6 things to look out for when choosing an air fryer

6 things to look out for when choosing an air fryer
(Image credit: Future)

We all love an air fryer, right? They’ve become one of the fastest growing pieces of kitchen tech, with many households in the US and UK joining the low-fat frying fun. 

Currys (in the UK) alone reported a 133% spike in air fryer sales earlier this year as we all seek quicker and healthier ways to bake and cook our favorite foods. But what if you are yet to jump onto the air frying bandwagon?

Since I've recently moved over to the TechRadar team to oversee our home appliance content, I can shamefully say I don't own an air fryer. In fact; I've never even tried one - and I'm getting some serious FOMO (fear of missing out) after reading up on some of our best air fryers.

As with anything, when trying to choose the best air fryer it can be tricky to know where to start. This appliance isn't for everyone so, regardless of the hype, in order to find an air fryer for your household, there are a few things that you'll want to consider first - some of which may surprise you more than others.

Then, once you've decided that an air fryer is for you, there are a few criteria to also consider to help narrow down your search before you find 'the one' - and this guide is here to help run you through all of the key factors to consider before making the leap into healthier frying. From price to function, we've got you covered.

Best air fryer deals

Don't worry; we've got you covered. Here's where you can buy an air fryer right now if you want, or if you'd prefer to buy later that's fair enough, too.

6 things to look out for when choosing an air fryer

Some of these may seem like obvious factors to consider when choosing an air fryer, but there is a method amongst the madness, especially when combining these key considerations. So if you work your way through this relatively common-sense approach, you'll have an air fryer in your life in no time.

It goes without saying that this is where your search should begin, so make sure to set a budget and (try to) stick to it. Prices start from around $122 / £100, and you could spend up to a few hundred on a top-of-the-range option. There are usually some great deals to cash in on, but if you're holding out for a sales event such as Amazon Prime Day, then you best be quick off the mark because air fryers do not hang around for long - even if they've only been marked down a little. 

This is very much a thing to think about because it'll determine how much you can cook, and what you can cook. As a rule-of-thumb, you should aim for a 3 quarts / 5 liter (as a minimum) air fryer if you're cooking for a family of two and a 5 quarts / 4.73 liter (as a minimum) if you're a family of four. Some air fryers just have one large drawer, and others have multiple levels built-in - when buying online, I find that the product images are enough for me to go by to judge this. The spec and descriptions are also good giveaways, too, so a read of these would avoid disappointment.

Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker

(Image credit: Future)

The bigger the capacity, generally the bigger the size, and air fryers aren't the smallest - or lightest - countertop device. Imagine it sat on your worktop, imagine using it to feed the kids, and most importantly imagine moving it around if you're short on countertop real estate. If it's not in the way and will be easy to get to at dinner time then you're getting ever closer to finding your air fryer.

Special features
There are design features such as viewing windows and pre-programmed settings which will catch your eye as your search develops, and these can really make a difference to your air fryer experience. A viewing window is useful for checking on the progress of the cooking, which will save you from opening up the air fryer and letting the heat out, too. Pre-programmed settings are useful for seamless cooking, and some models have alerts to let you know when it's time to shake your tray or the time in the air fryer is complete (handy!).

Removable inserts
All air fryers will make chips and cook frozen food, but if you also want to bake, roast, dehydrate and slow cook (yes, you can do that in an air fryer) then look for removable inserts. A rotisserie is one such example that would be perfect for cooking a chicken or another joint of meat. With the inserts being removable, you can chop and change what you cook in the air fryer on a daily basis which will add versatility to your kitchen setup.

Instant Omni Pro 14-in-1 Air Fryer, Rotisserie and Convection Oven

(Image credit: Instant Pot Store)

How it looks on my kitchen worktop is right up there as a key criterion for me because this does tend to give away how easy it is to use (the fewer dials, the easier), but also if it compliments the microwave and the toaster. There are some with retro styling like the Swan Retro 6L Manual Air Fryer and others with one-touch buttons and a sleek design like the Tower Xpress Pro Combo 2000W 11 Litre 10-in-1 Digital Air Fryer Oven with Rotisserie.

Choosing an air fryer needn't be a daunting task - it should be an exciting one. I'm certainly looking forward to trying out some recipes in mine, and although it probably won't be replacing our range cooker anytime soon, the air fryer will be a good piece of tech to have on the side.

Are air fryers worth it?

If you're wanting to change your eating habits for the better, an air fryer can help make it happen. It cooks meals quickly and with less oil - or none at all - simply by circulating hot air around the foods and drying surface-level moisture to form a tasty crisp. For couples it's perfect, but families who need to cook more food may go hungry if they want to solely rely on an air fryer to sort meal times.

By circulating that hot air around the food, you can make foods you would have previously fried such as chips in a healthier way - plus, you can even roast a joint of meat or even bake a cake in an air fryer. There aren't many things which it can't cook. We've found that you can grill cheese in air fryer, for example. Yep.

There are, of course, considerations to be taken into account such as the thickness of bread and type of cheese, but the trick is to nail the method and the settings of the air fryer - we found, anyway. There are plenty of other neat tips and tricks that team TechRadar have learned since we started working with air fryers.

Other recipes you could try include cooking ice cream and perfecting a crunchy skin when cooking pork belly every time.

Aside from cooking various snacks and meals, an air fryer could also save up to 50% on your energy bill when compared to a conventional oven. It can do this because it simply uses less power than an oven, and it can cook food faster.

What can't be cooked in an air fryer?

I've done some research into this and the key lesson that jumps out at me to not put in the air fryer and attempt to cook is anything with wet batter. This will just create a bit of a mess, because the batter won't have the chance to cook before sliding off what it's coating - which makes sense, I guess.

It's all a bit of trial and error by the looks of things - Team TechRadar has learned some valuable lessons in our time with air fryers so far. As you've read, we've tried (with success) to cook ice cream. Others on the internet have reporting frying eggs, cooking meats, baking cakes and bread... the list goes on.

Are there any reasons to not buy an air fryer?

They can cook foods at speed which is great, but this could come at a cost to your foods and burn it to a crisp if you're either not watching it or a timer is set incorrectly. Most of our own home testing hasn't experienced this, although I have read and heard that it can happen so it's something to consider.

The units themselves can also be bulky and obviously, the larger the air fryer you opt for, the more space they will ultimately take up. 

Some air fryers have multiple layers and components which may not be suitable to pop in the dishwasher, so keeping it clean may be a little tricky - but no more so of a challenge than cleaning out and wiping down the microwave, if you have one that is.

Jennifer Oksien
Homes Editor

 Jennifer Oksien is TechRadar’s Homes Editor. Jennifer (Jenny) has over a decade of experience as a digital product writer specialising in appliances, smart tech and mattresses for some of the UKs leading retailers and magazine titles such as Real Homes, Ideal Home and Livingetc. Generally, you’ll find her watching the latest Netflix series, digging around in the garden or attempting to make a cake that is edible.