We Tested 11 Air Fryers (and Cooked 30 Pounds of Potatoes) to Find the Best

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A hand pulling out the basket on an air fryer

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Straight to the Point

Our favorite air fryer is the Instant Vortex Plus 6-Quart Air Fryer. None of the other models we tested could match its speed, power, or usability. However, we do have a few other top picks that are very good, including the Cosori Air Fryer Oven Combo (a large-capacity model with an extra-long power cord) and Ninja Air Fryer (a smaller machine with analog controls, for those who dislike touchscreens).

When air fryers first entered the culinary world (they really boomed in 2017) it was easy to dismiss them as a trendy marketing fad. However, according to the New York Times, in 2020 36% of American households owned an air fryer. In that same article, the NYT reports that the singular appliance generated over one billion dollars in 2021.

So, it’s clear people want air fryers (what are essentially very small countertop convection ovens)…and enjoy cooking with them. With millions of fans in Facebook groups and entire cookbooks devoted to them, the air fryer’s here to stay. Even an air fryer skeptic like, say, Senior Culinary Director Daniel Gritzer admits that “they do roast small amounts of food very, very well, and quickly too” and adds “if you have the space to store yet another device in your kitchen, it's arguably worth buying one.”

As Serious Eats is practically allergic to anything seemingly trendy, we haven’t reviewed air fryers—that is, until today. To find the best models, we tested 11 popular air fryers: using them to cook frozen fries, homemade fries, and chicken wings. We evaluated how easy they were to use and clean, too.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Air Fryer: Instant Vortex Plus 6 Quart Air Fryer

Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven, 6 Quart

Of all the air fryers we tested, this model cooked food the fastest and most evenly—yielding crispy fries and golden all-over chicken wings time after time. It had a large capacity and an intuitive digital control panel with a knob that made adjusting the time and temperature easy. Unlike many other air fryers, the Vortex allows you to manually set the temperature in 5-degree increments, giving you more control. It also saves your last used temperature and heat settings, a little thing that can shave off some time.

Also Great: Cosori Air Fryer Oven Combo

Cosori Air Fryer

With a sleek, all-digital control panel and a roomy basket, this air fryer produced well-browned, evenly cooked results. It had helpful usability features, like a dishwasher-safe basket, a sliding cover over its basket release button, and an extra-long power cord for those that have minimal or far-away outlets.

The Best Air Fryer with Analog Controls: Ninja Air Fryer, 4 QT

This air fryer was the only smaller capacity model with a round basket (read: less cooking area) that still produced crispy, evenly cooked food. It had a clearly labeled analog control panel with a small digital screen that may be appealing for the touchscreen-adverse crowd. It lacks presets, but we prefer setting the temperature and time ourselves anyways.

The Best Small Capacity Air Fryer: Philips Premium Digital Air Fryer

a philips air fryer on a white background

This compact air fryer will work if you mostly cook for one or two people. It did extremely well with smaller batches of food and still kept up, somewhat, with higher capacity models: yielding larger batches of fries and wings that were browned, just less evenly so. We liked its minimal, preset-free analog control panel that featured a knob for increasing and decreasing temperature and time. Its crisper basket and base were both dishwasher-safe.

two air fryers side-by-side on a marble surface

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

What is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer is basically a convection oven equipped with a very effective fan. Because an air fryer’s small (in comparison to, say, an oven) and has an equally super-compact cooking chamber, it heats up very quickly and effectively. It’s all-over perforated basket aids in browning with minimal tossing. And its small stature and powerful fan also means that, unlike an oven or even a toaster oven, you don’t have to preheat an air fryer, though some models (like those from Instant) have a built-in preheat cycle. In contrast, some (like the one from Cosori) have an optional, separate preheat setting. Another advantage to an air fryer is it’s very contained—keeping grease and food splatters off your countertop or even your oven door (though you will have to clean its fan once in a while).

