Best Air Fryer of 2020
Instant Vortex Plus
The Instant Vortex Plus excelled in every single one of our tests, making it our favorite air fryer. It cooked everything to near perfection, producing delectably crunchy onion rings and mouth-watering doughnuts, all with a minimal amount of oil. Perhaps most impressively, it managed to achieve a great texture and slight crispness when making sweet potato fries — a task that has proved very difficult for all the models we've tested. This appliance uses a smooth tray rather than a fry basket, which makes for much easier cleaning. That simplicity extends to the user interface, which ensures that it's easy to navigate through the fryer's various settings. We also measured the Vortex Plus' temperature accuracy at near perfect, meaning you can rest assured you'll get the same results time after time. True to the Instant brand this device is multi-functional, and it can dehydrate, reheat, and bake as well.
There's not a whole lot to complain about when it comes to the Instant Vortex Plus. It is on the pricier end of the spectrum, but not excessively so. As long as you're willing to spend a little extra, the Instant Vortex Plus is the best way to satisfy fried food cravings without going overboard on the oil.
Ninja 1550 Watt
In our tests, the Ninja 1550 Watt consistently churned out satisfyingly crispy foods with minimal fuss. We were also impressed by its temperature accuracy, which our thermometers indicated to be just about perfect. This accuracy is particularly important for this machine because it doubles as a food dehydrator, a process that is vastly improved by precise and steady temperatures.
The biggest downside to the Ninja 1550 Watt is its fry basket design. The numerous nooks and crannies on the bottom of the basket tend to gather gunk, which requires extra elbow grease to get clean. As long as you don't mind some additional cleaning effort, the Ninja 1550 Watt otherwise offers impressive performance comparable to the Instant Vortex Plus, often while selling for less.
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 sheds grime and gunk, making it the easiest to clean of the bunch. That alone is reason to choose this model and it backs that up with above-average cooking performance and an easily understandable interface. Plus, you get all that for an impressively low price.
The major downside to the GoWISE 3.7 Quart is its disappointing temperature accuracy. In our testes its temperature regularly fluctuated, often dipping up to 15˚ below the set temperature. This generally didn't harm the cooking results (if anything you might have to leave the food in for an extra minute) but it's a less predictable machine than the Ninja 1550 Watt. It also feels slightly less sturdily built than the Ninja, but overall, it provides a good air frying experience at a low price.
Read review: GoWISE USA 3.7 Quart Programmable
Most Versatile Appliance
Breville Smart Oven Air
Air fryers are essentially smaller, more efficient super convection ovens, so in many cases a small and efficient toaster oven with a powerful convection setting could be a better and more versatile alternative. If you want to go that route, the best option is the Breville Smart Oven Air. It can air fry just like the best of the dedicated devices and it offers 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 settings surprisingly easy.
The biggest roadblock to the Smart Oven Air is its sticker price, and it's quite a big roadblock. Its air frying temperature accuracy can also be a bit off in air frying mode. That is surprising because it was 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 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
Best Pressure Cooker Combo
For anyone interested in an air fryer and a pressure cooker without counter space to spare, the Ninja Foodi is a great solution. This device can both pressure cook and air fry, enabling things like a pressure-cooked chicken finished off with an air frying crisping cycle. It is quite effective at both cooking techniques.
Combining two devices into one does create some issues. The large air frying lid is difficult to clean, and the larger cooking chamber can make it challenging to remove the air frying basket. Additionally, the Foodi is quite expensive. In fact, it generally sells for more than the combined price of a top tier pressure cooker and a top tier air fryer. So the Foodi is only a compelling choice if you're looking to save space or like the idea of being able to quickly switch between cooking functions for a single recipe.
Read review: Ninja Foodi
Air fryers are having a bit of a moment right now, hailed as the next great kitchen appliance. So what exactly are they? At their core, they are small, efficient, super convection ovens that use a fan to circulate hot air around food to get it crispy. And they do this all while using much less oil than a traditional deep fryer. However, they still fall well short of recreating the taste of deep-fried food. Anyone hoping these devices will produce crispy and decadent fried chicken without the guilt will be sorely disappointed. That said, these fryers can add a delightful crisp to many foods more easily and efficiently than most other cooking methods.So, does one of these machines deserve a place in your kitchen? If you like the approximation to frying that this cooking technique produces and would like to incorporate it into your meal rotation 2+ times a week, it's worth investing in the speed and convenience of a dedicated air fryer. If you don't think you'll be air frying frequently, you might be better off using the convection or broil setting on your conventional, or better yet, your toaster oven for those occasional dishes you want to make crispy.
