The 12 best air fryers for low calorie cooking

The best air fryers allow you to cook healthy meals in minutes. Here we weigh up the pros and cons of all the most popular machines on the market

Collage image of three of the products in w&h's best air fryers guide
(Image credit: Future)

The best air fryers will allow you to easily cook fried food without the faff and added fat of deep frying. We have tested all the popular models and rounded our favorites to help you choose the best air fryer for your home. 

Air fryers will help you achieve the perfect crunch and color of fried food without the need for excess oil or fat.  As the name suggests, air fryers use the convection of air to evenly cook food for a crispy and juicy result. The fan technology in air fryers provides a quick and energy-efficient way to cook. It's no surprise that the latest air fryer deals are so hotly anticipated.

But fast-fried food isn't all they do - many of the best air fryers have lots of additional functions: some grill without smoke, others dehydrate and some have the added possibility to pressure cook and bake.

When air fryers arrived on the scene there were just a couple of choices, but with so many options now available it can be hard to know which to buy. So we took on the challenge to find the best air fryers. Our expert cookware testers have tried many of the most popular air fryers from big-name brands such as one of the best Ninja air fryers (the Foodi), Philips, Tower, and Russell Hobbs, testing them all, and these are the best.

How we tested the best air fryers

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

As with all of our buying guides, we tried and tested each of the best air fryers in this guide in our own domestic kitchen. We cook just like you cook at home, with no fancy additional kit or equipment on hand, so our results are balanced, fair, and realistic.

To ensure there was a good comparison point we made the same thing in each machine: chips. Although there is plenty of things you can cook in an air fryer, chips provide a good measure of how each one performed as they can easily be compared. It's clear to see from the color of the chips how evenly and fast each air fryer cooks. We can also asses how crisp the chips go. This will illustrate how well the air is circulated in each air fryer. Where provided, we (mostly!) followed the maker’s recipe in the hope of the best results.

Aside from cooking in the air fryers, to explore how to use each air fryer most effectively, we also looked at:

  • How easy each air fryer was to set up and ease of use? Did it come with instructions, and how long did it take to actually get to the cooking?
  • How many functions did it offer: Did it only offer a frying function or were there other options available for the price, such as crisping, roasting, and baking?
  • How easy it was to clean and store:  For example, was it big and bulky, or lightweight and slimline? Would it typically fit in a cupboard or on a counter? And, how to clean an air fryer, did it have dishwasher-safe parts?
  • Its value-for-money: Did we feel each air fryer was worth the price tag, or could you get an equal experience for less money? Or, was it worth paying more for a better experience?

The best air fryers as reviewed by our expert

Ninja Foodi MAX Dual Zone Air Fryer AF400UK

(Image credit: Ninja)

1. Ninja Foodi MAX Dual Zone Air Fryer AF400UK

Best overall air fryer

Specifications

RRP: £229.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 9.5L
Dimensions: 32.5 x 41.5 x 27 cm
Power: 2470W
Maximum temperature: Unknown
Weight: 8.8kg
Functions: Fry, crisp, roast, bake, reheat, dehydrate

Reasons to buy

+
The two drawers can cook in different ways similtationsly
+
Easy cleaning with dishwasher safe elements 
+
Additional baking, reheating, roasting and dehydration functions 

Reasons to avoid

-
No touch screen 
-
Large, so would take a lot of worktop space
-
Significant investment

For busy people who need meals made fast, the Ninja Foodi MAX Dual Zone Air Fryer is the perfect solution: we cooked an entire meal ready in ten minutes with this gadget. We tested using the dual-controls and both sides worked well. We were able to produce super moist chicken in one drawer, and simultaneously perfectly crisped sweet potato fries in the other. The ability to use different temperatures and different timings for both opens up the capacity to transform the way you use an air fryer. Each drawer works in conjunction with one another though, so that your food is ready at the same time. 

