Sometimes the fastest way to a home cook’s heart is a shortcut, and the ever-present air fryer has proven that true. They aren’t the sleekest appliances, nor the typical chef’s darling like the cast iron skillet or the sous vide cooker, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t find a great use for this decade’s must-have kitchen tool.
Our years of testing, researching, and judging more French fries than we can count (not that we’re complaining) have brought us to this point in selecting the best air fryers. After over 50 models tested, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly (read: soggy Brussels sprouts and grayish chicken wings), so we know a great air fryer when we see one. We’ve pored over countless air fryer reviews, tried dozens of machines, and can confidently say: We might know too much about air fryers — and we’ve distilled that knowledge here, so you don’t have to do the same.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is, for all intents and purposes, a convenient countertop convection oven. It uses a fan to circulate hot air to cook, crisp, or caramelize food faster than the usual radiant heat in a regular toaster or traditional oven. Air fryers began with the reputation of being a “healthy” eating appliance thanks to the lack of oil needed to make classic comfort food like chicken wings and French fries. These days, they’re present in plenty of home kitchens, including those looking to make quick and simple meals or those adding an option beyond the oven or the stove while cooking for a crowd.
Types of air fryers
Air fryers have a few possible configurations, but the two classic types of air fryers are basket-style (including single and dual baskets) and toaster oven-style (often multifunctional with tray inserts). The capabilities of both can vary, and the best air fryer results are determined by convection power (how consistently the heat rotates through) and the capacity of the basket or tray. We wouldn’t recommend one style over the other since it depends on your kitchen needs, but this particular roundup is primarily focused on classic basket-style air fryers, with our top air fryer toaster oven pick included.
Best Air Fryer Overall
Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart Air Fryer
Instant Brands has moved beyond the famous rice cooker in leaps and bounds, and its air fryers are truly formidable in the kitchen appliance game. Rivaled only by Ninja for accessible, top-performing tools at an affordable price, Instant has our most current best air fryer pick in the Instant Vortex Plus 6-Quart. It hits the sweet spot of ideal (but not oversized) capacity with the wider square-shaped basket accommodating fries and wings without overcrowding. It has just the right number of presets for a useful but manageable user experience. The air circulation and power provided the best cooking results for every food we tried, including tricky coconut shrimp and Brussels sprouts. It’s quiet enough to run in a busy kitchen, and the nonstick interior makes cleanup easy. It’s no surprise this is also one of the best-rated air fryers by thousands of shoppers — all of our tests confirmed it’s a great option for most kitchen needs. Our follow-up tests have shown this model to be consistent and great for other dishes like salmon and pork tenderloin.
Type: Basket-style | Capacity: 6 quarts | Dimensions: 12.4 x 14.9 x 12.8 inches | Presets: Air fry, broil, roast, dehydrate, bake, reheat
Best Value Air Fryer
Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer
*Editor’s note: This Cosori model is not part of the February 2023 Cosori product recall. You can learn more about the recalled products here.
For something that looks nice and fits neatly on the countertop, this 5-quart Cosori air fryer is the best budget air fryer pick. It gave excellent results for performance at a lower price than any 4- to 6-quart models we tested. We found it surprisingly roomy for a 5-quart, which is a pleasant surprise for any air fryer basket. It has a pre-heat cycle which can make it more efficient at quickly crisping foods (the fries, wings, and shrimp fared well). It has a bright, easy-to-use display and comes clean with no extra effort. The temperature and time are also easily adjustable down to the minute, which other air fryers lack in precision. In our recent tests we’ve tried other Cosori air fryer models like the Cosori Pro II and found the results didn’t live up to the Pro LE, which has less finicky controls and works better on vegetables like Brussels sprouts and boy choy. The Cosori Pro punches above its weight and is the perfect size for most households.
Type: Basket-style | Capacity: 5 quarts | Dimensions: 10.71 x 10.83 x 11.9 inches | Presets: Chicken, seafood, French fries, frozen foods, steak, veggies, bacon, preheat, keep warm
Best Splurge Air Fryer
Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer
For families who are serious about investing in a multi-use tool that can handle dozens of functions and be on permanent display on the countertop, the Breville is the best choice. Though the brand name precedes it for premium kitchen tools, this smart oven still impressed us amongst the tight competition in the toaster oven category overall. It’ll take on complicated convection needs like chicken wings or French fries just as easily as simple tasks like toast. We also love a viewing window, which many basket-style air fryers lack. So check on doneness and watch an intelligent machine go to work for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Who says a kitchen workhorse can’t be sleek as well?
