8 best air fryers for cooking up a storm in the kitchen

The growing number of multi-purpose machines means the sky’s the limit for some of these gadgets (The Independent)

The growing number of multi-purpose machines means the sky’s the limit for some of these gadgets (The Independent)

Forget the frying pan, deep-fat fryer or even your oven roasting tray – air fryers are a healthier way to produce better tasting results, especially when it comes to chips.

They work by using hot air that circulates around the machine to bake the food. Most require you to add a small amount of oil – usually no more than a teaspoon, but often less – and the majority have pre-loaded programmes that take the thinking out of setting the temperature and timing.

But chips aren’t the only thing air fryers can excel at. Get the right machine and you’ll find yourself serving up great-tasting meats, fish, vegetables and even cookies and cakes.

The growing number of multi-purpose machines means the sky’s the limit for some of these gadgets.

That said, our starting point for all the air fryers we tasted was – you guessed it – chips. Only if they passed this crucial test did we test other foods. We also tested all the air fryers for how easy they were to use, clean and store away.

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best air fryers 2021

  • Best overall – Ninja airfryer AF100UK: £99.98, Ninjacooking.co.uk

  • Best for two people – Lakeland digital compact air fryer: £64.99, Lakeland.co.uk

  • Best for families or large households – Instant vortex four-in-one air fryer: £99.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for grilling – Russell Hobbs express air fry mini oven: £89.95, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for chips – Morphy Richards health fryer: £82.50, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best self-stirring air fryer – Tefal actifry genius+: £179.99, Argos.co.uk

  • Best for roasting chicken – Tower rose gold vortx digital air fryer: £99.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best air fryer that can be used as an oven – Sage the combi wave 3 in 1: £399, Ao.com

Ninja airfryer AF100UK

Best: Overall

Capacity: 3.8l

Pre-set functions: Four

Digital display: Yes

Viewing window: No

This basket-style machine is quicker than most and it can cook both chips and fried foods with no oil at all. With a capacity of 3.8l, the basket can fit up to 900g of fries, providing plenty of space to feed four to six people. When using the air fryer function (of which there are four), we ended up with golden, tender chips, while the chicken wings and drumsticks were to die for. There are other programmes too – “roast” for crispy veg, “reheat” for already cooked foods such as pizza that would go soggy in the microwave, and “dehydrate” for the likes of vegetable crisps or dried fruit snacks. Simple and easy to use, it’s ideal for weeknight dinners when you want to knock up a feast, fast. It’s also worth noting it has a wider temperature variation than most – 40C to 210C – and you can cook manually. Everything is dishwasher friendly too, making it even more convenient.

Read the full Ninja air fryer AF100UK review

Buy now £99.98, Ninjacooking.co.uk

Lakeland digital compact air fryer

Best: For two people

Capacity: 1.6l

Pre-set functions: Five

Digital display: Yes

Viewing window: No

This is the smallest air fryer we tested and is a great option if you’re only cooking for one or two people. Chips, vegetables and meat looked and tasted great out of the basket, while the touchscreen is intuitive, meaning we didn’t even need to get the instruction manual out. Frozen foods including nuggets were cooked to perfection, and it can bake too. It’s so quiet that it has earned a Quiet Mark certification (no mean feat) and it’s small enough to leave out on your worktop or squeeze into a cupboard. It is a shame the recipe book doesn’t include more ideas, however.

Buy now £59.99, Lakeland.co.uk

Instant vortex four-in-one air fryer

Best: For families and large households

Capacity: 5.7l

Pre-set functions: Four

Digital display: Yes

Viewing window: Yes

The generous capacity of this machine – which has a sleek design and feels very sturdy and well-made – means it’s good for larger families and entertaining, yet it doesn’t overwhelm valuable worktop space. It works particularly fast and does a decent job of roasting, baking and reheating in addition to air frying, while the eight touchscreen controls are simple to use. We want to give a special shout out for for the chicken wings and crispy chips – they were divine. It’s a cinch to clean too.

Buy now £99.99, Amazon.co.uk

Morphy Richards health fryer

Best: For flavoursome chips

Capacity: 3l

Pre-set functions: No

Digital display: No

Viewing window: No

All the machines reviewed here made great chips, but these were particularly good – crisp and golden on the outside, fluffy and flavoursome inside. Chicken comes out succulent and tasty too. It’s reasonably fast (though not the fastest) and quiet (though not the quietest) and it caters well for an average-sized family. It has other talents besides air frying, including baking, roasting and grilling, all using minimal oil. It stores away easily too. On the downside, you have to turn the chips manually, the machine needs preheating and none of it can go in the dishwasher.

