Is it possible to fry food without all that oil? Well, if you've heard the buzz about this year's hottest kitchen appliance, the air fryer, you know the answer is "yes." Air fryers help you whip up lighter fried foods in a shorter amount of time.
To find out what brand makes the best air fryer, the Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute evaluated models from major manufacturers for performance and ease of use. We looked at each fryer's ability to cook homemade and frozen foods, like French fries and chicken nuggets (plus breaded eggplant as a vegetarian option). We also measured taste, texture, and evenness of browning. Last but not least, we evaluated the hardware on each air fryer — controls, settings, and how easy it was to clean. Every air fryer in our test features a dishwasher-safe basket and audible alerts when cooking is complete.
Our Lab's pick for the best air fryer is Black & Decker’s Purifry 2L Capacity Air Fryer. Testers gave it high marks for its ability to cook 8 cups of food (a hearty amount for a countertop appliance!) and quickly pre-heat up to 400°F, plus we found that it was exceptional at cooking frozen French fries. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Purifry, plus info on more of the best air fryers to buy in 2019.
How does an air fryer work?
An air fryer is basically a healthier alternative to a traditional deep fryer, which submerges meat and veggies in a vat of oil. But an air fryer, using only a small amount of oil heated and circulated by internal convection fans, makes food crisp with a fraction of the calories and fat (plus, it's a whole lot safer to use than a deep fryer).
You can also make desserts — we’re talking cookies, brownies, and even cakes — in an air fryer. And if you need to reheat some leftovers and want them crispy, just set the temperature to 300°F for up to 10 minutes.
Are air fryers actually better for you?
Good Housekeeping's Nutrition Director Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN says that while it won't make all fried foods automatically healthy, using an air fryer is generally a better option than deep-frying.
"It's definitely a healthier alternative if you commit to using just 1-2 tablespoons of a plant-based oil with seasoning, and you stick to air-frying veggies more than anything else," she says. "Any appliance that helps you and your family up your veggie game is key to weight management, reduced risk of chronic disease, and improved long-term health as we age."
Best Overall Air Fryer
Black + Decker Purifry Air Fryer
The basket on this model cooks 2-4 servings at a time, and we love that it's budget-friendly. In our test, a batch of Ore-Ida frozen fries came out well-browned and very crispy. There are just two knobs to deal with — one for heating between 175-400°F and one for cooking up to 60 minutes, in 5-minute increments. A light at the top of the air fryer indicates when it's on, and a second light lets you know when it's pre-heated. Both the basket and separator are dishwasher safe, making cleanup a breeze. It's available in black and white.
Capacity: 1 lb
Dimensions: 12.6 x 12.6 x 14.5.
Best Value Air Fryer
Farberware Multi-Functional Fryer
The Farberware air fryer can cook up to two pounds of food and comes with a recipe booklet if you want to experiment with new snacks and dinner ideas. Like the Purifry, it heats up to 400°F but only cooks 30 minutes at a time. There's also a nice little auto shut-off feature. The non-stick air fryer basket is dishwasher safe but you better like the color black — that's your only option for exterior. You can buy into Walmart's Protection Plan with Allstate for either 2 years ($5) or 3 years ($7).
Capacity: 2 lbs
Dimensions: 14 x 14 x 16.
Best Large Air Fryer
Philips Avance XXL Twin Turbostar Air Fryer
If you regularly cook for crowds, you'll want to invest in Philips' Turbostar air fryer. It cooks up to 3 lbs. at a time and comes with automatic settings for frozen fries, meat, fish, and drumsticks. Our frozen fries and chicken nuggets came out browned and crispy, and we love the LED display and splatter proof lid. There's a recipe booklet in the box, but you'll also want to download the free Philips Airfryer app, which comes with 200+ recipes. You can also add on accessory kits for baking, grilling, and parties (to double the amount of food you can cook — 6 lbs. at a time!).
Capacity: 3 lbs
Dimensions: 12.7 x 17 x 12.4.
Safest Air Fryer
NuWave 36001 Brio Air Fryer
If you have little kids who like to help out in the kitchen, consider this Amazon bestseller with 4.1 out of 5 stars. The compact model can still cook up to 3 quarts of food at once but won't start heating up unless the basket is secured in place. Frozen French fries came out very golden, crisp, and tender but alas, homemade French fries were greasy and raw inside. The interior has a non-stick coating and looks a little more high-tech on the outside, with LED controls that heat up to between 100°F and 390°F. It also comes with a 1-year warranty.
Capacity: 2 lbs
Dimensions: 11 x 8 x 13.
Best Hybrid Air Fryer
Ninja Foodi 1400-Watt Multi Cooker
Combine two trendy appliances into one for healthier, faster food. This appliance claims to cook up to 70% faster than traditional cooking methods, and with up to 75% less fat than common frying methods. The "large" version fits 6 quarts, but even the 4-quart basket can hold up to a 5-lbs. of chicken or 3 lbs. of French fries. And the non-stick coating makes for easy cleanup. We also like that it passed rigorous safety tests.
Capacity: 3 lbs
Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 10.
How to use your air fryer
When it comes to user-friendly appliances, it doesn’t get much easier than an air fryer. But to maximize your experience, check out our cookbook full of Air Fryer recipes and read these tips before you start cooking:
- Don’t overcrowd the fryer basket. In fact, the results are best when you arrange foods in a single layer if possible — this ensures a light and crispy, non-soggy exterior.
- Begin to air fry your food within a few minutes of tossing in the oil.
- When converting a recipe for something roasted or baked into an air fryer-friendly recipe, lower the temperature by 25°F but keep the cooking time the same.
- Pre-packaged frozen foods don’t need additional oil before being air fried.
- Excessive fat dripping into the pan can cause smoking. Maintain caution when preparing highly greasy foods (like sausages) in the air fryer.
- Always set the basket, pan, and any accessories on a heat-resistant surface when frying is complete and maintain caution, as these tools get very hot during the cooking process.
- Use nonstick-safe tongs to lift larger or delicate foods out of the fryer basket. Otherwise, you can dump the food out directly into a serving bowl or plate.
- Carefully pour out excess oil from the bottom of the basket between batches. Once food is removed, the air fryer is ready for another batch.
- Hand wash your basket. Though the baskets are dishwasher safe, hand washing will prolong the life of your basket. Refer to your owner's manual for specifics.
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