This Ninja Air Fryer Makes Perfectly Moist Chicken Wings
"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
We updated this article in February 2023 to ensure all picks vetted and tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab are accurately priced and in stock.
If you're still wondering what an air fryer is and how it differs from convection baking, think of a small oven that can crisp up wings, fries and veggies with little (or no!) oil — in barely any time.
Air fryers come in several different styles, including what we like to call basket-style, great for large batches of foods like fries and vegetables that benefit from shaking; oven-style, ideal for cooking food on numerous shelves and often including rotisserie accessories; and toaster oven-style, which can toast, bake, broil and more in addition to air fry. No matter the style, they require minimal cleanup, which is one of the main reasons we like using them. (When the time comes, check out our tips on how to clean an air fryer.)
In the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab, we have tested more than 40 air fryers over the years, cooking at least one pound of chicken wings in each, as well as one half pound of frozen fries and one half pound of fresh, homemade fries. Our top performers air fried food to a crispy texture with a moist interior and were a cinch to use with large, easy-to-read controls that barely required the owner’s manual. These are the best air fryers and air fryer toaster ovens of 2023 you can buy right now.
Our top air fryer picks:
At the end of this guide, you can read more about how we evaluate air fryers in our Lab as well as everything you need to know to shop for an air fryer
This 5.5-quart basket-style Ninja Air Fryer Max XL was the top performer in our air fryer test. It scored the highest marks across the board for ease of use, thanks to its intuitive, easy-to-read buttons and clear and useful owner’s manual. During our tests, the air fryer basket slid in and out easily, which made handling a breeze. We’re fans of the basket’s removable tray and slick, ceramic interior, which makes it nonstick. The tray also fits snugly and securely on the bottom of the basket so you don’t have to worry about it falling out when you turn the food out onto a plate. Both basket and tray are dishwasher safe and easy to clean, even if you choose to hand wash.
In addition to being easy to use, the Ninja Air Fryer Max XL scored the highest in performance. It produced crispy and evenly cooked frozen fries and homemade fries as well as chicken wings that were moist on the inside. The model we tested comes with a broiling rack for even quicker and juicier results — and a fast way to create melty cheese. It also features several cook settings, which are programmed with unique maximum and minimum temperatures — including Max Crisp and Air Broil (which reach 450°F) and dehydrate (which reaches a low of 105°F) — so you can achieve different cooking results. Another unique feature is the timer, which counts down to the second. For a larger capacity, consider the Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 2-Basket Air Fryer. It performs just as well as the Air Fryer Max XL with even more versatility. It's the one we turn to the most for one-person meals since each individual basket is smaller and takes up less room in the dishwasher.
READ OUR FULL REVIEW: Ninja Max XL Air Fryer Review: Easy to Use with Great Results
Though it's not the least expensive air fryer on our list, this Cosori Air Fryer is a great value: It's straightforward, easy to use and can feed an entire family without costing a fortune. It has a 5.8-quart square basket, which offers a lot of cooking space, especially compared with its round competitors. The basket is removable and lightweight, with many vents for optimal air circulation. The control panel is loaded with presets that are programmed with recommended cooking temperatures and times, including a preheat option. The Cosori Air Fryer can also be used in a manual setting if none of the presets aren't the perfect fit.
In our tests, the Cosori scored high for ease of use — and more than 25,000 five-star reviewers on Amazon agree. It also made good fresh fries and wings quickly. Our tester did note, however, that while the air fryer made juicy chicken wings, the chicken breasts came out a bit dry on the outside. There was still good color and no charring, though.
The Dash Compact is a good air fryer for people who cook only for themselves or for someone who's new to air frying and wants to try it out. At 2 quarts, it can quickly cook one portion of food. The smaller footprint means it takes up less room on your counter, and its compact basket means easier cleaning. This model has a dial timer, which makes it a little tricky to program to the exact minute. The temperature is also set via a dial and doesn’t offer many options, but we found the Dash was still a good pick since we use the max 400°F temperature to air fry most foods. We love that it comes in an assortment of colors that pop, unlike most air fryers on the market. The aqua, pictured here, is a fave.
