Time to Get CRISPY (and low fat)!
Over the past few years, air fryers have become enormously popular with over 12 million units sold here in the U.S. in a single twelve-month period. So, we wanted to see what the hype was all about. Their immense popularity has helped spawn a growing number of brands and styles, each with their own features. We decided to take a look at the most popular brands keeping our price range in the middle for the average buyer, this is what we found. . .
- OUR TAKEPROSCONS
- OUR TAKE
- This great unit has 11 presets as well as manual capability and a "shake" reminder to help deliver evenly cooked, crispy "fried" foods. It is also the perfect size for a family of 3-4, has manual temperature controls up to 400 degrees and is competitively priced to boot, earning it our top spot.
- Lowest list price in our comparison.
- Basket is easy-to-remove and dishwasher safe with a non-stick coating that is PFOA and BPA free.
- Standard 1 year warranty can be extended to 2 years if registered within 14 days of purchase.
- It's a good idea to "season" the device with dry run of french fries or something cheap followed by a wash—it had a "hot plastic" smell for our first cook.
- Preset functions are not always accurate (you may need to manually add time).
- OUR TAKE
- This easy-to-use device is stylish and has rave reviews. At 3.7 Qt it's also the perfect size for a couple (some reviews say up to 3 people, which may be fine for french fries but is otherwise a stretch). It missed our top spot because we haven't been able to find much background on the brand.
- Digital touchscreen is both easy-to-use and easy-to-view.
- Both manual and preset modes work perfectly.
- Will fit a whole chicken or up to 20 wings.
- Great styling (you won't need to hide it in the cupboard.)
- Has received fantastic customer reviews.
- Model is on the larger side and takes up more counter space than compact units like the Phillips.
- Cleaning can be a bit tricky (the "non-stick" coating isn't perfectly non-stick).
- Manual mode tops out at only 380 degrees.
- OUR TAKE
- This great device is the most compact in our comparison. It also has easy-to-use controls, a keep warm function and Turbostar tech to deliver even cooking without the need to pre-heat. What's more, this unit is easy-to-clean and dishwasher safe. The downside—its pricey.
- Turbostar technology delivers evenly cooked food without the need to pre-heat.
- Available second cooking rack for more versatility.
- Unit is a breeze to clean.
- Compact size doesn't take up much counter space.
- Highest list price in our comparison.
- Basket size is only suitable for 1-or-2 people.
- Manual temperature settings are in 25-degree increments meaning you cannot cook at 235 degrees if called for in a recipe—only 225 or 250 degrees.
- OUR TAKE
- This unit missed our top spots due to its large counter presence (in comparison to it's 3.4 quart capacity) and somewhat confusing user interface. We'd recommend going with the 3.7 quart version of our top pick or the Bagotte instead.
- Features Rapid Air tech to cook food more evenly.
- Non-stick basket is dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
- Manual mode cooks at up to 400 degrees.
- Includes tongs, cake mold and mini grill rack.
- Large unit footprint consumes a lot of counter space in comparison to the basket size.
- Smaller basket size is good for no more than 2 people (3 if something like french fries).
How We Chose
Easy of Use, Basket Size and Temperature Adjustments
With so many different brands and models of air fryers available, searching for the "best" air fryer to meet your needs can be more than a little confusing. These devices come in so many different sizes, shapes, colors and with so many different features that it almost seems as if someone set out to make it impossible for anyone to choose the "right" one. To make matters worse, the sheer amount of information available online via blogs, manufacturers' sites and social media is enough to send you into "information overload" to the point where it seems nearly impossible to decide. At least you can comfort yourself by knowing you are not alone—sifting through all the information for this review drove us a bit crazy!
In looking through the different air fryers on the market, we decided to focus on models that are easy to use, have several accurate preset modes and basket sizes suitable for between 1-and-4 people (as a rule 2.4 quarts is good for 1-2 while 3.7 quarts is good for 2-3 and 5.8 quarts is good for 3-4). We also gave higher marks to to models with manual functions that allow you to set both cook time and temperature. While most of the models on the market have this feature, not all of them allow you to change the temperature setting in small increments, making it hard to follow certain recipes accurately (this is one reason the Phillips unit—one of the more popular and widely reviewed models on the market—didn't earn our top spot as it only works in 25 degree increments).
In short, we focused on air fryers where all you have to do is load your food, press the button and then go on with making the rest of your dinner—we don't want our readers fussing over the food in the unit other than by giving it the occasional shake or two during cooking.
Keeping this overriding goal in mind, we selected the COSORI 5.8 quart as our top pick. At 5.8 quarts, it's big enough to cook for a family of three or four, hitting the mark in terms of size because you can always cook smaller portions. This unit is also stylish, has an easy-to-use interface, can cook at up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit AND has the lowest list price in our comparison. On the minus side, you may also want to "season" this unit by heating it up with a test cook and then washing it before cooking your pièce de résistance for guests as the first cook can smell a bit "plastic-y." If you can get past this, this unit offers great value for the money (COSORI also makes a 3.7 quart version of this unit that is available for much less than $100 and can be viewed through the link above).
