What to Buy

10 Best Air Fryers for Crunchy Fries & Creamy Pasta (Yes, Really)

Perfect for fries, wings, leftovers, and wait—pasta?

July 29, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Sometimes I wonder what I did before I had my beloved air fryer. It comes in clutch when I want crunchy fries, veggies, chicken wings, and even croquettes when I’m feeling fancy. And in an unexpected twist, it also makes creamy plates of pasta, which is music to my carb-loving heart. Plus, nothing else can crisp day-old leftovers like I just made it. Is anyone else getting hungry yet?

The magic is that the countertop-friendly appliance rapidly circulates hot air down and around food, which cooks and crisps food in an absolute flash. But not all air fryers are the same—some are more small-space friendly while others can feed a family of four. The two things they all have in common though is that you’re guaranteed a plate of crunchy, crispy, delicious goodness and that you won’t be able to quit using it.

As someone who’s already experienced this, the search for the best air fryer is long and arduous, leaving the only thing fried being… your brain. We’re simply not here for that, so we did the research to find the 10 best air fryers from budget-friendly picks and compact models to ones that can make a single-serving or for a whole family.

Photo by Amazon

1. For the best value: Chefman TurboFry 3.6-Quart Air Fryer, $49.99

When I first researched air fryers, I realized that a decent one under $100 was hard to come by, so to find the Chefman TurboFry was like hitting the jackpot. You get so much use out of this $50 appliance—baking, roasting, frying, reheating takeout, whipping up a days-old cookie back into its just-baked shape, just to name a few—all without running the risk of drying or burning things to a crisp. My favorite feature? The super-flat interior basket means it can hold more food than one with curved sides.


Photo by Bed Bath & Beyond

2. For a party of one: Dash Compact Air Fryer, $49.99

If you primarily cook for yourself, the Dash cooker is perfect. The two-quart basket capacity is small, but mighty enough to cook up a pair of katsu cutlets or a small roast dinner. Plus, it comes in five adorable colors from clean white to cherry red and minty aqua, so take your pick.


Photo by Walmart

3. For a family of four: Instant Vortex Plus 4-in-1 Basket Air Fryer, $89.95

To no one’s surprise, the brains behind the Instant Pot deliver on yet another handy appliance to feed a hungry household. Even the most novice cook will think it’s really easy to use, thanks to the straightforward pre-programmed settings. The 6-quart basket capacity can hold a 2-pound bag of fries or 4 pounds of butterflied chicken, which I take as a hint that a big dinner can be made at the speed of light.


Photo by Walmart

4. For the multitasker: Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 2-Basket Air Fryer, $159.99

Surely there will be times when you’ll want to roast a bundle of carrots and crisp up a few salmon filets all in one go. With the Ninja's "unique dual focus technology," you’re able to cook two separate dishes, two separate ways. But the kicker? All the food will finish cooking at the same time. My friend recently used this at a dinner party and there was no waiting for the second dish to be done before digging in.


Photo by Amazon

5. For endless functionality: COSORI Air Fryer Max XL, $99.98

With 13 presets and the ability to customize settings, it’s no wonder this air fryer is so popular. It can fry fish, sear steaks, defrost (and cook) frozen meals, keep bread super warm, and a whole lot more. With the all-round heat circulation, you won’t have to worry about flipping it halfway through for full-on browning—even with thick cuts of meat. What stands out the most is the built-in “shake-it-up” reminder, which translates to well-seasoned fries or mozzarella sticks without clumping or sticking.


Photo by Julia Gartland

6. For crunchy toasts and flaky pastries: Cuisinart Airfryer Convection Toaster Oven, $199.95

I can always count on Cuisinart to deliver on quality, so even given a higher price, I’m still willing to invest in its kitchenware. This air fryer-meets-toaster oven hybrid, which I currently own, is no exception and shows incredible range. Not only does it air fry with temps getting as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can also toast up to six slices of bread at a time—perfect for chile-cheese toast and for cutting down on small appliances in my teeny-tiny kitchen.


Photo by Walmart

7. For literally a whole chicken: Instant Vortex Plus 7-in-1 Air Fryer, $123.39

Yes, you can and absolutely should cook an entire rotisserie chicken with this air fryer-oven hybrid. It comes with all the works: a ton of space, a spin basket, forks, and a drip tray. If meat isn’t in your wheelhouse, vegetables can still receive the rotisserie-style treatment to get all tender inside and crackly outside. In any case, the flavor and texture will be out of this world.


Photo by Amazon

8. For small spaces: Maxi-Matic Elite Gourmet Personal Space Electric Hot Air Fryer, $34.99

The standard air fryer doesn’t occupy too much space, maybe a small corner of the countertop. But in a shoebox apartment where counter space is close to non-existent, something compact and easily moveable is prime. If the Little Engine that Could was an air fryer, it would be this 700-wattage guy from Maxi-Matic. The powerful one-quart machine is not only super small and lightweight, but the rectangular shape means there won't be any awkward unused spots on your counter.


Photo by Amazon

9. For hands-free control: COSORI Smart WiFi Air Fryer, $119.99

You can just say “Alexa, set air fryer to 375” and the Cosori Smart Wifi will automatically respond to your voice commands. With it also comes the option to use 11 presets or the air fryer’s corresponding app on your phone to monitor and adjust your dish’s cooking progress. So basically, you’re acquiring the best sous chef ever.


Photo by Amazon

10. For vintage vibes: Nostalgia Classic Retro 7-Quart Air Fryer, $165.66

The name couldn’t be more on point. The vintage feel plus the retro blue color equates to an air fryer so adorable, it’ll be a statement piece in your kitchen. The simple yet beautiful functionality of the timer knob and temperature gauge (with a big range from 140 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit) are a refreshing departure from digital presets, while the large 7-quart basket is perfect for prepping tons of gochujang wings.


Have you used an air fryer before? Let us know your fav dish below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ed Hauptmann
    Ed Hauptmann
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    ghainskom
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    saluki
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    Justine Lee
Food writer, late-night baker, year-round iced coffee drinker.

6 Comments

Ed H. August 8, 2021
The Ninja Foodi Smart XL Grill can grill 6 steaks at once, plus burgers etc, but it also has a 4 qt air fryer. However, because this is a grill, with a much larger footprint, the food can be SPREAD OUT for more even and quicker frying. The downside to this grill vs those above is that it takes up a lot more counter/storage space. And it's not a pressure cooker like the 301/402 etc.
As you can do with all of these air fryers, I take mine OUTSIDE during the summer and keep the kitchen cool (same for slow cooker, sous vide, panini grill, etc).
 
Linda V. July 30, 2021
I love my Instant Vortex air fryer. It does so much!
 
ghainskom July 30, 2021
How is actually the instant pot air fryer rated?
 
Author Comment
Justine L. August 28, 2021
Hi ghainskom, on Walmart (where we have linked the Instant Pot air fryer for purchase), it has 4.6 stars based on over 1300 ratings. Hope that helps.
 
ghainskom August 28, 2021
It does! Thanks,!
 
saluki July 29, 2021
I absolutely love my Ninja Foodi AG301 5-in-1 Indoor Electric Countertop Grill with 4-Quart Air Fryer. Frankly, I use the air fryer function even more than the grill. Ceramic coating makes it so easy to clean. Its square shape basket makes it easy to fit food in. I've had 3 other air fryers and this one beats them all.