Type: Toaster oven-style | Capacity: 4.4 quarts | Dimensions: 18.5 x 15.75 x 11 inches | Presets: Toast, bagel, broil, bake, roast, warm, pizza, air fry, reheat, cookies, slow cook
Best Small Air Fryer
Ninja 4-Quart Air Fryer
This Ninja air fryer is not only the best small air fryer but also performed better in our tests than larger air fryers with more presets across the board. Ninja’s 4-quart tool came through swinging for the fences, with near-perfect cooking results on garlic, wings, shrimp, biscuits, and of course, fries. It’s perfectly nonstick for cleanup, quiet while running, and, thanks to the compact footprint, it’s easy to store. Though the settings are simpler than some advanced models, it does the trick for every classic air fryer function. Beginners and advanced cooks alike will appreciate this Ninja air fryer, and it’s a smart pick for solo cooks and apartment dwellers. We’ve tried several small air fryer models (many 2-quart sizes), and at the end of the day, the extra real estate inside offsets the only slightly larger footprint and works more efficiently even for single portions.
Type: Basket-style | Capacity: 4 quarts | Dimensions: 8.5 x 12.3 x 11 inches | Presets: Air fry, roast, reheat, dehydrate
Best Large Capacity Air Fryer
Instant Pot Vortex Plus 10-Quart Air Fryer
The Instant Vortex 10-quart Air Fryer produced great fries, wings, and air-fried apples and was a breeze to operate thanks to the clear display and good instructions. The removable trays and rotisserie insert made it easy to use and easy to clean after every recipe we tested. Though there are no smart features, the presets and available accessories on this large air fryer make it an attractively versatile tool in the kitchen. The massive capacity is an asset, and the price for all the features included is a no-brainer as the best air fryer option for any household planning to cook for a crowd.
Type: Oven-style with rotisserie | Capacity: 10 quarts | Dimensions: 13.23 x 13.23 x 14.3 inches | Presets: Air fry, broil, bake, roast, dehydrate, reheat, rotisserie
Best Air Fryer Toaster Oven
Instant Pot Omni Plus Air Fryer Toaster Oven
The huge capacity, powerful wattage, and extra features compete above and beyond other air fryer models.
This large oven-style air fryer is a versatile countertop oven with extra functions to boot. It can bake, broil, air fry, and even dehydrate, thanks to the consistent air circulation and powerful heating elements. The size accommodates a 12-inch homemade pizza, a rotisserie chicken, or even a 9 x 13 snacking cake for baking. We struggle to find a downside with the performance and features of this air fryer toaster oven (of course, the toast we made was also perfect). If we had to choose a con, the size might be cumbersome for some cooks, and it’s certainly not portable or easily stored. But the many presets, generous size, and accompanying app make this one of the best multifunctional air fryers available.
Type: Oven-style | Capacity: 19 quarts | Dimensions: 16.5 x 13 x 14 inches | Presets: Air fry, bake, broil, toast, dehydrate, rotisserie, reheat, toast, warm, convection
Best with Flex Zone
Ninja DZ071 Foodi FlexBasket Air Fryer
Ninja has had dual-zone air fryers for a few years, but allowing for this flex zone is a game-changer for the versatility of an air fryer of this size. The benefits of a dual-zone air fryer are obvious: make your tater tots on one side and your salmon on the other, cooked to time and temp independently of one another all at once. The flex option allows for the one thing air fryer owners always covet— more surface area and real estate for foods you don’t want to stack and shuffle midway through cooking.
Our tests found this air fryer worked well on chicken wings and hand-cut fries (our litmus test for all air fryers). Where it lacked in some arenas (the separate baskets sometimes fluctuated independently of one another), it excelled where it counts. It’s user-friendly, large in capacity when it needs to be, and has the versatility that large families and frequent hosts will appreciate.
Type: Basket-style | Capacity: 7 quarts | Dimensions: 18 x 11 x 11 inches | Presets: Air Fry, Air Broil, Bake, Roast, Reheat and Dehydrate
Our Favorite Air Fryer
The Instant Vortex Plus 6-quart Air Fryer has impressed us time and time again as the best air fryer available. It’s the right balance of manageable size yet useful 6-quart capacity, blasting convection power necessary for crispy results, and, of course, the user-friendly interface. If you’re looking for something slightly smaller with excellent results, we’d recommend the Ninja 4-quart air fryer.
Our Air Fryer Tests
Over the past few years, our editors at home and our testing lab have had their hands full with air fryers from dozens of brands. We’ve noticed that in the second or even third generation of products, some items with the same name have changed from the first models we tried in the initial boom of the air fryer phenomenon. This list of the best air fryers reflects our historical testing data and the most recent models we’ve tested — some brands still held strong, and others have not advanced in comparison, knocking them down in our ratings.
