We explain what an air fryer is, who might need one, and what features to look for.
If you’re trying to eat more healthily, consider an air fryer: they circulate hot, dry air to produce crispy food without the added kilojoules and copious amount of saturated fats you get with deep-frying.
We put air fryers to the test by cooking thick-cut fries, and crumbed chicken. We now also cook chicken wings and roast pork, but as not all models incorporated these tests, the results do not contribute to the performance or overall scores.
Low-fat or air fryers are like mini-benchtop ovens, with either a rotating basket, a paddle to stir the food throughout the cooking process, or a drawer. With the latter, you have to pull the drawer out and shake the food.
If you already have an oven, cooktop and grill, you probably don’t need an air fryer. You can do as good a job in your oven using little or no oil. However an air fryer may be useful if you are a single person or couple and don’t need to cook a larger family meal. There are bigger models with dual baskets that can cook larger meals though, and some models can fit whole chickens in to cook, but you would still need another appliance to cook the rest of the meal. They are pretty good at making snacks as well, take a look at our “air fryer diary” for some suggestions.
Cooking takes about the same time as a regular oven, but some models use more energy than an oven. At the extreme end of the scale, one air fryer in our test would cost nearly $30 a year if you used it for half an hour three times a week. That’s about the average yearly running cost for a built-in oven being used three times a week for an hour.
Cooking functions: Some models can also roast, bake and grill. Where possible, we test these additional features by toasting bread, baking pizza, and roasting a whole chicken. The results for these tests can be found under benchtop ovens.
Capacity: Some air fryers can only take 800g, so you might need to cook food in batches, or buy a larger size (at least 8L) if you plan on roasting a whole chicken or have a large household to feed.
Drawers and shelves: The majority of models use drawers, but some also have internal shelves which allow more food to be cooked. There are also a few models with doors and pull out shelves which may be more convenient, and even models with two drawers to allow cooking of two different foods at the same time.
Size: Air fryers can take up quite a bit of space on your bench or in a cupboard.
Temperature range and settings: Some air fryers don’t get hotter than 200°C or have pre-determined temperature settings.
Pans, baskets and paddles: Dishwasher-safe, non-stick coatings are easy to clean but can get scratched. Ceramic pans are also easy to clean but can chip.
Accessories: Check what equipment is included, as having to buy accessories (such as a grill rack or tongs) will bump the price up.
Viewing window or lid: Useful for checking food while it’s cooking.
Safety features: A timer and a timer cut-out (where the element turns off, but the fan stays on) are helpful, as is an overheat cut-out. Non-slip feet are a good idea if you have children – a secure grip will make it harder for a child to pull the fryer over. Also, handles on the pan make lifting it easier than trying to grab the sides with oven mitts.
Design: Air fryers can be odd looking products, many resembling small plastic barrels. Something to consider when deciding what will look good in your kitchen.
Air fryers vs multi-cookers: Multi-cookers provide many cooking functions in one, such as slow cooking, pressure cooking and steaming. There are some multi cookers that also provide air frying functionality to create crisper foods. Our tests for multi-cookers can be found here.
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