This model is at the more pricey end of the scale, but if you’re going to get the most out of the various functions, then we think it’s worth splurging for. Additional features include the ability to roast, bake, reheat, dehydrate, and an additional option that we haven’t seen elsewhere—max crisp (for super golden chips, in our experience). Despite its bulky size, we found food cooked best in a single layer, so we reckon this model would suit a couple rather than a big family. In the era of touch screens, the control wheel also took a bit of getting used to and dulled the shine ever so slightly on a product that otherwise felt pretty premium. 

Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 2-in-1

(Image credit: Tefal)

2. Tefal YV970840 Actifry Genius XL 2in1

Best air fryer for families (UK only)

Specifications

RRP: £284.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 1.7kg
Dimensions: 47 x 32 x 26cm
Power: 1500W
Maximum temperature: 180C
Weight: 5.1kg
Functions: Fry, simmer, stew, bake, roast

Reasons to buy

+
Number one in the chip tests - it made the crispest chips
+
The sleek rounded design makes it appear less bulky
+
The paddle inside means you don't need to stir food
+
The dual cooking function means you can cook two things at once

Reasons to avoid

-
Price: it's one of the more expensive models that we tested
-
Takes up a lot of space, however it is light so can easily be stored away
-
Heats up while cooking so required good ventilation

Tefal’s air fryer is better than most thanks to one seemingly simple addition—a paddle. This one tweak to the standard design means food is moved around the base of the bowl continuously, which in turn equals easy, hands-off cooking. Ready to cook immediately, this model has both auto-settings and manual functionality, so you can either just simply press the button for chips, for instance, or toggle the time and temperature depending on preference. The box also includes a quick-fire setup and recipe booklet to get you started quickly and easily.

While the base has the paddle, there’s also an additional layer where you can cook larger items that don’t need to be moved so frequently, such as meat or fish. The two can be programmed separately and there’s room for up to six portions per section. We loved being able to put together an entire meal in one kitchen gadget, and the resulting chips were some of the best we trialed. 

They came out with even, golden coloring and an amazing crunch. However, we found that they required a longer cooking time, taking half an hour whereas others take as little as ten minutes—but we reckon it's worth the wait. You don't have to just fry in this either, you can simmer and stew one-pot recipes too, thanks to the paddle attachment which keeps everything moving as it cooks through. Little extras like the included measuring spoon give this the edge, with no detail too small for consideration. The removable parts are dishwasher-safe too, which makes for a quick and easy tidy-up.

The clear lid enables you to see the food as it cooks, but it does build up fingerprints over time that have to be wiped with a damp cloth. Also, the exterior got very hot during cooking. But given that they were our only complaints, we’re pretty confident in recommending this as a great all-rounder for a family. 

Instant vortex 4-in-1 air fryer

(Image credit: InstantBrands)

3. Instant Pot Vortex 4-in-1 Air Fryer

Best multi-use budget air fryer

Specifications

RRP: £99.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 5.7L
Dimensions: 31.4 x 32.6 x 37.9cm
Power: 1450-1700W
Maximum temperature: 200C
Weight: 5.4kg
Functions: Frying, reheating, baking, roasting

Reasons to buy

+
Relatively lightweight, so ideal if you are don't want to leave it out.
+
Easy setup process
+
Simple pre-program options
+
Can roast a whole chicken 
+
Backspacer means no overheating  

Reasons to avoid

-
No recipe book included in box
-
No auto-setting for chips
-
Strong plastic smell initially 
-
You have to shake chips every five minutes

Not all air fryers are created equal, and spending more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get the best air fryer. This clever piece of kit from the Instant brand comes in around £100 ($130), and beat plenty of pricier models to make it to our list. The setup was very simple (you basically plug it in and go), and both the removable basket and tray are dishwasher-safe for quick and easy cleaning. The matte finish meant no oily finger marks were visible and the only thing which could be a potential irritant is the stainless steel handle, which could—we imagine—get a little grimy over time if not polished regularly. 

While many competitors focus their offering on freezer favorites like fish fingers or chips (kitchen essentials!), the Instant Vortex provides home chefs with enough room to cook a small roast chicken in (and the results are surprisingly succulent) and can bake, roast and reheat too. Fries cooked in just 20 minutes and used only two teaspoons of oil, meaning they were relatively healthy and quick when compared to other models. And the results were super crisp, thin French fry-style chips. 

