Best Air Fryers of 2021

Models from Amazon, Beautiful by Drew Barrymore, Dreo, Gourmia, GoWise, and NuWave jockey for top spots in Consumer Reports' air fryer ratings

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NuWave 37001 air fryer with open tray of fries on counter
Testers cooked french fries in the lab to find out whether air-fried food tastes like the real thing.
Photo: John Walsh/Consumer Reports

Crispy fries without all the oil? That’s the golden promise of air fryers, and it might explain why, in the U.S., the market for these appliances continues to grow 10 percent year over year. In fact, air fryers are predicted to progress at that rate for the next five years, according to research firm NPD Group. (So, no, it’s not too late to get on board.)

These irregularly shaped countertop cookers don’t fry food at all. They’re actually small convection ovens. A fan circulates hot air to quickly cook food in the basket from the outside in. These little appliances initially seemed right for finger foods (fries, certainly, along with chicken wings, chicken nuggets, even pizza bites). But you can use an air fryer to cook virtually anything you’d throw in the oven or deep-fry. Most have small capacities, though, from 2 to 5.8 quarts (often smaller than claimed, according to our measurements).

In the lab, we found that the models in our air fryer ratings turned out nicely cooked food, though staffers who sampled the results weren’t fooled into thinking they were deep-fried. "You can tell the difference," says Larry Ciufo, the Consumer Reports test engineer who oversees air fryer testing.

Instructions for cooking times and temperatures vary by manufacturer, and though we found minor differences in browning, staffers didn’t notice any real differences in the food. "Even when we held cooking times and temperatures constant, the results were very similar, with no discernible differences in taste," says Ciufo. "The real difference among air fryers comes down to convenience, so we designed our tests around that."

We evaluate capacity, how easy the controls are to read and use, noise levels, and how much elbow grease it takes to clean a model. Below, a roundup of the seven best air fryers from CR’s latest tests, listed alphabetically.

Tip: Don’t overload an air fryer’s basket. It can slow down cooking and keep air from reaching all of the food, giving you uneven results. For more tips on how to use this countertop appliance, check out our deep dive on how to get the most out of your air fryer. For more info as you shop, see our air fryer buying guide. And you’ll find even more options in our air fryer ratings.

CR’s take: The Amazon Basics 3.2 Quart Compact Multi-Functional Digital Air Fryer has one of the smaller capacities in our ratings. Its measured capacity is 2.4 quarts. The controls and preprogrammed settings are easy to read, and cleaning the inside and outside of the air fryer is a cinch. Cleaning the basket does take a little doing, which is why it garnered a Very Good rating in our cleaning test. It’s also relatively quiet.

CR’s take: Testers found that the Beautiful by Drew Barrymore Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer’s electronic controls with preprogrammed settings are fairly easy to see and use, earning this newcomer to the ratings a Very Good in that test. Cleaning the inside and outside is easy enough, and the 4-quart model doesn’t produce too much noise. Décor enthusiasts will enjoy that this air fryer is available in a range of colors.

CR’s take: The Dreo Air Fryer earns Very Good ratings for the ease and legibility of its controls, ease of cleaning, and relatively quiet operating noise. The basket’s claimed capacity is 4 quarts, but CR’s test engineers measured it at 2.5 quarts. The one-year warranty is on a par with most of the models we test.

CR’s take: The Gourmia GAF686 Digital is a relative newcomer to CR’s tests and proves itself worthy of the category’s top spot. Though its measured capacity is 4.3 quarts, its overall size is almost equivalent to the smaller-capacity NuWave Brio (below). In addition to receiving an Excellent rating for controls, the model earns Very Good rating for noise and ease of cleaning. The Gourmia also stands out for being one of the lightest-weight air fryers in our roundup, making it easier to move from the cupboard to the countertop and vice versa.

CR’s take: A CR Best Buy, the GoWise GW22731 has a measured capacity of 4.9 quarts. Its touch buttons and programmed settings are among the easiest to see and use, earning an Excellent rating in our assessment. And this is one of the quietest air fryers we tested. The exterior’s crevices and the basket’s nooks and crannies take some effort to clean, however.

CR’s take: The NuWave 37001 air fryer boasts a measured capacity of 5.8 quarts. Our experts found its electronic controls with preprogrammed settings to be among the easiest to see and use. The inside and outside of the appliance are a cinch to clean, but cleaning food out of the holes in the basket takes a little extra effort. This air fryer is on the noisy side, earning only a Good rating in our noise tests. The fan is as loud as a countertop microwave, so you’ll hear it running.

CR’s take: The NuWave Brio 36011 is a smaller version of the NuWave 37001 and has a measured capacity of just 2.6 quarts, among the smallest we tested. Like the bigger NuWave, the Brio has electronic controls with preprogrammed settings that are among the easiest to see and use of the tested air fryers, earning an Excellent rating. This model isn’t as noisy as its sibling, but cleaning the basket is slightly harder.

Headshot of CRO Home Editor Tanya Christian

Tanya A. Christian

I've spent more than a decade covering lifestyle, news, and policy. At Consumer Reports, I'm happy to sit at the intersection of these specialties, writing about appliances, product safety and advocacy, consumer fairness, and the best tools and products to help you spruce up your home. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I'm exploring new cultures through travel and taking on home makeover projects, one room at a time.