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Best air fryer 2021 – our top 10 for chips and chicken

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  • Looking for the best air fryer? We’ve been reviewing top picks from Ninja, Instant, Tower, Cosori, Swan, and Tefal to bring you our complete roundup of the 10 best air fryers. In this guide you’ll find classic air fryers with large capacities for cooking chicken and chips from frozen, as well as multi-level air fryers which replicate a convection oven with different trays for cooking every element of your meal at once.

    Like the best slow cookers, air fryers allow you to simply choose your setting, add your ingredients, and press go. However, they’re also incredibly speedy and can cook your air-fried treats in record time. Because they have a fan that circulates hot air around your ingredients from all directions, your food will cook fast, and the in-built fan that releases moisture will make sure that your food is crispier than ever.

    Every single one of our best air fryers picks has been reviewed by a member of the team, so you can click through to see our pros and cons, the capacity and dimensions, and (of course) the results of our all-important taste test.

    How do air fryers work?

    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. 

    What is the best air fryer in 2021?

    We loved the Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer 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. Instant Pot Vortex Plus 6-Quart 6-in-1 Air Fryer

    Best air fryer overall

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

    Size: 28.6 x 22.9 x 29.8 cm
    5.7 litres
    Reasons to buy: Amazing air frying, and it does so much more
    Reasons to avoid: None

    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.

    2. Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer

    Best air fryer for families

    Ninja Foodi dual zone air fryer

    Size: 35 x 37.5 x 31.5cm
    7.6 litres
    Reasons to buy: Superior air frying and two useful zones
    Reasons to avoid: A large option for most kitchens

    What’s better than one air fryer? Two, in one. The Ninja 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.

    3. Instant Vortex Mini Air Fryer

    Best air fryer for amazing value

    Size:35.2 x 35.1 x 30.1 cm
    2 litres
    Reasons to buy: Seriously good value, easy to use, 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. 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.

    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
    Reasons to buy: Paddle included to stir your food
    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.

    5. COSORI Air Fryer XXL

    Best air fryer from Amazon

    COSORI Air Fryer XXL

    Size: 32 x 30 x 30cm
    5.5 litres
    Reasons to buy: Air fries to perfection, with a large capacity and recipes included
    Reasons to avoid: You may find the Shake reminders annoying

    Amazon’s best selling air fryer held up well under our tests, too. The Cosori has a pleasing textured finish and comes in black, white or even red. It’s smart, with settings for fish, frozen food, meat, veggies and even cake. You can adjust with the dials either side or just press go to start cooking.

    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! 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 an annoying distraction, because the alarm will keep sounding until you shake the basket.

    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.

    6. 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
    Reasons to buy: It’s perfect for smaller homes and kitchens
    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.

    7. 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
    Reasons to buy: As smart as they come
    Reasons to avoid: The controls are a little fiddly

    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.

    8. 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
    Reasons to buy: Looks lovely, with a generous capacity
    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.

    9. 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
    Reasons to buy: It’s a real multi-tasker
    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.

    10. Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker

    Best multi-cooker air fryer


    Size: H43 x W36 x D32cm
    6 litres
    Reasons to buy: It air fries, bakes, pressure cooks and more
    Reasons to avoid: If all you want is an air fryer it’s not the one for you

    Another big machine, this one isn’t for the faint-hearted as its dual crisper and pressure cooking lids make it feel a little complicated at first. More worryingly it reminded us of a Cyberman helmet, so once it was out of the box we had to reassure ourselves it was safe to come out from behind the sofa! However, once we’d got the hang of it with the help of the very clear instructions, we felt this machine was a great multi-cooker option for those that wanted more than just an air fryer for their money.

    So, to the food. This machine cooks in so many ways – pressure, slow, air frying and a combination Ninja call TenderCrisp – we weren’t sure where to start, so we took a look at the accompanying recipe book. Should we try a whole chicken, ready in just 40 minutes with a succulent inside and crisp outer or a one-pot dish of salmon, bok choi and rice? In the end we went for, yep you guessed it, chicken and chips! Because if a machine this big and expensive can’t get that right, there’s no hope.

    Well, the chips were very good. Not quite fried but not far off. We stirred them a lot, but it was easier to do in this top opening machine and we could use a whole teaspoon of oil (and up to three) if we liked. While we wouldn’t suggest buying this if all you want is an air fryer, the part pressure-cook, part TenderCrisp-ed chicken was amazing, if small (it only fits an up-to 2.5kg bird). Juicy with crisp skin, it took less than an hour to cook.


    Image credit: Ninja

    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.

    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.

    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 cooPlace 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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