Air fryers were released a little over a decade ago, but despite being so new, they’ve taken the culinary world by storm! The reason for their success is clear: These small appliances use only a tiny amount of oil to fry your food, cutting down on the calories while preserving the rich, unctuous taste and crunchy texture of our favourite fried foods.
Thanks to their new found popularity, many kitchen gadget brands have released at least one air fryer, with each boasting their own set of strengths and weaknesses. If you want to choose the best air fryer for you but find yourself stuck with decision paralysis, you can rely on OnBuy to help you find the perfect pick! In this buyer’s guide, we’ll delve into the wonderful world of air fryers, examining how they work and why they’re so great before offering up a few choice candidates to tempt you. Read on and you’ll soon be cooking up a storm!
How does an air fryer work?
Air fryers are designed to replace deep fat fryers. Rather than submerging the food in oil as with a deep fat fryer, air fryers use an electric heating element to warm air to a high temperature, which cooks the foods on all sides. They work very similarly to convection ovens, but they circulate the air at very high speeds with a fan and they use a little bit of oil. The air blows a tiny layer of oil across your food, which then browns and crisps just like it would in a deep fat fryer!
Most air fryers use a basket to hold the food as it cooks. These baskets either come with holes cut into the bottom and sides or are made from mesh. This allows air to properly circulate around the food during the cooking process. Some larger air fryers use wire racks like those found in a baking oven instead.
What can you cook in an air fryer?
Because the cooking process is so similar to deep fat frying, you can cook a variety of different dishes in an air fryer. Beloved fried foods like deep fried chicken wings, fish and chips and samosas are all easy to cook in an air fryer, not to mention safer, too. With the tiny amount of oil used in the cooking process, it’s much harder to scold yourself by accident or start cooking oil fires.
As well as foods you traditionally deep-fry, there are plenty of other foods you can experiment with by cooking them in an air fryer. Try filling some peppers with mozzarella and cooking them for a few minutes for a mediterranean-inspired supper. Or, why not fry up chickpeas with a little bit of curry powder for a spicy, savoury treat? You can even cook sweet pastries like doughnuts or churros in an air fryer!
Is air frying healthy?
This is the golden question - after all, air fryers advertise themselves as the healthy alternative to deep fat frying. But how truthful are they being? Let’s find out!
There are a few reasons why deep fat frying is unhealthy. Everyone’s familiar with the first one: calorific fat content. When we fry our food, water is sucked out of it, which is the cause of that lovely crunch. The water is replaced by fat molecules though, upping the calorie content of your food. Even worse, deep fat frying causes a process known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenation occurs when oil is heated to very high temperatures and it changes unsaturated fat into trans fats, which are harder for your body to break down. Trans fats are known to increase risk of high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
Another problem with deep fat frying is Acrylamide, a chemical that can form in starchy foods like potatoes when they’re cooked at very high temperatures. It’s believed that Acrylamide could cause certain cancers according to preliminary research, although more evidence is needed to know for certain.
So are air fryers different? The answer is yes, with one major caveat. The biggest reason why air fryers are healthier is that they use much less oil than deep fat fryers. For every 750ml of oil that a deep fat fryer uses, an air fryer only needs one tablespoon of oil to cook the same amount of food. This massively cuts down the calories and trans fat that your food absorbs. There’s also evidence that air frying food reduces the amount of Acrylamide by up to a whopping 90%!
So where’s that caveat we mentioned? Simply put, no matter how efficient air fryers become and how sparingly they use oil, you’re still frying your food, which just isn’t as healthy as other modes of cooking. Eating too much fried food can put you at risk of obesity, heart conditions, type 2 diabetes and other health conditions. It’s best to think of air fryers as being healthier, rather than healthy. You should always balance out your fried food treats with other ways of cooking, like boiling, baking and steaming.
No small fry
Now that we’ve whetted your appetite with our informative appetiser, it’s time to tuck into the main course: our picks for the best air fryer you can buy right now! As with any type of kitchen gadget, there’s no one product that will fit everyone’s needs. The following menu of air fryers includes compact machines for single serving meals all the way to massive machines that can fry a course for the whole family. Let’s unveil your options now. Bon appetit!
Pros: Compact design, good ventilation
Cons: Low capacity, low power
The first air fryer we’ll look at is the T17023 compact air fryer from Tower. This Tower air fryer is fantastic for small kitchens thanks to its small profile. As a compact appliance, it’s much smaller than most air fryers you can buy, and it’s significantly lighter too at just 3kg. It’ll fit comfortably in a cupboard or on top of your fridge when not in use, and you’ll have no trouble moving it around your kitchen. Another advantage that this Tower air fryer has is its excellent ventilation. Frying foods in an enclosed gadget creates a lot of steam, but the T17023’s effective ventilation dissipates this steam before it can build up. It's a great option if you don’t have an extractor fan in your kitchen.
With a small and lightweight body, there’s no way that this Tower air fryer could cook as much food as some of the other machines in this category. In fact, it has the lowest capacity - just 2.2L to be exact. For context, the average air fryer holds around 4L, so the Tower T17023 cooks a little over half the food you normally would at once. It’s not the best air fryer for families, but for couples or single servings, the capacity is just about right.
