As someone who tests many of the latest kitchen appliances, I've learned to temper my excitement when something shiny and new shows up on my social media feeds or gets delivered to my doorstep. When air fryers first popped onto the scene I preceded with my trademark caution, but several years later this once-newfangled kitchen gadget still gets plenty of reps in my home.
Now that there's plenty of demand for air fryers, a host of brands are churning out a wide range of air fryer models in all different sizes and strengths and with vastly different prices. That makes choosing the right air fryer a tricky business, so we've been testing up a storm to find the best air fryers available in 2022. From the best cheap air fryer to petite models made for small spaces, we've chosen five excellent air fryers that should keep you well-fed all year.
If you're still not sure what an air fryer is or how these trendy countertop superconvection ovens work, check out. If you're ready to bring one home, you'll probably want to know which machines reign supreme and you've come to the right place.
To find the best of the best, we hauled in over a dozen ovens and ate a whole lot of chicken wings to find the very best air fryers for 2022.
What exactly is an air fryer?
The trendy air fryer is a fairly simple cooking machine that employs extremely hot, fast circulating air to flash-roast food inside of a contained frying basket. While there's generally no or very little oil used, the results can be similar to that of traditional frying in that food comes out crispy on the outside and (ideally) moist on the inside.
Air fryers heat up fast, cook quickly and make healthier versions of traditionally fatty fried foods, so what's not to love? But they're not just for healthy versions of bar snacks. I use my air fryer for cooking skin-on chicken thighs to crispy perfection, veggies including mushrooms, peppers and onions, and even seafood like shrimp, scallops and salmon. And because most air fryer baskets are nonstick, cleanup is often as simple as a quick spritz and wipe with a soapy sponge. Many baskets are dishwasher-safe too.
Starting to see the appeal?
Compared with previous air fryers we liked from, and , today's modern air fryers are more powerful, meaning they more quickly produce crispy fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets or any other frozen food that you might typically make in a deep fryer or a rotisserie. They also have more capacity for air frying so you can cook more food, and are lighter, quieter and easier to clean.
When we tested air fryers originally, the Ninja proved itself the best air fryer model for chicken wings. That's still the case, but in our latest round of air fryer testing we found this machine also cooked many other things well, landing it in the top spot on our updated list. The Ninja was the most powerful air fryer we tested, blasting chicken wings to crispy goodness the fastest. Speed is a big draw since it means you'll get that desired crispy outer layer faster with less risk of drying out the inside of a chicken wing, french fry or whatever else you're making.
The Ninja also made frozen mozzarella sticks that were nicely browned with bubbly cheese inside. They started out frozen and were transformed into crispy, crunchy and gooey cheese bombs in 6 minutes flat. If you're into fries, the Ninja won't disappoint either. Frozen french fries turned out golden brown and delicious in just 10 minutes in both rounds of testing.
One thing to note is the Ninja lacks a special cooking method or mode for vegetables, so, much as in our previous testing, the fresh Brussels sprouts emerged a tad overdone, even burnt in spots. This simply requires a little bit more checking when you're air-frying certain foods for the first time.
The Ninja also has very simple controls, whereas some air fryer interfaces were overly complicated or had buttons and dials that just didn't make much sense. With the Ninja, there are only four buttons to control the cooking mode -- air-fry, roast, reheat and dehydrate -- as well as simple buttons to control the temperature and time. That's about it and, honestly, that's really all you need. The Ninja also has a simple, solid build with what feels like high-grade plastic. The basket slides into the base securely with no wobble.
This oversize air fryer is easy on the eyes. The Dash Deluxe has the largest cooking capacity of any of the ovens we tested, with a 6-quart cooking basket. It also has some undeniable retro appeal and is available in a few fun colors. The appliance we tested was aqua, though it also comes in red, black and white. This model has all manual controls with no presets and was exceedingly simple to operate, and it comes with an air fryer recipe guide.
Aesthetics aside, the Dash fried up batches of wings, Brussels sprouts, tater tots and french fries that were all cooked evenly and well. In our first round of testing, we found it easy to overshoot when air-frying a mozzarella stick if you're not careful. For us, that's a good thing and only means the air fryer has considerable power that you'll learn to manage.
I rarely rely solely on food manufacturer recommendations or oven presets, but rather use them as a loose guide and do lots of peeking and checking along the way. The Dash has exactly zero presets and no cooking modes such as roast or dehydrate, and still got the most important jobs done.
The Dash is also solidly built, although not quite as solidly as the Ninja. It's also on the heavy side, so this is one you might need to find a permanent home for instead of moving it around your kitchen. If you like this model but prefer a smaller size, you can get the compact model for just $50 right now.
I'm going to level with you, air fryers can be a little bulky. In fact, they're one of the larger countertop appliances you can purchase, and if you have a small kitchen with limited countertop square footage, you're going to have to account for that. One workaround is nabbing a hybrid countertop oven that serves as a toaster, convection oven and air fryer. The Ninja Foodi is my favorite and it even flips up to sit no more than 7 inches from the wall when not in use.