Why You Should Trust Us
Lead reviewer Michelle Powell brings over a decade of professional food service experience to the table to design and carry out tests of 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 three years and has now reviewed more than 100 toasters, toaster ovens, pressure cookers, espresso machines, coffee makers, and coffee grinders.
For 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 gluttonous side-by-side 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 kind of a niche kitchen appliance, but in some situations, they can be quite useful. Our testing tried to parse out the specific pros and cons of each model and we hope it will help you decide whether or not an air fryer would be a worthwhile addition to your kitchen.
Related: Buying Advice for Air Fryers
Keep in mind that most of these products sell for well below their list price. 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 at a quite 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. Thus, it's well worth the high price if you're looking for an incredibly versatile kitchen appliance.
Cooking performance had the largest impact on overall scores, and it's also where we spent the majority of our testing time. In order to find the best fryer for every dish, we cooked 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 if the insides were well cooked. All models did a reasonable job, but some were clearly better than others.
Earning a near-perfect 9 out of 10 in our cooking performance metric, the Instant Vortex Plus is sure to up your cooking game. In our tests, it easily produced evenly cooked and crispy onion rings, kept the interiors of doughnuts fluffy while adorning the outsides with a slight crunch, created chicken that was moist and tender, and made tater tots taste so delectably sinful that you might believe they were deep-fried. We were most impressed, however, by its sweet potato fries. While they weren't perfect, no machine we tested could get more than a passing crispiness on the outside of sweet potato fries. The Instant Vortex Plus, in contrast, was able to produce a noticeable crunch.
The Ninja 1550 Watt followed closely behind the Instant Vortex Plus in our cooking tests, earning an 8 out of 10. It produced nearly perfect onion rings and doughnuts. Both its sweet potato fries and tater tots were a bit less crispy than those of the Vortex Plus, but they were still good enough to classify as tasty indulgences.
Also earning an 8 out of 10, the 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.
The Cosori Smart CS158-AF also earned an 8 out of 10 in our cooking tests, largely due to its nearly perfect onion rings. It did a better job at crisping sweet potato fries than most other models. This performance was rounded out by juicy and tender chicken breast and delightfully fluffy doughnuts.
Another 8 out of 10 scorer, the Dash Compact served very crispy and evenly cooked onion rings. It also made some of the most tender chicken in our testing. It struggled, however, a bit at getting sweet potato fries and donuts truly crispy.
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 about as close to perfectly roasted chicken as one could hope. It also excelled at making tater tots crispy, but its results in our sweet potato fry and doughnut tests were somewhat lacking.
Again, multiple models share the 7 out of 10 spot 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 on the chewy side.
Our tests proved that non-dedicated air fryers can also produce great air frying results, as both the Breville Smart Oven Air (toaster oven) and the Ninja Foodi (pressure cooker) earned 7 out of 10 in our cooking metric. The Smart Oven performed well across the board, falling just short of earning "best of the best" accolades for everything from onion rings to chicken. The Foodi made excellent doughnuts and onion rings and added more crispiness to sweet potato fries than most other machines. However, it struggled a bit with chicken breast, leaving things tasting a bit dry and overdone.
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 observed parts of particular batches with nice, crispy outsides, while other parts remained soggy or undercooked.
To assess user friendliness, we paid attention to three things: the intuitiveness of the user interface; ease of loading, unloading, and shaking the frying basket; and how much each model can adjust to different types of food (essentially how many cooking settings are offered).
The Instant Vortex Plus provides a seamless user experience. The control panel is streamlined and intuitive, making it easy to select temperature, cooking time, and cooking mode. The fry tray slides in and out easily so you can shake items mid-cook with a single hand.
The Ninja 1550 Watt supplied one of the most intuitive user experiences in our tests, largely thanks to a simple control panel adorned with an easy to read LCD screen. A frying basket that can slide in and out using just one hand is the cherry on top.
