Get the crispiness without the grease with this futuristic kitchen accessory.
We’re calling it now: Air fryers are the Instant Pot of 2019.
We’re always on the lookout for new kitchen gadgets that will make cooking easier and more fun — so it would be an understatement to say we were pumped when we first heard claims of a kitchen appliance that can make our favourite greasy foods less unhealthy, all with speeds similar to an Instant Pot. Air fryers started popping into the mainstream eye in the spring of 2017, and now that they’ve had their chance to marinate in the market (food pun intended), it feels like an appropriate time to compare the best ones.
If you thought you were overwhelmed with all of the different Instant Pot models, just wait until you see the air fryer market.
Before we dive into the different devices, let’s answer some lingering questions.
What is an air fryer and how does it work?
Simply put, this is deep frying without the oil — AKA deep frying without the unhealthy part. Some may tell you to just cut back on fried foods altogether, but is that really the only option?
Deep fryers heat food from frozen to ready-to-eat in minutes by dunking them in a bath of super hot oil. This process jumpstarts the Maillard reaction, which is when food gets brown and crispy and delicious — and drenched in fat.
While your typical deep fryer needs enough oil to completely drown the food, an air fryer barely uses any (a tablespoon at most). Other than that, air fryers basically use the same method — a convection fan to surround the food with hot air instead of oil. The air bounces off the bottom of the air fryer and back up through the food, cooking it all over to create that crisping effect in just minutes — something that was previously only possible with deep frying. Not only are you getting that coveted taste and texture without the part that makes it unhealthy, but you’re getting it in half the time.
Air fryers can also cook a hell of a lot more food than a deep fryer and can be used for things like grilling a steak or baking a pizza. It’s like having a combo oven and deep fryer, except it fits on your counter and doesn’t require frozen food to be thawed before cooking.
But is it actually healthy?
Taking the guilt out of guilty pleasure snacks is probably the main reason you’re looking to buy an air fryer, right? We will say it’s health-ier: Manufacturers claim that air frying can — so yes, air frying is certainly a much better preparation alternative. However, scientists aren’t messing around with the whole “moderation is key” thing, and calories aren’t the only factor to measure health. Having an air fryer does not mean that a diet consisting of french fries and pizza rolls is a good path to take, and making sure you get those plant-based oils and vitamins from fruits and veggies should still be worked in somehow.
Got a picky eater at home? Air fryers are a great way to crisp up courgettes, carrots, squash, and more to give them some added taste and crunch, teaching kids that they don’t always have to run for cover when the veggies come out.
Which air fryers are best?
As with any beloved appliances, there are various sizes, features, and physical interfaces from all of the major kitchen brands you’d expect — and some you don’t. We’ll keep it simple and fill you in on the need-to-know details and differences, so your brain doesn’t get too fried.
Screen size is just right • Reputation for cooking food evenly • Extra large capacity
No stainless steel details • Significantly pricier than others
If you’re willing to fork over the cash, the Philips air fryer has a great reputation and a simple screen interface
1. Philips Digital Air FryerPricey but worth it, Philips offers a stellar combo of size, user-friendliness, looks, and even cooking.
Black and white
Even cooking seems like it should be a given with air fryers, but it’s not as easy to find as you’d think. Luckily, that’s not a worry here. All you need is a little practice, and you (and your food) will be golden.
The HD9240/90’s straightforward interface is a mix of sleek and simple, with a QuickControl dial for temperature and time, five cooking presets for popular dishes, and a large screen (it’s rare to get a screen at all, and most with screens are borderline overwhelming). Also included are a grease tray and food basket, both dishwasher safe.
Built-in stirring paddle rotates food automatically • Transparent lid for checking progress
Awkward shape for storage • Only one size
Weirdly-shaped but futuristic as hell, the Actifry stirs for you while you sit back and relax
2. Tefal Actifry MulticookerGet even, golden brown cooking without the effort with Tefal’s unique ring shape and built-in stirring paddles.
Unlike most of the competition, the Actifry does not sport a pull-out food drawer. Instead, the overhead lid opens to reveal a (dishwasher-safe) ring-shaped basket that can hold up to 1kg. Once turned on, the Actifry’s built-in stirring paddle will rotate your food under the hot air, so you don’t have to depend on stirring or flipping for even cooking, which is the hardest part.
The transparent lid allows you to look in on how your food is coming along. But if you don’t have time to check in (or just don’t feel like it), don’t worry — a buzzer will go off once the timer is done. Along with your purchase, you can get a 38-recipe cookbook and a measuring spoon for a small additional fee.
Removable oil tray • Adjustable heat settings • Comes with a handy cooking guide
Nobody wants an appliance that you spend all day cleaning, and this air fryer has helpful features to ensure that doesn’t happen
3. Lakeland Touchscreen Air FryerThe Lakeland Touchscreen Air Fryer cooks with a very small amount of oil that drains into a removable tank that can be popped straight into the dishwasher.
The Lakeland touchscreen air fryer is designed to use just a teaspoon of oil and still produce tasty results. It’s suitable for chips, meat, fish, poultry, seafood, and much more. And they should all be healthier options as a result of using an air fryer.
Some big advantages of this air fryer are the digital touchscreen panel, the adjustable heat settings, the cooking guide, and the dishwasher-safe tray.