Cuisinart was one of the first brands to introduce a toaster oven air fryer that allows you to toast, bake, air fry and convection bake. We tested this digital version, which not only made the crispiest air-fried food in the shortest amount of time out of all the air fryers we tested, but also some of the most evenly-colored toast in our toaster oven test. The rectangular 15.5- by 16-inch air fry rack offers a large cooking surface (especially compared with basket-style air fryers) and sits atop a drip/crumb tray for easy cleanup. Since launching the toaster oven air fryer, Cuisinart also introduced a smaller, non-digital version with the same features and quality performance as well as a same-sized model with a grill pan that we're eager to test.
RELATED: 7 Best Air Fryer Toaster Ovens
Air fryers from Instant, the same brand that makes Instant Pot multicookers, have been on our list of best air fryers since we started testing them. The ones we tested, including this one, are easy to program and high-performing. This one particularly stands out for its see-through window design, which allows you to peer inside without pulling out the basket. It also has a light that can be turned on manually and that turns on automatically right before the timer goes off.
In our tests, chicken wings cooked in this 6-quart ClearCook model came out crispy, golden and juicy in just 20 minutes, and frozen fries were moist but crisp and evenly cooked without shaking midway. This air fryer has a preheat function built into it, which takes about 3 1/2 minutes to reach 400ºF and chirps when ready to cook. It does not require you to press Start again after it preheats, should you want to put your food in from the beginning and walk away. It also alerts you halfway through cooking in case you want to shake or turn the food.
The digital control panel is highly responsive, and the knob makes it easy to program the temperature and time quickly. It has six settings that are preset with recommended (but adjustable) cooking temperatures and times, including Air Fry, Bake, Roast, Reheat, Broil and Dehydrate. The square basket maximizes cooking space, is easy to slide out and maneuver and fits comfortably in the dishwasher. It has a removable tray (like the Ninja, Dash and GoWise air fryers) versus a separate basket that sits inside a drawer (like the Cosori and the Philips), and we find the tray easier to wash.
The Ninja Speedi Rapid Cooker and Air Fryer is one of the newest air fryers we've tested. While it looks different — and is somewhat larger — than most air fryers on the market, it's worth making room for on your counter. The 12-in-1 appliance not only air fries well and quickly, but it works similarly to a multicooker (without the pressure!), and can be used to sear, sauté, bake, roast, broil, steam, slow cook, proof, cook sous vide and even dehydrate. It can also steam and bake/air fry at the same time for the juiciest and most flavorful results.
One of the most impressive things it can do is cook quick one-pot meals by cooking the base — like pasta, rice or quinoa — on the bottom of the square basket and the toppings — like chicken, shrimp or meatballs — on the top level. It doesn't require any additional accessories, just the included perforated tray, which is used for air frying and steaming in the lower position and crisping/broiling in the upper position. The tray and six-quart basket are ceramic coated, like the other Ninja air fryers, and they're easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher. We found the Speedi simple to program and liked the clear control panel, and the user guide is loaded with helpful instructions, tips and colorful recipes.
The GoWISE USA 7-Quart Air Fryer is the one we turn to most for cooking in large batches since it’s so big. In our tests, it air fried crispy fries and juicy wings that we kept going back to nosh on. Its air fryer basket has an oblong shape, which allows more cooking in a single layer than round baskets — a big benefit when it comes to dehydrating. This GoWise air fryer comes with three additional racks that stack, which sets it apart from others on the market. The stacking racks allow you to air fry and dehydrate up to four layers at a time. It's also available in red if you want a pop of color on your kitchen counter.
How we test air fryers
We've tested more than 40 air fryers in the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances Lab, including traditional basket-style air fryers, air fryer ovens, air fryer toaster ovens and even several microwaves and multicookers with air fry capabilities. We also cook with them quite regularly and have developed countless recipes for them.
When we test air fryers, we evaluate their performance and ease of use by air frying frozen and fresh french fries as well as chicken wings. We don't test baked goods like cake because cake and most other desserts benefit from an even distribution of gentle heat, and most air fryers don't have heating elements on the bottom in addition to on the top (though fruit crumbles and air fryer donuts come out great!). We score the food on its crispiness, juiciness and evenness, and we consider details like how quickly it cooks, how helpful the user guide is and whether the machine is loud. We also evaluate features like the control panel, temperature range and whether the accessories are dishwasher-safe.
What to look for when shopping for the best air fryer for you
✔️Size: How many people are you cooking for at one time? A compact size is good for one to two people, while a bigger size works better for three or more.
