Best Air Fryer of 2021
$119.95 at Amazon
$99.99 at Amazon
$61.09 at Amazon
$65.69 at Amazon
$191.99 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||Great cooking performance, relatively easy to clean, inexpensive||Good cooking performance, easy to clean||Good air frying performance, clear interface, can also pressure cook|
|Cons||On the expensive side||Not the easiest to clean||Mediocre temperature accuracy||No digital readout, lower temperature setting somewhat inaccurate||Expensive, crisping lid can be hard to clean|
|Bottom Line||A high-performing and multi-functional device that leaves very little to be desired||Can cook the widest variety of foods well, and is quite easy to use||Can cook some great dishes yet costs significantly less than most competitors||A capable cooker, but better value can be found elsewhere||A great choice for anyone that wants to both pressure cook and air fry|
|Rating Categories||Instant Vortex Plus||Ninja 1550 Watt||3.7 Quart...||BLACK+DECKER Purifry||Ninja Foodi Deluxe...|
|Cooking Performance (35%)|
|User Friendliness (25%)|
|Ease Of Cleaning (20%)|
|Temperature Accuracy (20%)|
|Specs||Instant Vortex Plus||Ninja 1550 Watt||3.7 Quart...||BLACK+DECKER Purifry||Ninja Foodi Deluxe...|
|Outside Dimensions||11.5" x 13.25" x 12.75"||13.6" x 11" x 13.3"||12" x 8" x 8"||11.1" x 9.8" x 11.5"||16.1" x 14.57" x 14.29"|
|Capacity||6 qt||4 qt||3.7 qt||2.1 qt||5 qt|
|Accessories||none||multi-layer rack for dehydrating||none||basket divider||pressure cooking pot and crisping basket|
|Manufacturer Warranty||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||1 Year Limited||2 Year Limited||1 Year Limited|
Best Overall Air Fryer
Instant Vortex Plus
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 model we tested. This appliance uses a smooth tray rather than a fry basket, making for much easier cleaning. 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 Instant Vortex Plus is the best way to satisfy fried food cravings without going overboard on the oil.
Best 4 Quart Model
Ninja 1550 Watt
Most high-end air fryers opt for a larger 6 quart capacity. If you don't need the extra space but still want top-notch performance, the 4 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 1550 Watt. 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 Watt offers otherwise impressive performance comparable to the Instant Vortex Plus, and often costs 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 gunk and grime, making it the easiest to clean of the bunch. We think that alone is a reason to choose this model, but its above-average cooking performance and the straightforward interface doesn't hurt. Plus, all that comes at an impressively low price.
The GoWISE 3.7 Quart disappoints with its temperature accuracy, which is this machine's biggest downside. Its temperature regularly fluctuated in our tests, 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
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 the top kitchen appliance in the world. In our tests the Digital Oven 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 as well.
Due to the oven-style design, the air fry basket of this device must be handled with a pot holder. 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 full review: Ninja Foodi Digital Oven
Best Pressure Cooker Combo
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. Most notably, it 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 completely 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 difficult 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
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.
For this review, we cooked dozens of batches of sweet potato fries, tater tots, onion rings, 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
Though air fryers may seem like a niche kitchen appliance, in some situations they can be quite useful. 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
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 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, cooking performance had the largest impact on overall scores, and it's also where we spent the majority of our testing time. To find the best fryer for every dish, we cooked onion rings, sweet potato fries, chicken breast, doughnuts, 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 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 crisping 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 all got 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 Ultrean 4.2qt also posted an impressive performance in our cooking tests. It particularly 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 were able to produce.
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, it 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, 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.
Another scoring 8 out of 10 was the Dash Compact. It 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 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 could also produce great air frying results, as both the Ninja Foodi (pressure cooker) and the Breville Smart Oven Air (toaster oven) 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 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.
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 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 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.
A number of 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. Models included in this group are the GoWISE USA 3.7-Quarts, the Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL and Digital Oven, and the Instant Vortex Plus with Rotisserie.
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 clean and wipe down. 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. 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.
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 a 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 is it particularly painful. The fry basket doesn't hold onto much grease, and it's relatively easy to wipe clean. However, it does have some sharper points that can tear up a sponge if you need to scrub more aggressively.
The Ninja Foodi and its sibling, the Ninja Foodi Deluxe XL both have large and permanently attached crisping lids. While they often remain clean during use, if they do get dirty you must either awkwardly wipe down the lids while attached, or get out a screwdriver.
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. 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.
All of the Ninja models we tested performed exceptionally in the temperature accuracy test, locking in nearly perfectly to any temperature we set.
Likewise, 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.
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.
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 tended to run hot, particularly at higher temperatures. For example, it settled in at 425˚ when we set it to 400˚.
The Instant Vortex Plus with Rotisserie struggled a bit to keep a constant temperature in our testing, which isn't particularly surprising given it's larger than average cooking chamber. We didn't find this to be noticeably detrimental in our cooking tests, but it could very well reduce consistency between batches of more temperature sensitive recipes.
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.
One of the stars in our toaster oven temperature accuracy tests was the Breville Smart Oven, but it surprisingly struggled when using its air fry setting, running 15˚ to 20˚ hot. Although this inaccuracy didn't have negative impacts in any of 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 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. 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 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