Air fryers promise crispy, crunchy foods without the fat and calories of frying. They also work well on frozen foods and baked goods. Some even multitask by offering a rotisserie and baking functions.
Shopping for one can be confusing, however. There are several styles of air fryers to consider, and they vary in capacity (measured in pounds, slices of bread, or cubic feet). You can also find models that double as health grills and come with griddle plates.
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Factors to Consider
Whether you’re considering an air fryer for the first time or just want to replace your existing kitchen appliance, it’s important to think about what features will make the most of it. Then, consider how you plan to use it on a regular basis.
Besides air frying, some models can bake, roast, dehydrate and even slow cook. So, take a look at the control panel and read the instruction manual to see how it works.
The most basic models are designed with dials and a simple timer that dings when the meal is cooked. For more accuracy, look for digital controls that let you set a custom temperature and display it on an LED screen. Many models also come with cooking presets for popular foods like chips and chicken. They can be a big help if you’re new to using an air fryer or just short on kitchen space. Also, check if the appliance can be used with dishwasher-safe baskets and accessories.
Understanding Air Fryer Features and Settings
A traditional air fryer has a pull-out drawer like basket where you place your food to cook. More recently, some models come outfitted with a mesh tray or rack. Both can serve up delicious results, but the choice comes down to your cooking style and kitchen layout.
If you’re primarily slinging frozen grocery store fries, chicken wings or veg cutlets, a 4 to 6 quart air fryer should be fine. But if you want to try more finicky recipes that require a greater surface area, spring for a larger model.
Some air fryers have presets that tie a specific time and temperature to the button, making it easier to cook a certain dish. Others are customizable so you can tweak the settings for your preferred
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recipe. A few high-end models are even smart, connecting to Wi-Fi so you can control them via an app on your phone.
Comparing Different Air Fryer Models
Unlike regular fryers, air fryers work more like convection ovens, circulating hot air through fans. They’re also smaller, and their inner compartment can be divided to cook different types of food at the same time (Ninja makes a good example that includes two 4-quart cooking baskets).
Some air fryers have a built-in stirrer, which automatically shakes the foods around every five minutes. Others require you to manually shake or stir the food a few times during the cooking process.
Another consideration is whether you want a one-trick pony or an appliance that does more. Some models are strictly air fryers, while others include settings for baking, roasting, dehydrating and proofing. Some even come with an app full of recipes to get you started. Those models tend to have more presets and settings, and they’re more expensive. But they can save you a lot of time and effort by allowing you to put dinner on the table much more quickly.
Budget-Friendly Air Fryers
The good news is that there are lots of great air fryers * on the market. You can find both basket-style options (like the Dash Tasti-Crisp) and oven-style models that are basically smaller versions of your traditional convection ovens at a range of prices.
A few key things to look for are capacity, presets and ease of cleaning. If you cook for more than one person or are planning on using your air fryer for desserts that benefit from browning, opt for a model with a larger cooking capacity.
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As for presets, you can opt for a model that comes with some pre-set buttons or customize your own. If you want to avoid having to manually set your temperature and time each time, go with a multifunctional option that can also bake, roast, dehydrate and more. This COSORI air fryer, for example, features an app and Alexa connectivity so you can choose from more than 100 recipes and control it with your voice.