Another option is buying a smaller solo air fryer, and Nutribullet's new Magic Bullet Air Fryer is our pick for the best compact air fryer in 2022. This model obviously won't hold as much as the others on the list but in our testing, it showed good power so you could cook fairly quickly in batches if need be. The Magic Bullet has a 2.5-quart cooking basket, which is enough to hold about eight wings or two servings of french fries in a single batch.
The Magic Bullet Air Fryer crisped chicken wings and Brussels sprouts nicely and got the fries to golden brown as fast as any other air fryer on our list. (I imagine the small basket accounts for this machine's fast cooking.) It also has simple analog dials and wasn't noisy while in action.
If you're eyeing an air fryer but also an Instant Pot or another multicooker, let me save you some money and kitchen space. The Instant Pot Duo does all the work of the popular multicooker -- pressure cooker, slow cooker, steam and saute -- but comes with a separate air fryer lid and cooking function as well.
I found the air fryer function worked as well or better than most of the solo air fryers I tested. One reason, and something you might consider a drawback, is that the cooking capacity is relatively small, which generally translates to better air fryer results since the hot circulating air hits the food harder, hotter and faster. Instant Pot's Duo model made incredible crispy "fried" chicken, wings, veggies and other classics, but know that you'll likely have to cook in batches if you're making food for a group.
It's also a solid deal. The Duo Crisp can often be found at an affordable price, which can be a deciding factor for those looking for the best air fryer that fits a tight budget.
If you're not looking to drop a full Ben Franklin on your air fryer, know that you don't have to but can still nab a quality air fryer oven for relatively cheap. Of the many we tested, the Gourmia was among the least expensive, but it performed quite well in most of the tests.
This 5-quart oven cooked chicken wings especially well, with crispy skin and juicy centers, and we found the power nearly on par with the Ninja and Dash ovens. It also made very crispy french fries and toasty mozzarella sticks with a gooey center.
One small drawback of this machine is its slightly clumsy build. The basket didn't slide into the oven as flush as you might want and that could ultimately lead to problems, though it didn't affect my use of it in any way. This air fryer also has a lot of presets, which I don't generally care for since they don't account for how much food you're cooking or the size of, let's say, a chicken wing or thickness of your french fries. I find it's always better to use a rough preset recommendation and a lot of progress checking the first few times you cook something. That way you'll learn about the oven and its power for yourself.
All that said, this 4-quart digital air fryer has a lot of oomph for the price and it's a great size for most kitchens.
Other air fryers we tested
One popular option is the Instant Vortex. It's priced in line with the other air fryers in this group. The Vortex is made by the same company that created the groundbreaking Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Despite that, though, we weren't blown away by the food we fried in it.
Using the recommended settings, mozzarella sticks came out a tad soggy with exteriors that weren't quite crispy enough. Chicken wings and fried chicken were acceptable, not incredible, and less juicy than what other fryers produced. My Brussels sprouts ended up overdone too. And frozen fries were done but cooked unevenly.
Dash Compact Air Fryer
The Dash Compact Air Fryer is different from its bigger sibling in important ways. Specifically, the small air fryer is underpowered and bears a rock-bottom price tag. While the Dash Deluxe is a powerhouse, the Dash Compact struggled to air-fry almost everything we put inside it. Both french fries and Brussels sprouts were underdone and unevenly cooked.
Mozzarella sticks emerged from the air fryer basket hot, but weren't all that crispy. The only bright spot was chicken wings. They took 30 minutes but I was treated to skin with some crunch.
GoWise USA 8-in-1 Digital Air Fryer
You may not have heard of this brand, but this offering from GoWise is a solid choice. It didn't cook the skin of my chicken wings evenly. That said, french fries came out crispy, crunchy, with creamy interiors. The fryer also roasted Brussels sprouts well, no mean feat for this group of appliances.
Chefman 2.1 qt. Analog Air Fryer
Another relatively affordable choice is the Chefman Analog Air Fryer. It's tiny too, offering just 2.1 quarts of food-frying capacity. The appliance did deliver tasty mozzarella sticks and decent chicken wings. However, it undercooked my Brussels sprouts and frozen french fries. We also found the Chefman's timer control confusing. This dial is labeled in numerical increases of 10. The numbers, though, are separated by groups of four dots, not nine as you would expect.
PowerXL Vortex Air Fryer
You might consider purchasing the PowerXL Vortex, but we recommend against it due to its steep price and mediocre frying performance. We had satisfactory results cooking chicken wings in it. However, my mozzarella sticks exploded when we fried them as directed by the product manual. The machine also overcooked Brussels sprouts and the french fries it prepared were merely OK, not outstanding.
