There are so many options when looking for the best air fryers on the market. Size, functions, and accessories are just a few considerations.
Air fryers come with a multitude of options, and it can be hard to know where to start. The first thing to ask yourself is what do you want to cook in your air fryer? For my family, we cook everything in there! I’ve used it for air frying a whole chicken, french fries, chicken tenders, tater tots, homemade pizza bagels, grilled cheese, and slices of bread for toast.
An air fryer is one of those perfect multifunctional appliances that are great whether you are cooking for just yourself or for a large family. You can purchase air fryers that have a rotisserie spit, toaster oven, dehydrator, skewers, and the option to broil, roast, fry, bake, and so on.
Originally Published On: January 11, 2023
What is an Air Fryer?
An air fryer is a kitchen appliance that works similarly to a convection oven. There is a heating element that blows hot air into the oven space. It doesn’t technically fry the food as you aren’t cooking in oil. But it does let the hot air hit all sides of the food making it crispy all the way around, similar to frying.
Air fryers require a power outlet, and can draw a decent amount of power, especially when heating up at the start. We’ve never had an issue with it being too much for our breaker to handle, though. It uses less draw than our Keurig! This means it can also work decently on a generator. My parents lost power for about two weeks after Hurricane Ian hit them but were able to plug their air fryer into their generator and make warm meals while repairing their home. My dad also takes it when they are camping!
What can you Cook in the Air Fryer?
As obvious by the name, anything you typically fry can be cooked in the air fryer. But it’s good for more than just fried foods. We use ours all the time for frozen foods such as french fries, chicken tenders, and tater tots. You can also cook roasted vegetables in the air fryer and even bake cakes and cookies in there.
What to Look For in an Air Fryer
What are you trying to accomplish with your air fryer? There are so many extra features on some, it can be hard to know what you need.
Think about the size of your kitchen and the amount of counter space you have. There are many different sizes to fit your individual needs. If you have a small kitchen, a small air fryer basket would be a good option. While it won’t fit a whole chicken or whole turkey, it’s enough to fry up some chicken wings or reheat pizza.
Ease of Use
Some of these air fryers have so many additional features and cooking functions, it can be overwhelming. While most come with a recipe book that will help you get used to the different functions, you may want to opt for a simpler model. We’ve had ours for over a year and I still haven’t used half of its features of it yet.
As mentioned, there are a lot of options when it comes to air fryers. You’ll want to think about how you will use it, as well as what you want to cook in the air fryer. We love making kabobs, and if the weather isn’t great we can use the skewer option to prepare them in the air fryer instead. Many also work as a toaster oven, a pressure cooker, a rotisserie cooker, and so on.
One air fryer with an awesome option is the Ninja Foodi dual air fryer. It has two separate baskets with a control panel and digital controls for each side. You can cook two different things in it at once, even if they need to be at different temperatures.
Number of People in the Home
For large families, you are going to want an air fryer with a large capacity if you are cooking for everyone at once. The cooking process is the same whether you have a small or large air fryer. While you get better results with less food, some are made to be able to have multiple layers of food frying at once.
Types of Air Fryers
Basket Air Fryers
Basket air fryers are those that have a basket, usually in a drawer, that the food goes in to cook. The cooking space is often a bit smaller as there is only one level to place food. The basket air fryers tend to be smaller, though, so better for those who are tight on space in their kitchen. These are what most people think of when they think about a traditional air fryer as the earliest models had baskets.
Tray Air Fryers
Air fryers with trays give you more options for food, but they also tend to take up more space. But, due to the way they are built, you can have multiple trays of food cooking at one time. We’ve made a few items at once, enough for 6 people, in our tray air fryer. An air fryer with trays usually has enough space for basic bakeware such as an 8″x8″ baking pan or an 8″ round cake pan.
The only drawback to a tray air fryer is the size. They are usually bigger than the round basket air fryers.
Air Fryer Top Picks
Best Rotisserie Air Fryer
Having the ability to use the air fryer as a rotisserie function makes it so valuable! It’s perfect for making a whole chicken or turkey without all of the fat of deep frying. We use rotisserie chicken for a lot of recipes, so making our own is always better.
Best Air Fryer Toaster Ovens
When we purchased our air fryer, we were able to completely get rid of our toaster oven. Many of them have the toaster cooking method built in. One of my favorites for this is also a great space-saver. It has trays, which are perfect for toasting bread or bagels, but it also folds up so it has a smaller footprint.
Best Pressure Cooker/Air Fryer Combo
If you can combine appliances in the kitchen, it’s a great way to save money and save space. This Instant Pot pressure cooker can also air fry foods.
Best Space Saving Air Fryer
One of the smaller air fryers will be a basket. I like this 5-quart air fryer oven as a space-saving option.
Best Large Capacity Air Fryer
When you are cooking for a crowd, you need a big enough space. This NUWAVE air fryer has a large oven but also has all the features you want to cook different foods in it.
Best Budget Air Fryer
If you’re looking for an air fryer, but don’t want to spend a lot, you can go for a budget air fryer. They will usually be smaller and don’t have as many of the options and upgrades, but it’ll get the job done for a great price.
Best Air Fryer Oven with All the Options
There are so many options for the perfect air fryer. If you want one with the most options, a rotisserie kit, an air fry basket, and even an app to make it a smart oven, then this would be the best option for you.
Best Air Fryer Overall
While it can be tough to pick an air fryer, we love the one that we have. In fact, it works so well for us that I purchased the same model for my dad for Father’s Day last year. He uses his almost daily and calls me about once a month to say how much he still loves the air fryer. It’s a tray air fryer, so enough space to make what we want. We get the best results when we put the tray right in the middle. The trays are stainless steel and easy to clean.
How to Use an Air Fryer
While all air fryers are a bit different, and you are best to check the manual, most air fryers have similar functionality. I have found that you need to lower both your temperature and cook times when you use an air fryer compared to a conventional oven.
- Place your food in the basket or on the tray of the air fryer. Keep it in one layer for optimal cooking.
- Choose the time and temperature. More frozen foods have air fryer instructions on the packaging.
- Close the air fryer and let it cook.
Cleaning the Air Fryer
Air fryers are pretty easy to clean. You don’t typically have food splatter or spill like you sometimes get in the oven.
Cleaning the Inside Walls
Make sure the air fryer is completely cool. I like to unplug it as well, just as an extra precaution. Use a rag with warm water to gently wipe the inside walls of the air fryer. Do this about every 10-12 times you use the air fryer and it will prevent food from getting burned onto the walls. If you do have stuck food, keep working at it with a rag and hot water. You don’t want to use anything abrasive as it could scratch the walls and make it harder to clean next time.
Cleaning the Trays and Accessories
Many air fryers have accessories that are dishwasher safe. If they aren’t, clean them as you would other similar pieces. For anything with a nonstick surface, use a gentle cloth with mild dish soap.
Cleaning the Drip Pan in a Tray Fryer
The drip pan can be soaked and wiped with a rag if you have stuck-on food. Once it’s clean, or before your first use, I suggest lining the drip pan with aluminum foil. We leave this on for a few weeks, or until it gets too messy. Then you can pull it out and remove the foil liner, throwing all the mess out and line with a new piece of foil. This is especially useful if you try to cook bacon or other greasy foods in the air fryer.