After researching every major model on the market we brought the 9 best air fryers of 2019 into our kitchen for more than 100 hours of side-by-side testing. The question is, do air fryers live up to all of the hype they've been getting? After both objectively and subjectively evaluating overall cooking performance, user-friendliness, ease of cleaning, and temperature accuracy, we've discovered all the pros and cons of owning an air fryer, the best models for every application, and whether or not one deserves a place in your kitchen.
The Best Air Fryers of 2019
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|Pros||Great cooking performance, user friendly, excellent temperature accuracy||Great cooking performance, relatively easy to clean, inexpensive||Good cooking performance, easy to clean||Very intuitive, relatively good cooking performance||Good cooking performance, multitude of cooking functions, may replace your conventional oven|
|Cons||Not the easiest to clean||Mediocre temperature accuracy||No digital readout, lower temperature setting somewhat inaccurate||Expensive, can sometimes be difficult to clean||Expensive, poor air frying temperature accuracy|
|Bottom Line||Offers the most consistent quality of the bunch||Offers good performance at a relatively low price||Good overall performance, but not the best in its price range||Good performance and intuitive design, but costs more than other models that hit the same marks||A great option for cooking connoisseurs that want a high-quality and versatile device that can also air fry|
|Rating Categories||Ninja 1550 Watt||3.7 Quart...||BLACK+DECKER Purifry||Philips HD9641/96...||Breville Smart...|
|Cooking Performance (35%)|
|User Friendliness (25%)|
|Ease Of Cleaning (20%)|
|Temperature Accuracy (20%)|
|Specs||Ninja 1550 Watt||3.7 Quart...||BLACK+DECKER Purifry||Philips HD9641/96...||Breville Smart...|
|Outside Dimensions||13.6" x 11" x 13.3"||12" x 8" x 8"||11.1" x 9.8" x 11.5"||14.4" x 10.5" x 11.3"||21.4" x 17.2" x 12.8"|
|Capacity||4 qt||3.7 qt||2.1 qt||2.8 qt||4 qt|
|Accessories||multi-layer rack for dehydrating||none||basket divider||none||air fry basket, baking tray, oven rack|
|Manufacturer Warranty||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||2 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||2 Year Limited|
Despite all of the "revolutionary product" hype surrounding air fryers, they are essentially just small and efficient super convection ovens. In fact, we tested them alongside toaster ovens with super convection settings and generally got very similar results. Additionally, while these can often get the outsides of food somewhat browned and crispy while using much less oil than a traditional fryer, they can't replicate the taste of deep fried food.So do you need one of these? If you like the approximation of frying that these machines can produce, and you're planning on air frying foods 2+times a week, you'll likely appreciate the extra convenience of a dedicated air fryer (they preheat and cook much faster than even smaller, countertop convection ovens). Also, if you make lots of roasted style foods, one of these machines could make that process a bit more streamlined. If you're not going to air fry as frequently, and already have an oven or toaster oven with a super convection setting, then one of these devices would likely be superfluous. Additionally, if you're looking for something that can truly recreate the texture of deep-fried food, you're likely going to be disappointed.
Best Overall Air Fryer
Ninja 1550 Watt
If you've decided an air fryer would up your food prep game, we think the Ninja 1550 Watt is your best bet. In our testing it was able to produce a pleasant crispy texture more frequently and reliably than any other model. Given that cooking performance, it's not surprising that the Ninja 1550 Watt also provided the best temperature accuracy in our tests, staying nearly spot on throughout many rounds of testing. That temperature accuracy can really come in handy as this device doubles as a food dehydrator, a process that is generally improved by controlled cooking temperatures. To top all of this off, the Ninja's price is actually towards the lower end of the spectrum despite its field-leading performance.
Our biggest complaint with the Ninja 1550 Watt is its cleaning process. While we find pretty much all air fryers at least somewhat annoying to clean, the Ninja's basket tends to accumulate more stuck-on food bits than most, and can be difficult to hold onto when cleaning. If you can deal with this small amount of extra cleaning labor, however, this cooker offers the best experience of all the models we tested.
Read review: Ninja 1550 Watt
Best Bang for the Buck
GoWISE USA 3.7 Quart Programmable
The GoWISE USA 3.7 Quart Programmable's streamlined fry basket tends to easily shed any grime or gunk, making it the easiest to clean of the bunch. In our opinion, that alone is reason enough to choose this model. But it backs that convenience up with above average cooking performance and an easily understandable interface. Plus, you get all of that for an impressively low price.
