Don't call it a comeback as the humble air fryer is still going strong in 2023, making pre-heating your oven and getting a face full of hot air a thing of the past. It's not just a useful kitchen gadget — this oven-in-a-box has got cult status too. You're officially this year's "it" girl if you've got one of these convection ovens. Because even Hailey Bieber has one in her kitchen. What about if your kitchen is small and your countertop space is precious? Well, there are plenty of small air fryers for you to browse.
From lazy weekend brunch to a roast chicken with all the trimmings — using and cleaning an air fryer is a piece of cake. PSA: it's much more energy efficient too. Unlike a deep fat fryer, air fryers circulate hot air to cook and crisp your food with little to no fat necessary. The fat from your food drips into the basket, as your food usually will sit on a tray or grill plate, making things less greasy and smelly.
If you need any more convincing, take a look at all of the air fryers our experts have tried below and read our rave reviews from Real Homes editors and freelancers. Over time, we'll add to this list and spill the tea on superior models that we really love after they've been tested inside our own kitchens or in our test kitchen — or sometimes both.
The best air fryers as rated by our experts
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The Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer wowed us in testing with its generous capacity and multiple cooking modes. And it seems Hailey Bieber is too as this featured in her latest YouTube kitchen series. We're a big fan of air fryers that have a slatted insert. This one allows you to air fry and remove the insert to use the flat base of the drawer to reheat leftovers and bake anything from roasts to apple crumbles.
We found that it cooked frozen chicken breast fillets in just 12 minutes, which is just over half the time it takes in an oven to ensure there's no pink meat and that the juices run clear. It also made delicious and evenly-cooked homemade fries in just 25 minutes. This is due to the alert that reminds you to shake up your food as it's part-way through cooking, ensuring that your spuds get an even browning. Also, it remembers your most recent settings and timings, so if you cook a lot of the same air fryer recipes, it will save you from adjusting the timings and temperatures each time.
At 1,700 watts, this air fryer should cost approximately 25 cents to run for one hour. This is plenty of time to cook pretty much anything other than a large joint. Considering its capacity, this is pretty impressive. According to the brand, this model saves up to 80 percent energy when compared to using a 2400-watt electric oven.
Good to know
The drawer is not dishwasher-safe, but the insert is. Because it's non-stick, you can easily clean it by hand each time. This air fryer is one of the larger options in our guide (if you want something smaller, we also think the Instant Vortex Mini air fryer is a top choice) but for families and those who can spare the counter space, we think this is the best air fryer you can buy.
We adore this multi-cooker (that's also an air fryer) for its versatility. It can also bake, slow cook, pressure cook, and even dehydrate. It's one of the most affordable models in this guide to run, especially when you consider its hefty six-liter capacity. However, if you are just looking for an air fryer, then this might be too pricey for you.
It comes with a basket and crisper lid to create delicious fries, fish, and veggies. It has a large footprint (the one we reviewed was the Max, which is seriously major in size), but if you can find room for it, this air fryer is ready to usurp your slow cooker and pressure cooker. It has a lid for air frying and a separate lid for other options like pressure cooking, so space might be a concern if you're short on it already.
Bearing in mind that this is an eight-in-one appliance, it costs a mere 22 cents to run for one hour, on all modes. Just in case you were wondering "are air fryers worth it?" — the question is almost rhetorical!
Good to know
The air fry basket is large and circular. It could fit a whole chicken in theory, but the shape isn't quite right for larger, more awkwardly-shaped cuts of meat. If you did want to cook joints, your best bet is to get your butcher to secure it tightly with some twine. The controls are incredibly intuitive, and the actual air frying quality is top-notch, so you won't miss out if you opt for this multi-functional machine.
We love, love, LOVE this air fryer from Ninja. There are none of those ambiguous cooking modes. The Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer allows you to take control of the temperature and timings with simple controls. You can sync the drawers so they finish at the same time, meaning if you take out one drawer to have a look, the other will pause too.
This air fryer can also be used for cooking two foods simultaneously, making it an idyllic machine for catering to different dietary requirements. The capacity is large because it's spread across a wider space, so it cooks quickly and evenly. We've tested every air fryer in this guide hands-on, but this is the one to beat.
There are six ways to cook — Max Crisp, Roast, Bake, Reheat, Dehydrate, and Air Fry — which gives you the ultimate cooking experience. It's super quick, so you may have to adjust the cooking instructions that come with your food.
Bearing in mind how large (and family-friendly) this air fryer is, it's still affordable to run. It works out to approximately 36 cents per hour to run. With tons of capabilities, it can pretty much replace your oven, as well as your dehydrator (should you have one).
Good to know
Most air fryers have a basket that lifts out of the drawer, but you simply pull out the slatted inserts in this air fryer. This means you can use the drawers without the basket, so even "wet" dishes like pasta bakes and apple crumbles are perfectly possible (and yes, we tried both in this air fryer when testing!). So while you're enjoying your main course, you can have your dessert cooking.