Slight niggles included having to download the app to get cooking instructions before we began (there's no accompanying leaflet), and the fact that you had to shake the basket every five minutes while the chips cooked to get even results—not the hands-off cooking dream we were hoping for. Overall though, we thought for the variety of functions this model offered it was surprisingly compact and lightweight, making it perfect for small kitchens and those on a smaller budget. 

Cosori Lite Air Fryer with phone

(Image credit: Cosori)

4. Cosori Lite Air Fryer

Best Smart air fryer, ideal for less confident cooks

Specifications

RRP: £99.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 3.8L
Dimensions: 37.6 x 27.5 x 32.5
Power: 1500W
Maximum temperature: 230C
Weight: ‎4.4 kg
Functions: Chicken, fries, keep warm, preheat, bacon, steak, and veggies

Reasons to buy

+
Remotely monitor cooking - download the VeSync app and you can control the air fryer with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
+
Compact and light so ideal for small kitchens
+
Modern looking
+
Great price - this is at the low end of the price range

Reasons to avoid

-
Small capacity - good for a couple but too small for a family meal

QR code on Cosori air fryer being tested as one of our best air fryers

(Image credit: Future)

Cosori air fryers are among the highest-rated on Amazon, so we were keen to test this model to see what all the hype is about. The Cosori Lite Air Fryer is a compact model costing under £100. We felt it would be ideal for less confident cooks as it comes with an app to assist with cooking, perfect if you're turning to air frying as a healthier way to cook but you're not sure how to get started.

This is the only 'smart' model that we tested. But we liked that the Cosori Lite Air Fryer can link and be controlled from a smartphone. Although it’s not possible to start the cooking from the app, it does show you the cooking time and allows you to stop the machine remotely. It is easy to connect the Cosori Lite Air Fryer to wi-fi. There is a removable sticker on top with a QR code that takes you to a page to download the app and takes you through the process step by step. It is also possible to control the air-fryer using voice commands with Google Assistant. 

The app also includes recipes, making it ideal for a first air fryer or for less confident cooks. Those less tech-savvy will be happy to know that the Cosori Lite Air Fryer is also completely functional without the app. A quick reference guide comes in the box with suggested cooking times. And the easy-to-control display features cooking presets for chicken, fries, bacon, steak, and veggies, so you can simply cook a range of things with the click of a button. We used the fries function to cook the chips in our test. They came out great, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. However, the program restarts if not stopped by pressing the pause button or removing the basket, so we did accidentally overcook them.

We like the minimal aesthetics of this air fryer, it has a contemporary-looking matt finish that is easy to clean. It also comes in a variety of colors, so you can pick one that best suits your style. It's smaller and lighter in weight than many of the other models that we tested, so was easy to store away when not in use. The air outlet at the back acts as a handle to make moving easier. But despite being smaller than many others that we tested, the size of the basket is still a respectable 3.8L volume, a reasonable size, that would be ideal for cooking for an individual or a couple. The machine is quiet compared to other models.

A minor design flaw is that when you tip the food out of the basket the oil that has dripped into the base pours out as well. And when we shook the basket a few of the fries fell through the crisper plate, which was a nice treat for the person tasked with washing up! If we had to pick out some flaws, we felt that the heating element would be tricky to clean. And the non-stick coating of the basket felt greasy after washing it in warm soapy water. For a deeper clean the removable parts can go into the dishwasher. But these are small flaws, and overall this a fantastic value machine, that looks great and is well put together.