Sharing the score of 8 out of 10 in this metric, 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 that you use potholders when you move it, an extra step that none of the dedicated devices necessitate.
Most of the models we tested fell into the 7 out of 10 range for user friendliness. For the most part, these machines offer intuitive user experiences with just one or two minor annoyances.
Bringing up the rear was the Cuisinart TOA-60. Its control dials feel flimsy and can be tricky to set correctly. Its frying basket also must be placed on a baking tray, which creates a rather precarious situation when trying to remove it.
Ease of Cleaning
With air fryers there are essentially two cleaning tasks: wiping off any bits of food on the fry baskets between batches so those bits don't become 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.
The GoWISE 3.7 Quart was one of the easiest models to clean, scoring 9 out of 10. Both its fry basket and inner basket shed grease 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 a rag if you mistakenly wipe against the grain.
The Instant Vortex Plus also earned a 9 out of 10 in our cleaning tests. It uses a frying tray rather than a basket, a unique feature amongst air fryers. The lack of any holes in the tray makes cleaning and scrubbing significantly easier and prevents greasy buildup.
Also with an 8 out of 10 for ease of cleaning, the BLACK+DECKER Purifry offers easy access for cleaning and generally wipes down easily. However, it can start to gunk up and collect more grease if you cook a few batches in a row.
The Cosori Smart CS158-AF is also quite easy to clean, earning an 8 out of 10. Its basket generally wipes clean without much fuss, though it has a propensity to shred sponges if you need to scrub off stubborn, caked-on grease.
Dropping to score of 7 out of 10, the Ninja 1550 Watt doesn't tend to hold onto much grease, but its frying basket has some more nooks and crannies that can be 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. If grease or food drips down into its heating elements, however, it will require extra effort to clean.
The Philips HD9641/96, which earned a 6 out of 10 in this metric, is not particularly easy to clean, nor it is particularly painful. The fry basket doesn't hold onto much grease and it's thus relatively easy to wipe clean. However, it does have some sharper points that can tear up a sponge if you do need to scrub more aggressively.
The Ninja Foodi adds enough inconveniences to cleaning to earn it a 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 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 10-20˚ too low can make the food taste chewy rather than crispy. Just 10-20˚ too hot can push beyond crispy and into burnt territory. To test temperature accuracy we gave each model 20 minutes to preheat to 300˚, then checked the temperature using two calibrated oven thermometers We then upped the temperature to settings to 350˚, 375˚, and 400˚, with five minutes allotted to settle in at each new temperature. Then we checked the thermometers again. The closer each model got to the set temperature, the higher the score.
Both Ninja models we tested performed exceptionally in our temperature accuracy test, locking in nearly perfect to every single temperature we set.
The Instant Vortex Plus likewise turned in a precise performance in our temperature accuracy tests, never deviating more than a degree or two from the set temperature.
Outside of the Ninja models, most models were 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 had the opposite problem. It was 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˚ too low, and at 400˚ that gap widened to 15˚.
The Dash Compact ran quite hot, particularly at higher temperatures. For example, it settled in at 425˚ when we set it to 400˚.
The Cosori Smart CS158-AF also runs a bit hot. No matter what temperature we set it to, our thermometers read 15-20 degrees hotter.
The Breville Smart Oven was one of the stars in our toaster oven temperature accuracy tests, but it surprisingly struggled when using its air fry setting, running 15˚ to 20˚ hot. Although this inaccuracy didn't have negative impacts in our cooking tests, it could be annoying for those who want to do air frying.
The Cuisinart TOA-60 displayed the worst temperature accuracy in our tests, producing temperatures as high as 485˚ when we set the machine to 400˚. This is an especially egregious example — on average we found the actual temperature to be about 25˚ hotter than the set temperature. Regardless, you should definitely be cautious about overcooking food when using this machine,
We think it's worth getting one of these appliances if you plan to air fry frequently because the quicker heat-up times and ease of cleaning of these single-task devices will make a big difference for frequent users. Otherwise, most people would probably be better off with a slightly less efficient, but much more versatile toaster oven, that has a convection or air fry setting. Either way, we hope this review has helped you make a confident purchase decision.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell