Best Air Fryer of 2021
$119.99 at Amazon
$89.99 at Amazon
$71.13 at Amazon
$84.99 at Amazon
$179.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Fantastic cooking performance, easy to clean, easy to use, great temperature accuracy, multiple cooking functions||Great cooking performance, user friendly, excellent temperature accuracy||Good cooking performance, easy to clean||Accurate temperature, great for potato products, easy to clean||Good air frying performance, clear interface, can also pressure cook|
|Cons||On the expensive side||Not the easiest to clean||No digital readout, lower temperature setting somewhat inaccurate||Leaves meat dry, difficult to open, buttons are not always responsive||Expensive, crisping lid can be hard to clean|
|Bottom Line||Exceptional frying performance and an easy to clean design make this one of the best options on the market||This high performing, four quart model offers the most consistent quality of the bunch||An incredibly capable cooker that offers up commendable performance and an excellent price tag||This accurate, budget friendly air fryer is the perfect option for casual side dishes like tater tots||A convenient machine that combines pressure cooking and air frying capabilities|
|Rating Categories||Instant Vortex Plus||Ninja Air Fryer||Black+Decker Purifry||GoWISE USA 5.8 Quar...||Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL|
|Cooking Performance (35%)|
|User Friendliness (25%)|
|Ease Of Cleaning (20%)|
|Temperature Accuracy (20%)|
|Specs||Instant Vortex Plus||Ninja Air Fryer||Black+Decker Purifry||GoWISE USA 5.8 Quar...||Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL|
|Outside Dimensions||11.5" x 13.25" x 12.75"||13.6" x 11" x 13.3"||11.1" x 9.8" x 11.5"||13.5" x 12.5" x 11.5"||16.1" x 14.57" x 14.29"|
|Capacity||6 qt||4 qt||2.1 qt||5.8 qt||5 qt|
|Accessories||None||Multi-layer rack for dehydrating||Basket divider||None||Pressure cooking pot and crisping basket|
Best Overall Air Fryer
Instant Vortex Plus
The Instant Vortex Plus excels in every test, which lands it at the top of the pack as our favorite air fryer in the test suite. It fully delivered, cooking everything to near perfection, producing delectably crunchy onion rings and mouth-watering doughnuts — all with a minimal amount of oil. Perhaps most impressively, it achieved an excellent texture and slight crispness when making sweet potato fries — which is no easy feat. The Vortex Plus utilizes a smooth tray rather than a fry basket, making the cleaning process much easier. That simplicity extends to the user interface, as it allows for a pleasant user experience via the easy-to-navigate through settings. This machine's temperature accuracy is near perfect, ensuring we were able to achieve the same results, time after time. True to the Instant brand, this device is multi-functional — it can dehydrate, reheat, and do some basic baking.
The Instant Vortex Plus gives us very little to complain about. While we could mention the price, we feel this product's performance is worthy of the cost. As long as you're willing to spend a little extra, the Vortex Plus is the best way to satisfy fried food cravings without going overboard on the oil.
Best Four Quart Model
Ninja Air Fryer
the four-quart Ninja Air Fryer is our top recommendation. In our tests, it 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. Accuracy is important for this particular machine because it doubles as a food dehydrator, a process that is vastly improved by steady and precise temperatures.
The fry basket design is the biggest downside to the Ninja. Gunk tends to gather in the numerous nooks and crannies on the bottom of the basket, requiring extra elbow grease to get clean. As long as you don't mind some additional cleaning effort, the Ninja offers otherwise impressive performance.
Read review: Ninja Air Fryer
Most Versatile Appliance
Ninja Foodi Digital Oven
Multifunctionality is quickly becoming the name of the game for countertop kitchen appliances, and the Ninja Foodi Digital Oven is currently at the forefront of that trend. It effectively combines the abilities of an air fryer, a toaster oven, and a dehydrator into a single device that can flip upright when not in use, barely taking up any counter space. In terms of cooking functionality per square inch of counter storage space, it may just be one of the top kitchen appliances in the world. Our tests proved that it can back up all these flashy specs with real performance. We were able to make near-perfect onion rings, delicious doughnuts and get a nice crispy skin-on chicken. It performed similarly well in our testing as a toaster oven and dehydrator.
