How we test air fryers: what we assess for kitchen success

You can't really fry before you buy, so we do it all (and more) for you

The Ninja Foodi Max Dual Drawer Air Fryer on the counter with a batch of muffins in front of it to show how we test air fryers
(Image credit: Ninja)

Air fryers are replacing the weather as an easy conversation topic. By now, most homes have one and, if you don't, it's probably because you're doing your research before taking the plunge. An informed decision tends to also be savvy, after all.

When you're looking at roundups of the best air fryers on the market, you might be wondering, how we test air fryers. Before we recommend a model to you, from the best Ninja air fryers to the latest brand launches, it goes through rigorous rounds of assessments. We cover our first impressions and the aesthetics of an air fryer all the way through to how well it performs in the kitchen as well as what it's like to clean up.

We do all the sweating, cooking, and cursing so that you don't have to. We'll tell you everything you need to know before buying an air fryer so that you know you're investing in the best. At Woman & Home, we only part with money for perfection.

Why we give you our first impressions

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

While we aren't ones to jump to assumptions based on appearances (too many innovative, but utilitarian-looking appliances have taught us against that), we know that how your home looks matters. 

Air fryers are the kind of appliance that will sit on your countertop all day long, so it needs to look good. We'll give you advice on where to place your air fryer in the kitchen as well as the sort of space that it is well-suited to. As the market gets more and more competitive, these are being designed to look slicker, smarter, and more suave. You'll get small ones that can easily slot into cupboards, slim ones for narrow countertops, and huge ones, which you might not be able to hide, but at least if they look nice, you can be proud of them.

As part of this section, we talk about setting up the air fryer. Of course, you'll need to plug it in and rinse the baskets, but what about all the other stuff? If you can set a custom profile, you'll want to know about it. Likewise, it's good to have a heads-up on any accessories that a brand will send, or which air fryer accessories you might want to invest in before you get to frying. 

This initial set-up will tell you a lot about how a company looks after its customers. One of my favourite touches is when they send along a magnetic guide for timings and settings. You can stick on the fridge and turn to it when you need some advice. It's really underrated.

How we test the performance of air fryers

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

This is arguably the most important of all our tests. Air fryers need to be speedy, effective, and easy to use for us to get the most out of our money. We've established a standardised set of tests that lets us assess the capabilities of air fryers as well as their versatility. 

Because every model we test has to work through these tests, we can also easily compare between models; they've all had to jump through the same hoops.

We approach every test as if we don't know how to use an air fryer. We want to make sure that absolute beginners can navigate these effortlessly, or at least find it easy to learn all the tips and tricks for how to roast, bake, broil, and more.

Testing air fryers on chips

Instant Compact 3.8L Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

The first test we put all air fryers through is on chips. First, we start with French fries. These are a classic test for air fryers and one which you'll want to be clued up on. If an air fryer can successfully crisp up chips, keeping them fluffy on the inside and evenly golden on the outside, we know we're onto a winner. 

We'll also test homemade chips so we can see how well the air fryer handles potato skins and thicker cuts. Air fryers should expand your cooking options.

Normally, we'll test chips from frozen, because if you have a hankering for chips or you're not prepped, it's likely that you'll whip these straight out of the freezer drawer. We do other tests on frozen food since this is one of the most appealing air fryer functions, but cooking chips from frozen is a great place to start.

Testing air fryers on roasted vegetables

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

Our next test for air fryers is roasted vegetables. This is one of the easiest ways to get your five a day, because roasted veg, tossed in the air fryer with a teaspoon of oil (at the most) can be a game-changing snack or side dish.

We'll test a whole host of vegetables, from courgettes to bell peppers, aubergines, and asparagus. We look for some crunch and charring on the outside with a tender, delicious inside. It's also a great test for speed and thoroughness. 

A powerful fan will scatter vegetables across the basket, not cooking them evenly, incinerating and drying out some, whilst leaving others raw. A thoughtfully designed model will give you gentle charring, delicious tenderness, and plenty of moisture. 

Testing air fryers on frozen food

Cooking fish and chips in the Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK

(Image credit: Future)

We get a good idea of how well an air fryer can handle frozen food from our chips, but another USP of air fryers is how quickly they can crisp-up all frozen food. If you don't have the energy to cook and just want some quick fish fingers and chips from the freezer, it's important that you can rely on your air fryer. 

Our classic test is on fish fingers or chicken nuggets (often alongside chips, so we can set expectations for how easily you can cook a full meal). We want the air fryer to thaw and cook all our meats right through, not just for the taste, for the safety of you too. We'll also be able to compare air fryers to microwaves here, since lots of people use both appliances to defrost their meals.

It's also a place for us to compare air fryers to deep-fat fryers. There are some foods that you simply can't cook in an air fryer, wet batters are one of them. Whilst you can't cover the same functions as a deep fat fryer with your air fryer, you can test-out bread crumbed food, which gives the battered effect for less calories. It could be a great switch-out for your classic fried Friday dinner or an easy way to make a fry-up for everyone (yes, there are no limits to what air fryers can do).

