Air Fryer Buying Guide
Crispy fried food made with little or no oil is a deliciously tempting offer.
That’s the golden promise of air fryers, and it helps to explain why sales for these countertop convection ovens continue to rise year over year. According to the market research firm NPD Group, air fryers remain one of the hottest countertop appliances. Even considering an expected return to normalcy post-pandemic, analysts predict that they will maintain their market growth.
And here’s the thing: Air fryers don’t fry food.
Instead, a fan circulates hot air to quickly cook and crisp the food in the basket or tray. This small kitchen appliance can also bake and reheat food in a fraction of the time it would take your oven or cooktop stove, offering a convenient solution for daily meals. Over the past decade, roughly the amount of time air fryers have been on the market, the products’ functionality has evolved. Once considered a great kitchen gadget for making frozen fries, nuggets, and wings, the air fryer has proved capable of doing so much more.
How CR Tests Air Fryers
Consumer Reports buys and tests air fryers from a wide range of brands, including Cuisinart, Gourmia, GoWise, Hamilton Beach, Ninja, NuWave, and Philips, to find out whether they’re worth making room for on your counter. Each air fryer is evaluated and rated based on its controls, how quiet it is while operating, and how easy it is to clean.
First, our engineers judge the model based on the buttons and/or dials and the size and clarity of the lettering on the unit. Many air fryers come with preset buttons that help guide users on cooking times and temps, while others have an analog dial that sets the temperature and counts down the time.
Noise ratings are determined by administering a test that involves the air fryer being placed on a butcher block counter in the lab. A sound-level meter is used to take multiple measurements of how loud each air fryer gets during operation, noting the noise at its peak.
And no matter how well an air fryer does at cooking or reheating your food, if cleanup is a hassle, we want you to know. That’s why our testers judge how easy it is to clean each model’s interior and exterior.
Air Fryer Types
There are two primary types of air fryers on the market today. The conventional design has a drawerlike basket where you place food to cook, while newer iterations come outfitted with a mesh tray or rack. Choosing the right design comes down to your individual needs.
Basket Air Fryers
Air fryers with baskets (or drawers) dominate the market. After all, it’s the original air fryer design. For these models, the basket, where food is placed, typically has a handle that locks the basket into place and activates the cooking element. It also comes in handy when tossing the food (think fries and chicken nuggets), to ensure even cooking.
Basket air fryers are available in digital and manual forms. Digital models allow you to control the cooking time and temperature with the press of a button. More often than not, these models, equipped with digital touchpads, also have presets for common foods—fries, chicken, seafood, vegetables—and indicators to let you know when the basket has reached its intended temperature.
Manual types often cost less, but they don’t come with a lot of the advanced features digital models offer. Instead, these units are controlled by analog dials, typically two of them, that set the temperature and the amount of time. While food is cooking, the dial ticks down and sounds a ding when the food is ready.
Though CR does not currently test paddle air fryers, these basket styled auto-stir models are also available. Paddle air fryers allow users to “set it and forget it” as the paddle moves food around to ensure even heating.
Tray Air Fryers
Air fryers with mesh trays (or racks) are steadily increasing in popularity. Unlike air fryers with baskets, these units cook food in a flat or shallow receptacle, much like a countertop toaster oven. While the Cuisinart in our ratings is designed for just one tray, there are several models on the market that have multiple racks, and a small number even come with attachments for rotisserie cooking, dehydrating, and grilling.
These models, much like their basket counterparts, have the option of manual or digital control with functions that work in a similar fashion.
A primary difference between the two types? The tray design allows users to monitor the food while its being cooked. Thanks to the viewing window, it’s possible to peer into the convection oven while the food is still cooking. This means the cooking process does not stop when you check to see how far your food has come.
Another advantage to these air fryers is the amount of food you can cook at once. Models with multiple racks allow you to cook vegetables, meats, and sides—a full meal—simultaneously, and often take up the same amount of counter space as models with a basket.
Air Fryer Buying Guide Video
For more information you can watch our video below.
Beyond the Hot Air
Our air fryer ratings provide a summary of each model. But before you shop, consider the following.
Prices vary widely. The air fryers in our ratings sell for around $40 to $200, and we’ve seen models for as much as $400.