Ninja Foodi MAX 15-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker with Smart Cook System

(Image credit: Ninja Foodi)

5. Ninja Foodi MAX 15-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker with Smart Cook System 7.5L OL750UK,

Best for ease of use

Specifications

RRP: £299.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 7.5L (but smaller for air fryer function)
Dimensions: 36 x 35 x 36
Power: 1760W
Maximum temperature: 240C (210C on air fry)
Weight: 11.7kg
Functions: Pressure cook, air fry, grill, bake, dehydrate, prove, sear/sauté, steam, slow cook, yoghurt, steam meals, steam air fry, steam bake, steam bread and steam roast

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of functions including pressure cooking
+
Comes with a digital temperature probe to monitor the  temperature of your food as it cooks
+
Cleaning is really easy, oil glides off the non-stick surface and all of the accessories are dishwasher safe

Reasons to avoid

-
Hefty so not ideal if you need it for storing away
-
Can not be used on a work top underneath cabinets

testing the Ninja Foodi MAX 15-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker with Smart Cook System

(Image credit: Future)

With the Ninja Foodi MAX 15-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker with Smart Cook System, you get a lot of bang for your buck. This machine is a real commitment: it’s hefty, so even if you have the space it’s very heavy and not easy to put away. The handles are helpful for lifting it, but realistically it’s something you would leave out. It has so many functions you need to take some time to learn how to properly utilize it, but once you master it, the versatility will amaze you! It has 15 functions from pressure cooking to yogurt making. This is very sturdy and well-made, so we expect this air fryer to last a long time.

The display is bright and easy to control with a dial, slider, and touchscreen display. Beware if buying this for a small space as you will need ample space to open the lid. With the lid open it’s 58 cm tall with the lid open and can not be positioned under cabinets, so consider if it will fit in your kitchen. When closing the lid you must do it with the handle or you risk catching your hand on the top.

We tested chips using the air fryer function and they were fantastic, with a crisp outside and a delightfully fluffy inside. Unlike the others, we tested the air fryer function doesn’t require preheating. Although the capacity of the machine is 7.5L for pressure cooking the air fryer basket is fairly small, about the same size as the Cosori Lite Air Fryer.

Cleaning was very easy, the non-stick coating washed really easily. The Ninja Foodi MAX 15-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker with Smart Cook System was loud when cooking, it let out a high whirr constantly. While cooking it didn’t release as much chippy aroma as the cheaper models.

This is the air fryer to get if you are interested in the other functions too, such as pressure cooking and the unique Combi-Steam Mode which steams and crisps at the same time, allowing you to cook a chicken to perfection in under an hour.

Instant Brands Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid Air Fryer and Instant Pot

(Image credit: Instant Brands)

6. Instant Brands Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid Air Fryer and Instant Pot

Best for cooking a roast in record time

Specifications

RRP: £229.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 6.2L
Dimensions: 39.3 x 39.1 x 34 cm
Power: 1500W
Maximum temperature: 205C
Weight: 10.6 kg
Functions: Pressure cooker, air fryer, slow cooker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, roaster, mini oven, grill, dehydrator, yogurt maker, sous vide and bread proofing 

Reasons to buy

+
Food cooks very quickly with the added pressure cooker functionality
+
Able to cook dry and wet foods or use multiple methods for cooking foods such as roasting chicken
+
Easy to clean dishwasher safe cooking pot
+
Simple to use once app is downloaded

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes up a lot of space on the work surface
-
Doesn’t come with an instruction manual or cook book, however there is an app

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp is one of the more expensive air fryers that we tested, retailing at over £200, however, it is good value for all the functionality. There are 13 distinct cooking settings and it is able to cook both wet and dry foods. The pressure cooking setting for example is ideal for quickly cooking stews whereas the air fryer function is ideal for crisping chips. It’s also a high-capacity air fryer and is large enough to cook for six or seven people. 

Setting up the air fryer was simple, you just plug it into the wall and it’s ready to go. Cleaning was also a smooth process as all the parts were dishwasher safe. However, the machine is heavy and takes up a lot of space on the work surface so you have to be sure that you’re going to use this fryer pretty much every day to warrant the counter space. Thankfully with all the cooking options, you won't struggle to put the Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid Air Fryer and Instant Pot to regular use. 

This model does not come with a cookbook. However, Instant Brands have created an app to accompany the air fryer containing recipes and helpful cooking advice. Not having a cookbook may be problematic for less tech-savvy buyers or those without a compatible smartphone.