Buy now £82.50, Amazon.co.uk

Tefal actifry genius+

Best: For self-stirring

Capacity: 1.2l

Pre-set functions: Nine

Digital display: Yes

Viewing window: Yes

Self-stirring paddles, we have discovered, are not be sniffed at. And if you add preset functions and automatic temperature adjustment into the mix, you’re in air-fryer heaven. You simply bung in your chopped up raw potatoes with a tiny amount of oil and return later to faultless, evenly cooked fries or, for that matter, chicken nuggets, stir fry or breaded mozzarella balls. Slightly smaller than its predecessor, this fryer can still feed a crowd and comes with nine presets and masses of great recipes on the app. But do note that it’s a hefty machine and there’s nowhere for the fat to drain away.

Buy now £179.99, Argos.co.uk

Tower rose gold vortx digital air fryer

Best: For roasting chicken

Capacity: 11l

Pre-set functions: Eight

Digital display: Yes

Viewing window: Yes

With this large appliance, you can air fry, bake, roast or dehydrate (for vegetable crisps) three separate mesh racks of food at any one time – fish, shrimp and chips on a weeknight or stuffing, parsnips and roast potatoes for a Sunday roast – making it one of the most versatile machines we tried. Chips and pizza had a serious yum factor, although nothing beat the rotisserie chicken, which was cooked to perfection in under an hour. Things to bear in mind are that it gets hottest towards the top and it drips any juices to the bottom via other trays on the way down. And it’s big – around the same size as a mini-oven.

Buy now £99.99, Amazon.co.uk

Sage the combi wave 3 in 1

Best: For using as an oven

Capacity: 32l

Pre-set functions: 15

Digital display: Yes

Viewing window: Yes

This costs a bomb compared to the other machines we tested, but it’s worth every extra penny as it combines the three most useful kitchen cooking appliances – air fryer, convection oven and microwave – with top-notch quality and efficiency. Chips are perfection itself and that’s just the start; you can bake cookies, roast a chicken, cook a fish dish from frozen (switching between the functions) and more. And it feeds a crowd of six easily. We thought it might take an age to learn how to use it, but the presets and functions mean it’s a doddle. It’s also quiet, but at 51.9 x 51.3 x 31.6 cm, it has a big footprint.

This appliance is currently sold out, but Ao notes it should be back in stock soon.

Buy now £399.00, Ao.com

Russell Hobbs express air fry mini oven

Best: For grilling

Capacity: 12.6l

Pre-set functions: Five

Digital display: No

Viewing window: Yes

This is a lot bulkier than most air fryers and looks more like a microwave, but it’s a great addition to any kitchen as it air fries, grills, bakes, toasts and keeps warm. That means you can do a whole cooked breakfast – including bacon, sausages, tomatoes and toast – with no need for a conventional oven (although you do need to preheat with this one). Plus, it’s big enough to air fry a whole chicken with minimal oil. It’s very easy to clean as everything comes out and the inside is wipeable, but it’s not as sleek and contemporary looking as other machines.

Buy now £89.99, Russellhobbs.com

Air fryer FAQs

What is an air fryer?

An air fryer is a mini convection oven that is designed to recreate the taste and texture of deep-fried food, without the need for boiling it in fat. The heating element is located at the top of the appliance and is accompanied by a powerful fan, which gives food its crispiness in next to no time.

How does an air fryer work?

Food doesn’t actually fry, rather it is placed in a basket where the airflow is designed to replicate that of deep frying in hot fat. The force of the air produces a convection effect that cooks, crisps and browns food.

How to use an air fryer?

When using your air fryer, there are certain steps we’d recommend you take for excellent results after reading the instruction manual, of course. Firstly, pre-heat it as you would an oven; secondly, it’s important to make sure there’s plenty of space around your food and not to overcrowd the basket; thirdly, when adding oil, less is more as it has a tendency to make food soggy; fourthly, you’ll want to shake the basket frequently to make sure food is evenly crisp; and finally, use kitchen foil or baking paper to make the clean-up quicker and easier.

What can you cook in an air fryer?

You can cook just about anything you’d ordinarily prepare in an oven or deep fryer in your air fryer – the general rule is if you can bake it, grill it or fry it, you can cook it up in your air fryer. Some foods are known to excel, these include pre-frozen foods (for example, chicken nuggets), vegetables that you roast or grill, potatoes (including chips) and meat (sausages, bacon and chicken). Some models also have a function that allows you to toast and bake food, making them more like a conventional oven.

Are air fryers healthy?

One of the selling points of an air fryer is that food is cooked in substantially less oil when compared with a deep fat fryer, making them a healthier alternative.

How to clean an air fryer

Air dryers are easy to clean. The basket, tray and pan can be washed in the same way you’d watch any other utensil, either with soap and warm water or by putting it in the dishwasher. With the latter, it’s worth checking your specific model specification, just to be safe. As for the exterior, wipe it down with a damp cloth, making sure your appliance is unplugged.

The verdict: Air fryers

You can’t go wrong with the Ninja airfryer, which ticks more boxes than most models for a family-sized machine. For smaller households, the Lakeland digital compact air fryer is ideal. And the Sage combi wave should get a special mention too – air frying is just the beginning for this fabulous multi-tasker.

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Enjoy the benefits of more kitchen gadgets and check out our guide to the best electric hand mixers and soup makers

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