Before we get into what separated the good from the bad air fryers, let’s get this out of the way: an air fryer is not a deep fryer. You should not expect deep-fried results, nor will you ever be able to achieve the ultra-crispy wings, fries, etc. of a deep fryer with an air fryer.

An air fryer basket filled with browned, cooked chicken wings
See these air-fried wings? Browned, but no where near deep-fried.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Air Fryer Testing 

  • The Set Up: Before cooking in them, we washed each air fryer basket and wiped down the interior and exterior. Most manufacturers tell you to perform a test cycle or two to make sure your air fryer’s working properly and to burn off any grease or residue leftover from the manufacturing process. To keep this standardized, we heated all of the air fryers at 400℉ for five minutes, then let them cool before proceeding.
  • Frozen Fries Test: We cooked one pound of frozen French fries for 20 minutes at 400℉, shaking the basket every five minutes and noting whether the air fryer finished cooking early (when the fries were crispy and golden brown all-over). For the air fryers with dual baskets, we first cooked 1/2-pound of fries in each basket, then repeated this test with 1-pound.
  • Homemade French Fries Test: To see how the air fryers did with a recipe designed for the air fryer, we made the french fries from Air Fryer Perfection. The recipe called for one-and-a-half pounds of potatoes and two tablespoons of oil for each air fryer and employed two heat settings and numerous basket tossings. We noted whether any of the air fryers finished before the allotted recipe time. 
  • Chicken Wings Test (Winners-Only): With our favorite models, we cooked two pounds of chicken wings (patted dry and tossed with one tablespoon of oil, one teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper). We followed the guidelines of this air fryer chicken wing recipe, cooking the wings at 360℉ for 12 minutes, flipping; cooking at 360℉ for another 12 minutes, then flipping; and finally at 390℉ for six minutes. We noted whether any of the air fryers finished cooking the wings early. 
  • Usability Tests: Throughout testing, we evaluated how easy the air fryers were to use. For example, how simple was it to set the time and temperature? How comfortable was the basket’s handle to hold onto and shake? How loud or quiet was the air fryer when running?
  • Cleanup Tests: After each test, we washed the air fryer baskets by hand, evaluating how easy it was to do so. At the end of testing, we cleaned our favorite models’ baskets in the dishwasher, if they were designated dishwasher-safe by the manufacturer.

What We Learned

chicken wings in an air fryer basket that's partially pulled out
Some models, like the one shown here from Instant, have a built-in pre-heat cycle.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Do You Have to Preheat an Air Fryer?

In our tests, we found preheating didn’t always determine whether the air fryer crisped food better or quicker. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be forced to preheat an air fryer. For example, the models from Instant all had built-in preheat cycles that lasted for at least four minutes. Only one of these models (our winner, the Instant Vortex Plus 6 Quart Air Fryer) had a pre-heat cycle that seemed to actually cut down on the cook time. For example, when we made frozen fries, they were done after 10 minutes at 400℉, whereas other models took 20 minutes. Even with a built-in preheat time of four minutes, that’s six minutes faster than any other model. The other two Instant models with built-in preheats didn’t really cook effectively, but that came down to other factors—like basket shape and size—and not the pre-heat itself. 

a plate of air-fried french fries on a blue surface
A little too crispy around some of the edges, but these air-fried fries still look pretty great.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Which Air Fryers Crisped and Cooked the Best?

Performance and speed varied widely across the air fryers. For best results, take the recipe times with a grain of salt and frequently check (read: toss) your food. This will help you figure out whether your air fryer’s running hot or cold, fast or slow. However, we did find that size and shape of the cooking basket seemed to play an undoubtable role in performance.

The best air fryers had square-shaped baskets that were at least 10 inches wide and 4.25 inches high, lessening crowding and allowing for more air circulation. It’s worth noting that fan speed may have well impacted performance too.

A round air fryer basket filled with cooked chicken wings
Only one smaller, round air fryer basket (that of the Ninja) was capable of producing truly even, well-browned results.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

As for the poor performers, for the most part, air fryers with round baskets cooked and crisped slower and rather ineffectively. This is likely because they were also smaller: measuring 8.25 to 9 inches in diameter and less than four inches high. The one round basket outlier, the Ninja Air Fryer, had a half-quart larger capacity and a .75-inch taller basket.

a double layer, tray air fryer with one tray holding browned fries and another holding uncooked fries
The multi-layer, tray air fryer we tested made horribly unevenly cooked fries.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

We also can’t recommend air fryers with trays, like the Instant Vortex Plus 10 Quart Air Fryer. Because the fan was located in the ceiling of the air fryer, the top tray browned (and even burnt) before the bottom tray could cook. For this style of air fryer to work, you’d have to rotate the trays very frequently, which is a pain and, at that point, you might as well just buy a less-annoying, more versatile toaster oven.

A hand pulling out the basket of a dual-basket air fryer
For their size, we expected the dual-basket air fryers to effectively cook a lot more food than they did.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Double the Air Fryer Baskets Did Not Mean Double the Cooking Space

Two of the air fryers we tested—the Instant Vortex Plus Dual ClearCook Airfryer and Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer—had dual baskets that allowed you to set them independently or sync them to run at the same time and temperature. Their baskets measured 6.15 and 6.65 inches wide compared to the Instant Vortex’s 10.14 inches. While these models could cook 1/2-pound of fries in each basket fine, as soon as we bumped it up to 1-pound the spuds emerged raw after 20 minutes. So, double the basket did not mean double the cooking space—they really could only effectively handle half of what the standard air fryers could. Plus, they're more expensive than standalone air fryers (the dual basket Instant is about $100 more than our overall top pick).

If you want an air fryer that works well with any quantity of food, we don’t see the value in buying a dual-basket air fryer. However, if you’re someone who cooks for two and wants to make the majority of your meals in the air fryer and cook a protein and vegetable at two different temperatures at once, they will work…as long as you mind their capacity limitations. And, in that case, while it’s not an official winner we recommend the Instant Vortex Plus Dual ClearCook Airfryer.

A hand turning the control knob to adjust the temperature on an air fryer
Responsive digital control panels (especially ones with knobs) were a lot easier to set than having to repeatedly press buttons.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Which Air Fryers Were the Easiest to Use?

For the most part, we preferred air fryers with digital controls that offered responsive touchscreens and a knob for easily increasing the time and temperature. The buttons also had to be clearly labeled (many weren’t…or only offered pictures) and their markings and screens large enough to easily read. And while it wasn’t entirely essential to the success of the fries or wings we cooked, we preferred if you could set the temperature in 5-degree increments, rather than the 10-, 15-, or even 25-degree increments offered by other models. This gives you more control and the ability to cook recipes with less guesswork. 

two perforated basket inserts side-by-side
The perforated insert (left) has large enough rubber bumpers so that it stays put when the basket's tilted to remove food. The one of the right has smaller bumpers and frequently fell out of the basket (and onto our hands).

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

There Were Big Basket Differences

The air fryer baskets posed usability concerns as well. For starters, the basket’s handle had to be comfortable and easy to hold—and positioned far enough away from the basket you didn’t scrape your knuckles against the hot surface when you went to hold onto it. 

The air fryer baskets either had inserts that locked into the base via their handles or perforated shelves that sat in the bottom of the baskets. If the former, the handle and basket had to feel secure (no wobbling!); if the latter, the inserts had to have larger silicone bumpers so that they didn’t slide out of the basket when it was tilted to remove food. 

a closeup look at a handle of an air fryer with a plastic cover over its basket release button
We liked the plastic slider covers on some of the models' basket release buttons, however they did trap water during cleanup.

