Many of us are already familiar with the magic that is an air fryer, but for those not yet indoctrinated, we're about to let you in on a little secret: An air fryer is the best kitchen investment you'll ever make.
What's so great about them, you ask? Well, for starters, they make cooking your favorite items faster, easier, and cleaner. But maybe even better than that is the fact that they can give foods a deep-fried taste and texture using a fraction of the oil, making classically indulgent favorites, like fried chicken and french fries, a whole lot healthier without sacrificing taste.
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Air fryers work essentially like small convection ovens, using a fan to circulate hot air around your food at high speeds, which both cooks and crisps your food. Depending on the food, this cooking method elicits caramelization, which breaks down sugars to give foods like veggies a brown, crispy texture, or what's called the Maillard reaction, which is a science-y term for when foods with carbs, sugars, and proteins, like meats, react with each other, again giving food a crispy, brown texture. Traditional deep-frying induces the Maillard effect by submerging foods in hot oil, but thanks to their cooking mechanism, air fryers can do it with just a thin coat of oil, or sometimes none at all.
In addition to healthier versions of deep-fried favorites, air fryers can do everything from frying veggies and baking bagels to roasting meat. They're also arguably the very best way to make already-fried frozen foods, like tater tots and French fries. And they can typically do it all in about half the time as your oven.
While you'll likely never regret adding an air fryer to your cooking arsenal, with so many different types and features out there, choosing the right one for your needs can feel overwhelming. That's why we've done it for you. Below, we share the best of the best air fryers for every cooking need and household, so all you need to worry about is what to cook first.
Best Compact Air Fryer
If you're like many of us who are longing for more counter space, then you'll love this compact beauty. The 2QT air fryer is small but powerful, allowing you to cook veggies, tofu, meat, and virtually anything else in just a few minutes, no preheating required.
The size is perfect for cooking meals for two, and its auto-shutoff timer allows you to press a button and walk away while the fryer does all the hard work for you. You also get five fun hues to choose from in addition to a recipe book with more than 15 dishes to help you kick off your air frying journey.
Best Value Air Fryer
This 1,700W air fryer offers everything you need to air fry your favorite foods while being easy on your bank account. The touchscreen menu is a breeze to navigate and comes with eight one-touch presets, such as Fries/Chips, Pork, Chicken, Steak, and Shrimp, eliminating any guesswork from your meal preparation.
Even better, the air fryer's 5.8QT basket is non-stick, dishwasher-safe, and BPA-free, making it big enough to cook for a family and a cinch to clean. And if you find yourself stuck on meal ideas, you can consult the 100-recipe cookbook that comes with it, giving you two meal ideas per week for nearly a year.
Best Overall Air Fryer
When only the best will do, this is the air fryer you want. The device's TurboStar technology ensures your food receives constant, circulating heat for evenly crisped food, while its dishwasher-safe parts mean no messy clean-up.
The air fryer can cook four-person portions, so it's great for most families, and it comes with a keep-warm function, ideal for when said family isn't always on time to dinner. It also comes with four presets for frying, grilling, baking, and roasting, and a QuickControl dial that lets you easily set the temperature and time.
Best Large-Capacity Air Fryer
Find yourself cooking for a big family or lots of dinner parties? Then this air fryer, with its 3-pound food capacity, is exactly what you need. The 1,725W heater and motor with Twin TurboStar technology creates a tornado-like airflow that significantly reduces the need for oil, even compared to other air fryers, and doesn't require preheating.
In addition to minimizing oil, the device can extract fat for healthier cooking, capturing it in a fat reducer that's easy to pour out when you're finished. The air fryer also comes with a QuickClean basket with a removable drawer and nonstick mesh that are completely dishwasher-safe, allowing you to clean up any mess in just a few minutes.
Best Multipurpose Air Fryer
In addition to air frying dishes to perfection, this magical device works as a pressure cooker for an all-in-one cooking solution that saves counter space. The 5QT air frying component and 8QT cooking pot can make large meals, and do so quickly, transforming food from frozen to crispy in just 20 minutes.
Speaking of crispy, the air fryer also comes with a unique TenderCrisper feature that lets you pressure cook dishes to lock in juices and then air fry them for a crisp finish. You'll also get a reversible rack that allows you to steam, broil, and layer your ingredients to make a wide variety of different dishes.
Cutest Air Fryer
Sometimes we care less about features and more about how to enhance our aesthetic, but this little cutie covers both bases. The device will instantly elevate your interior while providing all of the features you need to cook up a delicious meal.
The air fryer comes in eight fun hues, ranging from deep plum to retro yellow to electric teal, adding a fun pop of color to any kitchen. But don't let its good looks fool you — the device is killer at what it does. The air fryer lets you fry, bake, grill, and roast any dish, while the 2.75QT basket can cook enough food for a couple of people without taking up too much precious counter space.