Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Air Fryer of 2021

Our kitchen experts put a fleet of air fryers to the test to help you find the best for your kitchen.
If you're looking for a dedicated air fryer, the Ninja provides both f...
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
By Hayley Thomas, Michelle Powell, and Max Mutter  ⋅  Jun 17, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
After thoroughly researching more than 50 air fryers, we bought the best 13 of 2021 and cooked more than 200 meals with them. We made the exact same doughnuts, onion rings, chicken breasts, sweet potato fries, and tater tots with each model and directly compared the results side-by-side. We also assessed how easy it is to use and clean each model. Whether you're looking to make air frying a cornerstone of your weekly meals, or want to cook some of your guilty pleasure foods in a healthier manner, our objective testing results can help you find the perfect model.

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award   Top Pick Award 
Price $120 List
$119.95 at Amazon
$120 List
$99.99 at Amazon
$150 List
$65.56 at Amazon
$160 List
$66.99 at Amazon
$250 List
$219.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Fantastic cooking performance, easy to clean, easy to use, great temperature accuracy, multiple cooking functionsGreat cooking performance, user friendly, excellent temperature accuracyGood cooking performance, easy to cleanAccurate temperature, great for potato products, easy to cleanGood air frying performance, clear interface, can also pressure cook
Cons On the expensive sideNot the easiest to cleanNo digital readout, lower temperature setting somewhat inaccurateLeaves meat dry, difficult to open, buttons are not always responsiveExpensive, 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 marketThis high performing, four quart model offers the most consistent quality of the bunchAn incredibly capable cooker that offers up commendable performance and an excellent price tagThis accurate, budget friendly air fryer is the perfect option for casual side dishes like tater totsA convenient machine that combines pressure cooking and air frying capabilities
Rating Categories Instant Vortex Plus Ninja 1550 Watt BLACK+DECKER Purifry GoWISE USA 5.8 Quar... Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL
Cooking Performance (35%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
User Friendliness (25%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Ease Of Cleaning (20%)
9.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
Temperature Accuracy (20%)
10.0
10.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Specs Instant Vortex Plus Ninja 1550 Watt 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
Power Consumption 1700W 1550W 1200W 1700W 1760W


Best Overall Air Fryer


Instant Vortex Plus


92
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 9
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Ease of Cleaning 9
  • Temperature Accuracy 10
Capacity: 6 qt | Accessories: None
Top-notch cooking performance
Very easy to use and clean
Precise temperature accuracy
Multiple cooking functions
A bit pricey

The Instant Vortex Plus excelled in every single one of our tests, easily landing at the top of the pack as 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 amongst the models we tested. This appliance uses a smooth tray rather than a fry basket, making the cleaning process much easier. That simplicity extends to the user interface, ensuring that it's easy to navigate through the fryer's various settings. We also measured the Vortex Plus's 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 — it can dehydrate, reheat, and do some basic baking as well.

The Instant Vortex Plus gives us very little to complain about. 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 Vortex Plus is the best way to satisfy fried food cravings without going overboard on the oil.

Best Four Quart Model


Ninja 1550 Watt


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 8
  • User Friendliness 9
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Temperature Accuracy 10
Capacity: 4 qt | Accessories: Dehydrating rack
Great cooking performance
User-friendly
Excellent temperature accuracy
Dehydrating functionality
Not the easiest to clean

Most high-end air fryers opt for a larger six-quart capacity. If you don't need the extra space but still want top-notch performance, the four-quart Ninja 1550 Watt 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 1550 offers otherwise impressive performance.

Read review: Ninja 1550 Watt

Most Versatile Appliance


Ninja Foodi Digital Oven


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 8
  • User Friendliness 8
  • Ease of Cleaning 7
  • Temperature Accuracy 7
Capacity: 4 qt | Accessories: Wire rack, 13" x 13" nonstick sheet pan, 13" x 13" air fry basket
Easy to use
Good frying performance
Toaster oven and dehydrator functionality
Flips up for easy storage
Expensive
Fry basket can be awkward to handle

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. In our tests, it proved that it can back up all these flashy specs with real performance. With it, we were able to make near-perfect onion rings, delicious doughnuts, and to 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


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Cooking Performance 8
  • User Friendliness 8
  • Ease of Cleaning 5
  • Temperature Accuracy 9
Capacity: 5 qt | Accessories: Reversible steam/broil rack
Good cooking performance
Can also pressure cook
The large lid can be difficult to clean
Expensive

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 the ability to air fry and pressure cook, we think that extra cost is well worthwhile.