The major downside to the GoWISE 3.7 Quart is its lack of temperature accuracy, as its temperature regularly fluctuated in our testing, often dipping up to 15˚ below the set temperature. This generally didn't affect its cooking results (if anything you might have to leave the food in for an extra minute) but makes it a slightly less predictable machine than the Ninja 1550 Watt. It also feels slightly less sturdily built than the Ninja, but overall it provides a god air frying experience at a relatively low price.
Read review: GoWISE USA 3.7 Quart Programmable
Most Versatile Appliance
Breville Smart Oven Air
Air fryers are essentially just smaller, more efficient super convection ovens, so in many cases getting a small and efficient toaster oven with a powerful super convection setting can be both a better and more versatile alternative. If you'd like to go that route, we think the best option is the Breville Smart Oven Air. It can air fry right alongside the best of the dedicated devices, and offers all of the functionality of a conventional oven and then some. No need to be intimidated by such a complex, feature-laden product, as its well-designed interface makes navigating its nearly endless list of settings surprisingly easy.
The biggest roadblock to enjoying the Smart Oven Air is its sticker price, and that's quite a big roadblock. Its air frying temperature accuracy can also be a bit off in air frying mode, which is surprising as we found it to be one of the most accurate toaster ovens when used in more conventional cooking modes. If you're in the market for both a toaster oven and air fryer, however, and don't mind spending extra for something that will make your conventional oven all but obsolete, this is the machine for you.
Read review: Breville Smart Oven Air
Why You Should Trust Us
Michelle Powell brings over a decade of professional food service experience to the table in designing and implementing tests for kitchen appliances. She has a nuanced understanding of the way an appliance should perform and what the highest quality result should look like. Max Mutter has been testing kitchen appliances for the last 3 years, having now reviewed more than 100 toasters, toaster ovens, pressure cookers, espresso machines, coffee makers, and coffee grinders.
In completing this review we cooked dozens of batches of sweet potato fries, onion rings, tater tots, doughnuts, and chicken strips, using the exact same ingredients, recipes, and techniques in each one of our air fryers. After some side-by-side gluttonous taste tests, we carefully evaluated each model's general user-friendliness and ease of cleaning. Finally, we plopped two calibrated oven thermometers into each model and set them to four different temperatures to assess heating time and, more importantly, temperature accuracy.
Related: How We Tested Air Fryers
Analysis and Test Results
Air fryers are a somewhat niche kitchen appliance, but in some specific situations can be quite useful. Our testing results have parsed out the specific pros and cons of each model, and can help you decide whether or not each would be a worthwhile addition to your kitchen.
Related: Buying Advice for Air Fryers
When assessing the value of air fryers, it's important to remember that most of them tend to sell for well below their list price. That being said, we think the GoWISE USA 3.7 Quart Programmable offers the best overall performance to price ratio. If you can stand to spend a little bit more, the Ninja 1550 Watt offers high-end performance for quite a reasonable price. Though it's expensive, the Breville Smart Oven Air is a great air fryer and offers about every other function you could ever want from an oven, and thus is well worth its high price if you're looking for an incredibly versatile kitchen appliance.
Cooking performance was both our most heftily weighted metric, and where we spent the majority of our testing time. In order to find the best fryer for every dish, we made sweet potato fries, onion rings, doughnuts, chicken breast, and frozen tater tots. We prepped all of these foods in the same way with the same ingredients, then made them in each fryer all at the same time. This allowed us to compare freshly prepared treats from each model, one right after the other. We specifically scored each model on how well and evenly they were able to crisp the outsides of foods, and how well cooked the insides were. While all did a reasonable job, some were clearly better than others.
A number of different models share the top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. In general, these models were able to reliably and consistently place a crispy veneer on foods in our testing while completely cooking the insides, though all have slightly different strong suits.
First off in the 8 out of 10 club is the Editors' Choice winner, the Ninja 1550 Watt. It prepared some of the best onion rings and doughnuts in our testing, getting the outside crispy without sacrificing too much moisture on the sides. It did quite a good job with chicken, tater tots, and sweet potato fries as well, but these items felt a little less crispy and slightly dryer on the inside.
Also earning an 8 out of 10, the Best Buy winning GoWISE 3.7 Quart produced some of the crispier sweet potato fries in our testing, and made the best overall onion rings. It struggled a bit with more substantial foods, particularly chicken, but in general was able to produce an appetizing dish no matter the contents.