DeLonghi Rapid Crisp
The DeLonghi Rapid Crisp was one of the most expensive models we tested and it just didn't live up to the price tag. While I really liked the design, sturdy build and appreciated the small viewing window for watching cooking progress, I found the buttons and interface very clunky. There was no way to set an actual cooking temp -- only presets -- and even those weren't very intuitive.
It also showed a little less power than some of the others, taking a bit longer to crisp chicken wings and Brussels sprouts, although it did cook the fries and mozzarella sticks beautifully. Despite packing a bit less punch, this model still did a suitable job and has a nice compact shape so I wouldn't call this a complete failure of an appliance, just not worth the $200 you'd need to shell out.
Beautiful Air Fryer by Drew Barrymore
This air fryer offering from actress Drew Barrymore's new kitchen line performed well in the four rounds of testing. It showed good power and cooked chicken wings to a nice crispy outside and kept a juicy inside after about 25 minutes. It also handled the fries and mozzarella sticks with ease. The air fryer's interface is also pretty slick, although I liked the Ninja's slightly simpler control panel a bit more, which is one of a few reasons it edged out this unit for best air fryer overall.
That said, this is a great option and clocks in at about $30 cheaper than the Ninja. It also has a pleasing design with smooth matte plastic (which does smudge a bit). It comes in a few colors, including a dashing sage green.
How we test air fryers
Ease of use
When frying items with each appliance, we recorded how it went, noting occurrences like overcooking, undercooking and burning. We paid attention to the labels, controls and displays or buttons if any of the machines had them. We also took note of how loud each air fryer was while it operated.
How they cook
To get a sense of how each air fryer in this test group handles, we ran a battery of four tests on each product. Each test focused on one food. These were mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, Brussels sprouts and frozen french fries.
Before we began these units, we consulted each model's manual for relevant cooking directions. If the manual didn't provide specific instructions, we applied uniform procedures to each air fryer depending on the type of food we were preparing. For fries, we set the fryer to 380 F. After preheating for 5 minutes, we cooked the fries for 12 minutes and gave them a shake somewhere in the middle.
For chicken wings, we preheated to 400 F, then fried them for 30 minutes. We also made sure to flip them with tongs every 10 minutes. For mozzarella sticks, we preheated to 350 F and cooked for 6 minutes. For Brussels sprouts, we preheated to 375 F and cooked for 15 minutes. Before cooking, we rinsed and cut the sprouts in half and tossed them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
At the end of each test we looked for several criteria. Those included how evenly the items were cooked, how well done they were and, of course, whether they had a sufficient level of crispy, crunchy, fried deliciousness comparable to deep frying.
Best air fryer FAQs
How do air fryers work?
Air fryers work by circulating very hot convection air at a faster rate than most other ovens. There's actually no frying involved and air frying is more similar to roasting than anything else. Because the hot air hits food so rapidly, it cooks the outside more quickly than other types of convection cooking and forms a crust that can resemble the taste and texture of fried foods. And because air fryers cook more quickly than other ovens, the inside of your food stays moist -- another attribute that draws comparisons to deep-frying with oil.
What can you make in an air fryer?
The options for foods you can cook in an air fryer are vast, but some air fryer favorites include chicken wings, chicken tenders, french fries and mozzarella sticks. You can also make fish in an air fryer, including salmon, for a moist inside and roasted outer crust. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are great when made in an air fryer, as are certain vegetables like Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onions, peppers and carrots. Frozen foods such as dumplings, potato skins, Hot Pockets and tater tots can be made in an air fryer for a quick and easy snack or side dish. Air fryers can also quickly reheat food like last night's pizza or leftover fried chicken. Air fryers reheat food almost as quickly as a microwave and the results are generally much better.
Are air fryers bad for you?
Air fryers are not bad for you. In fact, cooking with an air fryer means you can get foods that taste like they've been fried but with very little or no oil. You can make healthier chicken wings, french fries and more cheese sticks without the use of excess oil. Some foods do best in an air fryer with a light coating of oil but most don't require any at all. Air fryers have become popular in part because they allow people to eat snack-type foods but with far less fat and fewer calories.
Air fryers use convection heat similar to your standard oven but moving at a faster rate. There are no magnetic waves or experimental heat sources to worry about.
What should you look for in an air fryer?
Power and size are the most important factors in finding the best air fryer for you. The Ninja air fryer that we liked best has 1,550 watts of power but you can expect an oven with slightly less oomph to also deliver solid results.
The best size for an air fryer is relative and will vary based on your personal requirements. A 4-quart model should be enough for most households and can easily hold five or six chicken thighs at once. There are also air fryers as large as 10 quarts that make cooking for large groups easier and some as small as 2 quarts that are perfect for singles and couples.
Other considerations include how intuitive the interfaces, dials and controls are as well as the build and durability of each air fryer. There are superpremium air fryers with loads of fancy bells and whistles but I tend to think they aren't really worth the money. The air fryer is a fairly simple machine to begin with, so it's best to avoid any that seem complicated.