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Cleanup Went Fine with All the Models

All of the air fryers were alright to clean. And while some were dishwasher-safe per the manufacturer’s guidelines, we recommend hand-washing anything nonstick anyways, as the high temperatures of the dishwasher will breakdown the coating faster. Some of the models (Cosori, Dash, GoWise) had a plastic slider covering the basket release button on the handle. This cover trapped water, but it wasn’t too troublesome.

cooked fries in an air fryer basket with a hand pulling the basket out midway

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Should You Buy an Air Fryer or an Air Fryer Toaster Oven?

The answer to this question depends on four things: what features are the most important to you, how many people you're serving, space considerations, and price. Thanks to their compact cooking chambers, powerful fans, and perforated baskets, air fryers are really, really good at cooking food in a short amount of time with little to no preheating. However, they're also only suitable for, max, four servings in order to achieve best results. Even our top air fryer from Instant (which says it serves four to six) would have a tough time fitting six, 6-ounces portions of salmon or enough pounds of fries to feed a hungry crowd and cooking them evenly and thoroughly. Space-wise, they are, of course, another electric appliance to store. However, air fryers are relatively inexpensive (three out of four of our favorite air fryers are less than $130—so you don't have to spend a lot to get a great air fryer).

Air fryer toaster ovens on the other hand are basically toaster ovens with included perforated baskets that span the length of the ovens. In the case of the air fryer toaster oven version of our favorite toaster oven from Breville, the company says it has "super convection" which bumps its convection fan up a faster speed to "ensure fast and even heat distribution." We're going to publish a more in-depth comparison of air fryer toaster ovens versus air fryers soon, but initial findings showed that air fryers toaster ovens did not brown as quickly or effectively as compact, standalone air fryers and required a longer preheat time. However, air fryer toaster ovens can hold more food (you could fit in six portions of protein easily) and, depending on what model you buy, can also be great toaster ovens so they offer a lot of versatility. An air fryer toaster oven would have to live on your countertop and are generally more expensive than air fryers (the Breville one we noted above is nearly three times that of our top air fryer from Instant).

In summary: if you are cooking for four people or less, have the storage space, don't want to spend a ton, and are looking for faster, easier well-browned food, stick with a standard air fryer.

an air fryer surrounded by text points

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The Criteria: What to Look for in an Air Fryer

The best air fryers are equipped with wide, tall baskets, make well-browned food, have handles that stay cool to the touch, and have intuitive, easily legible controls. Other qualities that were helpful, but not 100% necessary: a knob that allowed you to easily adjust the time and temperature and the ability to increase/decrease the temperature in 5-degree increments.

The Best Air Fryer: Instant Vortex Plus 6 Quart Air Fryer

Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer Oven, 6 Quart

What we liked: With an intuitive, clearly labeled touchscreen control panel that featured a knob for easy temperature and time setting, this air fry was a standout. It had a wide, square basket, a perforated insert that stayed put when we transferred food to a serving bowl, and a comfortable handle. It consistently produced the most well-browned food in the least amount of time—so fast, in fact, it may take you some adjusting to and more monitoring. It was one of the only models that allowed you to adjust the temperature in 5-degree increments and it saves the last temperature and time setting used.

What we didn’t like: It had a built-in preheat function that averaged four minutes, and while this wasn’t a huge deal (we just added food straight away, let the machine preheat, and waited the 30 seconds it took in between the “add food” notification and when the machine automatically began the cycle), if you want to add a couple of extra minutes after the machine’s completed cooking, it will have to preheat again. In this case, the preheat time is noticeably shorter, but it’s still there. This model’s moderately noisy, too.

Price at time of publish: $112.

  • Stated capacity: 6 quarts
  • Cooking basket size: 10.14 in w x 11 in l x 4.25 in h
  • Temperature range: 95℉ to 400℉
  • Time range: 1 to 60 minutes
  • Settings: Airfry, roast, broil, bake, reheat, dehydrate
  • Care instructions: Manual doesn’t state whether it’s dishwasher-safe
  • Serves: About 4 people
a silver and black air fryer on a blue surface

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Also Great: Cosori Air Fryer Oven Combo

Cosori Air Fryer

What we liked: This model featured a responsive touch screen and consistently produced well-browned results. While it had a pre-heat button (you have to select it separate from and prior to the cook function), it cooked totally fine without using this. We liked its extra-long power cord, roomy basket, and the cover on its basket release button that prevented any accidental fallouts. 