✔️Style: Basket-style air fryers are good for small quantities and foods that are easy to shake, like fries and veggies. Air fryer ovens are a bit bigger and can air fry food on multiple shelves, but they require more monitoring and food often needs to be rotated during cooking. Air fryer toaster ovens can perform multiple cooking functions — like baking, roasting and broiling — in addition to air frying.
✔️Price: Digital air fryers tend to cost more than mechanical air fryers, as do stainless steel options versus plastic.
✔️Multifunctionality: If you're in the market for another appliance, toaster ovens, microwaves, pressure cookers, steamer cookers and even full-sized ovens have started to incorporate an air fry option into their designs, so investing in a multifunctional appliance might be a good value (that takes up less space!).
Are air fryers worth it?
Air fryers are worth it if you like to cook foods quickly with minimal cleanup. Sure, some are bulky and may feel like a usurper of your counter space, but most people who use them learn the benefits right away. They're especially great for prepackaged frozen foods and leftovers, like french fries or dumplings, that would normally get soggy or rubbery in a microwave. In the Kitchen Appliances Lab, we like using ours for quick dinners. All types of proteins, like chicken, pork chops and salmon, cook up quickly and become golden brown and juicy; veggies become nicely blistered or caramelized. We especially like air frying root vegetables, like mini potatoes and diced butternut squash and beets.
What cannot be prepared in an air fryer?
Air fryers are great for crisping foods, but there are certain scenarios when you shouldn't use one.
You shouldn't use an air fryer for liquids, as they can easily spill and splatter, even when heated in a heat-resistant vessel. You also shouldn't use an air fryer for foods that require a wet batter, like tempura, because the coating doesn't set quickly enough to stick, which can cause drips and smoking as well as failing to produce a crispy food.
We wouldn't recommend an air fryer for many baking tasks: Most can't actually bake because they have heating elements only on the top of the unit versus the top and the bottom like a toaster oven or oven. The basket or shelf design also generally restricts the size of your baked goods. Air fryers are, however, great for desserts that benefit from browning like a baked apple or an individual sized crumble.
You should avoid cooking greasy foods in an air fryer. If air frying something greasy, use a lower temperature to help reduce splattering, which can cause grease to hit the elements and create smoke.
Beware of lightweight food, such as bread, as well — some air fryers with a powerful fan can cause it fly around.
How do air fryers work?
Most air fryers pair a heat source at the top of the appliance with a large fan that circulates the hot air. This design causes food to cook quickly, as do other factors like the use of perforated trays, which help increase airflow, and a small-capacity design, which helps create a high-heat environment. In our tests, at-home use and recipe development, we've found that most foods cook best at high temps, like 400ºF, for short periods of time. Small food items don't typically need to be tossed or flipped but can be for more even results; larger foods generally do benefit from turning for the most even cooking.
How do I convert a regular recipe to an air fryer recipe?
Converting regular recipes to air fryer recipes is not as straightforward as converting a regular recipe to a convection oven recipe, which typically requires decreasing the temperature by 25ºF and checking on it sooner. Instead, keep in mind that most foods air fry best at 400ºF unless they are thicker (think chicken breasts, which take longer to cook and should be air fried at a lower temperature, like 370ºF or 375ºF, to avoid drying it out), so you are often just adjusting the timing.
The most important thing to remember is that air fryers cook very quickly, so keep your user guide handy and check the included cooking charts and recipes often. Until you know the recipe, it's also a good practice start checking your food within a quarter of the time you would normally check it in the oven.
Are air fryers "healthy"?
"Air frying use significantly less oil than deep frying and pan frying, so it can provide a lower-calorie and lower-fat alternative that still delivers a crisp texture," says Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CDN. "But air fryers are only as healthy as the foods you chose to cook in them. They won’t magically remove saturated and trans fats from your meals.”
To get the most health benefits out of your air fryer, Sassos recommends using it as a vessel to add more veggies and lean proteins to your diet. One of her favorite uses for it is air frying frozen veggies. "I couldn't believe how easy it was the first time I tried it," she says.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Nicole Papantoniou is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Culinary Innovation Lab. She has worked at kitchen appliance companies, where she helped develop some popular air fryers as well as many recipes for them. Since joining Good Housekeeping, she has had her hands on all of the new air fryers that come through the Lab (whether testing herself or overseeing testing) and has tasted food that was made in almost all of them. She's an avid air fryer user at home, too, where she has about six to choose from.
You Might Also Like