Our original tests included 11 popular models from go-to brands: Instant, Philips, Ninja, Cosori, Chefman, GoWise, Dash, Cuisinart, and Breville. We focused on the bread-and-butter air fryer staples: frozen fries, vegetables, and chicken tenders. To test the baking capabilities, we made cornbread, and once we found the top performers for the first four rounds, we tried roasting a whole chicken.
Our initial results for those earlier models have largely held up in subsequent tests. We ventured farther, taking on 20 basket air fryers and 10 air fryer toaster ovens in our lab tests, as well as more models for testing at home. We pitted basket-style air fryers against each other, and then we tested air fryer toaster ovens separately to determine the overall winners in each section. We’ve doubled down recently with another round of 20 basket-style air fryers we hadn’t tested before, ranging from large 9-quart sizes to 2-quart models. Winners from each section went through further testing to find the latest and greatest for every household need using F&W recipes, including Miso Air Fryer Salmon with Baby Boy Choy and classic pork tenderloin.
Our methodologies for testing air fryers have continued to focus on a few areas. Though the exact ingredients and recipes vary, we’re always paying attention to a few things:
- Crisping: That golden, caramelized exterior and properly cooked interior is essential for both enjoyment and food safety. We focus on frozen and fresh-cut fries, breaded proteins like shrimp and chicken tenders, and vegetables.
- Consistency and Heat: Fries play a major role here too, but nothing reveals hotspots or a lack of convection power like attempting to bake a head of garlic or an apple. Even heating is also a key part of our air fryer toaster oven testing (we make a lot of toast and cookies) to spot where the circulation isn’t making the cut.
- Nonstick capabilities and cleanup: If you’re popping cinnamon rolls or a flaky fish into your air fryer, you need to know you won’t spend 15 minutes after dinner digging bits out of the basket. You can rest easy knowing that cleaning the air fryer after a messy batch of homemade chicken tenders is simple for our winning picks.
Aside from performance and ease of use, the machine’s size, weight, and general feel are all factors in deciding which we recommend most. We also monitor the internal temperature to note how accurately the machine hits temperature settings and how consistently it holds the mark. We compared the data for all to come to our most current list of seven overall excellent picks, but the runner-ups we call “Strong Contenders” also won’t disappoint.
What We Learned About the Best Air Fryers
The price isn’t always right. These days, basket-style air fryers can range from $50 to $350, and toaster ovens with air-frying capabilities generally run from $100 to $400. Our favorites we’ve tested landed between $100 and $200. Cheaper basket-style models lack decent performance or capacity, but more expensive machines generally don’t offer much more than their $200 counterparts. Air fryers don’t generally need to be flashy to be efficient, and the prices of our top picks reflect that.
A noisy air fryer isn’t a great dinner guest. Many basket-style air fryers can make a bit of a racket, so we noted if any models were noticeably loud while running. If you’re sensitive to sounds, we paid attention to alerts and other operating noises. If you’d rather not yell over the whirr of the air fryer in the kitchen, the sound is a natural consideration, and our winners won’t drown out your conversations. At the same time, the finishing “beep” in these models is strong enough you’ll hear it if you’ve stepped out of the room.
There is a sweet spot for capacity. Knowing the volume of what you’ll want to cook in an air fryer is just as important as the type of food itself. If you’re slinging standard grocery store frozen fries, you can generally manage with 4 to 6 quarts, as long as you give them a good shake halfway through cooking. For more finicky recipes like homemade air fryer chicken wings and hand-cut fries, the more surface area inside your air fryer, the better. If the air isn’t circulating while it’s cooking, you’re not going to get the crispy, consistent results you’re looking for. At the same time, you won’t want to give up too much countertop or cabinet space. Our winners strike the right balance between the size of the basket and the actual cubic feet of space needed for the machine.
Extra features are nice, but more is not more. Most air fryers can also perform other tasks, including broiling, roasting, and dehydrating. However, similar to pressure cookers, they may not perform every function especially well. You may, for example, be better off purchasing a good dehydrator if you’re into making jerky, dried vegetables, and fruit roll-ups. Other features to look for include a timer and an easy-to-use interface. Smart features varied widely so we didn’t compare them 1:1 at this stage, we did put special consideration for machines that had helpful presets and those that had app/Wi-Fi connectivity. Ultimately, the flashy additions don’t hold as much weight as the cooking results, but a helpful app is a welcome addition for air fryers that performed well.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does an air fryer work?
Air fryers essentially work their magic the same way a toaster oven does—by circulating hot air throughout an inner chamber, giving your food crunchier and crispier skin than if you’d tossed it into the oven. The way you’ll use your air fryer depends on the foods you love to eat.
