Best air fryers: Cook chicken, veggies and other favorites in a healthy way

The best air fryer will help you cook with a fraction of the added calories

Included in this guide:

one of the best air fryers at home in the kitchen
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best air fryers are designed to make your cooking easier and healthier. Love your favorites like chicken and fries, as well as healthier options such as fish, red meat, vegetables, and low-GI carbs like yams/sweet potatoes? Air fryers, and multi-function cookers with an air fryer setting, make eating healthy easy and simple while helping you stick with your diet. 

A relatively new kid on the countertop block, the best air fryers are changing the game. Frying – particularly deep frying – food has long been the most delicious but least healthy way to cook. However, when food is fried it absorbs all the saturated fat from the oil it is cooked in. There’s enough evidence to link traditionally fried foods with a number of lifestyle-related diseases such as cardiovascular issues, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, as well as some cancers. 

However, when Philips introduced the first air fryer in 2010, it was a revelation. Using hot air currents, the countertop convection oven coats all the food in a slender film of oil and blasts it with heat. The end result is similar to roasting or frying, using far less oil for a 100% even coating. 

Processed meats like burgers and bacon can be done with less oil, but they are already a bit of a health hazard. To get the most out of the air fryer, you’ll want to go for peppers, broccoli, sliced and cubed squashes, corn, lean high-quality red meats and chicken, fish… the list goes on. Whatever you like to fry or roast, an air fryer can do it with a fraction of the added fat. Don’t miss the best air fryers below. 

How do we know an air fryer is really healthier?

To start with, air fryers use less oil than standard frying pans or roasting tins. Vegetable oil and butter contain lots of saturated can induce inflammatory responses in the body, according to several studies. Inflammation is a natural bodily function which occurs when we're sick or injured, and it's often a sign the body is working properly. 

However, chronic inflammation is very different. Chronic inflammation in the body is associated with all manner of harmful lifestyle and age-related conditions, including some cancers, heart disease and hypertension, which can be a precursor for diabetes. 

While some such as olive oil contain omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce inflammation, olive oil has a low smoke point, so it's not often used for cooking. Lots of vegetable oils also add more calories to your food, increasing the likelihood of packing on body fat, while burned oil cooked at a high temperature has been noted as a possible carcinogenic

As stated above, air fryers use a very small amount of oil and circulate it more evenly. With less oil added, spreading an even coating across your food, you're consuming less calories, less saturated fats, leading to less inflammation and less cancer-causing carcinogens in your body.  

How to choose the best air fryer for you

There’s lots to bear in mind when you’re picking the best air fryer for your needs. Air fryers come at a range of prices – anywhere from $30/£30 to $300/£300 – and there’s a lot wrapped up in that price, including size, features, power, automatic cooking modes and more. Let’s explore these more in detail below.

Capacity

The best starting point is capacity. The cheaper models usually have a smaller capacity, so you won’t be able to cook as many portions at once. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there are some good budget air fryers on the market that are cheaper because they only cater for one or two people. The more portions the appliance caters for, the larger it’ll be so be wary of the dimensions if you have limited kitchen space.

Functions and features

Different air fryers work in quite different ways: the Philips Airfryer XXL cooks the food in a pull-out tray; T-Fal models use a large bowl instead, with a paddle attachment that moves the food around as it cooks; and some other brands use bowls that slowly rotate on an angle to keep the food tumbling. These methods are effective in different ways, which I’ll go into below. 

Once you get into the top end of the market, appliances boast all sorts of things from smart Bluetooth controls and adjustable temperature controls to automatic cooking modes that handle everything for you. 

Cleaning and care instructions

Last but not least, cooking appliances are always a pain to clean if the parts are not dishwasher safe, and air fryers are no different. Cheaper air fryers may compromise on the quality of the parts and therefore not be dishwasher safe, which might mean you spend as long cleaning them as you do using them. So it’s worth checking that the parts can be easily removed and cleaned before you buy.

The best air fryers you can buy right now

Tefal ActiFry Genius+ Air Fryer

(Image credit: Tefal)

The best air fryer for most people

Specifications
Dimensions: 43.3 x 30.3 x 23.8 cm
Cooking capacity: 1.2kg (6 portions)
Dishwasher safe?: Yes
Power: 1400W
Reasons to buy
+Automatic cooking functionality+Dishwasher safe+Decent size
Reasons to avoid
-Quite chunky-A tad noisy

In terms of price, functionality, size and power, the T-Fal ActiFry Genius+ really hits the sweet spot - and takes the top spot in our tests as a result. 

The ActiFry Genius+ has clearly been designed to take the work of cooking out of your hands. Once you tip your food into the cooking bowl, the paddle moves it around gently whilst it’s cooking to ensure an even cook, so you don’t have to come back and jostle it around. You can manually set the time and temperature if you want to, but the Genius+ is built around nine automatic cooking modes that handle a huge variety of different things from fries and vegetables to meat and fish. 