Another 8 out of 10 scorer, the Dash Compact served us very crispy and evenly cooked onion rings. It also made some of the most tender chicken in our testing. It did struggle a bit to get sweet potato fries and donuts truly crispy, however.
Rounding out the 8 out of 10 group, the BLACK+DECKER Purifry's onion rings earned all of the superlatives on our score sheet. It also made the best chicken breast of all the machines, with the results getting about as close to perfectly roasted chicken as one could hope. It also excelled at getting tater tots crispy, but its results in our sweet potato fry and doughnut tests were somewhat lacking.
Again, multiple models share the second, 7 out of 10 step on our cooking performance podium, with the Philips HD9641/96 being the first. Its onion ring and tater tot offerings were on par with those of the top scorers, but it had a harder time getting doughnuts and specifically sweet potato fries crispy. Its chicken breast was also a bit on the chewy side.
Two of the non-dedicated air fryers we tested (a toaster oven and pressure cooker that both offer air frying functions) Also earned 7 out of 10 in this metric. The Breville Smart Oven Air was just behind the front of the pack across the board, with all of its food offerings tasting good but falling just short of the "crispiest of them all" moniker. The Ninja Foodi pressure cooker excelled with onion rings and doughnuts, and made the crispiest of all the sweet potato fries. However, it has a propensity to make the chicken taste a bit overcooked and to leave tater tots a bit soggy.
Falling just out of the upper echelon of performers, the T-fal Actifry's forte is definitely onion rings, achieving a nice level of crispiness. However, outside of onion rings it never seemed to be able to get anything beyond a slightly crispy level, with sweet potato fries being a particular weak point.
The worst performer in our cooking tests, the Cuisinart TOA-60 (which is a convection toaster oven), can get foods crispy, but often suffers from consistency issues. Across the board we found parts of particular batches with nice, crispy outsides, while other parts still tasted a bit soggy or undercooked.
One of the main draws of getting a dedicated air frying device is that they can make what could be a complicated and time-consuming process much simpler and quicker. In testing user friendliness we paid attention to three specific things: the intuitiveness of the user interface, how easy it is to load, unload, and shake the frying basket, and how much each model can adjust to different types of food (essentially how many cooking settings are offered). After scoring each of these categories we came out with the models that can make meal prep easier, and the ones that may be a bit more trouble than they're worth.
The most user-friendly of all the models we tested, earning a 9 out of 10, is the Ninja 1550 Watt. Its controls are straightforward and easy to understand, and its frying basket can easily be slotted in and removed with one hand. It also has 4 cooking settings and a temperature range from 300˚ to 400˚.
Sharing the score of 8 out of 10 in this metric, both the GoWISE 3.7 Quart and the Breville Smart Oven offer well-designed interfaces and bevies of cooking and temperature settings. However, the GoWISE's fry basket tends to stick a bit when sliding it in and out, and the fry basket of the Breville requires you to grab hold of it with pot holders when you need to move it, something none of the dedicated devices necessitate.
The majority of the models we tested fell into the somewhat mid-tier, 7 out of 10 range in our user friendliness testing. For the most part, all of these models offer interfaces that are easy to understand, but have some annoyances in the fry basket design or the cooking settings offered. For example, the Dash Compact's fan stops blowing 2 minutes before the cooker timer stops, so you have to set a separate timer if you want to stop it mid-cook to shake the food (a common requirement of air frying recipes). The BLACK+DECKER Purifry's basket has such a tight fit that it's hard to remove or replace without moving the entire unit. The T-fal Actifry only has a single temperature setting. And, finally, the Ninja Foodi's basket has tiny handles and requires that you reach into the cooker and remove it with pot holders.
Again bringing up the rear in this metric was the Cuisinart TOA-60. It actually offers a number of cooking settings, but its control dials feel flimsy and can be hard to position correctly, and its frying basket must be placed on a baking tray, which creates a rather precarious situation when trying to remove it.
Ease of Cleaning
When it comes to air fryers there are essentially two cleaning tasks: wiping any bits of food off of the fry baskets between batches so those bits don't become chunks of charcoal on the next go around, and actually washing the basket and machine when you're done cooking. We completed both of these tasks multiple times for each machine, taking careful notes each and every time and paying attention to how different types and textures of foods affected the cleanup process.