The Cosori CP358-AF Pro Air Fryer is the latest release from Cosori. It has many of the same presets that we enjoyed from the original, but the digital control panel is elevated, which makes it great for ergonomic use and easy access.
The controls were easy to use in testing, and we enjoyed how adjustable the shake reminder and presets were. The toast setting is a new addition, and it comes in handy for morning muffins and croissants. Another thing we enjoyed in testing was the basket. Its square shape means it is expertly crafted to fit cuts of meat and generous portions — including an entire chicken.
Cooking time was faster than in a conventional oven. So much so that our food was ready as early as 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Fries only took a drizzle of oil to cook, and they came out evenly cooked thanks to the wide basket distribution.
Costing just 25 cents per hour to run, this brilliant Amazon air fryer is affordable in price and it's cheap to run. Especially considering the fact it cooks food fast, so you will rarely end up using it for one hour in total at a time.
Good to know
This air fryer is a little larger than the earlier Cosori models. The Cosori CP358-AF Pro Air Fryer struggled to fit under our tester's kitchen cabinets, so if are short on kitchen space, it's not the one for you.
Mini by name and miniature by nature, this small air fryer left a big impact when we tested it. Not only was it small enough to sit neatly on our cluttered countertops, but it also produced some of the most crispy and evenly-cooked fries, chicken, and other snacks that we've tried. We think this is down to the EvenCrisp technology, which creates that perfect texture using 95 percent less oil than a deep fat fryer.
We found this air fryer to be the best bet for smaller households. It was particularly handy for cooking frozen foods for kids. The design is smart, with a tactile touchscreen display that's easy to use especially if you're in a rush. This allows you to adjust timings and temperatures using a dial, as well as choose between reheat, roast, bake, and air fry modes. Despite being only two liters, the capacity was capable of cooking fries and a quarter chicken (enough for two). It also managed to do this very evenly, despite looking a little cramped. There's even a reminder to shake your food halfway through cooking. Our food cooked fast and came out very crispy.
With a small capacity, this is naturally one of the cheapest air fryers on our list to run. It'll cost you around 19 cents an hour, though you'll rarely use it for more than that time anyway. It doesn't have space for large pieces of meat and it only has one basket.
Good to know
It's advisable to clean the air fryer after each use, or it will start to smoke. Cleaning this model is easy though because you can pull out the insert and place it in the dishwasher. Because it's so small, the tray also fits easily into both slimline and regular-sized dishwashers. It also comes in a range of colors to suit your home decor, including teal and red, which are great for adding an accent to a white kitchen. Aside from cooking meals from scratch, this machine does a great job of warming leftovers for lunch while maintaining taste and texture... because soggy and watery reheats just aren't it!
If you're looking for an air fryer that ticks the boxes for style and substance without taking up too much space, you need the Cosori Lite. Available in grey, Truffle White, and Sage Green, this machine proves that air fryers can be trendy too.
No task was too small or large for this design-led device. We tried family favorites including bacon, 'boiled' eggs (no water needed!), breaded fish fillets, fries, and even a fakeaway-style crispy seaweed (made from kale). One of the most impressive features was the crisper plate which allowed food to be cooked on a raised shelf without swimming in oil. The silicone feet on said feature meant that it was easy to detach and clean, without the risk of scraping the non-stick base.
As a mid-sized air fryer, this sits bang in the middle energy-wise and costs 22 cents per hour to run. The pre-heat and keep warm functions allow you to get the machine nice and hot (up to 450F), and keep food temperate once the initial cook time is over. Great for late guests, or if you want to reheat leftovers without burning them.
Good to know
If you're often multi-tasking while cooking, you'll be pleased to know that you can remotely monitor your meals, adjust settings, and even ask Amazon Alexa or Google to fire up your fries using the free VeSync app.
If you're looking for a more versatile appliance — perhaps if you have a small kitchen or simply like to maximize efficiency — the Cuisinart TOA-60 Air Fryer Toaster Oven is our top choice.
Our reviewer found that the Cuisinart TOA-60 had a generous capacity, perfect for cooking for her family of five. Her kids were able to eat chicken nuggets that had been air fried for just seven minutes, and they found that pizza cooked in half the time, with crispy crusts after 10 minutes. While it was on the large side, we found that it's easy on the eyes and something worth displaying in your kitchen. The instructions were easy to use, and the air fryer even came with some recipes to get you started.
Costing 27 cents to an hour, this is one of the most expensive air fryers to run that we've reviewed.