All in all, this is a great machine, it’s fantastic how quickly the food cooks, especially on the pressure cooking setting and on the air fryer setting. The Instant Pot also makes the best roast potatoes - so much better than oven-roasted - to the extent that several people on the woman&home team have permanently swapped their cooking methods. Cooking a whole roast chicken was also very successful with this machine, so this Instant Pot is ideal if you like making roast dinners at home. Our top recommendation would be to start cooking the chicken in the pressure cooker and then finish it in the air fryer for incredibly moist chicken with crisp skin.

Philips Airfryer XXL HD9650

(Image credit: Philips)

7. Philips Airfryer XXL

Best luxury air fryer

Specifications

RRP: $299 / £299.99
Capacity: 7.3L
Dimensions: 43 x 32 x 31cm
Power: 2225W
Maximum temperature : 200C
Weight: 7.99kg
Features: Fry, grill, roast, bake, reheat, keep warm

Reasons to buy

+
Sleek design and quiet operation
+
Includes a plug tidy for neat storage
+
Top-class cooking results
+
Large basket, roomy enough for a whole chicken
+
Dishwasher safe inserts

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive compared to most models
-
Large—some may not have the room for it

At the more premium end of the scale, Phillips’ air fryer is sturdy and well-built with an attractive and sleek design. This model is set apart from competition thanks to its dual airflow function, which essentially creates a tornado of heat up and around your food. This action draws out excess fat which is then caught in the drip tray below; pretty impressive stuff. We found the resulting chips to be some of the best we tried during testing—really crispy on the outside without becoming dry in the middle (a common complaint of less stand-out machines) and they didn’t need regular checking or shaking either. 

All elements of the interior are removable and dishwasher safe to ensure there’s no faff when it comes to cleaning up, and we liked the addition of the mesh bottom to really allow food to get airflow all around it. The basket is big enough for between 4-6 people, given that it can fit an entire chicken or a couple of bags of frozen chips, so this would make a great option for families with children. Little extras like the auto settings for chips, chicken, and fish, as well as a neat plug tidy pocket at the back made the whole experience feel seamless. The dial allows you to change timings and temperature, and the 'keep warm' function ensures a piping hot meal despite any delays you may have in your day-to-day life. 

Another plus was how quiet we found the Phillips air fryer to be—it emitted a low hum of the fan rather than a full-scale rattle. All in all, this product seriously impressed us and we could see how this would easily become a near replacement for your oven. 

Tower vortx digital air fryer review

(Image credit: Tower)

8. Tower Vortex 5-in-1 Digital Air Fryer Oven

Best air fryer for cooking chicken (UK-only)

Specifications

RRP: £139.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 11L
Dimensions: 33.9 x 38.2 x 32.4cm
Power: 2000W
Maximum temperature: 200C
Weight: 7.56kg
Functions: Frying, rotisserie, dehydrating, baking, roasting

Reasons to buy

+
Drip tray catches most of the oil
+
Can cook a whole rotisserie chicken
+
Fully removable door for easy cleaning
+
Chips ready in 20 minutes 
+
Different levels mean dual cooking possible 
+
Glass door allows you to view food as it cooks

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky, so clear some counter space
-
Short cable limits where you can plug it in 
-
Harder to clean than most

We have to admit we were skeptical about an air fryer’s ability to successfully rotisserie a whole bird, but we needn’t have been so hesitant. This model from Tower produced incredibly tasty rotisserie chicken in 45 minutes with that classic golden skin and moist meat—as such, we think this is the best air fryer for cooking chicken, and is worth buying for this functionality alone. 

When it came to chips, there’s an auto function that sets up the machine at the press of a button on the intuitive interface. For two trays of chips, you’ll need one tablespoon of oil, and if you’re cooking for more than a couple of people you’ll need to use two trays. The result of this setup is that you are required to move the trays around a little during cooking to ensure even browning of both top and bottom trays, which might be a deterrent for those who want their air fryer to assist them with hands-free cooking. The chip instructions also require you to weigh, peel, cut, and par-boil potatoes, which was one of the lengthier processes we faced during testing. The results were good though—fluffy centers and crunchy edges. 