Read review: Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL

What is an Air Fryer and Do I Need One?

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.

Compare Products

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Score Product Price Our Take
92
$120
Editors' Choice Award
A high-performing and multi-functional device with an outstanding design
85
$120
Editors' Choice Award
Its versatility allows it to cook a wide variety of foods well and it's quite easy to use
78
$150
Offers great overall performance as well as an exceptional price tag
77
$160
For the casual chef, this accurate and inexpensive air fryer is an absolute dream
76
$250
Top Pick Award
A great choice for anyone that wants to both pressure cook and air fry
76
$230
Top Pick Award
The best toaster oven and air frying combination in our fleet
76
$130
Performs well when air frying, but falls short of being a truly useful multi-function device
75
$130
While it excels in certain situations and boasts an excellent price, there are better options
73
$350
Top Pick Award
Great for cooking fanatics that want a device that can handle a wide variety of cooking tasks with aplomb
72
$96
Good cooking performance for a reasonable price
72
$120
A good all-around machine but its performance falls behind others in our fleet
67
$70
Good for cooking small amounts, but many will find the small fry basket somewhat limiting
46
$200
Offers average quality in its pursuit to be a jack of all trades but falls behind in temperature accuracy

Here we put the 1550 Ninja to the test, air frying doughnuts, and a...
Here we put the 1550 Ninja to the test, air frying doughnuts, and a series of other foods.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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, and that is fried food. Whether she's ordering calamari in Italy or tempura shrimp in Japan, each dish requires the perfect crisp-to-moisture ratio; after many taste tests, Hayley knows just what to look for.

We cooked dozens of batches of sweet potato fries, tater tots, onion rings, doughnuts, and chicken strips for this review, 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

The fry basket is both large and doesn&#039;t slide in and out very...

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


Value


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.

Most of the Ninja models performed highly in our cooking performance...
Most of the Ninja models performed highly in our cooking performance metric.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Cooking Performance


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 all at the same time. 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.

The Instant Vortex Plus was one of the best all-around cookers in...
The Instant Vortex Plus was one of the best all-around cookers in our testing.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

The Ninja Foodi Oven offers an effective air frying mode, as well as...
The Ninja Foodi Oven offers an effective air frying mode, as well as a suite of other cooking features.
Credit: Laura Casner


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 was able to produce an appetizing dish no matter the contents.

The GoWISE family struggled a bit with chicken, but the onion rings...
The GoWISE family struggled a bit with chicken, but the onion rings, french fries, donuts and tots were to die for.
Credit: Jason Peters

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 Cosori fried almost to perfection. Look at that golden brown!
The Cosori fried almost to perfection. Look at that golden brown!
Credit: Ian Pearman

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.

The Purifry can make some excellent onion rings.
The Purifry can make some excellent onion rings.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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 just 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.

We loved the Dash Compact&#039;s onion rings, and its sweet potato fries...
We loved the Dash Compact's onion rings, and its sweet potato fries got just a bit crispier than most.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

Being able to easily remove and handle the frying basket for a...
Being able to easily remove and handle the frying basket for a mid-cook shake is critical.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

User Friendliness


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 it easy to select a temperature, cooking mode, and cooking time. 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.

The Ninja 1550 Watt has a clear interface and a fry basket that...
The Ninja 1550 Watt has a clear interface and a fry basket that easily slides in and out while using just one hand.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

The Smart Oven Air can air fry most foods very well, but falls...
The Smart Oven Air can air fry most foods very well, but falls slightly behind dedicated fryers in things like onion rings.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

The Ultrean performed at or above average in all of our tests, yet...
The Ultrean performed at or above average in all of our tests, yet generally sells at a below-average price.
Credit: Laura Casner

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 basket of the Vortex Plus is one of the easiest to clean.
The basket of the Vortex Plus is one of the easiest to clean.
Credit: Laura Casner

The GoWISE Digital, Ultrean, and Black and Decker Purifry are all 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 1550 Watt 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.

The groove in the fry basket of the Ninja 1550 Watt can sometimes...
The groove in the fry basket of the Ninja 1550 Watt can sometimes make getting all the grease off a bit more difficult.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Temperature Accuracy


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 checked the thermometers again. The closer each model got to the set temperature, the higher the score.


The Ninja 1550 Watt 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 as well. 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.

The GoWISE has no issue reaching its max temperature.
The GoWISE has no issue reaching its max temperature.
Credit: Jason Peters

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.

Both Ninja products we tested proved to be spot on when it came to...
Both Ninja products we tested proved to be spot on when it came to temperature accuracy.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


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