Are air fryers worth it? 15 ways they can upgrade your kitchen life

This appliance never fails to surprise me in the kitchen. Here's why are fryers are really worth it

A black Philips air dryer with cooked chicken drumstick pieces on plate in kitchen
(Image credit: Philips)

Are air fryers worth it you ask? In short: Yes, oui, si, ja! Whatever language you ask the question in, there are so many reasons to buy an air fryer, and oh can I tell you the ways it can save time, money, and energy (especially after that post-work commute on the subway).  

Whether you want French fries on the regular, without the guilt, or if it's the cost of living crisis that's got you considering alternative ways of cooking to cater to a shoestring budget, now that I've tried at least a dozen of the best air fryers on the market, honestly, I can't really imagine my kitchen life without this countertop essential.

Are air fryers worth it in the long run?

Why invest in an air fryer

Topline, air fryers just make cooking a whole lot quicker without compensating for delicious results, and food in some cases is even tastier than if you were to use your conventional oven or, try to keep it a lot healthier by using a microwave, subbing out oil or resorting to just boiling veggies... 

Plus, there are an absolute ton of cool and unexpected air fryer recipes out there. The French fry is not the limit here and you can do everything from reviving store-bought croissants to cooking entire joints of meat. 

Need I say more? Um yes I can, and I'd like to elaborate on why small air fryers (in particular) are so worth it, for every kitchen and every kind of cook.

They make frozen food taste so much better

We’ve all got a bag of frozen fries or chicken nuggets in our chest freezer. Often they make for a lackluster meal when time and energy are in short supply. But the hype is real when it comes to the difference that air frying can make. Oven fries really don’t come close to your favorite takeout, but air fryers use a basket to circulate hot air around your food, distributing what little fat and oil is in your oven fries evenly and recreating the taste and texture of fried food. The difference really is noticeable – I promise. 

They can refresh takeout foods

A black air fryer appliance with Asian samosas in basket and on plate adjacent to air fryer with assortment of chutneys, sauces and condiments

(Image credit: Getty/Mtreasure)

You know what I mean. If you've used a takeout app to order thick-cut fries you'll know they'll either come wrapped in paper or delivered in a polystyrene container... and how the hot air will spoil the crispiness of your fries. Now, when I want that just-served texture, I just put them in my air fryer and it pretty much revives their crispy texture. Because no one likes a limp fry. The same goes for soggy samosas or bhajis if you've overordered at your favorite curry house.

Air frying leftovers trumps the microwave

Move over microwave oven — there's a new cool kid in town. Yep, your trusty pinging machine might have served you for many years (including college), but even the best microwaves have their downfalls, including soggy reheats, and cold spots in your food.

So for a more consistent reheat that won't give baked goods a squishy texture, try using an air fryer to warm through your leftovers. It is especially good for reheating pizza – in fact, I think it makes takeout pizza even better. You can even reheat wet leftovers including pasta, noodles, and casserole in an air fryer as long as you put them in a suitable container (though note some manufacturer instructions will advise against this).

4. They're cheap to run 

They're cheap to run

With food and energy prices varying from day to day, feeding your family on a budget is something everyone should be conscious of. But that shouldn't mean living on cheap fast food or scrimping on portion sizes. Presenting: the air fryer

The good news is, if you're wondering: 'are air fryers expensive to run?', the answer is no. In fact, air fryers cost anywhere between $0.20 and $0.80 to run for an hour — not that you'll even be using it for that long unless you're cooking large cuts of meat. The cost to run an air fryer is therefore much cheaper than the best oven.

5. It is way healthier to cook in

It's healthier to cook in

A black Ninja air fryer with cooked chicken wings on plate, served alongside carrot and celery crudites with creamy dip

(Image credit: Ninja)

If you're wondering how healthy an air fryer is, it does depend on what you cook in it. What cannot be disputed is that you don’t need to use nearly as much oil when air frying, compared to frying in a pan or even cooking in an oven tray. 

Cooking chicken wings or oven fries? Placing them in an air fryer basket allows the fat to drain off and into the drawer below, which not only helps to crisp your food evenly, but it also means you will end up not eating that fat when you tuck into your meal. If you want to cut down on the amount of fat you consume, buying an air fryer is a great way to do it.

And don't forget the kid's school snacks. If you're spending unfathomable amounts on fruit jerky and don't fancy spending a gazillion bucks or waste counter space on specialist equipment like a food dehydrator, you can DIY this tasty treat in your air fryer.