When it comes to cleaning up, the oven door completely detaches for excellent cleaning capacity, and all the trays and racks are removable and dishwasher safe. The whole cooking chamber on this needs to be hand-wiped, however. After cooking a full chicken, it was pretty oily and took a bit of elbow grease to get clean. Overall we loved that the glass door allowed you to monitor the food as it cooked. We think that the fiddly cleaning aspects and bulky size would be far outweighed if you plan to use this for both chicken and chips on a regular basis. 

Lakeland Digital Crisp Air Fryer


(Image credit: Lakeland)

9. Lakeland Digital Crisp Air Fryer

Best air fryer for two people

Specifications

RRP: £119.99 (UK only)
Capacity: Unknown
Dimensions: 26 x 32 x 35cm
Power: 1350W
Maximum temperature: 200C
Weight: 5kg
Functions: Frying, baking

Reasons to buy

+
Compact size with sleek design
+
The perfect portion size for two people
+
Quiet when operating
+
The power cable is long so it's easy to position

Reasons to avoid

-
Controls take a little getting used to 
-
Not dishwasher safe
-
The bowl is fiddily to unclip when hot

Lakeland has made its own-brand air fryer, and it packs a punch despite its petite proportions. The smaller barrel shape is a much more attractive design than many of the other best air fryers, and we liked that it didn’t take up so much space on the countertop. The reduction in size does translate as a smaller fryer basket too though, so while this is perfect for two people we think it would struggle to feed a family. 

The setup is super simple, and the included booklet plainly explains how to get started as well as how to make popular recipes, like chips. Chips don’t have to be parboiled, which is a bonus when compared to alternatives on the market, and they say they only take 10 minutes. Because of the neat basket size, the potatoes have to be layered and shuffled once during the cooking time, whereas other models have a rotating blade that moves things for you. While the recipe booklet tells you to give the chips ten minutes, the auto function takes 20 minutes, which is a little confusing. We found that after 15 minutes they were perfectly cooked though, with soft interiors and pretty crunchy exteriors.

The screen appears to be touch screen, but is actually controlled with a dial and takes a little getting used to. Once you have it mastered it’s fairly straightforward though, and the pre-settings are a handy extra. You can bake in this air fryer too, but with space for just four cupcakes at a time (the basket has a footprint smaller than a dinner plate) we think we’d leave this job to the oven. The basket releases with a sliding button and needs to be hand-washed, but the non-stick coating makes this a speedy chore. Overall, for smaller households we think this is great given it needs no pre-eating and produces fully-cooked chips in under fifteen minutes. 

Russell Hobbs express air fry mini oven

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

10. Russell Hobbs Express Air Fry Mini Oven

Best air fryer that doubles as an oven (UK-only)

Specifications

RRP: £109
Capacity: 12.6L
Dimensions: Unknown
Power: 1500W
Maximum temperature: 220C
Weight: 6.47kg
Functions: Fry, grill, bake, toast and keep warm

Reasons to buy

+
Good temperature range
+
Lots of additional functions
+
Relatively lightweight 
+
Double shelves for dual cooking

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly bulky, around the size of a microwave
-
Short power cable

This is a bit of a wild card choice for our best air fryer guide, given that it’s a mini oven first and an air fryer second—but thanks to its far-reaching uses, we thought it deserved a place on the list. This air fryer/oven needs to be preheated, but comes up to temperature in ten minutes and uses a huge amount less power than a conventional oven—its first big tick. Included in your box, you’ll get oven trays and racks, with the air frying rack a sort of metal mesh. This allows airflow to completely circulate your food for more even results.

Despite the obviously well-considered design, we found chips needed a shake here to there to get them uniformly colored (the glass door allows you to keep an eye on things for easy monitoring though). The results were mixed—we found that our chips were tasty and cooked through, but not as crisp as other machines made them and there wasn’t an obvious way to toggle the temperature for this functionality. This could be an element you’re willing to overlook if you’re going to make good use of the other features though, which range from baking and grilling to keeping warm and roasting. We also liked that the slide-in crumb tray at the bottom caught debris from meals as they were being made, and each of the removable parts is dishwasher safe.