What we didn’t like: This moderately noisy air fryer scratched easily, and we noticed a few scuffs on its control panel at the end of testing. We didn’t find tapping on the screen to adjust the time or temperature to be as easy as using the Instant Vortex’s knob. When on, it blew a lot of hot air out its back vents, so it’ll have to be placed on your countertop with this in mind. Its control panel is a bit cluttered with pictograph presets.

Price at time of publish: $120.

  • Stated capacity: 5.8 quarts
  • Cooking basket size: 8.75 in w x 9.25 in l x 3.9 in h
  • Temperature range: 170℉ to 400℉
  • Time range: 1 to 60 minutes
  • Settings: 13 cooking presets (in addition to manual controls): steak, chicken, seafood, shrimp, bacon, preheat, frozen foods, bread, vegetables, french fries, root vegetables, desserts
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe detachable basket
  • Serves: About 4 people
a black air fryer sitting on a blue surface

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The Best Air Fryer with Analog Controls: Ninja Air Fryer, 4 QT

What we liked: This is the only round basket air fryer that could keep up with, for the most part, the larger capacity air fryers, in part due to its more spacious basket. And it consistently produced well-cooked food. While we didn’t find the all-analog controls to be as easy to use as digital controls (lots of button pressing), for those that are adverse to touchscreens, we can see why this would be appealing. We did appreciate how non-cluttered its interface was. It’s fairly silent too when on and its timer counts down at the 1-minute mark (an unnecessary, but nice feature). 

What we didn’t like: If you’re feeding a family, the 4-quart basket may be too small (we’d suggest the Instant or Cosori). Like the Cosori, it vented a lot of hot air out its back. And again, this model requires a lot of repetitive button pushing.

Price at time of publish: $100.

  • Stated capacity: 4 quarts
  • Cooking basket size: 8.25 in diameter; 4.75 in h
  • Temperature range: 105℉ to 400℉
  • Time range: 1 to 60 minutes
  • Settings: Airfry, roast, reheat, dehydrate
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe removable parts; handwashing recommend
  • Serves: About 3 people
A grey and silver air fryer sitting on a blue surface

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The Best Small Capacity Air Fryer: Philips Premium Digital Air Fryer

a philips air fryer on a white background

What we liked: With a smaller, square basket, this air fryer produced well-browned food as long it was kept at a smaller scale (1.5 pounds of fries was its max for the most consistent browning) and given more time. Its (mostly) analog controls were simple to understand, and its knob easily allowed you to scale the time and temperature. It also had handy features like built-in cord storage. We think it’s a good option if you cook for one or two people. And if you’re into history, Philips actually invented the air fryer.

What we didn’t like: This model was rather noisy and, of course, expensive. Its mesh basket bottom comes off of its frame, which makes cleanup potentially easier, but it’s more annoying to assemble. You can only set the temperature in 25-degree increments. 

Price at time of publish: $250.

  • Stated capacity: 3.5 quarts
  • Cooking basket size: 7.8 in w x 7.75 in l x 3.5 in h
  • Temperature range: 100℉ to 400℉
  • Time range: 1 to 60 minutes
  • Settings: Air fry, bake, grill, roast, reheat, dehydrate, and toast
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe removable parts
  • Serves: About 2 people
a small black air fryer sitting on a blue surface