They speed up th cooking process

Air fryers take almost no time to preheat, in contrast to your fan oven or even your best non-stick frying pan. Simply press to start the cooking process and add your food, and you already got a jump start on your meal prep time. Then there’s the fact that most air fryers I’ve tried have significantly sped along the cooking process. Oven fries that are described as taking 25 minutes to cook only take 15, fishcakes that would take 40 minutes in an oven are often ready in 25. If you want a device to make mealtimes faster and more convenient – this is it.

Plus, as everything is concealed in the basket, and with the lid being shut, you won't get splattered by any oil.

7. Cleaning an air fryer is easy

Cleaning an air fryer is easy

A black Ninja air fryer interior including cooking basket

(Image credit: Ninja)

It takes only a few minutes to clean an air fryer, and many of the top models you can buy are also dishwasher-safe. Simply place the basket and tray into your dishwasher after each use and you’ve just saved yourself a whole lot of cleaning. Better still, invest in some silicone air fryer liners (available on Amazon) and you'll only have to rinse these rubbery accessories.

Another big yes is that there's no hot oil to clean up, because performing a risk assessment every time we go to clean our deep fat fryer gives us unreal levels of anxiety, not to mention the smell cooking oil leaves on clothes and our hair. Someone pass the dry shampoo please!

However, that doesn't mean binning your deep fryer as it still has some advantages if you read through our head-to-head battle of air fryer vs. deep fryer.

If you've ever had to clean an oven from top to bottom, you'll know that even with the best oven cleaner, it can still be a mammoth task. Baked-on and burnt debris (hello cheese) is just the worst, and if you don't tend to it immediately, that greasy smell will permeate through the house. So working with a smaller appliance, *ahem, air fryer* will save you from getting on your hands and knees (without those scarily-corrosive substances).

It's easy to invest in quality

A black Breville air fryer filled with cooked French fries with burger in foreground

(Image credit: Breville)

Because there are so many air fryers on the market, it is easy to find great air fryer deals. Top brands such as COSORI (available on Amazon), Philips and Ninja will be vying for your attention with great deals and record-low prices. It is possible to pick up top air fryers for way less than $100, and some of the top ones can even be bought for around $50.

And, if one of the top brands keeps going out of stock, there are some serious contenders that do the job just as well... sometimes for less. Take, for example, these Ninja air fryer dupes that rival the Dual Zone.

Air fryers are great for cozy eats

A black Salter branded air fryer containing fries, with plate of fried chicken, corn on the cob and vine tomato garnish

(Image credit: Salter)

Cozy and comforting eats aren't reserved for your slow cooker and air fryers can make everything from porridge oats to crispy brussels sprouts and speedy mug cakes. And because it is oh so speedy, if you want a hunger fix in minutes, it's a winner. 

Air fryers economize on space

Air fryers cook so quickly that they won't heat your space in the same way that your oven will. So I love using mine in summer for quick light bites but it's also ideal if you're in a studio that can quickly become too hot if your oven is on full blast. 

Plus, if fries are on the menu, using a deep-fat fryer often feels a little like a faff, and depending on your model, you could end up turning your kitchen into a super heated and kind of sweaty mess.  Not a good look for guests, so I love my air fryer for keeping my kitchen space literally cool but also a little more calm and collected.

The same can be said for using a hot oven, eCommerce Editor Christina Chrysostomou loves her air fryer for a similar reason, "When I use my air fryer, I feel like I can kick back a little more and have a drink with guests as I go. Plus, there's none of that opening the oven door and getting a hot sauna experience that you did not want." It's way more manageable.

I have a relatively small kitchen, so I have enjoyed testing out a variety of air fryer sizes. The top small air fryer I’ve tested was the Philips Essential which had a modest footprint and lightweight design, but on the other end of the scale, Philips also does an extra large air fryer that can fit an entire chicken and cook enough fries for a family of six. So if you're looking for ideas for a small kitchen, without taking up worktop real estate, this is the air fryer for you.

On the flip side, if you're already dreading Thanksgiving and Christmas because of a lack of oven space, there are machines are big enough to air fryer a turkey!

There are so many air fryer types to choose from

The top air fryers I’ve tested come in a range of designs and sizes. My absolute favorite is the Ninja Foodi Dual Zone (available on Amazon), because you can cook two elements of a meal simultaneously, in different drawers and even in different modes. Wanna know even more about this machine? Take a look at our Ninja Foodi Dual Zone review.

