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Countertop Air Fryers: More Than Hot Air?

CR tests a batch of these new appliances, which promise healthier fried food

The allure of air fryers is that they deliver the same deliciously crunchy taste of fried food, using little or no oil. To see how this new crop of appliance performs, CR bought and tested seven popular models.

Turns out, they aren’t really fryers. They’re countertop convection ovens that rely on a fan to circulate hot air to cook food, which you place in a small removable basket. And because they’re designed to fit neatly on your counter, most aren’t big enough to cook for a crowd.

We wanted to know how air-fried food tastes, so we gathered staffers in the lab to try food that the owner's manuals recommend—French fries, chicken wings, and chicken nuggets, for starters. For the sake of comparison, we also cooked the same foods in 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 ran our air fryer tests.

While none of the air fryers replicated deep-fried results, they all turned out nicely cooked food, in short order. Joe Pacella, an engineer at CR and the father of four young children, says his family uses their 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 a microwave.

Below, reviews of all seven 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.

1
Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538

Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538

CR’s take: The least expensive of the models in our tests, the capacity of the Bella Hot Air Fryer 14538 is just 2.5 quarts, and the Bella has no preprogrammed settings. The mechanical controls are easy to set and read, but you’ll hear this model’s fan and timer ticking. Cleanup is a breeze, and the 2-year warranty is generous, given the relatively low price.

    2
    Black+Decker Purify HF100WD

    Black+Decker Purify HF100WD

    CR’s take: Nice price, but do the markings for temperature and time on the Black+Decker Purify HF100WD have to be so small? Our testers found that they’re extremely difficult to read. In other words, these controls are the hardest to see and use of all the models in our tests. Too bad, because this is one of the quietest air fryers, and it’s fairly easy to clean. Another downside, depending on how big a dish you need to prepare: Capacity is 2 quarts, the smallest of the fryers on this list. The warranty covers two years.

      3
      Chefman Digital 2.5L

      Chefman Digital 2.5L

      CR’s take: Here's another model with an appealing price that's easy to clean (especially the basket, thanks to its nonstick coating). But the controls of the Chefman Digital 2.5L take some getting used to. The buttons are a bit small, although the display is large and clear. This air fryer doesn’t offer preprogrammed settings for different foods, but it does automatically switch to a keep-warm mode at the end of your set cooking time, for up to 30 minutes. This model is relatively quiet, similar to the Bella above. Capacity is 2.7 quarts, and warranty lasts a year.

        4
        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. 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 2-year warranty is longer than most.

          5
          Nu-Wave 6-Qt 37001

          Nu-Wave 6-Qt 37001

          CR’s take: With a 5.8-quart capacity, the high-performing Nu-Wave 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 of cooking. Plus, our experts find its electronic controls with preprogrammed settings are the easiest to see and use. The inside and outside of this device are both a cinch to clean, but cleaning the food out of the holes in the basket takes a little extra effort. This air fryer is on the noisier side, and the fan was readily heard at levels comparable to a countertop microwave. The warranty lasts one year.

            6
            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. Use the handy knob to set the cooking time and temperature. The electronic controls are fairly easy to use and read, and the preprogrammed settings for commonly cooked foods eliminate a step. This model is the noisiest of the batch, and cleaning the nooks of the basket can be a chore, although the rest of the fryer cleans up easily. A one-year warranty is part of the deal.

              7
              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—and is the easiest to clean, in part because of the basket’s nonstick coating. 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—not a big drawback if you’re cooking something that takes just a few minutes. But the sound might prove annoying if the task takes longer. 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!