Which air fryer is right for you?
There is something supremely satisfying about eating crispy foods. Unfortunately, unless you’re eating carrots or other fresh vegetables, that crunch probably means you’re indulging in greasy comfort foods rather than making a healthy choice.
However, there is a way you can take a step in the right direction. If you purchase an air fryer, you can still enjoy that satisfying crunch while eating foods that aren’t actually fried — which means they’re a little better for you.
With so many options available, it’s hard to know which air fryer is the best. To help you find the one that’s right for your needs, we tested four popular models: the Cosori air fryer, the Ninja Foodi air fryer, the Dash air fryer and the De’Longhi Livenza air fryer.
How we tested these products
To test each of these air fryers, we had our tester read the instructions thoroughly to understand how each model worked. Then, they used each air fryer to cook a variety of dishes that would allow them to experiment with as many of the unit’s features as possible. While cooking, our tester took extensive notes on their overall experience with regard to ease of use, convenience, speed and cooking results. We used those notes to compile this article.
What is an air fryer?
An air fryer is a countertop appliance that can heat your food faster than an oven. Because of the way an air fryer moves heated air around inside the unit, it can roughly mimic the way a deep fryer works, cooking your food so it’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside without the need to submerge it in oil.
How does an air fryer work?
An air fryer is a cleverly redesigned convection oven. It has a few tweaked features that allow it to function in a slightly different way than a typical convection oven. One key difference is that an air fryer is smaller, so the space inside can be heated much more quickly, which can reduce your overall cooking time. On the downside, this means the typical air fryer can’t cook as much food as a larger oven, so you must cook in batches if you’re feeding a large family.
The second difference between an air fryer and a convection oven is that an air fryer cooks food in a basket rather than on a shelf or a rack. Ideally, this small change allows the air to better circulate around your food, cooking all sides at once. However, even the basket method isn’t perfect — you’ll need to shake your food halfway through the cooking time to make sure no spots are being missed.
Cosori air fryer review
The Cosori air fryer has a 5.8-quart capacity, large enough to fit a 5-pound chicken or to cook enough food for three to five people. It offers 11 preset cooking functions along settings for preheating and warming, and it comes with a 100-recipe cookbook. The model has a shake reminder and an automatic shut-off. It also features a temperature range of 170 degrees to 400 degrees.
Sold at Amazon
Our experience with the Cosori air fryer
We found that with the abundance of presets and a cookbook with very precise instructions, this model was best for the individual who didn’t have much experience with cooking. Conversely, someone with a great deal of cooking experience may be a little frustrated by the learning curve required to cook without using the presets. The unit does have a robust fan, which circulates air well, and it is easy to clean. When you follow the included recipes, the Cosori Air Fryer Max XL performs exceptionally well.
Ninja Foodi air fryer review
The Ninja Foodi is actually an 8-quart pressure cooker that has air-frying capabilities. This extra-large-capacity appliance features a ceramic-coated, PTFE PFOA-free nonstick basket that is dishwasher safe for ease of cleaning. There are nine different cooking functions that range from air frying to slow cooking, and there are 14 separate safety features that help provide peace of mind while you cook.
Sold at Bed Bath & Beyond
Our experience with the Ninja Foodi air fryer
This all-in-one kitchen appliance is capable of cooking just about anything you can imagine in any way that you’d like to cook it. The air fryer, in particular, performs remarkably well; it’s able to reheat fries, for example, making them just as tasty as when they were first cooked. If you’re not familiar with a pressure cooker, you’ll need to take some time to learn how it functions. Also, this is the largest of the four models in this review, which means it’s not ideally suited for a kitchen that doesn’t have a lot of space. However, this versatile machine could replace a handful of other gadgets, opening up the extra room you need for storage.
Dash air fryer review
The Dash air fryer is a no-frills, compact countertop appliance that has a 2.6-quart capacity and only weighs 7.2 pounds. It features an analog interface for ease of operation — a dial for temperature control and a dial for setting the cooking time — and it has an auto-off function to protect your food against overcooking. We appreciated the safety feature of the cool-touch handle.
Sold at Amazon
Our experience with the Dash air fryer
We found this air fryer to be the easiest to use. It’s not very large, so it’s best for cooking up snacks or small dishes for just one or two people. Every item we cooked, from chicken tenders to zucchini chips and coconut shrimp, turned out great. Also, the air fryer’s compact size allows it to fit in any kitchen. However, it lacks an indicator light that lets you know when the unit is on.
De’Longhi Livenza air fryer review
This appliance is a countertop convection oven that has a slightly different design which allows it to function as an air fryer. First and foremost, the cooking rack can be replaced with the included fry basket to allow for a more efficient airflow around the food. Also, the unit has a heat lock system that keeps internal temperatures consistent throughout the cooking time. The nine presets and digital display help the user not only operate the Livenza, but also monitor the time, temperature and fan operation. What makes this unit stand out from all the other air fryers are the glass door and the internal light, allowing you to check on your food without opening the door.
Sold at Amazon
Our experience with the De’Longhi Livenza air fryer
We found this model to be a wonderful countertop appliance that can do everything your convection oven can do and more. It was very easy to use — the instructions were simple and straightforward, and clearly explained which type of rack or pan was needed for each function. The oven preheats extremely fast and all the presets worked as expected; we made crispy potato wedges on the air fry setting and tasty cookies on the bake setting. While this convection oven does take a little longer to cook some foods than a typical air fryer, the results are worth it.
While all of these appliances performed well in our tests, each is suited for a different set of needs. Here is a quick summary that can help you determine which air fryer is best for you.
Ninja Foodi air fryer: The largest and most versatile cooking option is the Ninja Foodi air fryer. This appliance is for a family with a wide range of cooking needs from heating up french fries to making a roast. If you want the best of the best, this top-performing model is an ideal choice.
Best for budget
Dash air fryer: This model is best for individuals who want the convenience of making a quick snack whenever the craving hits. It is the most affordable option of the four air fryers here, takes up the least amount of space, is easy to operate and produces excellent results. Because of its compact size, this model isn’t the best option for families.
Best for beginners
Cosori air fryer: If you’re looking for an air fryer that removes the guesswork from cooking for your family, this sizable option is your best bet. You can cook at the touch of a button and achieve consistent results. If you like experimenting and creating your own recipes, however, this model may not be your first choice.
De’Longhi Livenza air fryer: If you’re comfortable using a toaster oven and don’t mind an extra few minutes to get the best air-frying results, the De’Longhi model will be your favorite. Not only is this countertop convection oven intuitive, but it’s also versatile, able to cook all the same foods a full-size oven can cook, including pizza and cookies.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.