They just keep getting smarter

Air fryers offer convenience but they also actively try and make your life easier. One such example is the Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer (I’ve tested this one too) which not only comes with Alexa-enabled controls, it also has an app that can suggest recipes and pair with the air fryer to select the right timings and temperature settings for your specific meal. That’s super smart.  

You can cook so much in an air fryer

Most good air fryers have settings for grilling, roasting, reheating, and even baking. There are a ton of surprising things to cook in an air fryer and more.

In fact, when you buy an air fryer you’re really not restricted to just cooking food you would usually fry. Think tray cakes and even air fryer hard boiled eggs. We've also seen people make cheesecakes, toast, and muffins in their air fryers, so you can get plenty of use out of an air fryer all year long, for your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks.

They will elevate your cooking game

Chunky mediterranean style vegetables in white bowl with feta cheese and pomegranate molasses

(Image credit: Future)

If a packet of ramen is your go-to, I know you can do better. And air fryers can be argued to actually make you more creative with what you cook. You can go totally gourmet like Christina who has been baking wild salmon and roasted vegetables with feta (as above) plus lots more in her air fryer, because, why not. Or, go a little more simple but nonetheless exciting like E-commerce writer, Louise Oliphant, who loves using her Dreo air fryer for cooking asparagus in particular... 

So whether you're making a chicken salad or want to make a small side dish to accompany said noodles (there actually is no shame), an air fryer will elevate the taste of all of your ingredients so that you enjoy more elaborate eats and flavor, minus the usual time and effort that would usually go into it!

'Air fryers have become so popular over the past couple of years because they just make everything so much quicker and they’re so versatile,' says Rebecca Bebbington, content strategist at NetVoucherCodes.

'People love that you can make everything in there from chicken and potatoes to roast vegetables and burgers. The best thing is that nothing really takes too long to make it there, so they’re perfect for busy people who find dinners a struggle. On top of that, things made in the air fryer usually require fewer ingredients so in some respects it saves you money too.'

'People still underestimate just how many things they can actually make in the air fryer so we’ve put together a list of things that people probably wouldn’t have thought of.'

Stirzaker's surprising list of six things you can air fry

1. Macaroni cheese
'Baked pasta is probably one of the last things you would think to make in your air fryer but it works! Place your uncooked pasta into your air fryer along with some water, heavy cream, seasoning and cheese and mix it all together ensuring that the pasta is covered. The key to this is letting it cool for around five minutes in the end so that the sauce thickens up. You’ll also want to give this a stir halfway through.'

2. Cakes
'Baked goods like cakes and muffins can also be made in the air fryer. Of course, the size of the cake you can make will depend on the size of your air fryer, you’ll need to ensure that your cake tin can sit in there comfortably.' 

3. Wraps
'The air fryer can be used to achieve that perfect crispy, golden wrap too. Just fold up your wrap like a burrito to avoid any of the filling falling out, spray it with some fry light or spread some butter over it and then place it in the air fryer for a couple of minutes until golden.'

4. Tortilla chips
'Using your air fryer to make things like tortilla chips gives you a much healthier version of the snack as it’s made with air rather than being deep-fried. Simply brush your small tortilla wraps in some olive oil and cover in seasonings of your choice like salt and tajin and cut into pieces. Cook these in the air fryer until golden brown.'

5. Cinnamon rolls
'The circulation of air in the air fryer is what makes foods come out crispier than if they were to be made in the oven. When baked in the air fryer cinnamon rolls come out airy, light and extra flaky and crispy!'

6. Grilled cheese sandwiches
'When made in the oven, grilled cheese sandwiches can often come out a little soggy. For maximum crisp place these in the air fryer instead. Not only will it come out crispier, but it will also be cooked a lot quicker than if it was in the oven.'

Millie Fender
Head of Reviews

Millie joined the Real Homes team in 2021 after working at TopTenReviews as a Staff Writer. Formerly our Small Appliance Editor, she is now Head of Reviews and is constantly making sure that we are reviewing the latest and greatest products for our readers. 

Millie passed our five-step certification process to become a verified customer advisor on coffee machines. As a baking enthusiast, Millie’s job at Real Homes is the perfect excuse to cook up an endless supply of snacks. When she’s not in the kitchen though, she loves knitting and exploring London's top food markets. 

With contributions from