For all its merits it's worth noting that this model is quite bulky, and will take up a good chunk of counter space. As such, this model would be ideal for a single-person household, or for use in the interim when upgrading or changing kitchens, given that it's lightweight to move and lift, and is multi-functional, doubling as an air fryer and oven.  If you are interested in an air fryer oven, head to our guide on the best toaster air fryers (where the Russell Hobbs Express model takes the spot for the best budget device).

Ninja air fryer AF100UK

(Image credit: Ninja)

11. Ninja AF100UK Air Fryer

Best small air fryer

Specifications

RRP: $173 / £129.99
Capacity: 3.8L
Dimensions: 36 x 25 x 32cm
Power: 1550W
Maximum temperature: 240C
Weight: 5.2kg
Features: Fry, roast, reheat, dehydrate

Reasons to buy

+
Easy cleaning
+
Perfect for couples
+
Good price point
+
Simple set up

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs room for ventilation to work properly
-
Fairly noisy
-
No auto-pause when checking food

This model is the younger sibling to the Ninja Foodi MAX Dual Zone Air Fryer, and packs much of the same impressive performance into a smaller frame. One of the main perks of this air fryer was how easy it was to set up. You literally remove the packaging, plug it in, and it's ready to go. While official instructions for making chips require you to soak and pat dry your potatoes, this extra half-hour step seemed unnecessary to us, and we made perfectly tasty fries in under half an hour without waiting to soak the starch off the potatoes first. Would they have been better if we’d kept to the rules? Potentially—but for us, an air fryer is all about speed and convenience. The basket required a bit of movement during cooking to get an even coloring on the chips, and we noticed that the machine didn’t auto-pause when we removed the tray, a few tiny drawbacks.

While you can dehydrate in this air fryer, the shelf is so small that you end up with a pretty tiny portion of fruit for all your labor, so we couldn’t see this becoming a much-used function. Roasting was much more successful though, with delicious potatoes and vegetables processed with next to no oil. All the interior elements and accessories are dishwasher safe, so it’s very simple to clean, and we found the exterior was maintained easily too with just a simple wipe down with a warm, soapy cloth. Intuitive controls and a simple interface added to the appeal of this great all-rounder, which we reckon is the best Ninja air fryer option if you're after a smaller model.

Salter Digital Air Fryer EK2559

(Image credit: Salter)

12. Salter Digital Air Fryer EK2559

Best budget air fryer

Specifications

RRP: £86.99 (UK only)
Capacity: 4.5L
Dimensions: 34 x 33 x 28cm
Power: 1500W
Maximum temperature: 200C
Weight: Unknown
Features: Fry, grill, bake, roast

Reasons to buy

+
Quiet
+
Attractive design
+
Easy clean
+
Handy default functionality 
+
Simple to set up 

Reasons to avoid

-
Sticky controls
-
Chips need to be parboiled when making from scratch

Capable of doing all the usual tasks—making chips, crisping spring rolls, cooking chicken—this machine from Salter is a snip of the price of other main players yet offers many of the same perks. Chips need to be parboiled and dried before being added to the basket, which was a bit of a gripe of ours during testing when we wanted to make speedy dinners. Following the instructions did result in tasty, golden chips though, but the need to shake the basket every five minutes did rather detract from the convenience factor of an air fryer. 

That being said, this machine takes very little setup and makes a low noise that is much easier to tolerate than some of the other models. The interface on this air fryer can be a little frustrating as it’s not hugely responsive, so takes a bit of getting used to. Cleaning is quick and easy, and overall, for an entry-level machine, we thought this performed particularly well given its price point. We also really liked the ‘default’ setting which sets the air fryer to 180C for fifteen minutes, which we found was a perfect quick fix for freezer favorites. The smart, curved design looks attractive enough to leave on your countertop, and the footprint isn’t huge when compared to similar machines.

