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Countertop Air Fryers: More Than Hot Air?

CR tests these appliances, which promise healthier fried food

The promise of air fryers is that they deliver the same deliciously crunchy taste of fried food without all the fattening oil. To evaluate that proposition, Consumer Reports bought and tested a number of models, and just recently added a handful of new ones to our air fryer ratings, bringing the total to 14.

Turns out, air fryers aren’t really fryers at all. They’re compact countertop convection ovens. As such, they rely on a fan to circulate hot air to cook food contained in a small basket that you remove when the food is ready. And because they’re designed to fit neatly on your counter, most don't have the capacity to cook for a crowd.

We wanted to know how air-fried food tastes, so we gathered staffers in the lab to try fare that the owners’ manuals recommend—french fries, chicken wings, and chicken nuggets. We cooked batches of the same foods in many of the air fryers and, for comparison, a deep fryer. “Staffers weren’t told which cooking method was used for each food, yet everybody could tell which foods were deep-fried,” says Larry Ciufo, the CR engineer who runs our air fryer tests.

Though none of the air fryers replicated deep-fried results, they all turned out nicely cooked food, and in short order. One thing to keep in mind, however. Oil is used to set the breading on packaged frozen chicken nuggets and to coat frozen fries, for example, so these processed foods are not oil- or fat-free even though you're not using oil in the cooking process.

Joe Pacella, an engineer at CR and the father of four young children, says his family uses its air fryer almost daily: “My wife didn’t want to pull hot pans of chicken nuggets or french fries out of the oven with our toddler running around like a maniac,” says Pacella, who also prefers to reheat foods in the air fryer rather than in a microwave.

Below, reviews of five of the models we tested, in alphabetical—not rank—order. For a complete comparison, and to see which one earned the top spot, see our air fryer ratings.

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1
Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538
Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538

    Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538

    CR’s take: The least expensive model in our tests, the Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538 has a capacity of only 2.5 quarts and has no preprogrammed settings. Its mechanical controls are easy to set and read, earning it a rating of Very Good in this test, but you’ll hear the appliance’s fan and the tick of its timer. The Bella is easy to clean, and the two-year warranty is generous, given the relatively low price.

    2
    Farberware HF-919B
    Farberware HF-919B

      Farberware HF-919B

      CR’s take: Price and performance make the Farberware HF-919B air fryer a CR Best Buy. It’s among the quietest of the models we’ve tested—you can actually hear the mechanical timer ticking over the fan noise—rating Excellent in our noise tests. The dials are fairly easy to read and use, but the nooks and crannies of the food basket make it tough to clean, and the basket’s capacity is just 3.2 quarts. However, the two-year warranty is longer than most.

      3
      Nu-Wave 6-Qt 37001
      Nu-Wave 6-Qt 37001

        Nu-Wave 6-Qt 37001

        CR’s take: With a 5.8-quart capacity, the high-performing NuWave 6-Quart 37001 air fryer is the largest we tested. So, depending on how many folks you’re feeding, this one will require fewer batches. Plus, our experts find its electronic controls with preprogrammed settings to be among the easiest to see and use, earning this model a rating of Excellent in this test. The inside and outside of the appliance are both 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—according to our measurements, the fan is as loud as a countertop microwave, so you'll hear it running. The warranty is good for one year.

        4
        Philips TurboStar HD9641/96
        Philips TurboStar HD9641/96

          Philips TurboStar HD9641/96

          CR’s take: The most expensive of the group, the Philips TurboStar HD9641/96 has a capacity of 3.1 quarts, which puts it in the middle of the pack in terms of size. The electronic controls are fairly easy to use and read, and there’s a handy knob to set the cooking time and temperature. Preprogrammed settings for commonly cooked foods eliminate a step. Cleaning the nooks of the basket can be a chore, although the rest of the fryer cleans up easily, earning this air fryer a Good rating in our cleaning tests. The warranty is one year.

          5
          Power AirFryer XL
          Power AirFryer XL

            Power AirFryer XL

            CR’s take: The As Seen on TV Power AirFryer XL has a 5.3-quart capacity—one of the largest in our ratings—and is easiest to clean, in part because of the basket’s nonstick coating; it rates Excellent in our cleaning tests. The digital controls and preprogrammed settings are a snap to read and use. This model is on the noisy side, about as loud as a typical countertop microwave. That’s not a big drawback if you’re cooking something that takes just a few minutes. But the sound might prove annoying for longer tasks. The Power XL’s warranty is the shortest of the bunch—just 60 days.

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            Kimberly Janeway

            For years I've covered the increasing water and energy efficiency of washers and what it means to consumers, along with innovations in a variety of products, and whether manufacturers deliver on their promises. What I'm really trying to do is to help consumers, and consumers help me by posting comments and posing questions. So thanks!