deep-fried versions we know and love. It’s no wonder orders spiked when many Americans were homebound in 2020—almost two million more fryers sold in a 13-week period compared to the year before.
If you’re thinking of joining the masses, Meredith Laurence, author of Air Fry Everything! and cooking site Blue Jean Chef, recommends a jack-of-all-trades model. “Multi-function ovens with regular bake, convection bake, toast, broil, and rotisserie settings allow you to do more with one appliance, so it’s better value for your money and your countertop real estate.” Ahead, six standout options to consider on your quest for the best air fryer, as vetted by pros.
- Best Overall: Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer
- Best Value: Secura Air Fryer
- Best Hybrid: Ninja Foodi Deluxe Pressure Cooker
- Best Family Size: Instant Pot Omni Plus Air Fryer Toaster Oven Combo
- Best Basket Style: Philips Premium Airfryer
- Best Smart: Cosori Smart WiFi Air Fryer
Features to Consider When Buying an Air Fryer
Size and Capacity
“If you have limited space, you might think that you want a small air fryer, but I disagree: A small model needs to be put away and probably won’t get that much use,” she says. Besides the physical dimensions of an air fryer, pay attention to how much it can hold inside. For a family of four, Laurence suggests a minimum 5-quart capacity. “Anything smaller than that will require cooking in batches,” she says.
“Almost everything that you want to cook in an air fryer will be cooked between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so when in doubt, go for 375 degrees Fahrenheit and keep a cooking time chart handy,” Laurence says. Although presets can be helpful for first-timers, she recommends adapting the settings based on what you’re cooking for the best results.
Some fryers have optional timers to automatically power down when cooking is complete. Chef Glenn Rolnick, director of Culinary Operations at Virgil’s Real Barbecue and Carmine’s, says it’s a key feature to look out for. “I highly recommend built-in timers because you can cook it low and slow or fast when necessary.” Laurence warns that they can be misleading, though. “All cooking times depend on the size, width, and weight of the food and being able to manually alter the time and temperature is important.”
Rolnick likes models that connect to a smart home device or phone because they make life easier for the chef or host: “whoever is cooking can still spend time with the family or their guests,” he explains. Even if you pass on high-tech abilities, digital controls are “critical,” per Laurence, because they’re easier to set than manual dials.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-in-1 Air Fryer
Laurie Fleming, author of The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook For Beginners and founder of cooking blog Fork to Spoon, recommends Instant Pot’s Vortex for its compact design and do-it-all functionality. She’s not the only one—it has over 40,000 ratings on Amazon and is a consistent bestseller. Beyond its six-in-one capability (it can fry, roast, broil, bake, reheat, and dehydrate at the touch of a button) it’s available in a basket-style or oven version and four different sizes ranging from 2- to 10-quart capacity. As an aesthetic bonus, its look is “sleeker” than most air fryers, Fleming notes (especially in this stainless steel version that eschews the typical shiny plastic exterior).
Best Value: Secura Air Fryer
“My first air fryer was a Secura Air Fryer, which is a workhorse,” Fleming says. “It’s worked so well for years and years, so I highly recommend it for durability.” The design and features are simple and straightforward, with temp settings that range from 180 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and a 60-minute cooking timer with automatic shut-off. This model is small in both price and size, clocking in under $60 and with a 3.4-quart capacity, so it’s a good option if you’re air fryer-curious but not quite ready (or spatially unable) to commit to a larger, more expensive version.
Best Hybrid: Ninja Foodi Deluxe Pressure Cooker
Fleming suggests this unique hybrid design for the “best of both worlds.” Segue between both functions quickly and easily: Just add the lid to immediately switch from pressure cooking to air frying, which means you can achieve that mouth watering moist-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside finish without compromising on time.
It’s ideal if you have limited counter space and like to cook for a crowd, too. Despite its relatively small footprint, Ninja’s model has an 8-quart capacity, which fits a whole chicken with ease.
Best Family Size: Instant Pot Omni Plus 10-in-1 Air Fryer Toaster Oven Combo
Fleming likes this multi-talented model so much, she owns several of them: “I have three; they’re great machines!” (She uses them when her son’s hockey team comes over for dinner, in case you were wondering). Its air frying function replicates the crunchy exterior and tender interior of traditional deep frying, with 95% less oil. Aside from frying, the Omni Plus serves as a broiler, mini oven, rotisserie, dehydrator, roaster, toaster (with five toast settings), warmer/reheater, and convection oven. Its temperature settings range from 170 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, with a double-layer glass door that retains heat while cooking. You can even make crisp-crusted pizzas in the Omni, which can fit a 12-inch pie.
Best Basket Style: Philips Premium Airfryer
“When it comes to basket-style fryers, I think Philips makes very good ones,” Laurence says, praising that they’re “well made and have a solid feel.” The basket’s mesh base allows for better airflow around the food, speeding up the cooking process and helping the food crisp, cook and brown on all sides, while the machine’s unique “fat removal technology” means all the oil you aren’t consuming gets collected during frying in the device’s base so you can incredulously dump it out and feel even better about that crispy yet less caloric feast. Having a mesh layer underneath the basket also serves a key safety purpose: to keep foods from flying up into the heating element while frying. Also, the Philips Premium is particularly easy to clean because its basket is simple to dismantle—and dishwasher-safe, to boot.
Best Smart: Cosori Smart WiFi Air Fryer
Rolnick uses this 5.8-quart high-tech pick at home. It consistently delivers “full-encompassing crispiness” and is roomy enough for “batch cooking for a family or reheating for just a couple,” he explains. It also connects to an app on your phone and can connect to Alexa or Google Assistant, so whoever is cooking can still spend time with the family or their guests—you can set the temperature and time, as well as monitor cooking progress, via voice command (through your smart home gadget of choice) or the app. There are also 11 preset options for things like fries, seafood, steak, and more, which are enabled either manually or via the app’s 100-plus recipes, which integrate the presets. It’s safe and straightforward, too: “the tray has a secure lock as well as a strong handle. It’s basically two trays in one as the inner tray is perforated so grease drips down and heat circulates best,” Rolnick says.
Ask the Experts
How do I preheat my air fryer?
Some air fryers have built-in preheat settings; if yours doesn’t, you can set it to 375 or 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five to seven minutes. While some models don’t require pre-heating, it may make for even crispier food by adding a little warm-up time to the process.
What’s the best way to clean an air fryer?
Clean the appliance every time you use it—“If you let grease get baked on, you’re destined for heartbreak or at least a lot of scrubbing,” says Laurence. Wash the walls with soapy water by hand and wipe the heating element with a damp sponge. Baskets, drip trays or drawers can usually go in the dishwasher, but check your manual first. “If you treat it well, you can have a well-made machine for years,” says Rolnick.
Can I put foil in an air fryer?
Yes, though be sure to check your air fryer’s instructions first, as it’s not recommended for every model. It’s best to only use in basket-style fryers; avoid using foil with acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes that can react with aluminum, and be careful to use smaller foil pieces so you don’t block overall airflow.
Do I need to take any safety precautions?
“Make sure that you put something underneath [to protect] your counter,” says Fleming, who has received “hundreds of complaints” about counters that crack from the device’s heat.
Laurence also recommends putting water in the drip pan underneath the basket when cooking fatty foods (think: wagyu burgers, game-day chicken wings), because they will “spit and drip grease which accumulates in the pan below and can smoke or hit the heating element causing a little spark.” A bit of H2O helps dilute the grease that drips down, prevents it from smoking and “is just a good habit to adopt,” Laurence suggests.
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