Capacities vary, too. Air fryers are designed to neatly fit on your counter, and most aren’t big enough to cook for a crowd, unless you cook in batches. We measure the usable capacities of the air fryers we test (despite their claimed capacity) and find that most can handle between 2 and 8.9 quarts.
Advanced features make a difference. There are a ton of countertop appliances vying to occupy precious countertop space, so it’s advantageous to purchase an air fryer that can do more than one thing—if you’ll use the other features. Modes such as dehydration, baking, grilling, and rotisserie cooking combine the functionality of five-plus machines into one device. Additional presets for particular foods, and indicators to let you know when to check on your food, can also be helpful. We’ve even seen models with a “keep warm” function, so your food should stay hot and crispy, regardless of when you get to it.
Warranties differ. The shortest warranty of the air fryers we tested is 60 days—not exactly a confidence booster. Others in the air fryer ratings have a one- or two-year warranty, but you’ll run across some, like the Cuisinart, that covers up to three years. We cover these specifics on the summary page of each air fryer we’ve rated.
Air Fryer Brands
Here are some of the brands you’ll see in our current air fryer ratings.
Black+Decker is a well-known brand of countertop appliances. You’ll see its air fryers at Amazon and a number of other mass retailers, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Target, and Walmart.
Chefman makes a variety of countertop appliances, including blenders, coffee makers, slow cookers, and air fryers. You’ll see the company’s air fryers online and at a variety of retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, Target, and Walmart.
Cosori offers a range of home cooking essentials at fairly inexpensive prices. Air fryers from this brand are available at Amazon and other major retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Target, and Walmart.
You probably know Cuisinart for its food processors, but the company also makes a range of countertop appliances, including air fryers and toaster ovens with an air fryer function, and they’re widely available. You’ll see its air fryers online, including at Amazon, and at Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Target, for example.
Dash offers a variety of air fryers. They’re sold at Amazon and other major retailers, such as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and department stores.
A midpriced brand with wide distribution, Elite Platinum offers various sizes of air fryers. Available at Amazon and other major retailers, such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and department stores.
A well-known kitchenware brand, Farberware air fryers are in the low-priced to midpriced range, and they’re sold at Amazon and other major retailers, such as Walmart.
George Foreman has lent his name to a variety of countertop appliances for years. A George Foreman air fryer is now sold at Amazon, Kohl’s, and Target.
Gourmia air fryers are sold at Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Target, and department stores.
A relatively new brand in CR ratings, GoWise started with pressure cookers in the U.S. and now makes blenders, toaster ovens, and air fryers, all of which you’ll see in our ratings. The air fryers are sold at Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart, and online, of course, including at Amazon.
Hamilton Beach is a major brand of countertop appliances. You’ll see them at Amazon and other major retailers, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Walmart, and department stores.
Instant became an internet sensation with its Instant Pot multi-cookers, inspiring cookbook authors and millions of home cooks. The company has expanded its line of countertop appliances to include blenders, toaster ovens, air fryers, and more.
Kalorik is known for its countertop appliances. You’ll find them at major retailers such as Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and Walmart.
Krups was once best known as a German manufacturer of coffee makers. Now it sells a number of countertop appliances in the U.S., including toasters, toaster ovens, waffle makers, and yes, air fryers. Available online and at Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, and Lowe’s.
Magic Chef makes ranges and other major appliances, and its lineup has expanded to include countertop appliances—such as coffee makers, toasters, and air fryers. They’re sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Walmart, and online, including at Amazon.
A widely sold brand of countertop appliances, Ninja air fryers are available at Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Walmart, and other major retailers.
A well-known brand of air fryers, NuWave offers a variety of models, sizes, and features. They’re available at Amazon and other major retailers, such as Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and department stores.
Oster offers a range of countertop appliances (including air fryers) at comparatively low prices, and they’re widely available online and at major retailers.
You may know Philips for its TVs or lightbulbs, but the company also makes multi-cookers and air fryers, among other small appliances. The air fryers are sold at Best Buy, Costco, Williams Sonoma, and online.
This As Seen On TV brand is available at Amazon and other major retailers, such as Target, Walmart, and department stores.