Due to the oven-style design, the air fry basket of this device must be handled with a potholder. This is much less convenient than the handles found on the baskets of most dedicated machines. Overall, this feels like a small sacrifice to gain the extra functionality this device offers. In the same vein, this device costs more than most competing fryers, but that extra cost isn't so significant when you consider that you are essentially getting three devices in one. If you're looking to kit out your kitchen with air frying, toaster oven, and/or dehydrating capabilities, we think this is a fantastic and space-saving option.
Read review: Ninja Foodi Digital Oven
Best Pressure Cooker Combination
Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL
Combining pressure cooking and air frying capabilities into a single device doesn't just save counter space, it opens up the opportunity to quickly cook things in pressure cooking mode and then switch over to air frying mode to add a crispy outer layer to your meal. If either of those things sound appealing, we highly recommend the Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL. This countertop appliance achieves this dual functionality better than any other such device we've tested. Throughout our testing, whether air frying or pressure cooking, it consistently churned out above average results. It notably achieves this performance while avoiding most of the inconvenient pitfalls that besiege many multifunction devices.
That's not to say the Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL altogether avoids those pitfalls. For example, its crisping lid is large and permanently attached to the body of the device, which can make cleaning a bit tricky in the event of a messy recipe. Additionally, this device asks a much higher price than single-function machines. However, if you want air fry and pressure cook, we think that extra cost is well worthwhile.
Read review: Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL
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 how 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 pressure cookers, toasters, toaster ovens, espresso machines, coffee makers, and coffee grinders. Hayley Thomas has lived and traveled all over the world, and her palette is rather refined. While dishes vary greatly with location, there is one thing that you can find everywhere: fried food. Whether she's ordering calamari in Italy or tempura shrimp in Japan, each dish requires the perfect crisp-to-moisture ratio; Hayley knows just what to look for after many taste tests.
We cooked dozens of batches of sweet potato fries, tater tots, onion rings, doughnuts, and chicken strips for this review, using the 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
Though air fryers may seem like a niche kitchen appliance, they can be quite useful in some situations. Our testing tried to parse out each model's specific pros and cons. 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
The GoWISE USA Digital offers the best overall performance to price ratio that we've found. If you can stand to spend slightly more, the Instant Vortex Plus with Rotisserie offers high-end performance at a quite reasonable price. Though it's expensive, the Ninja Foodi Digital Oven is a great air fryer and offers about every other function you could ever want from a countertop oven. Thus, it's well worth the high price if you're looking for an incredibly versatile kitchen appliance.
For obvious reasons, the cooking performance had the largest impact on overall scores and was also where we spent most of our testing time. We cooked onion rings, sweet potato fries, chicken breast, doughnuts, and frozen tater tots to find the best fryer for every dish. We prepped all of these foods in the same way with the same ingredients, then made them in each fryer simultaneously. This allowed us to compare freshly prepared treats from each appliance, one right after the other. We specifically scored each model based on if the insides were well cooked and how well and evenly the foods' outsides were crisped. All models did a reasonable job, but some were clearly better than others.
The top performers in our air frying tests were the Instant Vortex Plus and its sibling, the Instant Vortex Plus with Rotisserie. Both of these machines got closer to getting sweet potato fries properly crisp than any of the others we tested. They also excelled in making evenly cooked and crispy onion rings and made tater tots so good you could almost believe they were deep-fried.
All of the Ninja products we tested performed similarly well in our cooking trials, producing fantastic onion rings, doughnuts, chicken, and tater tots. However, they yielded slightly less of a crunch on sweet potato fries than the Instant Vortex models. Still, we highly doubt anyone will be disappointed with the air frying performance of these models.
Also earning a well-deserving higher score is the GoWISE Digital. It 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, it produced an appetizing dish no matter the contents.
The Cosori Smart CS158-AF and Dash Compact are also top performers in this category. The Cosori earned its high score, mainly due to its nearly perfect onion rings. It also did a better job at crisping sweet potato fries than many other models, and it created juicy and tender chicken breast and delightfully fluffy doughnuts. the Dash served up very crispy and evenly cooked onion rings. It also made some of the most tender chicken in our testing. However, it struggled a bit at getting sweet potato fries and doughnuts truly crispy.
