How the Real Homes team reviews air fryers: our process explained

Here's how the Real Homes team tests this ultimate kitchen appliance

An assortment of the best air fryers in Reading test kitchen
(Image credit: Future)

Reviewing air fryers requires consistent methodology, which is why we have developed a rigorous testing process to make sure that all of the products we review can be compared directly. This is how we choose the best air fryers to feature in our buying guide, and how we decide which air fryers are the top choice for certain buyers.

We've been reviewing air fryers both at home and in our dedicated testing lab for over two years now, and as a result, we've landed on our top favorites. That's not to say that this will never change, of course. We also review brand-new air fryers, as they are released or sometimes just before. Either way: we will always have hands-on experience with an air fryer before we recommend it. 

All of our air fryer reviews are conducted either by team members or in the case that we have no more space left on our kitchen worktops, by a freelance reviewer. Whilst thinking about who is the best person to test which air fryer, we always consider our writers' living situation.

This means that the air fryers we can recommend have been put through their paces to check that they can cope everywhere from a busy family home to a single household with a tiny kitchen and every other situation in between. We always try to use these air fryers for at least a month before coming to a decision, and in some cases, we might review air fryers in batches or have two going at one time, as this makes it easier to compare different models for our key criteria. 

How Real Homes reviews air fryers — everything you need to know

Why are we telling you this?

In 2021, Lakeland (opens in new tab) reported that air fryer sales were 57 percent on 2020 figures, and we think that number will only continue to rise. While they have been around for over five years, for a lot of people an air fryer is still a new concept, and their air fryer purchase at the moment will likely be their first. This is why we make sure to include plenty of photos of our testing process and advise how to get the most out of each product when we review them.

We do like to add some objective measures to our reviews, tracking how long it takes an air fryer to cook certain foods, and measuring noise levels while the air fryer is on. But more on that later.

Even the most outstanding air fryer might not be the right fit for your kitchen or lifestyle, which is why we always test an air fryer in our own home, to help you decide if a product is right for yours. This enables us to figure out how a product slots into day-to-day life, for example, how easy an air fryer is to clean, if an alarm noise can get a bit annoying over time, or if the product can easily fit into a kitchen cupboard to hide it away.

Unboxing your air fryer

Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1

Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 in box

(Image credit: Future / Helen McCue)

First impressions are everything – so how the air fryer arrives is important to us. While things like a battered cardboard box can happen in transit, having something stable that you can carry home or get delivered without the packaging getting too damaged is essential.

Many of our Real Homes reviewers live and commute into the city, so we also have to think about lugging boxes on public transport. What's more, many of us rent apartments so more often than not have to shuffle stuff through lifts or carry our air fryers up sets of stairs.

We are all for sustainability packing too. So even if the air fryer comes in 100 percent FSC cardboard, the box should be appropriately sized. Inside, some plastic is fine but we would prefer it to be kept to a minimum. We'll always state where a product arrives with excess packaging that's harsh on the environment, as this is very important to us.

And, no one needs a forest's worth of instruction manuals and bits of paper, too, so where a PDF or page can be found online or kept to one sheet with a QR code, we're happy to scan this on our smartphone to find extra information.

Our standard testing procedures: ease of features

Air fryers tend to (generally) fall into two camps: manual or touchscreen. When operating a manual air fryer, you are instructed to move the dial to the desired temperature and time. Whereas, with a digital screen, you simply press an illuminated screen to set degrees and cooking duration.

We don't have a bias on which is necessary better as it all comes down to the overall experience. Yes, dials can sometimes be clunky, but if you're too light or heavy-handed with an LED interface, it can be equally irritating.

It's also worth noting that some air fryers have pre-programmed settings which are supposed to make cooking popular foods simple. Times and temps may vary model to model as the manufacturers may have taken into account the wattage and capacity of the device. 

Outside of its convection-oven abilities, the air fryer may serve as a multicooker meaning it can act as a rotisserie, cook rice, make yogurt, charbroil and even steam. So as to be fair, we'll try and compare like-for-like models against each other.

After the cooking process is complete, most air fryers will make a noise to alert you. This may range from a short ping to a sequence of bleeps. While it's not the be-all and end-all of making a purchasing decision, if you're hypersensitive to noise (or want a late-night snack without disturbing the family), a celebratory announcement at midnight is the last thing you want.

Our standard testing procedures: cooking food

When testing an air fryer, our first step is to cook a selection of standard recipes. There are four we use with every air fryer, but we will add some depending on the range of features offered. These are:

  • Fries
  • Frozen food
  • Bacon
  • Vegetables

1. Air frying fries and chips

Instant Vortex Mini homemade fries

The Instant Vortex Mini cooking homemade fries

(Image credit: Future/Millie Fender)

The first recipe we'll always do is french fries or chips, of course. The ability to make speedy and delicious fries is one of the main selling points of an air fryer – after all, they are designed to replicate that deep-fried taste but without as much fat, so fries are a must-try. 

The recipe we use in every test involves taking whole potatoes, chopping them into chunky, half-inch wedges, and letting them soak for a few minutes to remove any starchiness. We then dry them off and toss the fries in a drizzle of neutral-tasting oil and some seasoning.

In a conventional, pre-heated oven, these would take around 25–35 minutes to cook, but some of our air fryers have crisped up our homemade fries in as little as 12 minutes. We measure how long this takes each air fryer, check for the consistency of cooking across the different fries, and do our all-important taste test. 

2. Air frying frozen foods

Real Homes eCommerce editor Christina Chrysostomou cooking fish fingers in Lakeland Digital Crisp Air Fryer

(Image credit: Future)

Air fryers also work well with frozen food, so we make sure to cook something from frozen in every air fryer we test. This is usually some kind of breaded chicken fillet, nugget, fish finger or goujon, and we use this test to see if it can crisp out the exterior of frozen food on the exterior without drying out the middle. We also, where we can, will test things like hash browns, fish fingers, and more frozen foods in our air fryer, however, this won't be a standard requirement for every review.

