Anyone who hasn’t bought a new kitchen appliance in the last decade will be confused what an air fryer is. The technology was first released commercially in 2010 in both Australia and across Europe, with it quickly spreading to North American shores after that.

The traditional way to cook fries is to place them into a metal cage and drop the cage of fries into a vat of cooking oil at a high temperature for a set cooking time. The cooking approach has worked for decades, but it does use a lot of oil and adds considerable amounts of saturated fat to the Western diet. Air fryers have changed all that.

An air fryer works by circulating scolding hot air (over 200 Celsius) within the enclosed home cooker. A minimal amount of cooking oil is needed – some manufacturers of air fryers claim a reduction of 70-80% – during the cooking process.

Foods like potato fries, pastries, chicken and other meats cook well in an air fryer. The reaction between amino acids interacting with sugars creates the same browning effect when using an air fryer as evident when baking desserts in the oven.

Air fryers have controls on their exterior to adjust cooking times and temperatures used to influence the results. Different settings are needed depending on the types of foods being air cooked and the desired culinary outcome.

One significant difference between a deep fryer used to cook chicken and potato fries, and an air fryer is that the basket sits much higher with a drip tray right below it. The air cooking method does require the shaking up of the ingredients to ensure an even cooking experience throughout. Some air fryer models have a built-in agitator that does a good job of moving the food around during the whole cooking cycle. In other cases, the chef needs to turn off the air fryer to shake up the contents from time to time.

Air fryers are a modern alternative to unhealthy cooking methods. The reduction in the consumption of saturated fats is expected to impact materially the long-term health of people who switch from a deep fat fryer to an air fryer. The hope is that rates of cancer, diabetes, heart problems, and obesity will decline too.

What’s Included With The Best Air Fryer

An air fryer includes the cooking tool itself, a cooking basket able to usually hold 1.5-2 pounds of uncooked produce, and a manual explaining the ins and outs of how to use this new style of cooker. The cooking basket is detachable to make serving up easier. There should also be a button guard to protect against accidental detachment of the food basket.

The parts supplied hopefully are dishwasher safe, but check the labeling to be sure.

The main difference with each air fryer is the size of the model and its features.

Smaller air fryers have a reduced capacity where they can only cook so much food at the same time. Depending on the size of the family, this may or may not be a problem.

With the features, this depends on the sophistication and price of the air fryer. Some manufacturers have gone through multiple versions of their air fryer models and made refinements based on customer’ feedback along the way.

Some control systems on the front or top of the air fryer focus on setting the temperature (up to 390-degrees) and the cooking time. The timers have LED lights to indicate their current status and should have an auto shut-off feature to protect the home from accidental fires. This last feature is an important one because grease fires are some of the most damaging ones.

The more advanced fryers have a touchscreen where the chef can select between several standard cooking programs. The programs relate to the type of food with cooking times and temperatures already set. The programs usually include ones for potato fries, chicken, fish, meat, chicken, and steak. The separate temperature controls let the cook set the temperature from 175F to 400F, which ensures that juicy items are not stripped of all their moistness during the air cooking process.

Each air fryer should be ETL certified.

What To Know Before Making a Purchase

Check whether the air fryer offers the cooking programs that you’ll want to have. Failing that, get a list of appropriate cooking times and temperatures for different foods when cooking using an air fryer.

Other Considerations

Just like with all cooking equipment, an air fryer should not be used by young children or the elderly who could accidentally tip over the air cooker during its cooking cycle.

Best Brands

Philips is a Dutch company based in Amsterdam, founded in 1891, at the forefront of lighting, electronics, cookware, and healthcare industries.

GoWISE USA manufacturers pressure cookers, air fryers, kitchen scales, flashlights, and a whole lot more from its base in Phoenix, Arizona.

Farberware makes stockpots, air fryers, dishwasher safe cookware, and commercial equipment for restaurants.

T-Fal is a French company that manufacturers titanium cooking pots, air fryers, portable grills, and much more.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

Apps: Some manufacturers have already brought out apps to guide users on how to get the most out of their air fryer.

Versatile: Air fryers are not only suitable for frying. These cookers can bake, roast and grill too.

Bacon: It is ill-advised to cook bacon in an air fryer because the grease from the bacon could land on the heating element causing damage to it.

Going Digital: As long as one has the correct cooking times and temperatures from a cooking book, then using a program to cook different types of food isn’t strictly speaking necessary. It is a nice extra to have, but an air fryer with basic controls and a little know-how will work fine too.

Size limitations: Most air fryers are not much larger than a basic food mixer. Multiple batches of food have to be cooked to feed several people unless only prepare small fried snacks.