The top performers are the Black + Decker Purifry and the TaoTronics XL 6qt. The Purifry's onion rings earned all of the superlatives. 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.
Our tests proved that non-dedicated air fryers could also produce great air frying results, as both the Ninja Foodi Deluxe (pressure cooker) and the Breville Smart Oven Air (toaster oven) earned runner-up scores in our cooking metric. The Smart Oven performed well across the board, falling short of earning "best of the best" accolades for everything from chicken to onion rings. The Foodi made excellent onion rings and doughnuts 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.
Multiple models shared runner-up scores on our cooking performance podium, like the Ultrean 4.2 qt and the Dash Compact. The Ultrean excelled in making onion rings, achieving near-perfect results. Doughnuts and chicken breast also came out with even cooking and good crisps. However, sweet potato fries and taters tots lacked a bit of the crunch that some of the top models could produce.
To assess user-friendliness, we paid attention to a few things: the user interface's intuitiveness; 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 selecting a temperature, cooking mode, and cooking time easy. The fry tray slides in and out easily so you can shake items mid-cook with a single hand. The Ninja 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.
Several models fell just behind these top performers in our ease of use testing. For the most part, these models offer clear and intuitive interfaces but present one minor annoyance, like a fry basket that offers a bit of resistance when sliding in and out or that requires two hands to handle. This group includes the Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL and Digital Oven, and the Instant Vortex Plus with Rotisserie.
Most of the models that we tested receive runner-up scores for user-friendliness, like the Ultrean, Cosori 1700W, Ninja Foodi, and the Black + Decker. For the most part, these machines offer intuitive user experiences with just one or two minor annoyances.
Ease of Cleaning
There are essentially two cleaning tasks with air fryers: 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 Black + Decker Purifry, GoWISE 5.8 Quart, and Taotronics were the easiest models to clean. Their fry baskets and inner baskets shed grease well and are thus easy to clean and wipe down. The GoWISE, however, has some texture on the inner basket that catches fuzzies from a rag if you mistakenly wipe against the grain.
The Instant Vortex Plus is also a top performer in the ease of cleaning metric. Rather than a basket, it uses a frying tray, a unique feature amongst air fryers. The lack of any holes in the tray makes cleaning and scrubbing significantly easier and prevents greasy buildup.
The GoWISE Digital, Ultrean, and Black and Decker Purifry are top-performing but runners-up to the aforementioned devices. The GoWISE Digital has a smooth basket, but you have to wait for it to cool because the outer basket does not have a handle. The 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, another runner-up, also proved easy to clean. 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.
The Ninja Air Fryer and Dash Compact, which earned the same score, have a nearly identical basket design. They don't tend to hold onto much grease, but their frying baskets have some more nooks and crannies that can be difficult to get completely clean.
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. Conversely, just 10-20˚ too hot can push beyond crispy and into the 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 rechecked the thermometers. The closer each model got to the set temperature, the higher the score.
The Ninja Air Fryer and Instant Vortex Plus take the cake as far as temperature accuracy goes. All the Ninja models we tested performed exceptionally in the temperature accuracy test, locking in nearly perfectly to any temperature we set, but these two models outperformed every last air fryer in our test suite.
The Instant Vortex Plus turned in a precise performance in our temperature accuracy tests, never deviating more than a degree or two from the set temperature. The Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL and GoWISE Digital score nearly perfect in this category. We were surprised at how many of the less expensive models didn't actually reach their claimed maximum temperature, but the affordable GoWISE easily reached its max temperature of 400˚, though there was a small amount of variance at the lower temps.
Outside of the Ninja models, most of these appliances were at least somewhat inaccurate. The best of the rest was the Black + Decker Purifry. It ran about 20˚ hot at lower temperatures, though anything 350˚ and above was fairly locked in.
We think it's worth getting one of these appliances if you plan to air fry frequently. 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 includes convection or air fry setting. Either way, we hope this review has helped guide you toward making a confident purchase decision.
— Hayley Thomas, Michelle Powell, and Max Mutter