What’s more, the accompanying Tefal ActiFry app has a huge library of recipes designed specifically for use with the Genius+ – some of these recipes, like risottos for example, make very clever use of the paddle and adjustable temperature. Throw in dishwasher-safe parts and a reasonable price and I reckon this is the air fryer that ticks the most boxes. 

Philips Airfryer XXL

(Image credit: Philips )

2. Philips Airfryer XXL

The best premium air fryer

Specifications
Dimensions: 17.3 x 13.3 x 14 in / 32.2 x 43.3 x 31.6 cm
Cooking capacity: 4qt / 1.4kg
Dishwasher safe?: Yes
Power: 2225w
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic interface and display+Efficient and powerful+Slick design
Reasons to avoid
-Very large-Pricey

Alongside Tefal, Philips is the other big name in the air fryer game and as the originator of the concept, you’d expect them to offer some good options. 

The Airfryer XXL is a health-frying behemoth – it’s big and it’s expensive but beyond that, it’s an exceptional machine. The food tray is big enough to fit a whole chicken, and with a minimal amount of oil or fat, the convection oven renders away any extra fat whilst roasting your food, letting excess fat drain away into the drip tray underneath. 

There are preset modes for air frying, roasting, grilling, baking and dehydrating, but the manual mode gives you lots of control as well, all via a really slick digital display.

Once you’re finished cooking, everything that needs cleaning comes apart easily to go in the dishwasher.

Tower T17005 Air Fryer

(Image credit: Tower)

3. Tower T17005 Air Fryer

The best budget air fryer

Specifications
Dimensions: 11.2 x 10.1 x 11.5 in / 28.5 x 25.8 x 29.3 cm
Cooking capacity: 3.4qt / 3.2l
Dishwasher safe?: Yes
Power: 1350 Watts
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic value+Good capacity+Dishwasher safe
Reasons to avoid
-Manual only

Given the price, the Tower T17005 is an absolute bargain. The 3.2 liter capacity makes this a very acceptable choice if you’re looking to feed the family on a budget, and it’s solidly built too. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit lacking in the feature department – the temperature is fixed and you adjust a manual timer appropriately, and the front-loading tray mechanism means you have to shake your food around every now and again. But those are small sacrifices to make for something that does the basics so well at this price.

Ninja Air Fryer AF100UK

(Image credit: Ninja)

4. Ninja AF100UK Air Fryer

Best cheap alternative air fryer to Tefal Genius+

Specifications
Dimensions: 13.3 x 11 x 13.6 in / 34.5 x 27.9 x 33.8 cm
Cooking capacity: 4qt / 3.8l
Dishwasher safe?: Yes
Power: 1550 Watts
Reasons to buy
+Multifunctional+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Still quite bulky

The Ninja Air Fryer is remarkably versatile – it does a lot of what the Tefal Genius+ does, but for half the price. 

With 3.8 liters of capacity there’s plenty of room in the non-stick basket to air fry, roast, grill and even dehydrate things - though you can’t fit a whole chicken in it, as with the Philips Airfryer XXL. 

It supports customizable presets so you can cook your regular meals at the touch of a button, but the manual mode is very capable too and you can get the temperature all the way up to a whopping 400°F / 240ºC for extra crispy results. There’s a more gentle reheat setting too, which is great for warming up leftovers. 

Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 2in1

(Image credit: Tefal)

5. T-Fal ActiFry Genius XL 2in1

Best air fryer for cooking entire meals

Specifications
Dimensions: 19.2 x 15 x 11.6 in / 48.9 x 38 x 29.5 cms
Cooking capacity: 1.7kg
Dishwasher safe?: Yes
Power: 1700 watts
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly versatile+Feeds 8+ people
Reasons to avoid
-Huge footprint-Quite noisy

The ActiFry Genius XL 2in1 packs all of the superb functions and features of the T-Fal ActiFry Genius range, but it also doubles up as an instant cooker, letting you cook two things simultaneously. It’s a phenomenal bit of kit – perhaps the most advanced on the market. 

The beauty of Tefal’s ActiFry range is that you can see inside the glass cooking compartment, rather than having to open a cooking tray to check if your food is done. With access to the huge library of recipes in the ActiFry app and the versatility of two separate cooking zones, the Genius 2in1 packs a whole load of potential for easy meal preparation, but you’ll need a spacious kitchen to find room for it.

Pete Dreyer
Pete Dreyer

Pete is a journalist, recipe developer and chef, specializing in food, health, fitness and technology. He has written for the likes of T3, TechRadar, Great British Chefs and the BBC about a plethora of topics, from healthy eating on a budget to fitness tech for every sports and fitness activity. He continues to drive forward the message that healthy eating can be delicious, affordable and easy via quick, simple recipes on his blog. In his spare time he's a keen rock climber and boulderer, and spends lots of time running - either on trails, roads or out on the hockey pitch!