Lakeland is so confident in its product that you can return it for up to three years. That should provide some extra reassurance that this is a quality product.
Fast cooking • Fast serving • Large capacity
Non-stick cooking basket isn’t easy to clean
The Salter air fryer is all about speed, and is perfect for anyone that simply doesn’t have the time to spend hours in the kitchen
4. Salter EK2205 Digital Air FryerHeat circulation technology and removable cooking basket means you can cook and serve your food extra quickly.
This device is all about speed. Featuring 1400W of power, the Salter air fryer can heat up to 200 degrees and utilises a heat circulation method in order to cook your food incredibly quickly.
It’s ideal for home-made chips, meat, spring rolls, stuffed vegetables, and quiche, it can cook a surprising variety of meals. It’s also really simple to use, and has a 30 minute timer with automatic switch-off, digital touch sensitive controls, and an LCD display. So not only is this device fast, but it’s effective too.
The Salter air fryer also contains a removable 4.5 litre non-stick cooking basket, which enables you to quickly serve the food after cooking. So it cooks quickly, and you can get the food on the plate quickly.
Nine intelligent cooking programmes • Free app with recipe ideas • Stylish design
Smaller capacity compared to some competitors
With nine intelligent cooking programmes and 150 air fryer specific recipe ideas, this device is all about options
It couldn’t be any easier. You simply add your ingredients to the Actifry Genius XL’s bowl, choose from one of the nine automatic cooking programmes and let the air fryer do all the hard work. The Tefal Actifry Genius Air Fryer sets the temperature and cooking time, and is even smart enough to know exactly when to stir.
Take your pick from chips, rolls, meat and vegetable balls, battered snacks, desserts, and more. All of these options can be achieved with next to no oil, due to Tefal’s dual motion technology that combines hot air circulation and a stirring paddle to deliver great results.
The 1.7 litre capacity produces enough for five main meals or eight side dish servings. And if you are stuck for inspiration. you can consult the free My ActiFry APP that has over 300 recipe ideas, 150 of which have been created specifically for the ActiFry Genius XL’s nine intelligent cooking programmes.
Grill-only function • Roasting rack reduces fat intake
Small capacity • A bit clunky looking
Air fryers are supposed to be a healthier option but this device also drains off any excess fat for an even cleaner meal
Using just half a spoon of oil for 1kg of fresh chips, and no oil at all for frozen foods, you can fry, bake, saute and roast a whole host of delicious meals with this clever device.
This device is also equipped with a 75 minute digital timer with an illuminated display, sound alert, and automatic shut-off. So you can sit back and relax whilst your meal is prepared.
The unique tilt function and rotating bowl of this Breville health fryer continuously turn your ingredients for even browning. There’s also a roasting rack that raises your food, allowing excess fat to drain.
Unlike a lot of air fryers, there’s also a grill-only function that’s ideal for fish and bacon.
Fast cooking • Very large capacity • Dishwasher-safe parts • Seven cooking programmes
May be too large for some households • Non-stick coating can wear
If you need something with a large capacity that can handle the whole family, this should be something to consider
7. Power Air Fryer XLIf you have a big family or a big appetite, you should consider the 5 litre capacity Power Air Fryer XL.
You can cook healthier versions of your favourite meals using hot air technology and less oil and fat with Power. There’s not much you can’t do with this air fryer. You can air fry, grill, bake, sauté, and roast – all in one device.
It isn’t a complicated process either. You simply add your food to the non-stick basket, slide it into the unit, then select one of seven programs or manually adjust the timer and temperature settings. The digital control panel means everything is as clear as possible and ensures whatever you’re cooking comes out just right.
Packing 1700W of power, the fryer heats up to 200 degrees and uses super-heated cyclonic air to fry your food. This means it cooks fast.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this air fryer also has a 5 litre capacity, which is frankly enormous. While this might not be for everyone due to space constraints, this does mean that the Power Air Fryer XL can easily handle feeding the whole family.
Dishwasher safe • Good capacity
You do need to shake to break up food • Not the fastest air fryer
A simple and cheaper option that is great for beginners
8. Russell Hobbs Purify Health FryerCooking everything from fresh to frozen food for under £100, tis air fryer is a great option for newbies to the kitchen.
With a 2 litre capacity drawer and a food separator, you can cook meat, fish, and vegetables separately at the same time, by setting the controls to the right temperature and time that you need. There’s no paddle to break up the food. It just needs a shake half way through.
You can even create your favourite baked treats such as scones, pies, and cupcakes with this health fryer that brings a measure of versatility to your cooking.
There is no messy oil to dispose of and it is dishwasher safe too.
Cheap • Detachable basket • Speedy cook time
A great value option for anyone that doesn’t need to cook large meals
9. Cookworks Health FryerWith a capacity of under 1 litre and costing less than £50, this is a great option for any student who wants to cook easy meals.
You can fry your favourites to perfection with the variable temperature control. Its detachable non-stick oil tank and frying basket makes washing up so easy. It can also bake and roast, so pretty much everything is covered.
This device might not have the biggest capacity in this list, but at under £50 this device is a great budget-friendly solution to any household that doesn’t have loads of space or only cooks small meals.