Size: Counter space is precious real estate, especially when you're dealing with a small kitchen. While air fryers are designed to fit neatly on your counter, consider how much space you have to spare when you go to purchase an air fryer.
It's important not to overcrowd the basket, so consider the size of your family when choosing an air fryer. If you're planning to use your air fryer to cook specific dishes, you may want to go with one that comes pre-programmed with that setting to make life a little easier.
Johnson rounded up top air fryers from popular brands including Philips, Cuisinart, Ninja, Hamilton Beach and more. “This airfryer's large, flat basket was key in producing an even crisp on the food's surface,” says Johnson.
The easy pull-out drawer allowed for smooth and secure motion when checking the food for oneness. The basket, drawer, and “fat reducer” heat plate are all dishwasher-safe, making for easy cleanup.
For less than half the price of the Philips air fryer, this model from Color makes for efficient crisping and even cooking every time. At 5.8 quarts capacity, Johnson was able to fit 9 to 10 nuggets and two servings of fries at a time.
The sleek LED screen features a number of presets, plus displays for time and temperature. The only issue Johnson found with this unit was the condensation collected at the bottom of the basket and spilled on the counter when opened.
While this is frustrating, it can be easily overlooked for the airfryer's many features and efficient cooking abilities. Compared to the other air fryers tested, this one worked more quickly than others, helping to cut down on cook time.
The large holes of the crisper plate help to catch any fallen crumbs at the bottom of the basket. We would not recommend this air fryer to larger families, as it only fits one to two servings of food per basket.
For anyone living in an apartment or with limited counter space, this compact air fryer from Cuisinart is a great investment. “This air fryer also functions as a toaster oven and would fit easily under a cabinet without taking up too much space on a counter,” says Johnson.
And in terms of cleanup, the removable parts aren't dishwasher safe, and the mesh basket is a little hard to clean by hand. This air fryer would take some trial and error to get things just right, but overall it acts as an all-in-one appliance that's great for small kitchens.
Buy It: Cuisinart Compact Hairdryer Toaster Oven, $80; Amazon But there are some other air fryers we tested that performed relatively well, although they had drawbacks that kept them out of the running for the final list.
Keep reading for Johnson's thoughts on the air fryers that didn't quite make the cut. The removable parts are not dishwasher safe, and the temperature only works in increments of 15 degrees F. For these reasons, we didn't pick it as a top choice.
Buy It: Hamilton Beach 5-Liter Digital Hairdryer with Nonstick Basket, $120; Wayfair As cute as it is, sadly Johnson found this compact air fryer to be ineffective in terms of even crisping.
Out of all the air fryers we test, this one took the longest amount of time to fully cook the food. Plus, the small holes in the basket didn't allow for the crumbs to effectively fall to the bottom, resulting in noticeable burnt bits.
This unit would be best for a single person, as it only held about four to give nuggets at a time and one to two small portions of French fries. Fried food is engineered to taste good, but the amount of oil used isn't the healthiest.
Fortunately, there's a great workaround -- air fryers, which don't use any oil or grease, can produce similar crispiness, and are easy to clean. Here we explore what to look for in a quality air fryer if you're itching to try that air -fried recipe you found on Pinterest.
We've also taken into consideration things like counter real estate and whether you're feeding an army. Editors' top picks Subscribe to CNET Now for the day's most interesting reviews, news stories and videos.
In recent years, the number of air fryer brands has exploded, since demand for the products is at an all-time high. There are air fryers with basic mechanical dials and controls, while others have fancy cooking options and presets -- some even have smarts and app connections.
Enlarge Image Brian Bennett/CNET Unlike previous air fryers we liked from DeLonghi, Krupp, Total and Black & Decker, today's modern fryers are more powerful, meaning quicker access to crispy fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets or anything else that you might typically make in a deep fryer that you can fit in its cooking basket. They also have higher capacity to cook more food, are lighter, quieter and easier to clean.
No matter how simple or complex though, what truly counts is how well they deliver the fried goodies. Brian Bennett/Between it comes to turning ingredients into delicious food, it's tough to beat this air fry model from Color.
Incredibly sophisticated, the air fryer boasts 11 preset cooking modes for preparing a wide array of food types. It also looks sleek and compact despite offering close to 6 quarts of capacity.
Everything from frozen food like chicken nuggets and french fries, to onion rings, to mozzarella sticks tuned out golden brown and delicious. It even tackled Brussels sprouts with gusto, thanks to its dedicated root vegetable mode.
The Ninja also whipped up batches of mozzarella sticks that were nicely done. They started out frozen and were transformed into crispy, crunchy and gooey cheese bombs in 8 minutes flat.
The Ninja lacks a special mode for vegetables so my fresh sprouts emerged overdone, even burnt in spots. While the Dash Deluxe is large and has a massive 6-quart cooking capacity, its design is striking.
The Vortex is made by the same company that created the groundbreaking Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Using the recommended settings, mozzarella sticks came out a tad soggy with exteriors not quite crispy enough.
The fryer also roasted Brussels sprouts well, no mean feat for this group of appliances. The appliance did deliver tasty mozzarella sticks and decent chicken wings.
However, the machine exploded my mozzarella sticks when I fried them as directed by the product manual. Even with a significant drop in price, the Philips Advance Air fryer isn't worth your money.
Sure, this kitchen appliance does a decent job of heating frozen convenience food like mozzarella sticks and pizza rolls. But when it comes to fresh food like chicken wings, the results from the Philips air fryer were on par with what you'd expect from a conventional oven.
It's certainly a surreal feeling to test multiple air fryers while a pandemic silently rages around the globe. At four runs per machine and eight air fryers in all, I performed a minimum of 32 separate test fries.
Enlarge Image At the recommended settings, my mozzarella sticks resulted in a cheese explosion. Thankfully the Dash Deluxe air fryer has a nonstick basket that's easy to clean.
I paid attention to things like the labels, controls and displays or buttons if these machines had them. Enlarge Image Chicken wings cooked in the Ninja air fryer were very tasty.
These were mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, Brussels sprouts and frozen french fries. Enlarge Image Frozen french fries made in the Color air fryer were gold brown and delicious.
Brian Bennett/CNET Before I began, I consulted each model's manual and supplied documentation for relevant cooking directions. If the manual didn't provide specific instructions, I applied uniform procedures to each air fryer depending on the type of food I was preparing.