The GoWISE 3.7 Quart proved to be the easiest model to clean in our testing, earning a score of 9 out of 10. Both its fry basket and inner basket shed grease quite well and are thus easy to wipe down and clean. Our only minor complaint is that the texture on the inner basket can catch some fuzzies from your rag if you forget to wipe with the grain.
Falling just out of the top spot with a score of 8 out of 10, the T-fal Actifry also does a great job of shedding food and grease. However, it has a paddle in the center of the basket that moves the food around, and that paddle has some sharp points that make the cleaning process a bit more difficult.
Also earning an 8 out of 10 in our ease of cleaning metric, the BLACK+DECKER Purifry offers easy access for cleaning and generally wipes down easily. However, it can start to gunk up and hold on to grease a bit more if you cook a few batches in a row.
Dropping to score of 7 out of 10, the Ninja 1550 Watt doesn't tend to hold onto too much grease, but its frying basket has some more nooks and crannies that can be a bit difficult to get completely clean. The Dash Compact, which earned the same score, has a nearly identical basket design.
Also earning a 7 out of 10, the Breville Smart OVen Air's frying basket is one of the few that can easily go in the dishwasher. However, if grease or food drips down into its heating elements, that requires a bit more effort to clean.
The Philips HD9641/96 which earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric, is one of the easier machines to wipe down between batches. However, its basket has some sharp points that can scrape and cut when doing more thorough cleaning, and its design allows it to shoot water to the side if you aim the faucet in the wrong place.
The Ninja Foodi put enough obstacles in the way of cleaning in our testing to warrant the relatively low score of 5 out of 10. While its basket is relatively easy to clean, you need a screwdriver to remove the almost comically large lid, so if you get that dirty you've got a bit of a kerfuffle on your hands.
Again earning the lowest score in this metric was the Cuisinart TOA-60. Its air frying tray tends to latch onto grease and grime more than any other, and the texture makes it act as a borderline cheese-grater when wiping it with sponges or rags.
When frying foods with minimal oil and convection heating, as these devices do, a temperature that is even 10-20˚ too low can make your food taste chewy instead of crispy, and even just 10-20˚ too hot can push beyond crispy and right into burnt territory. To test temperature accuracy we allowed each model 20 minutes to preheat to 300˚, then checked the temperature using 2 different calibrated oven thermometers, we then consecutively upped the temperature to setting to 350˚, 375˚ and 400˚, allowing 5 minutes to settle into each new temperature, and checked the thermometers again. The closer each model got to the set temperature, the higher the score.
Both Ninja models we tested were the clear kings of our temperature accuracy test, locking in nearly exactly to every single temperature we set.
Outside of the Ninja models, we found most models to be at least somewhat inaccurate. The best of the rest was the BLACK+DECKER Purifry. It ran about 20˚ hot at lower temperatures, but at anything 350˚ and above it was fairly locked in.
The Philips HD9641/96 has the opposite problem. It is quite accurate at lower temperatures, but once you get past 350˚it runs 5-10˚ hot.
The GoWISE 3.7 Quart consistently ran cold, with the problem getting slightly worse at higher temperatures. When set to 300˚ it ran 10˚ lower, and at 400˚ that gap widened to 15˚.
The T-fal Actifry (frustratingly) only has a single temperature setting: 350˚. We found it to be very accurate at that one setting, but the lack of adjustability feels limiting.
We found the Dash Compact to run quite hot, particularly at higher temperatures. For example, it settled in at 425˚ when we set it to 400˚.
Surprisingly, the Breville Smart Oven Air, which we found to be one of the most accurate toaster ovens, doesn't bring that consistency to its air frying setting. In ran 15˚ to 25˚ hot in our testing.
The worst of the bunch was the Cuisinart TOA-60, which at one point registered a full 85˚ above the set temperature. This happened at its highest setting. Inside of that setting the discrepancy was slightly less egregious at about 25˚. The take home message is that you have to be very careful to prevent this machine from burning your food.
Dedicated air fryers are very specialized machines with a narrow range of abilities, but they can certainly make the few tasks they excel at easier, more convenient, and faster. There are some more versatile countertop appliances, like toaster ovens and pressure cookers, that sometimes offer similar functionality. However, you generally have to pay quite a bit for such a machine, particularly if you want one that can air fry well. We hope that our testing results have helped you decide if you would enjoy having one of these devices in your kitchen, and if so, which one would be best for you.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell