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Best air fryers 2021: ranking the best health fryers we've tested

Best air fryers
(Image credit: Tefal)

The best air fryers can transform the way you cook, allowing you to indulge in healthier versions of your favorite foods. We’re talking fries and roast potatoes without the huge amounts of oil needed to make them tasty and crispy – how can you say no?

It’s not just stand-alone air fryers that offer this kind of cooking function, either. Some of the best Instant Pots and multi-cookers offer air-frying as one of their many cooking methods and could be a space-saving alternative to an air fryer.

Air fryers vary wildly in price and size, which means choosing the best air fryer for you can be overwhelming, but start by deciding whether you want a basket or bowl air fryer. 

Basket air fryers tend to be healthier because they funnel the juices, as well as the fat, away from the food whereas bowl air fryers with bowls mean the cooking juices remain in the air fryer and in contact with the food, making it tastier but not as healthy. 

Bowl air fryers also have glass tops so you can keep an eye on your meal, unlike baskets, which tuck away inside the air fryer and mean you can't check on your food without opening it and letting in cold air, which can stall the cooking process. Some models also have separate compartments, which means you can cook multiple foods at the same time.

Capacity is also worth considering, the largest air fryers hold around 6.5 quarts / 6 liters and are perfect for feeding a family of four, but smaller air fryers around 2.5 quarts / 2.5 liters can cook enough food for an individual or couple. 

The best air fryers to buy right now

Instant Vortex Plus air fryer

(Image credit: TechRadar)

1. Instant Vortex Plus air fryer

The King of air fryers

Reasons to buy
+Excellent crisp, evenly browned results+Easy to clean+Handy presets
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky, takes up lots of space-Reheat function can’t replace microwave

The brand behind the iconic Instant Pot also makes air fryers, and its top-of-the-range model consistently turned out the crispiest fries and chicken wings of any air fryers we tested. The fries had crisp exteriors but soft, fluffy insides, and the chicken was moist, while its skin was crispy and retained loads of flavor. 

The Instant Vortex Plus has a squared-off design, complete with a frying basket and removable crisper tray, which is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. The air fryer offers a 6 quart / 5.7-liter capacity - Instant claims this is large enough to hold a 4lb / 1.8kg chicken or 2.2lb / 1kg of fries. It also builds on the Instant Vortex (see below) , which can air-fry, roast, bake and reheat, with grill and dehydrate functions too.

It is a bulky air-fryer and takes up a lot of countertop space, and it’s at the top-end of the air fryers market when it comes to price too, but its performance certainly justifies the cost. 

Read our full review: Instant Vortex Plus air fryer

Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK

(Image credit: Emily Peck / Future)

2. Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer

Cook two different dishes at the same time

Reasons to buy
+Highly versatile+Large capacity+Good range of presets
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky, takes up lots of space-Reheat function can’t replace microwave

This is the only air fryer we’ve tested that has two separate compartments, so you can cook two different dishes so they’re ready to serve at the same time. During testing we were impressed at just how quickly the air fryer crisped and evenly browned our fries, in fact following the suggested time, they were a little overcooked on the outside, but still fluffy inside.

The two cooking drawers, which have crisper plates inside, have an overall capacity of 8-quart / 7.6 liter and are deep enough to hold a 1.1lb / 500g batch of fries or 2.2lb / 1kg of chicken wings each. This hand kitchen gadget can roast, reheat, dehydrate, and even bake, as well as air fry and we were impressed that different cooking methods can be employed in each compartment at the same time too. On top of that, the ‘sync’ feature ensures both compartments finish cooking at the same time, so you’ll never be waiting around for one part of your meal to finish cooking. 

It is one of the bulkier air fryers we’ve tested and it does take up a significant chunk of space on a worktop but it looks pretty stylish combining a glossy black finish with silver accents.

Read our full review: Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer 

Tefal Actifry Genius XL air fryer

(Image credit: Future)

3. Tefal ActiFry Genius XL

Incredible taste but not as healthy as other air fryers

Reasons to buy
+Excellent crisp, evenly browned results+Rotating paddle helps cook food evenly+Glass top lets you monitor your food  
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky body-Expensive

The fries and chicken wings cooked in the Tefal Actifry Genius XL certainly beat the Instant Vortex Plus and Ninja Foodi air fryers when it comes to flavor. The improved taste of its fries and chicken wings is largely down to its bowl design and rotating paddle, as food cooks in its own juices, albeit as it's moved around the bowl by the detachable paddle. This increases the fat content, because it doesn’t funnel it away, but it also boosts the overall taste, and means you don’t have to clean a separate crisper tray.

It has a deeper, flatter shape rather than the tall design of its rivals. The benefits of this are that it fits easily on worktops under kitchen cupboards and allows for a glass 'window' on the top of the machine that lets you keep an eye on what you’re cooking. The heat is also generated at the rear of the machine, meaning it doesn’t get too hot to touch. The downside to this design is that it won’t fit comfortably in a cupboard because of its depth.  

Read our full Tefal ActiFry Genius XL review

Instant Vortex air fryer

(Image credit: Future)

4. Instant Vortex Air Fryer

A large capacity air fryer

Reasons to buy
+Crisp, even browned results+Large capacity+Handy presets
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky, takes up lots of space-Fewer cooking modes

Instant’s Vortex Air Fryer turned out the same crisp fries and succulent chicken during testing as its more expensive sibling. In fact with the same capacity that can hold a 4lb / 1.8kg chicken or 2lb / 1kg of fries, and a square frying basket, it’s a more affordable choice for those that don’t want as many cooking functions. 

The Vortex can air-fry, roast, bake and reheat, but there’s no option to grill or dehydrate here. Although we found some of the extra cooking methods weren’t quite as effective as the air fryer setting. For example, cinnamon rolls cooked on the bake setting were far too crisp after the allotted time.  

It’s worth noting, this is a relatively bulky appliance, so if you don’t have enough room to keep it on a counter top you’ll need to store it away when it’s not in use.

Read our full review: Instant Vortex Air Fryer

Proscenic T21 air fryer

(Image credit: TechRadar)

5. Proscenic T21 air fryer

Let Alexa control your air frying sessions

Reasons to buy
+Easy to clean+Speeds up cooking time+Connects to Wi-Fi and can be controlled from your phone
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky, takes up a lots of space-Results weren’t evenly browned-Wi-Fi needed to access recipes

Proscenic’s T21 air fryer can be controlled remotely from your smartphone, and even integrates with Amazon Alexa so you can use your voice to start it cooking instead. 

On test, the T21 did a solid job at evenly browning fries and chicken wings, but it couldn’t quite achieve that satisfying crunch rival air fryers manage. As well as air frying, it can bake, grill, and roast, too. We found the T21 simple to use, with manual time and temperature controls, alongside eight presets for cooking everything from fries and pizza to cake, bacon, and even steak. 

There’s a handy keep-warm function that can keep any dish cooked in the air fryer at a steady temperature for up to two hours once cooking is complete, along with a delay cooking feature that will automatically start the air fryer at a time of your choosing. Despite all these bells and whistles, we were disappointed the air fryer didn’t remind us to turn the food halfway through cooking. 

Read our full review: Proscenic T21 air fryer 

Philips Essential Air fryer HD9252/91

(Image credit: TechRadar)

6. Philips Essential Airfryer HD9252/91

A compact french fry master

Reasons to buy
+Excellent crisp results+Compact+Quiet in use
Reasons to avoid
-Uses more oil than other air fryers-Expensive

More compact than most of the air fryers we’ve tested, the Philips Essential Airfryer HD9252/91 has a 5-quart / 4.8-liter capacity - Philips says is sufficient for three servings, making it ideal for smaller households

It did a solid job at crisping fries and chicken wings in our tests, however, we found it requires oil to cook many foods, even items such as chicken wings, which can be cooked in rival air fryers in this list without any oil. This does slightly reduce the healthiness of the meal you’re cooking.

As well as air-frying, the appliance, which is easy to clean as both sections of the frying basket are dishwasher-safe,  can also roast, bake and reheat, too. It was also the quietest air fryer we’ve tested to date, registering 52db on our meter, which is the equivalent to the gentle hum of a refrigerator. In addition, the exterior casing remained cool to the touch throughout cooking.  

Read our full review: Philips Essential Airfryer HD9252/91

How we test air fryers

To compare each air fryer, we've cooked up batches and batches of fries and chicken wings. As well as evaluating how, crisp, evenly browned and in the case of chicken wings, how moist and juicy the meat was, we’ve also compared how easy they are to use.

We rated each design on how many settings it offers, how durable and easy to clean the body and parts are, how loud their fans are and how hot the exterior casing gets. For each model we wanted to know whether it was simple to use design and didn’t require reading a thick instruction manual before use, came with useful accessories such as frying baskets, or a recipe book for inspiration.

 How does an air fryer work?

Air fryers use a powerful fan to circulate hot air created by a heating element on the top of the device creating super crispy results with much less oil than if you were to deep fry your dishes.  The fan pushes the air, which is much more intense than in traditional cooking methods, in circular motions, while the basket or paddles ensures the hot air can reach every inch of the food so it's crisp all the way around.

As well as making dishes healthier, an air fryer can speed up cooking times too. Read how does an air fryer work for a more in-depth explanation. 

Are air fryers healthier? 

There's no denying air fryers use substantially less oil than deep frying, but just how healthy are they? Some foods, most of which are frozen or have naturally occurring fat, like Chicken Wings, are suitable for air frying without any oil at all. Fries, roast potatoes, and other traditional crisp foods will need some oil, but how much varies between air fryers.

In our tests, manufacturers ' instructions have recommended anywhere from 1tsp to 1tbsp of oil per 1.1lb / 500g of fries, so if you want to use as little oil as possible - we'd suggest you check how oil is required before you purchase a specific model.  It's also crucial to remember the healthiness of what you make in your air fryer, all depends on what you actually put in it, to begin with. To find out more, read how healthy are air fryers?

What can you cook in an air fryer?

Fries, roast potatoes, chicken wings and other deep-fried favorites are obvious dishes to cook in an air fryer, but that's not all you can whip up in one of these handy kitchen gadgets. You can prepare anything you can cook in a traditional fan oven, space permitting, because they work in the same way.  So whether that frozen foods, mini pizzas or even gnocchi and ravioli - it can all be cooked in an air fryer. f you're still unsure we've got plenty of inspiration when it comes to what you can cook in an air fryer?