“The beauty of an air fryer is that you don’t need to preheat it,” says Anna Theoktisto, a recipe developer behind some of our air fryer dishes, including this take on fried chicken. “If you want to get your kids some crispy nuggets or chicken tenders on the table fast, this thing will do it. My mom recently purchased one and finds it easier to cook for two people using it. I’d recommend it to empty nesters, working parents, and single people.”
How do I clean my air fryer?
With pull-out food drawers, air fryers are far easier to clean than their greasier cousin, the deep fryer, but the specific steps to clean your air fryer will depend on the type and the exact model you have. According to Julia Levy, a recipe tester and developer with ample air fryer experience, users should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning any kitchen appliance. In general, Levy recommends handwashing with soap and water and a non-abrasive sponge; most air fryers are not dishwasher-safe, as detergents will deteriorate their nonstick coating.
“You will want to clean it after each use so oils don’t build up and particles don’t burn,” she adds. “I recommend placing a thin layer of foil in the bottom basket for ease of cleaning.”
Can you put aluminum foil in an air fryer?
Yes, since there is no microwave element, it is safe to use tin foil in an air fryer. However, depending on the food or cleanup required, it’s often best to keep the grates exposed to ensure air is circulating as efficiently as possible and to separate oil from fatty ingredients for maximum crispiness.
Can you put parchment paper in an air fryer?
Yes, although you should never leave the paper in the machine while preheating. The forced air will push the paper with no resistance straight into the heating element. You can purchase air fryer parchment paper with perforations to allow air to circulate, which will aid in cooking and cleanup, but the paper should always be weighed down when inserted into the air fryer.
Can I use my air fryer straight out of the box?
We’d advise running one or two cycles on empty, just as you would wash your new clothing before wearing it. Residual dust or particles will clear out (and any first-use smells will dispel), so you won’t impart odd flavors into your food.
Other Air Fryers We Tested
Philips Essential Air Fryer XL ($100 at Amazon)
With decent performance, good nonstick capabilities, and great French fries results we’d keep this one in mind if there’s a great sale. The large temperature increments (25 degrees) and slightly louder operating noise keep it out of the top rankings right now, it leaves a little to be desired for versatility.
Chefman TurboFry Digital Air Fryer, XL 8-Quart ($120 at Amazon)
Despite the generous capacity and nice ergonomics, the Chefman 8-Quart left a bit to be desired for cooking consistency. While it has room for more food it doesn’t handle smaller quantities as well, which isn’t ideal for versatility at home.
TaoTronics Air Fryer ($100 at Taotronics)
What the Taotronics lacked in presets, it made up for in handle comfort and performance, but it was just shy of the results of our winning air fryers. It has a great capacity and produced mostly great food results. Unfortunately, only the fries didn’t make the mark.
Ninja Max XL Air Fryer ($170 at Amazon)
A larger version of the star performer Ninja 4-quart, I own this model at home and truly find great results for the basic functions we use it for. It was touch-and-go on Brussels sprouts in our tests but we can forgive it for the excellent fries, shrimp, and wings.
Cosori 4-Quart Smart Air Fryer ($100 at Amazon)
The fries, Brussels, and biscuits were all slightly lacking here, but it was extremely easy to use with a great basket for easy cleanup. The dreaded dishes after cooking is an underrated factor in all appliance needs, and this model made that infinitely easier.
Cosori Pro Gen 2 Air Fryer 5.8-Quart ($120 at Amazon)
A little lacking in the Brussels and garlic arena, this air fryer won’t do you wrong if you’re not too worried about caramelizing vegetables. Great ease of use and smooth operation is an added bonus.
What Didn’t Make the List
We’ve tested dozens more air fryers, including more Cosori models, the Philips Premium XXL, the tiny Dash Compact, and the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone. We were surprised to see a few of these struggle with the most straightforward food, like fries and chicken wings. Others had decent performance but lacked some of the features that our winners included as a default, like presets, large baskets, and easy cleanup processes. Some we felt the cumbersome size outweighed the results, and others were simply too small to recommend for most household uses.
More Air Fryer Categories
- Megan Soll is a Senior Commerce Editor at Food & Wine and a frequent air fryer user at home. For this piece, she referenced multiple rounds of testing data and research to rank our favorite air fryers in several categories.
- Commerce Director Taysha Murtaugh also contributed to this piece and interviewed recipe developers and testers Anna Theoktisto and Julia Levy for their insights.
- Our team spent days evaluating air fryers side by side in our testing lab as well as testing models further at home, judging each on a variety of qualitative and quantitative factors and curating a list just for Food & Wine readers.
Air Fryer Recipes to Try Now