Tower has also sacrificed wattage to make their compact air fryer. It operates at 1000W, which is a few hundred watts less than most air fryers. This air fryer can still reach the top temperature of 200 Celcius, though. This means that the lower power setting only impacts the length of time it takes to cook your food, not which recipes you can cook. And it’s still faster than other cooking methods! Plus, the smaller size also makes for a smaller price tag, making it ideal for those on a budget. With all this considered, the Tower T17023 is the perfect appliance for humble home cooks looking to try out air frying for the first time.
Pros: Plenty of presets, accurate digital thermometer
Cons: Somewhat noisy, not the best drainage
Our next entry is the impressive Easy Fry Precision Air Fryer from the kitchenware experts at Tefal. Internationally renowned for manufacturing everything from spatulas to pressure cookers, you can rest assured you’re investing in a quality kitchen gadget when you choose Tefal - and this air fryer is no exception!
All of its controls are accessed through a digital touchscreen and display at the top of the machine. There, you can pick from eight detailed presets that allow you to fry anything from shrimp to pizza in a few button presses. Once you’ve selected your preset, you can fine tune the temperature and time settings or use manual mode for air fry experimentation.
Unlike air fryers controlled by physical dials, the Tefal air fryer tells you exactly how hot it is at all times via the accurate digital thermometer displayed at the front of the machine. The numerals are white to contrast nicely on the fryer’s black body and are large enough to be seen from across the room.
As easy as the Tefal air fryer is to see, it's even easier to hear - although this doesn’t work in the devices favour. All air fryers produce some sound, but the Easy Fry Precision Air Fryer is one of the noisiest, with a distinct hissing noise accompanying your cooking. It’s far from deafening, but if you love whisper quiet appliances, you might prefer one of the other fryers on this list.
The Tefal air fryer has a basket that can fit 4.2L of food inside, which is slightly larger than average. The basket is well-designed on the whole and is fully dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. It detaches smoothly, but be careful when removing the basket from the rest of the appliance. If you do it too quickly, excess oil that’s built up from the cooking process may pool at the bottom of the fryer’s housing. It won’t cause any damage, but it will take longer to clean up. This will only happen when you cook high-fat food like bacon that leaks grease during the cooking process.
Pros: Rapid Air Technology, compact design
Cons: Takes slightly longer to warm up than other models, small temperature dial
Philips actually invented the air fryer term when they released their original machine in 2010. Over a decade later, can a Philips air fryer stand up to the competition? We certainly think so! The Philips Viva HD 922020 air fryer is equipped with Philips’ patented Rapid Air Technology, which circulates hot air more effectively than many of its competitors. The results are deliciously effective, and particularly good for frying potatoes to get soft, fluffy insides. If you love making your own chips, the Philips Viva is probably the best air fryer for you!
Not only does this crisp your food up nicely, it also means that the machine has a taller, narrower profile than other machines in this air fryer guide. The basket’s 4.1L capacity places it as a middleweight air fryer. Like many of its competitors, this Philips air fryer is controlled by a pair of dials. The design is pretty standard overall, but we’re not the biggest fans of the small temperature dial. It’s by no means unusable, but it’s more difficult to read than the Tower T17023, for example.
One consequence of the Rapid Air Technology design is that this Philips air fryer needs more time to warm up before you can use it compared to its competitors. Having said that, it’s only three minutes, which is nothing compared to the thirty minutes it can take for a deep fat fryer to heat up.
Pros: Affordable, high power for the price
Cons: Bulkier than its competitors, inconsistent results
Daewoo is a South Korean conglomerate perhaps best known for its line of affordable cars, but they make all sorts of electrical goods too, including air fryers. But what sets the Daewoo aside from the rest? Its price point, for one! At around £50, it’s one of the most affordable air fryers around.
Its relatively low price makes it the best air fryer in this guide for home cooks who don’t want to spend huge amounts of money on kitchen gadgets. Despite being a budget-friendly option, this Daewoo air fryer can happily compete with more expensive air fryers. That’s because its heating element can give out 1400W of energy, which is significantly higher than the other low cost entry in this guide, the Tower T17023.
That extra power does come at a cost though, in the form of a bigger body. This Daewoo air fryer has a larger profile than its competitors at this price point, and its large size can’t be accounted for by its big basket: its food capacity is a modest 3.6L.
Although the Daewoo Healthy Living SDA 1553 is easy to use, it's pretty hard to get consistent cooking results. This air fryer is prone to temperature fluctuations when it's reached the desired temperature. Your food won’t be undercooked, but it might not be as crisp as with some of the other air fryers on this list. Not for exacting would-be professional cooks then, but this Daewoo air fryer is probably the best air fryer for beginners available in 2021.
