Best Air Fryer –
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Fried chicken, sweet doughnuts and chunky chips may all be guilty pleasures, but they needn’t be the unhealthiest of foodie choices if cooked the right way. An air fryer cooks with far less oil compared to traditional frying methods and provides a neat countertop hub for experimenting with flavours and ingredients.
It works by circulating hot air around your food, producing a convection effect to cook and brown ingredients and create that satisfying crunch when you take a bite. You can make a range of sweet and savoury dishes – from traditional homemade fish and chips or crispy courgette fries, to apple pie and banana cake.
To find out how well the latest offering works, we have put five of the best air fryers to task. To find out which performs best, we used each machine to create homemade chicken nuggets and chips, assessing the results on appearance, flavour and taste.
We noted how versatile each machine is and explored how many modes and temperature settings available. We also rated the designs on capacity and on useful tools and recipes included in the box. We’ve been looking for machines that are easy to operate, have cool-touch exteriors and are convenient to clean. To find out how noisy the machines got while cooking, we used the Decibel Meter app to measure sound levels while making a batch of home made chips – and boy did we eat far too many.
What’s the best air fryer in 2020?
WIRED Recommends the Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 2-in-1 (£270) as the best air fryer overall, due to its dual cooking zones, automatic programs and convenient features.
We also admire the Salter 4.5 Litre Digital Hot (£70) for its efficiency, quiet operation and ease of use. It’s the best air fryer under £100.
WIRED Recommends is your definitive guide to the best technology. Head to our best gadgets guide for our top picks in every category we’ve tested.
Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 2-in-1
WIRED Recommends: The Tefal ActiFry is an easy to use, efficient air fryer with two cooking zones
Capacity: 1.7L | Dimensions: 48.9 x 38 x 29.5cm (HxWxD)| Weight: 5.07kg
What makes the Tefal Actifry Genius XL 2-in-1 (£270) stand out is its separate compartments for cooking different foods. The main bowl is great for conjuring up a batch of chips in around 30 minutes, while the rotating tray above can prepare chicken nuggets in a speedy eight minutes. On board there are nine cooking programs, which automatically adapt the time and temperature to suit what is being cooked.
We were initially impressed by the on-board 360-degree stirring paddle, which means that we didn’t have to stir or shake the chips half way through cooking – simply press start and leave it to work its magic. In our first attempt at making chips the results left the potatoes a little too caramelized, but we soon realised that this was because we hadn’t added the correct quantity – it recommends you place 1.2kg fresh chopped potatoes in the bowl, which is around 10 potatoes, whereas we had only added around six. On second attempt we were much more satisfied with the results – the chips came out crispy and evenly browned. The chicken was cooked quickly and efficiently too – nicely browned, crunchy on the outside and tender in the middle.
In the box you’ll find useful accessories such as an oil measuring spoon and handle that you attach to the tray when you want to take it out. It’s important to make sure this is securely fitted before taking the tray out of the machine, however. On our first attempt to lift it out we hadn’t attached the handle properly and the chicken fell to the floor. The two-second rule was hastily applied and the mistake not to be repeated.
As well as a recipe in the instruction book, the MyActiFry app has over 350 recipes to try. The interior is relatively easy to clean and while we had to scrub it a little to get the residue off the mixing paddle, it’s nothing that a little hot soapy water and elbow grease can’t fix. Sound wise it isn’t the quietest machine on the market, reaching around 77db, but for the quick and tasty results, we think the Tefal is worth it.
Pros: Rotating paddle; viewing window; two cooking zones
Cons: Exterior gets quite hot to touch; quite bulky on the worktop
Salter 4.5 Litre Digital Hot Air Fryer
An attractive design that tackles meat and veg with ease
Capacity: 4.5L | Dimensions: 39.2 x 33.4 x 32.6cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 4.5kg
Design wise, the curvy black body of the Salter 4.5 Litre (£70) digital hot air fryer and its LED display makes it one of the most attractive looking appliances in our test. Its temperature ranges from 80 to 200 degrees, with a 60-minute timer, which we found easy to adjust.
On the plus side, the Salter is one of the quietest appliances in our test, reaching a mere 65db during cooking. It also comes with a useful recipe book that suggests dishes such as steak and chips as well as roasted vegetables. It does however get a little hot around the base of the machine during use – but we found this to be the case with the majority of air fryers we tested.
We attempted two batches of chips – one which we shaked half way through, and one which we didn’t. The former definitely had a more satisfying crunch and was cooked more evenly. Fortunately, the basket can be removed very smoothly for shaking half way through, and the timer and heat settings resume once you reinsert the basket. We also tried it with chicken nuggets, which came out tender and crispy after a 30-minute cook. We think the 4.5 litre capacity is a good, deep shape that would do well with chunky foods such as doughnuts and small calzones.
Pros: Quiet; produces a decent chip with an even crunch
Cons: No dishwasher safe parts; hot to touch exterior
Delonghi Ideal Fry Hot Air Fryer
An air fryer that tackles a variety of recipes
Capacity: 1.25kg | Dimensions: 38.8 x 29.1 x 28.8cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 7kg
The Delonghi Ideal Fry Hot (£150) air fryer can take up to 1.25kg of fresh potatoes or 1kg of frozen. It features an upper heating element for convection and grill cooking – to give you that crispy finish – and a lower heating element to speed up cooking times.
It has a basic white and black body that feels quite unobtrusive on the worktop. Like the Tefal fryer it features a handy viewing window so you can check food during the cooking process. You have to take out the basket to shake the chips during use to ensure an even cook, while noise levels reach an average 71db.
A chart in the instruction booklet advises you on how long to cook certain foods and there are four modes to choose from, which can be easily adjusted via a manual dial. We cooked 1.25kg of fresh cut chips for 30 minutes on mode four. There is also a dial for the timer, which goes up to 45 minutes in total. While the chips and chicken were cooked satisfactorily, we took both foods out before the suggested time. (Once we had taken them out we couldn’t see an option to stop the appliance cooking, so we had to wait until the timer stopped before the machine could be turned off.) The body gets slightly hot to touch too so you need to take care.
The Delonghi Ideal Fry is easy to clean – simply detach the basket to wash. While the surround of the top heating element comes off for washing, the actual heating element does not so you’ll need to use a damp cloth to wipe it clean. While there aren’t any recipes included in the box, you can find a large range on the free Delonghi App.
Pros: Fast powerful cooking; fuss free with pleasing results
Cons: Hot to touch exterior; basic dial functions
Sage SOV860BSS Smart Oven Air Fryer Worktop Oven
A great all rounder with a range of settings
Capacity: 21L | Dimensions: 48 x W40.3 x D27.8cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 13kg
While the Sage Smart Oven (£329) isn’t solely for air frying, it does do a very good job of it. It has a boxy microwave-style shape, but is more compact than your average microwave. It comes with 10 smart cooking functions so as well as the ability to air fry, it can bake, toast, grill, roast and more. You can even use it to cook a 13-inch pizza or roast a whole chicken.
With its 2400W power, it can preheat in seconds and its ‘Element iQ’ is designed to transfer heat across five quartz elements within the interior for even and precise cooking. Its convection setting reduces cooking time by up to a third.
We like how ergonomic this machine is to handle – the door shuts smoothly and the controls are easy to navigate as the simple dials bring up the relevant settings on the LED display. The instruction booklet clearly explains how to use each feature and what to expect in clear written text – as opposed to via a diagram like many of the air fryers in our test.
At 60db it’s a relatively quiet design to use too. In our test we set the air fryer for the suggested 15 minutes and gave the chips – which we laid out in the mesh air-fry basket – a shake half way through to ensure an even cook. Not quite satisfied with the colour after 15 minutes, we added another 10 minutes to the cooking time. The chips were tasty and well cooked, although not as crispy as the Tefal. The chicken did well in this oven too – again we gave the basket a shake half way through, and we were able to play around with the temperate and timings until the chicken looked good enough to eat.
Pros: Useful cooking modes including air fry; easy to use; quick and efficient
Cons: You’ll need room to make it a permanent fixture on the worktop
Tower 4.3L Digital Low Fat Air Fryer
A good value option for smaller households
Capacity: 3.2L | Dimensions: 35 x 28.7 x 32.6cm (HxWxD) | Weight: 4.7kg
The Tower 4.3L (£50) digital low fat air fryer is an affordable option that comes with a stylish digital display and 60-minute timer. You can use the control to adjust the temperature from 80 up to 200 degrees and use it to cook chips, chicken, fish, meat, vegetables and bakes.
Our first attempt at making a batch of chips was disappointing. As advised you don’t need to use oil in the fryer, but this resulted in floury dry chips that were unappetising. We tried a second time but this time we sprayed the fresh potato chips with a little oil and pulled out the basket to shake the chips a few times during the cooking process. This resulted in a much more enticing batch of chips. We did the same for the chicken nuggets.
The exterior got a little hot to touch during use, and the design of the basket feels a little clumsy when you try to take it out, but on the plus side it’s one of the quieter designs in our test – reaching a mere 68db while cooking chips. It’s also very easy to keep clean.
Overall, we feel that this fryer will produce decent results, but you will need to experiment a little to get to know the machine and find out what temperatures and timings work best with certain foods to get satisfying results.
Pros: Quiet; attractive design; digital display
Cons: Hot to touch exterior; does in fact need oil