Best air fryer 2021 – reviews of our top ten picks

Looking for the best air fryer? We’ve reviewed each and every one of the top ten air fryer picks in our guide, from the likes of Ninja, Tower, Swan, Cosori, Tefal, Breville, and Swan to bring you our complete roundup. Some will want a compact air fryer for two people, whereas others will be on the hunt for a generously-sized air fryer that can cater to the whole family. We’ve picked air fryers for both buyers, and everyone in between, with budget-friendly air fryers and more high-end options with added functions such as two drawers to cook simultaneously, and paddles to stir fries or veggies as they cook, making the whole process hands-free.

Not everyone has enjoyed the advantages of having an air fryer in the home, but if you ask us, they are a complete game-changer. You don’t just have to take our word for it, either, because there are legions of air fryer-lovers out there who are constantly sharing recipes and tricks for yet more air fryer tips to add to your repertoire. Even if you just want to speed up your cooking times, an air fryer will deliver crispy homemade chips in record speeds. They also do replicate the deliciously crisp texture of a deep-fried chicken wing or chicken nugget, but without all the oil. Much like the best slow cookers, we consider them to be a kitchen essential this time of year.

What is the best air fryer in 2021?

We loved the Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501 because it’s reasonably priced and allows you to cook large portions at once. For an option that will cook multiple elements of a meal all in one go, the Ninja AF300UK Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer was also a firm favourite.

1. Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501

Best air fryer overall

Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501 five star rated

Size: 27.2 x 27.4 x 30.2 centimetres
4.7 litres
Chicken, chips, frozen, steak, seafood, veggies, bacon
Reasons to buy: 

• Air fries to perfection
• Smart up-top controls
• Shake reminders for even cooking
• Removable insert for easy cleaning
• Drawer is dishwasher-safe
Reasons to avoid: 

• The preset timings are a little off, but can be adjusted

Amazon’s best-selling air fryer held up well under our tests, too. The Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501 has a smart look and a range of custom presets that will come in handy for low-effort cooking. It’s also adjustable, just press to increase or decrease the temperature or timer to achieve your perfect result.

We enjoyed the fries this air fryer produced on the chip setting. They were crisp and evenly cooked, and the cooking time was well below average which is a winner for hungry homes! That did mean we had to turn it down from 20 minutes to 30, but this was easy enough to do. You’ll get a reminder to shake your food halfway through on some settings. If you’re in the middle of a particularly riveting piece of telly then it may be a distraction, but you can simply press a button to switch off the reminder for no interruptions.

Included with the air fryer was a recipe book with loads of great tips. We made the buffalo cauliflower, chicken wings and more recipes from the book and found it a great help for those getting started with air frying. The large capacity makes this a top choice for families. We also loved that the insert means you can easily clean the drawer and basket in the Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501, simply put them in the dishwasher. The insert lifts out simply to allow you to reheat dishes with sauce.

Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Read our full Cosori Pro LE Air Fryer L501 review

2. Ninja AF300UK Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer

Best air fryer for multi-drawer cooking

Ninja Foodi dual zone air fryer

Size: 35 x 37.5 x 31.5cm
7.6 litres
Air Fry, Max Crisp, Roast, Bake, Reheat & Dehydrate
Reasons to buy: 

• Superior air frying
• Sync or Match two useful zones
• Both drawers are diswasher-safe
• It can cook an entire meal, fish in one drawer, chips in the other

Reasons to avoid:

• A large option for most kitchens

What’s better than one air fryer? Two, in one. The Ninja AF300UK Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer comes with two distinct air frying zones that allow you to air fry your fish and chips individually, or bake a side dish such as mac and cheese while you air fry chicken. You can match or sync these two drawers to make sure all elements of your meal are complete at the same time.

The Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer also comes settings to reheat, dehydrate, roast, and bake. Its Max Crisp setting is designed for frozen food and we found that it gave us next-level frozen chips, fish fingers, and other freezer staples. It also cooks food in record time, because there’s no preheat time and its temperature can be easily adjusted. This air fryer gave us crispy chips and wedges every time, and always cooked our meat through completely. We even used it to make cauliflower wings, which were an unexpected triumph. The trays can be a little deep to reach into, so make sure you use non-stick cookware to take your food out when it’s done. The exterior stays cool though, even when it’s cooking at 240 degrees.

The instructions come with a recipe test with fun hints and tips for ideas to try in your air fryer. This included ideas we’d never considered before, such as brownies or fajitas. It is on the large side at 35 x 37.5 x 31.5cm, but if you can spare the space, it’s a game-changer.

Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

3. Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer

Best air fryer for families

Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer best air fryer overall

Size: 28.6 x 22.9 x 29.8 cm
5.7 litres
Air fry, roast, bake, reheat, dehydrate, grill
Reasons to buy: 

• Amazing air frying, and it does so much more
• Smart brushed finish
• Speeds up cooking significantly
• Made some of the best fries we’ve tried

Reasons to avoid: 

• Controls are noisy

The Instant Vortex Plus wowed us with its speedy and delicious cooking. It has a removable air fryer insert that slots neatly into the base of the air fryer drawer, and you can remove this if you want to reheat rice, bake cupcakes, or even roast some potatoes for your Sunday lunch. That’s right, while the Instant Vortex Plus is an immense air fryer, it also does a lot more thanks to its six cooking modes. You can even use it to dehydrate.

We enjoyed how speedy the Instant Vortex Plus was when it came to cooking frozen food. Frozen chicken fillets that would usually take 20 minutes only took 12, and sweet potato fries that would usually take 40 minutes only took 25.

The controls are touch-operated, and you can change the temperature and time using the dial at the front of the fryer. The brushed metal finish also elevates the look, and we thought it was a real treat to look at when left on the kitchen counters.

Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

4. Tefal YV970840 Actifry Genius XL 2in1

Best air fryer for homemade chips

Tefal YV970840 Actifry Genius XL 2in1

Image credit: Tefal

Size: 48.9 x 38 x 29.5 centimetres
Chips, breaded items, desserts, nachos, fish and meat, chicken legs, stir fry, ‘world foods’, pie
Reasons to buy: 

• Paddle included to stir your food
• Pair with an app
• Space-age design
• Great for cooking entire meals

Reasons to avoid: 

• Not the best for low-fat

This machine has a huge footprint, so if you’re after a compact air fryer you can pop in a cupboard when you’re not using it then you might want to think again. That said, it’s so technologically advanced, we probably wouldn’t hide its considerable light under a bushel.

It has several things that separate it out from the rest of the air fryer crowd, including nine intelligent cooking modes and a My ActiFry app that features around 300 recipes. However, it’s the integral paddle with dual-motion technology, which stirs the food giving it an even, crisp coating that we think is the game-changer. Not only does it mean you can just leave the ActiFry alone to do its magic, it also allows you to cook dishes such as stir-fries and curries in it, too, using one of the two 1-meal-in-1-go programmes.

It hands-down produced the best chips we tried, with just half a teaspoon of oil and the chicken was well-cooked and juicy inside, although still dryer on the outside than normal frying would produce. It’s a generous size, too, producing main meals for up to five and starter portions for eight.

Because it doesn’t have a classic basket design, you can cook anything from stir-fried rice to fajita-spiced veggies without anything falling out of the slots in the basket. This does also mean that fat won’t drip away from your chips or chicken, so while it’s certainly a tasty pick, it’s not quite as low-fat as some of our other options.

Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Read our full Tefal YV970840 Actifry Genius XL 2in1 review

5. Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer

Best air fryer for 2 people

Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer

Size:35.2 x 35.1 x 30.1 cm
2 litres
Air fry, bake, reheat, roast
Reasons to buy:

• Seriously good value
• Easy to use
• Colourful, fun design
• Does more than just air fry

Reasons to avoid:

• The small capacity isn’t ideal for everyone

Instant Brands is known for creating amazing air fryers and smart countertop appliances in the US, so we were first in line to review this new model when it launched in the UK. The Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer not only wowed us with its value-for-money, but it also impressed us in testing. Despite the limited capacity, it was able to air fry our (somewhat crammed-in) chips evenly with just a shake or two from us halfway through.

This air fryer is perfect for small kitchens. It has a removable basket liner that can drain away fat from bacon and juices from chicken, but take it out and suddenly you can bake, roast and even reheat in this beauty.

You can pick up the Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer in a range of fun colours. We tried it in red, but the blue option is quite fetching. There is also a white for clean kitchens, and a failsafe matte black. The display is very intuitive, and can be controlled with touchscreen settings and a tactile dial.  The only con? It’s not great for families.

Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Read our full Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer review

6. Breville Halo Rotisserie Air Fryer

Best rotisserie air fryer

Breville Halo Rotisserie Air Fryer

Size:44.2 x 41.6 x 39.4 cm
10 litres
Air fry, bake, dehydrate, rotisserie, chips, chicken, veggies, steak
Reasons to buy:

• Sleek controls
• All the functions of a mini oven
• Incredible rotisserie
• Great space-saving design
Reasons to avoid:

• It’s a little fiddly

The Breville Halo Rotisserie Air Fryer offers an alternative take on air frying, with a rotisserie attachment that allows you to cook a whole chicken with crispy delicious skin and juicy meat, in just one hour. It also comes with a rotisserie mesh basket, which is what we used to cook our chips. It keeps them spinning as it cooks, meaning that every single crisp was evenly cooked.