Unless the reviewer has a particular dietary requirement, such as veggie, vegan or gluten-free, coatings are typically wheat-flour based and we usually test with meat. But, foods will be chosen by the reviewer based on what they want to eat and what they can eat, to avoid any unnecessary food waste.

Real Homes Head of Reviews cooking thick-cut fries in Instant Pot Air fryer

(Image credit: Future)

We've recently introduced frozen fries into the catalog of testing; simply because we know that it's a popular choice with our audience. Our objective is to keep the product consistent when testing, so we'd never compare a thick-cut fry to a skinnier French fry for example. Ultimately, we're looking for a crisp exterior with a fluffy center.  

3. Air frying bacon

Xiaomi Mi Smart Air cooking some bacon review

Xiaomi Mi Smart Air cooking bacon

(Image credit: Future / Millie Fender)

Another important test we always carry out is cooking bacon. Air fryers can do this in as little as a few minutes, and it is a great way of seeing how evenly an air fryer can cook. In some air fryers, we have found that the fat renders on some of the bacon but not all of it, which is a sign of inconsistent cooking. In other air fryers, the fan has been so powerful that the bacon has been blown around the inside of the air fryer and lost its shape completely; curling on itself in the process. 

Of course, there are different cuts of pork including thick cut, back, and streaky which all cook at various rates with differing results. So where possible, we will aim to use the same type each time for comparison. Whether the product has been smoked or cured in a particular way (e.g: using nitrates) can also affect the flavor, color, and water content, so again, these variables will be taken into account when cooking. And, it goes without saying, if any of our reviewers have any dietary/religious requirements, we will always seek to accommodate by allowing them to test, for example: a turkey-based, halal or kosher alternative.

4. Air frying vegetables

Lakeland Digital Crisp Air Fryer containing chunky mediterranean style vegetables

(Image credit: Future)

Our final standardized test is a bake or roast test. Many air fryers come with settings to bake or roast vegetables, meat, or other foods you may not want to air fry. Others come with dedicated vegetable pre-set modes which we use in our tests. As vegetables have a high moisture content, this is a good way of seeing how well an air fryer can remove this moisture from the cooking basket. It also helps to get some greens on our plate after all of the fries and frozen chicken!

Aside from the more exotic-looking Mediterranean vegetables, we've tried local produce closer to home and will try and source veg that is in season. For example, baked Tenderstem broccoli and air-fried asparagus go down well in our test kitchen..

Our standard testing procedures: cleaning

Christina Chrysostomou cleaning outside of Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven

(Image credit: Future)

After we've made the food and assessed the cooking quality — it's time to clean up. There are of course, a few variables that might affect how easy or difficult this task is. So when getting rid of grease, crumbs and sticky sauces, we ask:

  • Is the air fryer basket dishwasher safe?
  • How easy is it to clean the outside of the air fryer; can it be wiped clean?
  • How easy is it to clean the air fryer cavity?
  • If the parts are not dishwasher safe, can they be hand washed with dish soap?
  • Does the air fryer have any other accessories —  how do these scrub up?

How do we test at home?

Dash Digital Tasti-Crisp

(Image credit: Future)

An air fryer slots easily into everyday life, so we will always use an air fryer for at least a few weeks before completing our review. This helps us to notice any issues that we may have missed in our initial testing, and it will help us observe how well an air fryer slots into day-to-day life.

When testing air fryers at home we obviously use them to cook our four standardized testing foods, otherwise, we also use the air fryer for the occasional lunch or dinner meal, and we have even air-fried the odd sweet treat (such as a cake, cookie, or reheated pastry) as part of this testing. After the standardized testing, we won't force ourselves to use this air fryer so that we can truly comment on if we found that it made our lives easier or not. 

We will review how much kitchen counter space it takes up, how long the connecting cable is, and how easy it is to clean the product by hand, or in the dishwasher, too.

How we decide which products to review

Russell Hobbs SatisFry Air & Grill Multi CookerReview in progress graphic

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

Our reviews are always completely impartial and never paid for. Brands will often send us air fryers free of charge to give us the opportunity to review them. We are often allowed to keep them, which means we can add to our reviews over the months (and even years!) to note how well the product has fared after consistent use. 

When we're not allowed to keep a product we try to hang onto it for at least three or four weeks to make sure that the product is put through its paces before we send it back to the company. This means we rarely miss a new launch and are constantly reviewing new air fryers back-to-back, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Some brands are trickier to get hold of than others, but we're always striving to include as many different products as possible, with different price points and designs to suit any space or budget. We're genuine air fryer enthusiasts, so if someone launches a new product with an interesting feature, we'll be first in line to try it out. 

You can find our 'Review in progress' badge on the air fryers we are currently testing. Here is everything we currently have in our kitchens...

Image (opens in new tab)

Russell Hobbs SatisFry Air & Grill Multi Cooker

Currently in review by Annie Collyer.

Our air fryer reviews

5 star air fryers

These reviews have been given our gold badge and are considered to be the top-rated models we've tested.

4.5 star air fryers

4 star air fryers

3.5 star air fryers 

Christina Chrysostomou
Ecommerce Editor

Bonjour, Yasou, Hello — I'm Christina, ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Along with my super creative colleagues, I create content to help you create a chic home on a budget. I live in a two-bed maisonette with a garage and garden in Essex. Geographically, it's perfect; I've got the forest on my doorstep, and London is just 15 minutes by tube or car. I specialize in small kitchen appliances so that you can prepare food with ease at home. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket.

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