Good to know
Cleaning is surprisingly easy, but be aware that the bottom tray needs to be in place at all times to catch fat and crumbs. There was a slight plastic smell upon first use, but it disappeared after a couple of cooking sessions. We also found that the speedy cooking was facilitated by an elevated temperature, so this will take some adjusting. Consider turning the temperature down by about 10 degrees if you plan on cooking a familiar recipe.
Boasting an extra-large capacity, we think that this air fryer is perfect for those who want the most value for their money. The smart modes offer custom cooking times and temperatures depending on what you're cooking, which can be a big help for amateur chefs or those who want a reminder to shake halfway through.
After testing what feels like a mountain of air fryers, the Cosori was one of the best when it came to actual quality results. Fries? Done in 15 minutes. Frozen food? Always crispy. The 5.8-quart capacity makes this air fryer suitable for families of up to six people, and it can fit a whole chicken, resulting in delicious crispy skin.
Similar in size and price per usage to our first pick from Instant, if you want a no-frills air fryer that's affordable to run then this should be it. At only 25 cents an hour to run, there's no point in even turning your oven on to preheat.
Good to know
The fryer comes with a recipe book that's crammed with 100 ideas and plenty more inspiration. These really utilize the 14 cooking modes, which could feel overwhelming if they came without instruction.
The Dreo air fryer is the best you can get to help you cut down on costs, plus it looks smart and performs well. It cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a way that's quicker and cheaper than your oven. In fact, it can almost replace it — unless you're cooking for more than two.
Carrying this lightweight air fryer up a flight of stairs is a breeze, so if you live in a city apartment you won't need to break a sweat before you begin cooking. Though it does come with some plastic packaging, a cookbook containing 50 recipes is a nice treat for when you're feeling uninspired. Assembly is easy and given its compact size, the basket is deep. Cleaning the Dreo air fryer is simple as the removable drawer and insert are both dishwasher friendly. Handwashing these parts is equally easy if you'd rather rinse them with dish soap and a sponge.
This machine takes the title of joint-second for energy efficiency, costing just 22 cents per hour to use.
Good to know
Out of all the air fryers we've tested, this seems to be one of the most versatile models on the market. Our reviewer was able to make three square meals, plus snacks, and sides in it without batting an eyelid!
What is the #1 air fryer?
Our favorite option, the Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer, has a total of six cooking modes and a drawer insert that can be removed to cook things with sauces and even make brownies. It's a do-it-all machine with a rather reasonable price tag, and it costs just 25 cents to run for one hour.
Real Homes review process — how we review air fryers
All of the air fryers in this guide have been tested hands-on for over a month by a member of the Real Homes team. When testing, there are a few recipes we always follow so that we're able to compare cooking results directly. You can read about our air fryer testing process, otherwise, one food that we always cook is homemade fries, obviously. Some of the speediest air fryers have been able to crisp these up in just 12 minutes, while others have taken as long as 20. Even then, this is much quicker than cooking fries in an oven. Other recipes will depend on the type of product and what it claims to do well. Some air fryers come with their own recipes, so we like to try these out alongside our own dishes to see if they are a good introduction to the product.
With all of the above air fryers, you can click through to read full reviews with images of our hands-on experience.
Meet our air fryer testers below:
Christina is Real Homes' ecommerce editor and has recently taken on the (big) responsibility of testing all the air fryers on the market for this guide. Her favorite air fryer (so far) is the Cosori Lite, but she looks forward to seeing if there's anything out there that pips it to the post in our test kitchen. Here she'll be able to test around 10 air fryers side by side to truly examine the performance of each kitchen appliance and compare apples to apples... or in her case, fries to fries.
As a single person who often finds themselves cooking meals for one, the Dreo air fryer has become somewhat of an appliance Louise can no longer do without. Perfect for cooking just about anything in the oven (and more), she uses it for just about every meal. Think: air frying a pain au chocolat, crisping grilled sandwiches, and cooking chips, veggies, and meat. She now rarely turns the oven on, which has also helped with her energy bills.
Millie is Real Homes' head of reviews and was previously our small appliances and cookware editor. She's had hands-on experience with dozens of air fryers and reviewed all but a couple of the air fryers in our guide, so her verdict is the best you can find.
Her favourite air fryer has to be the Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer, which is our number one pick! It's got a generous capacity and sturdy build, and it made some delicious chips while in review. In her own small kitchen though, Millie prefers to use the Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer. It's an excellent option for her two-person household, and she loves the colour options.
Lindsey is one of our content directors, focusing on ecommerce at Real Homes, and she's also a keen foodie working with a smaller kitchen. Lindsey tested the Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker, which she still uses on a regular basis after awarding it a rare gold rating.
Annie is our head ecommerce editor, with experience reviewing a range of products from air fryers to portable grills. She also reviewed the mini Instant Pot air fryer for us, and she found it to be great for cooking side dishes (particularly sweet potato fries) as well as various frozen fodder. She stored it in one of her kitchen cabinets and loved how it comes in various colors.
