The best air fryer of 2020
The air fryer is quickly becoming a must-have small appliance, soon to take its place alongside the toaster and coffee maker.
There are good reasons home cooks love air fryers. They prepare foods fast and efficiently with crispy, flavorful results using minimal oil. And they come in different sizes with functions that make meal prep a breeze.
We've revisited the air fryer market and found two new models that caught our attention -- one with a huge capacity and another that offers a space-saving design. Consider them along with two of our longtime favorites to find a model to fit your needs.
Best air fryers of 2020
Here is a quick look at our favorite air fryers, which have varying capacities, user-friendly functions, and the latest hot-air technology. We've included a more in-depth analysis of each model at the bottom of this article.
A popular air fryer with a generous capacity and rapid hot-air technology, it's been one of our longtime favorites for its features, performance, and appealing design.
With a reasonably compact build, easy controls, and a pleasing price, this small air fryer has been on our shortlist for years and is worth considering for singles, couples, and kitchens with limited space.
This powerful air fryer is emerging as a top seller for its numerous preset functions and huge 5.8-quart capacity that can fit enough food for a family. Its mid-range price is impressive, too.
The NuWave Brio proves that you don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the benefits of air frying. It's a nice entry-level model for budget-minded shoppers, and it's new to our list.
What you need to know before buying an air fryer
Don't let the name air fryer fool you, because this innovative little appliance doesn't really "fry" foods. Instead, it cooks with infrared and convection technology by rapidly circulating hot air around food that's placed in the cooking basket. Just like an oven, an air fryer has variable temperature controls that allow you to set it to the best temperature to cook your favorite dishes. A built-in timer function allows you to get precise results and avoid overcooking.
Most air fryers have controls that are easy to use. Basic models have temperature and timer dials. Higher-end appliances have digital control panels that often feature presets for effortlessly air frying specific foods, such as fried potatoes, shrimp, chicken, and more. From basic to fancy, most air fryers made today have an auto-shutoff function to prevent burning food once it has reached the desired cooking time.
As you shop for an air fryer, consider the size that is right for your needs. Compact models that can hold around 2 to 2 1/2 quarts of food are best for singles and couples. However, large air fryers that have as much as 8- to 10-quart capacities are great when you need to prepare large portions at once. Typically, 3.5- to 6-quart models are ideal for most families' needs.
Keep in mind that wattage of an air fryer has a lot to do with its performance. Most models range from 800 to 1,450 watts of power, but some newer models deliver as much as 1,750 watts for crispy, delicious food in minutes.
The price of air fryers varies depending on features, size, and power, but expect to pay between about $59 and $300. The higher the price, the more features, functions, and wattage you'll get. However, budget-friendly models offer the same hot-air technology as pricier options.
Q. I've heard that you can bake a cake in an air fryer. How is this possible?
A. Preparing a cake in an air fryer requires the right cookware. You'll need a metal pan that will fit into your air fryer basket, which are often found in air fryer accessory kits. Preheat your air fryer and prepare your cake as if you were going to pop it in the oven. Pour the batter in the pan, and put it in the air fryer to bake. Cook time and temperature will depend on the size and power of your air fryer, but approximately 350ºF for about 20 minutes is a good starting point. Check the cake with a toothpick after 20 minutes, and pop it back in the air fryer for about 5 minutes at a time until done.
Q. Are air fryers easy to clean?
A. Absolutely. Simply hand-wash the fry basket using warm water and mild dish soap. Many models have dishwasher-safe fry baskets, which makes cleanup even easier.
In-depth recommendations for best air fryers
Best of the best: Philips' XL Air Fryer
What we like: A large, powerful air fryer that cooks extremely fast and boasts an easy-to-read digital touchscreen.
What we dislike: Takes a little practice to learn all of its functions. Price falls on the high end of the range.
Best bang for your buck: NuWave's Brio Air Fryer
What we like: Very affordable, yet offers impressive features including an LED control panel and 6 preset options. Straightforward to use.
What we dislike: Some owners express concerns about longevity.
What we like: Easy to use, clean, and afford. Doesn't take up a lot of space on a countertop or in a cabinet.
What we dislike: Small capacity so it's not the best choice if you need to cook for family or a group of friends.
Choice 4: COSORI's Max XL Air Fryer
What we like: Generous 5.8-quart capacity and 11 handy resets. Powerful 1,700-watt model for a reasonable price.
What we dislike: Doesn't give all foods a crispy texture. A few units quit working after several weeks or months of use.
Jennifer Manfrin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.