Because it’s more of a mini convection oven thanks to the removable mesh wire trays, the Breville Halo Rotisserie Air Fryer doesn’t quite speed up your cooking time as much as a drawer air fryer with single-function design. However, it can be used to bake, rotisserie, air fry, and even dehydrate, and it’s also a well-sized machine to fit in as much capability as you like onto one kitchen counter.

We enjoyed the smart controls, which show the temperature as it preheats, and how easy it is to choose your mode and even illuminate the inside of the oven to watch your food as it cooks. Cleaning is easy too, but our main drawback is that it’s a bit tricky to take out the drawers because they get very hot. Oven gloves are a must!

Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Read our full Breville Halo Rotiserrie Air Fryer review

7. Philips Essential Air Fryer

Best air fryer for small kitchens

Philips Essential Air Fryer

Size: 47.6 x 32.8 x 26.3cm
4.1 litres
Frozen, fish, meat, vegetables, chicken drumsticks, cake, reheat
Reasons to buy: 

• It’s perfect for smaller homes and kitchens
• Easy to clean
• Intuitive to use
• Comes with an app

Reasons to avoid:

• It’s more expensive than some other small options

If you want the best air fryer for a small kitchen or two-person household, the Philips Essential Air Fryer is the one for you. In terms of the cooking quality, it was pretty much on par with some of the larger and more premium brands in this guide. There’s plenty of cooking modes, including fish, meat, frozen food and reheat, and you can choose your temperature manually too.

The basket and drawer can both be washed in the dishwasher, which makes cleaning that much easier. We found the controls a little confusing at first but they’re fine once you’re used to which button indicates which cooking mode.

One complaint we had was the price, which was pretty high when compared to other small air fryers. It is clearly designed for smaller kitchens and homes though, with grooves that make it easy to carry and store, and a lightweight design.

Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Read our full Philips Essential Air Fryer review

8. Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer

Best smart air fryer

Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer IH

Size: 31.4 x 31.6 x 32.6cm
5.5 litre
Fries, shellfish, chicken, fish, steak, cake, bread
Reasons to buy: 

• As smart as they come
• Great for those who are new to air frying

Reasons to avoid: 

• The controls are fiddly
• The design isn’t as high-quality as other brands

The Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer is certainly a smart option. It’s loaded with preset modes for cooking fish, chicken, chips, bacon and even cake. You can also preheat and keep warm with this air fryer, as well as set a delay timer for when you want your meal to be ready.

If you’ve got an Alexa or Google Assistant speaker, you can pair the Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer with it for remote control. If not, opt for the Proscenic app, which allows you to check on your timer or adjust the temperature or settings without leaving the sofa.

We found the controls on the Proscenic T21 Smart Air Fryer a little fiddly in testing, and keen chefs may prefer to set the temperatures of their dishes manually. There are loads of recipes on the Proscenic app though, with timings and air fryer settings that couldn’t be easier to follow. Overall if you’re looking to expand your air fryer abilities, this is a smart choice.

Ideal Home rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

9. Swan Retro Air Fryer

Best-looking air fryer

Swan Retro air fryer

Image credit: Swan

Size: 34.8 x 24 x 33.7cm
6 litre
Air fry only
Reasons to buy: 

• Looks lovely
• A generous capacity
• Will match with many Swan appliances
• Dishwasher-safe

Reasons to avoid:

• Less smart settings

Unlike pretty much all the other air fryers we tested, which, to paraphrase Henry Ford ‘you can have in any colour as long as it’s black’, this 5 litre machine was a pleasingly cheerful bright cherry red. It also comes in cream and black so would work well in pretty much any scheme if you wanted to leave it out on the worktop.

If you want something a little easier to operate than some of the more high-tech options, the Swan Retro has a simple temperature dial and a twist-timer at the top. It feels sturdy and has a large interior capacity of 6 litres. At 34.8 x 24 x 33.7cm it’s larger than some options but will work well in family-size kitchens.

We were very impressed by how this air fryer cooked bacon and other meats, but when it came to chips we found that it took longer than most air fryers. The timings were comparable to a regular oven.

The tray and non-stick basket can both be popped in the dishwasher, too.

Ideal Home rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Read our full Swan Retro Air Fryer review

10. Tower Vortex 5-in-1 Digital Air Fryer Oven

Best air fryer for chicken

Tower Vortex 5-in-1 Digital Air Fryer Oven

Size:44.2 x 38.4 x 36.2 cm
11 litres
Air fry, bake, roast, dehydrate, rotisserie
Reasons to buy: 

• It’s a real multi-tasker
• Makes a mean chicken
• Lights up for easy viewing

Reasons to avoid: 

• You lose some of the convenience of a classic air fryer

The Tower Vortex 5-in-1 Digital Air Fryer is more of an American-style air fryer. It’s designed to look like an oven and comes with a drip tray and multiple shelves to cook your food as you would in a regular oven. There are some perks to this design though. Our favourite was the rotisserie function which made some of the most delicious chicken we’ve ever made. A game-changer for roast dinners.