Ann reviewed the Cosori CP358-AF Pro Air Fryer for us and she gave it a stellar five out of five stars. She tested it in her family kitchen for a total of three weeks to make hot dogs, fries, grilled chicken, steak, and even grilled peaches for a quick and healthy dessert. Ann and her husband, along with their little one, have a single-family home with a generous kitchen but ended up storing the Cosori Pro in their upper cabinetry to spare the counter space.
Courtney reviewed the Cuisinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven in her family home, and she enjoyed its convenience so much that she gave it five stars. It's an air fryer, toaster, and toaster oven all in one, so it manages to save lots of countertop space. She found that it cooked food evenly, it was surprisingly simple to clean, and when it came to storing, she kept it on display for ease of use. It's quite bulky, though, and would be hard to store in a cabinet, she noted.
7 things to consider when buying an air fryer
1. How big is its capacity?
To start with, how many mouths do you have to feed? Compare the quarts with how many people are in your household. This will also depend on what you are planning on using it for. If you only want an air fryer for fries, then you can go small(er), but if it's a whole chicken that you want to squeeze in there, the bigger the better.
2. What about size? Will it fit on your countertop?
With a bigger capacity unfortunately comes a larger size air fryer. Depending on where you'll want to place your air fryer, you might want to get out your tape measure as some models can be quite large. If you're planning on keeping your air fryer on your countertop, think of where it will go (preferably in a corner!) as you need to allow some room behind your air fryer for air to escape. Otherwise, a lot of the models above can easily be squeezed inside a cabinet after use.
3. Is it versatile or can it only air fry food?
What else can your air fryer do? Some models are great little multi-taskers and have the ability to reheat, roast, or grill as well as fry, so if you’re in the market for a versatile small appliance, these are a good bet.
4. How easy is it to clean?
If you have a dishwasher, then be sure to check that your new air fryer is safe to be cleaned in there. This makes washing your air fryer a whole lot easier, though they are pretty simple to clean regardless. See our guide on how to clean an air fryer the right way for more tips and tricks.
5. How much does it cost to run?
We've searched the price per usage (based on one hour) and popped those stats alongside each air fryer we've reviewed, so if your bills are at the forefront of this purchase, you can choose wisely.
6. Does it have a cooking rack?
Finally, if you’re short on time but your ingredients list is long, look for an air fryer with a cooking rack included, which offers an extra compartment for cooking two different foods at the same time, or one with a mixing paddle, so you don’t have to hover over it.
7. Can it separate foods?
Vegan, veggie, or celiac? Whether you've chosen to adopt a certain way of eating, or you've had strict dietary requirements since birth, sometimes it's important to separate mains and sides from what others are eating. Aside from the aforementioned cooking racks, we've checked whether any of these air fryers have drawers so there's no risk of cross-contamination.
Can I put aluminum foil in an air fryer?
Many people use aluminum foil in their air fryer in the same way that you'd line a cookie sheet to stop grease, breading, and food debris from sticking. While this is a W to save on washing up, reusable air fryer liners are a more sustainable choice in our humble opinion. You can wash these over and over again instead of scrunching balls of aluminum into your trash can.
What are the negatives of an air fryer?
Air fryers are absolutely worth it. But, from personal experience, there are two downsides to owning this appliance: size and power. Smaller air fryers, (while great for compact countertops) won't hold the same capacity of food as your oven. And don't underestimate the wattage of your gadget either. I've followed conventional oven cooking times for air fryer recipes before, and my food has come out a little cremated. RIP dinner.
Oh, and another thing! If you want to cook things with a wet batter — don't. Air fryer vs. deep fat fryer, the former takes an L here. So shallow fry your tempura shrimp or let them swim in a big sea of fryer oil.
Is eating air fried food healthy?
Though they've been around for a while, many people still do question how healthy air fryers are, so we spoke to an industry expert to settle the debate.
"Air frying allows for healthier cooking methods that don’t require extra fat or oil to cook food properly — keeping them both dry on the outside while maintaining moisture within each bite thanks to its circulating hot air system," says Sarah Farquharson, senior marketing manager at Instant Brands. "Healthy meals have never been so easy."
We agree — of course, eating a balanced diet is key, but swapping fried eggs for air fryer boiled eggs is a simple way to enjoy this protein-rich food without cooking it in oil.
How much oil should you use in an air fryer?
Hannah Niu, marketing manager at Xiaomi explains that "the oil inside the food is thoroughly fried through the 360° heated air circulation, providing delicious food with less grease and fat." Niu also adds that the technology within an air fryer results in food that's cooked through and crispy on the outside.
The exception in our experience of testing is that if you're going to make homemade chips, a little oil goes a long way in ensuring your chipped spuds have a golden and crispy exterior.