These Are the Best Air Fryers, Because We Are All Air Fry People Now
Like everyone else you know who has an air fryer, I won’t shut up about mine. I got what Cook’s Illustrated ranked the best air fryer—the Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer—and soon realized that this is not actually the type of appliance that most people have. Mine looks like a toaster oven (because it is, but more on that later) while the other air fryers look like dinosaur eggs with pull-out “baskets” that make the whole experience feel a little more like a novelty. But I love my Breville. It’s big; it’s also a conventional oven and dehydrator and like eight other things; and I can watch stuff cooking inside. But you’re here to find out whether or not you need an air fryer, which one is right for you, and what all of this has to do with corn dogs. Well, let me tell ya.
What is an air fryer anyway?
Let’s get this out of the way: Air-frying is a rebrand of the stodgy old term “convection.” It’s essentially the same thing, but “air frying” just sounds so much lighter, doesn’t it? An air fryer is a mini countertop convection oven, which means it uses a fan to help circulate hot air around your food so that it cooks more evenly and efficiently than in a normal oven. It preheats in minutes and makes weeknight cooking convenient, mostly hands-off, and so, so crispy.
How do I know if I need one?
Like shearling-lined Birkenstocks and children, an air fryer is something you want, not something you need. The only person who needs an air fryer is someone who has no other oven and craves a corn dog. However, if you answer yes to two or more of the following questions, you’re a prime candidate for the air-frying lifestyle:
- Do you have counter space for extra kitchen appliances?
- Are you kinda impatient?
- Do you get extremely excited about new kitchen gadgets and just want permission to buy this one?
- Do you want the crispness of fried food without using a deep fryer?
- Do you L-O-V-E roasted vegetables but hate turning on your oven and heating up the whole apartment?
Yes, I feel seen; this is me. I really, really want one—and a corn dog—right now. But which is the best air fryer?
You have two options: a basket-style unit or a toaster oven–esque one. Honestly, it mostly comes down to how much space you’re working with. A basket-style air fryer takes up a lot less real estate, but a toaster oven-style can, well, double as a toaster oven. I leave mine on the counter because it’s so big, which is kind of an eyesore, whereas a basket-style model could be stashed away when you’re not using it. That said, most people find they use it so much it stays out. If you’re cooking for 4+ people or if you also need a toaster oven, I’d suggest getting a toaster-oven-style air fryer because you can jam more food in there. Here are our top picks for both styles:
The best air fryer–toaster oven combo
As mentioned, this is an all-in-one air fryer and regular toaster oven, so if you’d like to make crispy sesame-coconut chicken tenders and cook a whole chicken in the same appliance, this one’s for you. The control panel has a variety of presets for specific foods like frozen pizza, bagels, and cookies, or you can choose cook modes like reheat, broil, bake, or roast. The air fry mode activates the “super convection” fan setting, which hits your sweet potato wedges with rapidly circulating air. The Breville is considerably roomy and front-loading, making it easy to cook large items. And the window means you can watch food as it cooks (fun!) so you don’t have to open the oven to check that dinner isn’t burning—letting precious heat out.