Best Air Fryers of 2021: Reviews of Top Air Fryers
WHAT’S THE BEST AIR FRYER?
Looking to buy an air fryer? There’s lots of factors that determine what could be the best air fryer for you. Our three busy test kitchens use over 13 different air fryers around the clock for testing and refining our recipes. Everyone on our recipe testing team has their favorites and we discuss them in our guide. Review our notes and from there, we hope to give enough information for you to decide what model and size works best for you or your family.
- Air Fryer size matters, especially if you’re needing to feed a family of four to six hungry people. The air fryers take up more space than what it looks like they can actually cook. Don’t be surprised if the interior cooking compartment is much smaller than the whole footprint of the air fryer.
- If you’re wondering what size of air fryer to get our recommendation is the 3-4 qt sizes for about 2 people (or if you don’t mind cooking multiple batches) and the 5-6 qt for families of 3-5 (you’ll still cook some foods in batches, but not as much as you would with the smaller air fryers).
- For 1 person: The smaller 2 quart air fryer are great for one person. These air fryers are super small and work for reheating single serving leftovers, frozen foods or small portions. It’s ideal for the single person who isn’t looking to cook a meal, but rather to just re-heat foods to make them crispy.
- For 2 people: The 3-4 qt size fryers are great. This size allows you to cook about 2 servings of chicken or fish with a few veggies on the side. This size allows allows you to re-heat leftovers and cook frozen foods to make them crispy. Serving sizes we reference are reasonable servings as suggested by national nutritional guidelines.
- For 3-5 people: We suggest 5-7 quart size models or the oven/rack styles. You can cook more food for larger groups without having to cook in as many batches.
- For 5-6 people: If you’re wanting to cook fresh food from scratch for a big family of about 5-6 servings, we suggest the large Oven-style, Rack, Countertop or Toaster style air fryer ovens. These models have at least 2 racks to cook on and some of them are large enough to use standard 9″ cake pans, 9″ pie dishes or 9×9″ casserole bakeware. Just double check the dimensions before you buy the air fryer to fit your existing disheware.
Different Styles of Air Fryers (Models or Categories)
- Basket/Bucket Style – Food is added to a basket or a “bucket” and then air fried with a hot circulating fan on top. Bucket styles have one main compartment and has an insert that keeps the food slightly elevated, allowing grease and oils to drip to the bottom. Some basket styles have a handled basket that actually separates from the main bucket. This basket is what keeps the food separated from the oil drippings. This is the most common style where recipes will say “shake” because the basket/bucket allows you to do that.
- Oven, Rack or Countertop Style – These are normally larger than basket styles and usually have wire shelves to cook foods in 2-3 layers. These interior styles are laid out similar to your regular ovens, only difference is that they are much smaller. These styles allow you to cook more food or different foods on the racks. Because the heating element is on top, the top rack gets the most heat so what ever you cook on the top rack cooks and crisps quicker than the bottom racks. If you want more even cooking on all the racks, you have to rotate the racks often to the bottom can be switched to the top and vice versa. There’s no “shaking” the food with these models. You have to pull out the rack, then flip the food.
- Hybrid Styles (pressure cooker/air fryer combo in one unit) – These are usually the largest of all the units because they have two different cooking elements. There’s a pressure cooker feature and air fryer heating element all in the same appliance. It’s great if you want to cook something in the pressure cooker that normally doesn’t crisp, then use the air fryer element to finish it off.
- Halogen Air Fryers – These models have a top heating element with a handle that covers the main glass cooking compartment. It’s heated halogen light that circulates starting from the top heating element. The hot circulating heat then cooks the food in the large glass bowl. You can’t “shake” the food in these models. You have to flip the food. Yes, you can cook a whole turkey in them. Here’s our detailed whole turkey recipe and write up.
- Stirring Paddle or Stirring Blade Style – These styles normally have a lid that you lift up and down to cover and air fryer the food. Sometimes you can lift out the cooking compartment to “shake”. There’s small rotating blades that that gently turns or stirs the food while air frying. This helps maintain even cooking without having to stop and shake, stir or turn the food.
- Air fryer lids– The newest toy to the air fryer world. You can use your existing pressure cooker and these air fryer lids to fit on top. These lids make it easy to air fry food or crisp food that was cooked in your pressure cooker. They’re a convenient way of adding an air fryer feature to your cooking without having to invest in a dedicated air fryer. If you’re limited on space and are already a fan of pressure cooking, these lids are great.
- Oil-less deep Fryers – these aren’t marketed at “air fryers” but it essentially uses air fryer technology. Unlike traditional “deep fryers”, these big drums look just like the deep fryers but they don’t cook with oil. They cook by circulating hot air up and down the large drum where you place your food. It’s made for cooking whole turkeys, roasts and big meats without all the oil. Here’s our oil less whole turkey recipe and write up.
- Rotisserie Feature: Some air fryers offer a Rotisserie feature or a rotisserie cage to add you food into. The turning “rotisserie” feature cool, but expect these models to be large in size. This feature is normally found in oven style air fryers.
Read this first: Our–> Helpful “What is Air Frying?” Guide when you make the purchase!
Review of Best Air Fryers
There’s so many on the market now. You just need to research and find the ones that fits your needs, capacity and style. We group the basket style into 2 main size groups: 3-4 qt range & the 5-6 qt. range. There’s also extra large air fryers that are great for cooking whole turkeys & other big cooking needs. Here’s our favorites:
Ultrean 4.2 qt – Simple functional panel. Solid basket design that is less likely to come unscrewed or break like other designs frequently do after a few months of repeated use. Great price for the size. They have several color options for the design-minded user.
Good Larger Air Fryers
Good Alternate Style Fryers –
These Air Fryers are great for specific moments, especially for turkeys, ribs, & other big cooking needs. They might not be the first to grab for daily use, but can be game changers for your big gatherings. They’ll take care of the big stuff or bring the cooking outside while freeing up your oven or kitchen for cooking everything else.
What is your favorite air fryer? Let us know in the comments below!
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