How to choose the best air fryer

As you can see, air fryers come in a variety of sizes and functionalities. If you're only cooking for yourself and a partner most nights, chances are you won't need a large-capacity air fryer. Here are four points to consider when buying an air fryer:

  • Capacity: Consider who you'll be making meals for with your air fryer. A small (2-qt. / 3.5L) air fryer is great for solo dining or with a partner. A typical family of 4 should get along with at least a 5-qt. / 5.5L capacity. For larger families, parties, or more intricate meals, opt for anything beyond 6 quarts / 7 liters.
  • Form Factor: You'll need to make sure you have space on your countertop for your new air fryer. Many of them are square or cylindrical, and some resemble toaster ovens. Naturally, the larger the capacity the bulkier the unit itself is going to be. Some air fryers have multiple baskets so you can cook two foods concurrently.
  • Function: Most air fryers have presets for veg, pizza, chicken, fish and more. Beyond that, some air fryers are also capable of roasting, baking and even dehydrating (good for making fruit snacks or jerky). Think about whether or not you intend to use your appliance for more than just frying.
  • Cost: There's no need to spend a lot on an air fryer if you've no use for special features or aren't going to cook for large groups. And even if you are you'll be able to find deals on air fryers during major holidays like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. In any case, have a budget in mind and stick to it.

What are the pros and cons of an air fryer?

Air fryers receive a lot of (well-deserved) praise for being an easy way to prepare healthier versions of our favorite foods – but they're not perfect. If you're deciding whether or not you should join the air fryer craze, take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of owning one...

Air fryer pros:

  • They're simple to use – Seriously, you don't have to be a world-class chef to prepare delicious, golden chips or the crispiest fried chicken. Air fryers are loaded with pre-sets and most come with cookbooks so you're not left guessing.
  • They're fast - Let's face it: a lot of us are too busy to prepare a proper dinner after a long day of work or tending to the home. Air fryers preheat and cook much quicker than a traditional oven so you'll be less inclined to call for takeaway.
  • They're versatile - Want to roast a chicken, or reheat some day-old pizza? How about baking some cookies or dehydrating some fruit? This depends on the model you choose, of course, but an air fryer is capable of more than just frying. 
  • They make your foods healthier - Very little oil is required for air frying, which is good news if you don't want to totally give up your favorite fried foods outright. Research from the Institute of Food Technologists shows (opens in new tab) that air frying can reduce the amount of acrylamide, a possible carcinogen.
  • They use less electricity than the oven - air fryers are a great energy-saving option, especially if just catering for one. They use less electricity than heating the oven.

Air fryer cons:

  • They're bulky - Even the smallest air fryers can take up a considerable amount of space on your counter. This is important because you'll want to ensure your appliance has enough room so air can ventilate – otherwise, it may cause a fire. Storage can also be a hassle if you live in cramped quarters.
  • They're not always practical - You can only really cook one item at a time in an air fryer (or two if you get a dual basket model). And a lot of the time, you'll have to stop it halfway to shake the basket or flip food over to ensure it's evenly cooked.
  • They can't cook everything perfectly - One common gripe is that air fryers aren't suitable for vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. (They'll either be burnt or not cooked enough.) You'll also want to avoid adding wet-battered foods – in other words, items that are meant to be made in a traditional oil fryer.
  • The health benefits can be overstated - Sure, oil-less cooking is a healthier alternative than deep frying, but it doesn't automatically translate to a well-balanced diet. If weight loss is your goal, you'll still want to work towards a calorie deficit and make sure you're eating plenty of raw foods, too. 

Rosie Conroy is a food and drinks journalist with over a decade of experience working for big-name titles in both print and online. Formerly the Digital Food Editor of woman&home, Rosie went on to head up the team at SquareMeal, reviewing the best London restaurants and hunting out emerging culinary trends. With previous experience in food styling and recipe development, Rosie knows what to look for in a good piece of kitchenware and has extensive experience testing consumer goods—from kitchen electricalz and cooking accouterments through to new foodie treats.