The shelves need to be taken out and switched around mid-cook if you want to achieve an even crisp, which is not ideal and can be a little fiddly. The oven did a great job of creating crispy food though, especially when it came to the frying setting. It can also bake and roast like you’d expect in a regular oven.

A nice touch is the door, which you can see straight through. There is a button to illuminate the fryer as it cooks which allows you to look in and check on your food without opening it. It’s a large option, but a versatile one too.

Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Read our full Tower Vortex 5-in-1 Digital Air Fryer review

How do air fryers work?

best air fryer Instant Vortex Mini

Air fryers work like a convection oven to circulate air around your food and cook it evenly from every angle. That means any fat you add to the air fryer will circulate around your fries, chicken or fish as it cooks, making it crisp and crunchy. 

Air fryers typically come with an in-built basket that has space for air to get underneath your food, as well as cooking it from above and the side. In the Ninja Dual Zone for example, you can remove this and use the tray like a regular oven tray to add a crisp cheesy top to a pasta bake or roast vegetables and potatoes for convenient mealtimes. Check out the best microwaves for more easy meal prep appliances. 

Black Friday air fryer deals: what we expect to see

Air fryers seemed to be at the top of everyone’s shopping list last Black Friday, not to mention the sell-out models we saw on Amazon Prime Day, so we’re expecting some great air fryer deals this Black Friday. One brand that’s never short of a sell-out discount is Ninja, and we’re expecting to see at least one of their top-rated fryers with a hefty discount for Black Friday 2021.

Another brand that regularly pulls out all the stops for its Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions is Cosori, which currently sits at the top spot in our guide. Cosori is a brand that’s found exclusively on Amazon, so if you’re looking for a deal, that’s the best place to look.

While they rarely go on sale, we did see some great prices on the Proscenic and Instant air fryers this Prime Day, which is usually a good indicator of what’s to come for Black Friday. While it’s still a little way off (November 26th, to be exact) you can find all the top air fryer deals for Cyber Monday and Black Friday 2021 right here.

How to buy the best air fryer for you

Check the air fryer features and programmes

Breville Halo Rotisserie Air Fryer

Look for easy-to-use controls for both temperature and time, as these are the most important features on any air fryer. Auto-stop and keep warm functions can be useful but chips, if left for any amount of time will soon lose their crispness. More expensive machines will feature touch screens rather than dial controls, which will help with accuracy.

What else should I look for?

The bigger the basket capacity, the more people you’ll be able to cook for. So if you’ve got a family, then a 5 litre machine (which usually provides a chip capacity of around 800g to 1kg) is probably a must.

A loud beep to signal the end of cooking time is a good idea if you’re using the time to wander off and do something else. Most air-fryers will only cook one food group at a time (ie meat or veg) but some will cook a whole meal in one go if you’re after a one-pot solution.

Are air fryers healthy?

Air fryers are as healthy as the food you cook in them, but one thing you can be confident in is that they’re healthier than deep fat fryers. If you want to cut back on the amount of oil and fat in your food, air fryers are also excellent for crisping up your meal while not submerging it in fat.

Bacon is not particularly healthy, but cooking it in an air fryer means that the fat will drip away from the meat and into the basket, while still rendering and crisping for that perfect bacon sarnie. Air frying is also a way of adding more veggies to your diet. Some of the best things to cook in an air fryer are cauliflower “wings”, which is simply florets of cauliflower tossed in whatever sauce you wish to pair it with.

How much oil do I need to use in my air fryer?

Chips and a burger from an air fryer

Image credit: Breville

While most recipes call for a teaspoon or half a teaspoon of oil. We found we got a more even coating on some foods by decanting our choice of oil into a small spray bottle and using that. Never use one-calorie oil spray, which is a step too far in the diet stakes we found, producing nasty, chewy fries.

Most of the machines we tested couldn’t be used with fattier meats such as sausages or chicken or duck with the skin on. This sometimes results in meats being drier on the outside. This was where a spray oil came in handy and definitely improved results if not making them as good as if they’d been fried.

Ready for another test? Best kettles

How to make perfect chips in an air fryer

If you’re making fresh chipped potatoes, leave the cut chips immersed in cold water for about half an hour then rinse well to get rid of starch as this will improve the texture once cooked.

Place chips in your air fryer and start to cook as soon as you’ve coated them in the half-teaspoon or so of oil for best results and don’t leave to sit in the fryer once cooked.

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