We often cook a double-batch here, setting one meal aside to cool. Then, we'll test a re-heat function to see how effectively we can double-cook food. Sometimes you'll lose all the softness and moisture, other times, it'll be like we never even did the first air fry.

Testing air fryers on bacon

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

Bacon is another essential test. We do it for you, but this is also one that the experts demand for themselves. The scent of bacon draws people into the test kitchen, although smarter models have odour-erasing functions these days - to make your kitchen smell good no matter what you fry. 

Bacon is another great test of how powerful the fan is. Like with roast vegetables, strips of bacon can be blown across the basket. It also tests how well an air fryer handles fat. We aim for crisp and crunchy bacon and we don't want it to be dry. The fat should keep it juicy, but also not sit in your air fryer basket, making it difficult to clean.

Testing air fryers on roast chicken

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

The final, standard test that we like to try is on roast chicken. Plenty of air fryers claim to have the capacity for a whole roast chicken in their basket, Some even claim to cook these in twenty minutes. That's tough to believe (and it takes more like 45 minutes in reality), which is why we always put it to the test.

We want to make sure that the air fryer can cook through big cuts of fish and meat, leaving the skin crispy and the inside moist, tender, and juicy. These are the air fryers that we know we can recommend to families, since if it can do a succulent chicken (especially with roast potatoes and vegetables around it) that's your Sunday roast sorted (and halved in time). 

Testing air fryers on other features

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

You might be surprised at what else you can cook in an air fryer. Our food team loves experimenting with everything from grain bowls to gin and tonic cake, which we always serve with a G&T too. Our team test as many different recipes as we can, so that we can serve you up some inspiration, whilst letting you know if the specific model under scrutiny suits you.

Some air fryers have other features. Where they made bold claims, we put them to them under extra meticulous tests. WiFi connectivity, dual drawers, flex drawers, apps, and more all get put through the wringer so that you know whether it's worth spending a little more money on them or whether they're more of a gimmick than genuinely good.

Person cleaning an air fyer basket with washing up liquid over a sink

(Image credit: Future)

Finally, we'll talk about how to clean your air fryer. Some baskets are dishwasher safe, so all you need to do is stack them in and set the machine running. Others are a little less easy to clean. However, this can be with good reason. Ceramic and stainless steel coatings are generally considered to be 'non toxic', so if you're extremely sceptical of wonder technology and Tefal, you might be willing to spend a little more time at the sink for the sake of chemicals.

How we place it in the market?

Lakeland Dual Basket Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

Our experts have tested all of the best air fryers on the market as well as some which are a little less than good. We stay in contact with manufacturers so that we know what's coming onto the market and when from the Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L to the Philips XXL Connected. That way, when it comes to this part, we can take a step back and look at everything your air fryer offers you.

We'll consider who it suits and then call on all the other air fryers that make the same claims. They've all gone through the same tests, so we can make direct comparisons between different models. 

We'll look at those that cost a little less, and those that boast a little more, and let you know where we think this sits in the market of air fryers. We might as well put all of our time in the kitchen to good use.

What do we say in our verdict?

Ninja Air Fryer MAX PRO 6.2L

(Image credit: Future)

Here's where we'll take another step back. We look at the cost and warranty of the air fryer in the context of how it performed. You'll want some guarantees that your air fryer will last in your kitchen for longer than a week and that the manufacturer will help with malfunctions. 

As the people who spend our days scrolling through air fryer releases, we'll also be able to tell you whether or not you're buying it at the best price. Some seem to always be on sale and others are rarely reduced. There's nothing more frustrating than paying the full RRP only to find out that you've been caught spending more money than you should have. Equally, there are other models that we love, but can't quite justify at full price. We'll let you know when this is the case and then keep you up to date on any savings you can make on our dedicated air fryer deals page.

Here's where our experts put our heads together and decide who each air fryer suits as well as who we wouldn't recommend it to. That way, if you end up investing in one, you know that there are only good things coming your way.

Laura Honey
Contributing Ecommerce Writer

Laura is a self-confessed, floral-obsessed, fragrance aficionado. She started out her career working for the luxury British perfume brand, Penhaligon's. Whilst working for the iconic brand, Laura qualified as a Master Perfumer and has now set up her own perfume studio. You'll often find her experimenting with her own perfumes, even though she still owns (and buys) more fragrances than she will ever admit to.Alongside her passion for perfume, Laura graduated with an English degree from Oxford University. Whilst there, she belonged to a number of women's groups, so was eager to move into women's writing. Her first job was with the female-owned fashion brand, The White Company. Here, Laura was their only Fashion Writer, so she helped to plan, write and promote the company's quality, luxury, and timeless clothing, season after season. In her evenings, she worked on a women's health start-up, which is coming to the market soon, offering supplements for women's health. Laura is also the eCommerce editor at one of Future's other magazines, Homes & Gardens where she specialises in covering all their coffee and product content, looking for pieces that are tailored for timelessness. The secret to her heart is both simplicity and quality.