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Other Air Fryers We Tested

  • Ultrean Air Fryer: With a small, round basket that yielded underwhelming results, this model also had usability errors. It beeped so loud it caused dogs to bark and its perforated insert fell out of the basket when tilted.
  • Dash Deluxe Air Fryer: While this model produced fine results, it had sparsely labeled dial controls like that of an analog kitchen timer. And when it was on, it constantly ticked. Its temperature dial was at the top of the machine—not an intuitive placement.
  • GoWise Electric Air Fryer: With a smaller, round basket, this model produced less-crispy results. We liked its digital display, which had large, bright blue numbers that were very easy to read.
  • Instant Vortex Plus 10 Quart Air Fryer: This model had two shelves rather than a basket, and it produced extremely unevenly cooked food.
  • Instant 8 Quart Vortex Plus Dual ClearCook Airfryer: Its small baskets couldn’t hold that much food— a pound of fries in each basket was too much for it. We did like that the machine’s beeps sounded like a video game and found its “sync” cook (which duplicated the temperature/time of the first basket) helpful.
  • Elite Gourmet Electric Digital Hot Air Fryer: This flip-top air fryer felt dangerous to use, with its heating element fully exposed when the lid was up. Its small, round basket produced the least browned results of all the models tested.
  • Ninja Foodi 2-Basket Air Fryer: This dual basket air fryer just didn’t cook food effectively. Its basket easily slid out of the machine with the slightest tilt (like if you were putting it on the countertop). This caused the basket to fall onto our toes.


Are air fryers healthy?

In the culinary sense, you're using far less oil (a few tablespoons or less, perhaps) air frying than you would use deep-frying. However, we reached out to Victoria Seaver, registered dietician and Associate Editorial Director for EatingWell.com, for further insights. "Using less oil means your meal will be lower in calories per serving, which is helpful if you're trying to eat fewer calories to lose weight. And, depending on the type of oil you use, using less can be helpful for people with heart disease or diabetes, who need to limit how much saturated fat they eat on a daily basis," Seaver said.

What’s an air fryer’s maximum temperature? 

All of the air fryers we tested had a maximum temperature of 400℉. If you're trying to make a non-air fryer recipe in the air fryer and the recipe calls for 425℉, setting the air fryer to 400℉ will likely suffice.

Should you use an air fryer’s presets? 

Many air fryers come loaded with presets for things like fries, chicken, vegetables, steak, seafood, frozen food, and more. However, we prefer manually setting the time and temperature. This allows the user more control. However, if you're historically a fan of presets (like with a blender), you may like trying them on the air fryer.

What size air fryer is best?

Now, this can be a confusing question! A manufacturer will say a 3-quart air fryer will serve four, while another asserts a 5.8-quart model serves three to five. In our testing, we found that if you have the space, it’s worth investing in a larger (5.8- or 6-quart model), which will give you more room for browning and allow you to scale things up or down.

Can you put foil in an air fryer? 

Yes! Unlike with a microwave and like with a toaster oven or standard convection oven, it’s safe to use aluminum foil in an air fryer.

Are air fryers worth it? 

If you have the space for another appliance and value speed and ease in one contained, cleanable package, then you’ll like an air fryer. In our testing, we found they browned and crisped food easily, thoroughly, and quickly. Our favorite air fryer cooked 1-pound of frozen fries in about 14 minutes total (including its preheat time).

Do air fryers emit a plastic smell?

Most air fryer manufacturers tell you to run a test cooking cycle or two prior to cooking in your air fryer to ensure the air fryer's functioning properly and burn off anything leftover from the manufacturing process (likely the cause of any unpleasant plastic smells). A couple of the air fryers we tested continued to emit a slight burning, plastic smell when cooking, but this did not include any of our four favorite models.

Is a reusable silicone air fryer liner worth it?

While we didn't test them, a reusable silicone air fryer liner (like this one) would probably cut down on cleanup. However, we question if it would inhibit browning since the air fryer basket's perforations aid in air circulation. And while it's definitely not reusable, you could also just use foil to line an air fryer's basket when cooking something particularly sticky/messy.

When is the best time to buy an air fryer?

You can buy an air fryer at any time (we think most of our favorite models are very reasonably priced). However, if you're looking for a good deal on an air fryer, we rounded up the best sales here. We'll update the page periodically, and more during major sales events (like Prime Day or Black Friday).