Moving on to a slightly smaller unit, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Bagotte, a brand none of us were particularly familiar with, earned our "compact" runner up spot. At 3.7 quarts, it's big enough to cook for a family of 2-to-3 (more likely 2 unless you are talking something like french fries), hitting the mark in terms of size. This unit is also stylish and has has an easy-to-use interface. It won't get quite as hot as the other units in our comparison (high temperature is 380 degrees Fahrenheit vs 400) and isn't the easiest to clean, but is more than capable for most home "frys" and has received rave customer reviews.
Lastly, we chose the Phillips as our "super compact" runner up because this unit is the smallest in our comparison and very well built. The Phillips is also very highly rated and from the brand that first introduced air fryers to the world in 2010. Be aware that it is pricey and, that at 2.75 quarts, won't be able to cook for more than 2 people.
Air Fryer Basics
What You Need to Know
Air Fryer Basics - The original patent for this craze that seems to have taken the nation by storm is the Phillips Electronic Co. Their claim upon release of the first air fryer was simply that it could cook foods using minimal amounts of oil that mimicked the results of being deep fried. These are simple appliances that should be easy to use and clean up along with cooking superb crispy foods that are tasty and healthy.
How They Work - An air fryer works like a convection oven on steroids in that hot air is rapidly circulated around the food being cooked. The big difference is that your foods are contained in a much smaller space and the air flow is much stronger. The way in which the hot air circulates around the food from all directions is what causes it to crisp up much like putting it in a deep fryer filled with oil. Because you are cooking in a compact space with hot air constantly blowing on the food, cooking times are significantly reduced.
How Is It Possible to Fry Without Oil? - In many instances, the food you plan to cook already has enough oil or fat in it for the air fryer to work. For example, chicken wings have more than enough fat to become nice and crispy in about 20 minutes in the air fryer, and any excess fat ends up in the bottom of the basket rather than on your plate creating a greasy puddle.
With some foods such as French fries, it is recommended that you coat them lightly with a tiny bit of oil to obtain the desired crispiness. All you need to do is toss them in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and your favorite seasoning before placing them in the basket. The oil helps make your fries nice and crispy and is MUCH healthier than completely submerging them in a hot oil as would be the case with a traditional deep fryer.
How Powerful Are Air Fryers - Power or wattage is one thing you should consider as you look at the various air fryers on the market. The average range seems to be between 1500 and 2000 watts. The Bagotte model has a 1500W heating element and a temperature range of 180° to 380°F which is more than enough to cook most foods. Because of its smaller capacity, the Phillips model only has a 1425W element, but the Advanced TurboStar Technology claims a more powerful heating element is not needed and it seems to work just fine based on this units rave reviews. The big thing to remember here is that a bigger heating element, while relevant to cook times and the quality of the final product, isn't the only determinate of how the device functions. The overall design of the air fryer plays a large role too.
Can You "Fry" Anything? - So, here's the deal, you can cook almost anything that you would normally put in a deep fryer, which means things like fries, wings, breaded chicken tenders, okra, tomatoes, and many other items. The thing to remember is that you can't cook anything that is liquid, which rules out freshly battered foods like fish unless you freeze it before you cook it. Air fryers do not work well when the batter is still trying to drip off the food, you just end up with a mess at the bottom of the basket. When you drop foods coated in a wet batter into a traditional deep fryer, the oil instantly seals the batter and then starts cooking. In an air fryer, everything cooks evenly so batters will run off the fish before it is cooked enough to stay in place.
Other Useful Information
Health and Safety
So, Is Cooking With An Air Fryer That Much Healthier? - One of the most popular reasons given for buying an air fryer is that the foods cooked this way are much healthier. In many ways, this is true because you use less oil to achieve the results you want.
Instead of submerging your fries in a vat of heated oil that soaks into them as they cook, you add a tablespoon of healthy olive oil to a bowl and lightly coat them. By using so little oil, you cut the fat content of your foods. Which as most of us know, the less fat in your diet the better. Excess intake of vegetable-based oils such as those used in deep fryers has been found to cause heart disease, inflammation, and weight gain.
One thing you should keep in mind is that just because air fried foods are considered healthier than those cooked in a deep fryer, this does not necessarily mean they are healthy foods in general. You need to look to the underlying nutritional content.
Lastly, AND OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE, make sure that you are not using your air fryer to simply re-heat previously deep fried foods, such as frozen french fries and chicken tenders from the grocery freezer section. To cut down on the oils, you will need to make these items yourself. For example, to make french fries you need to slice and season raw potatoes (Idaho or sweet), cover them lightly with oil and then cook in the air fryer. This process is surprisingly simple but necessary to realize the health benefits of these great devices.
Air Fry Safety Tips - Lastly, some safety pointers. As with any kitchen appliance, there are several safety issues you should be aware of when you buy your air fryer.
- Air fryers get extremely hot and vent hot air to the outside world via one or more vents. Place yours where it has unrestricted airflow, or it could overheat or even burn items around it.
- Never put anything on top of your air fryer while it's in use. Doing so may block the air intake or exhaust causing the unit to overheat and malfunction.
- When removing the food basket, you will encounter super-heated steam the moment you pull the basket out, much like when you first open the oven door. Keep your face and hands out of the way until the steam has escaped or you may suffer severe burns.
- Keep your air fryer clean; this means the basket, the outer pan, any racks and the inside as well as the outside of the unit.
- Unplug your air fryer before cleaning it, remember electricity can severely injure or kill.
Seriously . . .
We started ReviewDECIDE on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.