Pros: Huge capacity, rotisserie mode
Cons: Rotisserie bar is difficult to fit, not dishwasher safe
Up next is another Tower air fryer, the T17038. The most noticeable feature that sets the T17038 apart from the other machines in this guide is its size. With an 11L capacity, it's a massive beast of a machine, able to prepare meals for large families or a dinner party in a few minutes. It’s so large that Tower has included a pair of wire racks instead of a single basket. This makes it easy to cook different types of food at the same time.
The Tower T17038 shares the same dial control scheme as the other Tower air fryer on this list, but there’s an additional button that shows three arrows in a circle. Pushing this button activates the machine’s unique rotisserie mode! A rotisserie bar is included with the air fryer, so you don’t need to buy any more accessories. If you want to cook chicken, pork or turkey rotisserie style without spending extra to buy a dedicated rotisserie oven, consider this Tower air fryer.
You should know that the Tower T17038 is not dishwasher safe. As such, you’ll have to clean the machine entirely by hand after every use. However, the door can be removed from the Tower air fryer when not in use, giving you easy access to the whole machine. This can also help you to insert the rotisserie bar into the air fryer, which some people find a little fiddly to fit. You might need to ready the washing up bowl, but the Tower T17038 is certainly the best air fryer for large families.
Pros: No preheat time, removable divider
Cons: Confusing removal process, curvy basket design
Our penultimate air fryer might be familiar to anyone who stays tuned to shopping channels, as it’s featured on quite a few! The Power Air Fryer XL may be the best air fryer for cooks who hate to wait around. Its touch-operated digital screen is clear and easy to use, and you can choose from seven preset cooking settings or use the manual setting mode for complete control. Even better is the fact that it has no preheat time. Your food will start cooking as soon as you press ‘go’!
While most air fryers allow you to cook multiple dishes, few let you cook them simultaneously. The Power Air Fryer XL features a metal divider that partitions the basket, letting you cook two different ingredients at once. The divider is topped with food-safe rubber along the edges to keep it secure rather than a groove cut into the frying basket. This means that you can divide up the Power Air Fryer XL’s basket however you want.
While the digital screen is very clear, the basket removal process is less so. At the top of the basket’s handle you’ll see a bright red button. It’s easy to assume that the button detaches the basket from the Power Air Fryer XL, but that’s not the case. The button actually separates the basket from its egg shaped plastic housing. If you press the red button while the basket is in the machine it can get stuck, which can be dangerous if the machine is still hot. A transparent plastic guard covering the button can prevent accidents but you’ll need to explain how to safely remove the basket from the Power Air Fryer XL to anyone before they can use it.
Another issue with the basket is its curvy egg shape. This helps give the Power Fryer XL a sleek and futuristic appearance, but it makes it difficult to arrange food that needs to be cooked in a single layer, like bacon rashers. It’s medium-large capacity of 5L means that it’s still large enough to cook meals for three to four people, curvy basket or not.
Pros: Combines grill and air fryer, dehydration mode
Cons: Quite noisy, lacks detachable basket
Our final entry in this list of best air fryers for 2021 is an entry from the American kitchen appliances brand, Ninja. This air fryer is unique among our list because it combines air frying with grilling for a more versatile cooking machine.
In air fryer mode, this Ninja air fryer has a large 5.7L capacity and a powerful 1750W heating element that can fry food in no time. Even if it weren’t for the extra functionality, this gadget would still make our best air fryer list!
When you want to grill food, switching out the frying basket for the grill plate is easy. Ninja market this as a ‘health grill’. This is because the grill plate has a series of angled fins that draw away fat as it emerges from your food, in a similar way to the famous grills from George Foreman. It's great at searing meat like steak and sausages, and equally awesome for grilling tomatoes and halloumi, too. If you fancy making your own healthy snacks, this versatile machine also has a dehydrator setting that turns fruit and vegetables into crisp and crunchy tidbits.
The Ninja’s versatility comes with a cost, however. To make the grill function work, the Foodie AG301 doesn’t have an easily detachable basket. While most air fryers have a basket with a handle that pops out of the fryer’s casing, the Foodie’s basket is closer to a deep baking tray with holes on the bottom to allow air to circulate. This means that you’ll need a pair of oven gloves handy when the fryer’s finished cooking. As with the Tefal air fryer we wrote about earlier, the Ninja Foodie is also quite loud when frying. But, if you love grilling as much as frying, there’s no doubt that the Ninja Foodie is the best air fryer for you!
Ready to hop on the air frying trend? We hope our carefully curated list has sparked your culinary inspiration! If you still have the appetite to explore other air fryer options, we have an entire air fryer category for you to explore. Packed with even more products from the likes of Tower and Tefal, plus a whole host of brands not explored in this guide (Cecotec, PUREMATE and Swan, to name but a few), you’re bound to be spoiled for choice by our state-of-the-art selection.
As we mentioned earlier, as awesome as air fryers are, it’s not healthy to eat only fried food. Thankfully, you can find all you need to prepare a healthy diet in OnBuy’s kitchen and home appliances range. Bake food in an oven, boil a stew on a set of hobs, or reheat your leftovers in a microwave. Whatever cooking method you need, our verified sellers can offer you fantastic deals on terrific products. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get cooking!
The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.