Finding and choosing the best air fryer is actually surprisingly hard: the growth in popularity of the kitchen appliance over the past few years has flooded the market with products from a huge variety of places.
But do you need one in the first place?
I set out to answer this question when considering buying a new fryer for my kitchen, hoping to be able to create new dishes that were previously only possible with one of the best deep fat fryers – which comes with its own costs, both in terms of health and money.
On a basic level, air fryers work by cooking food using hot air, known as convection heating, which bypasses the need to fry things in lots of oil, which is both unhealthy and often uses oils from animals. You'll be using about a teaspoon of oil.
Using clever science, which we won't go into here, an air fryer gets the same taste and texture as fried food without the downsides (or, at least, with fewer). It also means that you aren't lumped with a load of boiling fat to deal with.
So, should I buy one? Let's find out.
Why I should buy an air fryer
As mentioned above, the basic (and most important) reason for buying an air fryer over the alternatives relates to how it cooks thing: using hot air and a small amount of oil.
The process is vastly better for your health than cooking in oil and also works a lot better for the post-meal cleanup and for vegetarians who don't want to use animal-derived oils. It will also likely work out cheaper.
A deep fat fryer can use up to 50 times as much oil than an air fryer, a staggering difference between the two when the food is relatively similar.
The lack of oil has another benefit: air fryers are a lot easier to maintain and keep clean, especially after you've eaten. There is no oil to dispose of, which can be tricky depending on where you live, and no messy appliance to try and clean.
But what about compared to oven cooking? In many ways, this is the wrong question. A better way of thinking about an air fryer is in addition to your oven, perhaps working as the final touch to get things nice and crispy.
If your mind is made up at this point, T3 has an excellent guide on which air fryer is best for you. If not, please read on.
Why I shouldn't buy an air fryer
All of that is well and good, but what are the reasons for not buying an air fryer?
Firstly, it does matter what kind of food you're cooking. While an air fryer has some health benefits relative to deep fat frying, if you plan on cooking battered foods – chicken nuggets, oven chips, and so on – then these can cancel out the differences.
The second thing is that air fryers are relatively quite expensive. Our top pick, the Philips Airfryer XXL, comes in at around £300, depending on the deals available. While this isn't scandalous for a piece of kitchen equipment, it does mean you should assess how much you're going to use it.
More entry-level air fryers are available – we recommend the Xpress Pro Combo Vortx 10-in-1 – but even these are over £100 and come with a lot fewer features.
Air fryers are also pretty bulky, a somewhat unavailable situation given they need space to hold the food, but if your kitchen isn't massive, bear this in mind.
There are also some things an air fryer can't cook, such as cheesy foods and homemade batter. Both of these will sadly just melt into a mess, which you will then need to clean up. Other no-gos include most veg, steaks or burgers, and dry food coated in seasoning.
Overall, if you like fried food but don't love consuming that much oil and/or the cleanup involved then an air fryer solves your problems and more. They're efficient, clean, and get roughly the same end result.
However, a good quality air fryer is pretty expensive and bulky, so make sure you have the right budget in mind and kitchen space readily available.
We hope this guide has been helpful!
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