Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Air Fryers

Thursday June 6, 2024

To find the best air fryer, we scoured the internet and talked to kitchen professionals; we then whittled our list down to the cream of the crop and purchased each model. Then, we made copious amounts of onion rings, sweet potato fries, donuts, tater tots, and chicken breasts. After gorging on what felt like 10 Thanksgivings worth of food and all the cooking and cleaning that bookended said feast, we ranked each fryer based on performance in four metrics.

It's hard to make a crispy sweet potato fry, so that's a great litmus test for air fryer performance. In our testing, we sliced, seasoned, and air fried dozens of batches of sweet potato fries.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Cooking Performance

We focused on four foods: sweet potato fries, donuts, chicken breast, and frozen tater tots. This lineup covers all the bases with deep-frying staples, meat, frozen items, and a unique challenge with the donuts.

air fryer - the number of donuts we ate had out spirits high and our tummies...
The number of donuts we ate had out spirits high and our tummies grumbling.
Credit: Jason Peters

We made these foods on the assembly line, doing a single batch in one fryer and then moving on to the next. This ensured that all ingredients were in the same condition when they entered each cooker. To the same end, we prepped each recipe in a large batch and then cooked parts in each model. We generally cooked each item using the same settings in each fryer unless the manufacturer had any special recommendations for prepping a certain food type. In those cases, we followed the manufacturer's recommendation. We want to note that we used a small amount of spray cooking oil for each recipe; none were completely oil-free.

Our kitchen experts seasoned and air-fried many pounds of chicken breasts - then tasted each batch to see which was the juiciest.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

We air-fried sweet potato fries, onion rings, donuts, chicken, and tater tots for each recipe. After the food was cooked, we had a panel of seven testers taste each item, rating each on its relative crispiness, evenness, overall texture, and general yumminess.


We focused on three major things. We assessed how intuitive and easy to understand each model's interface was. Many of these devices double as dehydrators or have multiple cooking modes, so easily navigating through settings is necessary. We evaluated how easily each fry basket slid in and out of each machine. Many recipes require taking the fry basket out mid-cook, shaking, and spraying some oil onto the food. Thus, easily removing and replacing the fry basket with one hand is a huge plus.

We assessed the number of cooking options and temperature settings each model offered. Surprisingly, some of these devices are somewhat limiting in their adjustability, which can be frustrating when searching for recipes.

air fryer - being able to smoothly open the fry basket is a key feature.
Being able to smoothly open the fry basket is a key feature.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Ease of Cleaning

This was an easy one to test. After making so much food, we had a lot of messes to clean up, which turned into sessions of diligent note-taking. We specifically paid attention to how easy it was to scrub each fry basket, whether or not there were any grooves or holes that would allow gunk to buildup, and what shape our sponges were in after cleaning (some fry baskets have a surprisingly cheese-grater-like quality to them).

air fryer - an oven-style fryer like this may be a little difficult to...
An oven-style fryer like this may be a little difficult to thoroughly clean but the nonstick coating and removable rack make it easy to wipe down.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Temperature Accuracy

In determining temperature accuracy, we used two calibrated cooking thermometers. For each test, we placed both thermometers into the fryer, set it to 300 degrees, and allowed a healthy 20 minutes to preheat. We then checked the temperature on both thermometers (they always matched, ensuring both were correctly calibrated). We repeated the process, setting the temperature at 350˚, 375˚, and 400˚, allowing five minutes for the cooker to get up to each new temperature. The bigger the discrepancy between our thermometers and the set temperature on the cooker, the lower the score. The closer together those two numbers were, the higher the score. We also measured the exterior temperature for those who prefer their fryer to have a cooler surface temp.

Measuring the outside temperature of the Breville Smart Oven Air Pro.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

For this, we heated each unit to 400˚ for 20 minutes and then recorded the temperature on the front of the machine. We set an ideal threshold of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.